Greetings from Science Island

The Bart Simpson of birds; wouldn't you know it I'd be finished with my antbird plate before seeing this cutie in the field. So it goes.
The Bart Simpson of birds; wouldn't you know it I'd be finished with my antbird plate before seeing this cutie in the field. Barred Antshrike male drawn in Gamboa over cocktails.

I’m enjoying the balmy, palmy tropical island of Barro Colorado, Panama, once again and trying to get back my “BCI Happy Legs” as Mike the Ant Man likes to call it. BCI is up-and-down-up-and-down and anywhere you want to walk seems like all uphill from wherever you are. And of course I’m schlepping massive amounts of gear wherever I’m going, trying to make works of art in situ and stand-tu as well.

BCI's antique cablecar pulls heavy stuff up a San Francisco-worthy hillside leading from the boat dock.
BCI's antique cablecar pulls heavy stuff up a San Francisco-worthy hillside.

Ant Man has plunged into his science projects for the summer while I am doing the same and dodging rainstorms while I’m at it, although it has been unusually dry for this time of year. The heavy downpours expected every afternoon haven’t been happening as much as everyone would like. Research is being set back by the lack of water. Derby Day, an annual event, may be cancelled for lack of toads.

Drawing of a lovely orchid with long sprays of tiny yellow flowers. 18" x 24" on Rives BFK paper.
Drawing of a trailside orchid with long sprays of tiny yellow flowers. 18" x 24" on Rives BFK.

Besides the big drawings I’m carrying around a little Moleskine 3″x5″ sketchbook and using it for impromptu compositions, ideas and birds on the fly. With my camera and the little book in one pocket, I’m hiking out and taking note of good spots to set up, hopefully not too far from home (home being Smith House, our little bungalow on the hill, where Ant Man and I are very comfortable and even have a balcony looking out over a ravine with creek at the bottom. Very birdy place, too). Random hikes while lugging gear seems to be counterproductive when time is short. Better to use the time drawing than schlepping, so I’m finding some really nice subjects pretty close in. The orchid drawing above was done not more than two minutes away, under an overhang near the research greenhouses, during a light rain. Today I did one of some beautiful fan palms directly next to the old dining hall, one of BCI’s original buildings still standing. While I drew, a clattering collection of Greater Anis swung their tails and made jalopy-starter noises at me. One of the joys of being on the island, among other delights and pleasures.

Green Shrike-vireo sketched in Gamboa in the lovely tropical garden of our friends Allen and Sunshine, who have enjoyed visiting sloths and harpies including us.
Green Shrike-vireo sketched in Gamboa at the home of our friends Allen and Sunshine, who have entertained visiting sloths and harpies in their lovely tropical garden. Including us.

I’ll have to close now as Ant Man Mike wishes me to join him for a second night of Blacklighting for Alates (not to be confused with Dialing for Dollars). It’s a fun game where a UV light is placed over a white sheet and we see what flies in. Alates are the winged reproductives of ants and if we’re in luck some big queens will zoom in to be snatched up and studied. It’s a creepy crawly totally ooky and fun exercise in dodging big beetles, moths and katydids, and getting flying things attached to your face and in your hair. More fun than a barrel of howler monkeys.

It's Tropical Biology! Blacklighting for bugs on BCI.
It's Tropical Biology! Blacklighting for bugs on BCI.
Bag 'o Alates.
Bag 'o Alates.

8 thoughts on “Greetings from Science Island

  1. Vickie Henderson says:

    lol…you crack me up with your description of flying things in blacklight. Love your drawings and I’m so glad we could take a peek at them while you’re still in the middle of it all. Sounds and looks wonderfully adventurous and rewarding!

  2. Becky says:

    Ditto to what Vickie said! The Blacklighting for Alates game, however, sounds like one I’d prefer to watch from a distance — ookey indeed! Your drawing of the orchid tree is beautiful. I look forward to the book that you really need to write, not only for the exquisite drawings that you do, but for the narrative! Thanks for posting!

  3. Jan says:

    As I said, you do live the unique life-the drawings are exquisite and I think the blacklighting game is intriguing especially from thousands of miles away!

  4. Dale Sherman Blodget says:

    How exciting. We visited Panama for a couple of weeks in April. Didn’t get into insects. Lizards and birds. Couldn’t snorkel, too rough. The landscape was completely flat in Bocas del Toro. The funicular or whatever hauls your stuff on Barro Coronado is serious. Hope your time there is wonderful. I don’t believe anything could be more fun than a barrel of howler monkeys, though. 🙂
    BTW, could you send me some of those Blue Buntings? I need them.
    Okay this is totally bizarre. After I wrote that sentence about the blue buntings I looked out the window and THERE IT WAS! I have to go get the binocs!!

  5. zeladoniac says:

    New word of the day: Funicular. I’m going to go around saying it to everyone I see. Wonderful word!

    Ant Man Mike, as an update, has a sunburned nose tip from the UV light today!

  6. Seabrooke says:

    I’d love to have the opportunity to do some blacklighting in the tropics. I recall when I was in Ecuador the building lights drew in quite a varied assortment of moths and other things, but I wasn’t into creepy crawlies yet by then, and so I didn’t spend much time looking at them. Oh, the lost opportunities! Does your husband keep a blog?

    I absolutely love your tropical plant drawings such as the orchid you’ve shown here. When I finally get rich I’ll buy one to hang on my study wall for inspiration.

  7. Ken Januski says:

    Out of the blue one day ‘crepuscular’ seemed to show up in every blog I read. Today is it ‘funicular.’ There is an interesting quote by Albert Barr, founder of the Museum of Modern Art, at MadSilence that goes on at length about funicular, in this case a ‘funicular up Parnassus’.

    I thought of it immediately when I saw ‘funicular’ in Dale’s comment above.

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