I got a text message from my friend, Bong, asking me if I wanted to join him at La Mesa Ecopark Thursday morning. I consulted my wife and she readily gave me the go signal. I texted Bong back and told him I would be there.
In times past I would have been eagerly looking forward to such an outing with my birding buddies yet somehow, after my text message was sent, I did not feel the fire of enthusiasm at all. Perhaps it was due to the sad memories of my past three visits to the Ecopark that were pure disappointments (please see previous blogs). Then there were the thoughts that since we were expecting the handyman to arrive that Thursday to do some work in our house, I really did not want to leave Cynthia to deal with him by herself. She wouldn't be alone, though, inasmuch as we just got a house help recently. But still....
To make matters worse, it rained heavily that night causing some flooding on our basement. We had to stay up until 11 pm bailing out the waters that seeped in through the walls (one of the items that the handyman would be fixing the following day). We went to bed exhausted from all that work and went to sleep much later than our usual 9 pm bedtime.
Thursday morning, I woke up a little after 4 am. A few minutes later, my wife opened her eyes and saw me staring blankly in the darkness of our room. "Are you going to Ecopark?" she asked. I sighed deeply. "I have to go," was my determined reply.
I arrived at the Ecopark earlier than my appointed time with Bong. My meanderings only gave a quick glimpse of the Hooded Pitta. Soon Bong along with the park's bird expert, Anthony, came. We staked out the place where the male Spotted Wood Kingfisher usually hangs out. We were then joined by another bird photographer, and my Facebook friend, Ed. It didn't take long after that when Anthony called us and pointed to the kingfisher. But it flew away even before we could point our cameras at it. Anthony's keen eyes and perseverance finally paid off as we eventually got better views of the colorful male who was named "Spotty" by the local birders.
I told Anthony that I also wanted to get a photo of the male Hooded Pitta. He took me to where it is seen regularly but my bad luck still haunted me. When we returned to where Bong and Ed were still continuing their stake out and hoping for even better shots at the kingfisher, they told me that the Pitta showed up. They were not able to take photos because it came closer than the minimum focusing distance of their long lenses. I tried to hide the pain I felt at that moment with a mirthless smile. A few minutes later Anthony called me and told me he found the adult Pitta. I quickly followed him. He stopped by the trail and pointed at my target bird calling from a branch. "We can get closer," Anthony assured me. I left my tripod behind so that I can better negotiate through the vines and branches that would block our path. Finally, my hoped for Pitta shot had been fulfilled.
Once again I rejoined Bong and Ed. We passed the time resting and enduring the suffocating humidity. Our untiring "guide" came and announced that he saw the immature Pitta not that far from the trail. Then followed the most rewarding photo session bird photographers had always been dreaming of. The subject just sat there and posed for us even as we changed positions, tried various angles, and experimented on various settings.
A little after 10:30 I got a text message from my wife asking me to buy some material needed to help solve the flooding on our basement. I bade farewell to my friends and despite the sultry weather jauntily walked back to my car.
On my fourth try, I am now comforted and filled with joy.