Monday, January 1, 2018

Bye Bye Birdies, Bye Bye 2017

1 January 2018

Last week Thursday, I went to say good morning to our red-whiskered bulbul family.  I noticed that the little babies were actually getting pretty big, and had feathers rather than baby down.  And that they had more adult coloring than they had a few days ago - white throats and chests, black backs and top of the head, and that fine black line under the eyes.  They were only missing the red patch on their cheeks.  I mentioned to Richard that they really looked like they were growing up!

That afternoon, we went to one of the local malls to check on some sundries we needed.  While we were there, we encountered an unexpected heavy rain storm, the kind that happen mostly in the tropics.  Just a sudden deluge of rain, complete with wind and short-term flooding.

We got back to our place, and I checked the nest - one of the parents was sitting on top, keeping the babies warm and dry.

Friday morning, I got up and went out to the patio, to say good morning to our birds as usual.  But they were gone!  Flown the coop!  And the nest was upside down and lower down among the branches of this small tree.

I had to go check - and it turns out that this tree, or maybe more of a bush, has thorns.  Long thin spiky thorns that are quite sharp.  (I was stabbed a bit as I checked.)  So I don't think a cat or other predator got in there.  No baby bulbuls under the tree/bush/plant.  No frantic parent bulbuls in the branches, or even around the patio.  Nope, it seemed as if the entire family was gone.  

I did some internet research, and according to what I read, baby bulbuls are ready to fly at about one month old.  So we're hoping that the parents and babies have moved to a bigger tree, that the babies can fly, and that the parents are now teaching them how to catch or forage for their own food.  Haven't seen them in the trees near here, but the parents aren't very big, smaller than a robin - and the babies would be quite small, maybe the size of a baby chickadee at this point.

I don't know - and of course we're vaguely worried.  But the birds know what they are doing, and there was no evidence of birdie trauma, so we can only assume that this is part of the birds' life cycle - they live in the nest until they move out, and maybe the parents push the nest out of the tree so the babies know to move on.

Last night, though, I was glad that our baby bulbuls and parents weren't around.  New Year's Eve is a little bit crazy around here.

I've mentioned that we've seen fireworks in stores, supermarkets, and even fireworks stands along the side of the road.  These range from simple sparklers to noisemaking things like cherry bombs to single rockets that shoot up and explode, all the way to "cakes" - the thing that looks like a batch of dynamite sticks all wrapped together into a box shape, and lit with a single fuse.  The fuse then burns from stick to stick, and each one shoots up into the air and explodes in a pretty big pyrotechnic display.

Now, keep in mind that there is a large population here that is Tamil or Hindu.  So they celebrate Diwali, which is a festival of lights.  Definitely celebrated with lots of fireworks!

There is also a fair-sized population of people who are of Chinese descent - and they celebrate the Chinese New Year.  More fireworks!

And then there's everyone who is on the Gregorian calendar, and living in the modern world, and celebrating the change from one year to another on 31 December at midnight.  Yup, you got it - even MORE fireworks!

So we've had fireworks going off until about midnight almost every night.  Quite a lot about midnight on Christmas Eve.  Then a few more every night since then.

And on New Year's Eve, it was a fireworks extravaganza!  Small sparklers, things that were like erupting volcanoes with changing colors, single bottle rockets, multi-rockets in one tube, all sort of things!

I finally sat on our steps, reading, so I could jump up and watch the various displays as they started.  There are hotels lining the coast of Grande Baie, and some of them had huge fireworks shows for their guests (and everyone else within view).  The first was a spectacular display at the far end of Grande Baie, maybe about two kilometers away from our location.  They started at 9:30 PM and went a good 20 minutes, with huge booms and giant explosions of color and light and fading golden embers over the water.  They ended with the grande finale in silver, white, and gold, just a gorgeous multi-layered explosion of light and sound - and everyone ooohed and aaahed and an older Frenchman turned to me with his face shining like an excited five year old as he sighed and said "Beeyootifull!!"  I agreed, it was just incredibly beautiful!  (Incroyable!)

Then random little fireworks continued around the perimeter of the bay for the next two hours or so.  (The bay is roughly 2 km by 4 km - or about 1.5 miles by 2.5 miles.)  Various families staying at our residence had fireworks and set them off on the sand road that runs just outside the grounds of our place, so they were really close.  Pretty soon, we had rockets going off and fireworks exploding directly overhead!  I mean, like right over where I was sitting!  Right over our bird family's tree!  And this was when I realized that it was a good thing  our birds had moved elsewhere.

Richard and I walked down to the sand road a bit before midnight - at midnight, EVERYTHING exploded!  The restaurant three buildings down set off their own fireworks display from the wooden pier that our first apartment overlooked.  There was a huge fiery display going off in the center of downtown Grande Baie.  Several of the large hotels on the coast were sending up all kinds of rockets and fireworks exploding all over!  And on top of that, people up and down the drive, the beach, and around the entire bay were setting of firecrackers, more noise makers, more fireworks - the entire sky was lit up with explosions of every color!  It was wonderful and joyful and exuberant and just slightly insane!

I loved it!

This went on for maybe 15 minutes, and then began to slow down.  Though we could hear fireworks continuing on throughout the night, until about 2 AM.

There wasn't much drinking going on, which was nice - although I did notice an older French couple sharing a bottle of champagne, just swigging it straight from the bottle while watching the fireworks.  They made me chuckle.

This morning, our very nice residence owner came around with little packages of four macarons, those lovely meringue-like cookies with the creamy filling.  Two white, one orange, one purple - no idea if the colors are significant, or if that's just what they had.  (He said he made them, but I'm not positive, sometimes we have a bit of a language problem.)  But he delivered a little package of macarons to every room at our hotel - isn't that a lovely tradition?  I don't know if this is just something he does, or if it's Mauritian, but I just thought it was so nice.

Our only other excitement - we were told by a chatty restauranteur that there's a tropical depression out at sea, and that people are keeping track of it to see if it turns into a storm or cyclone.  I've been checking the weather reports for several days now, and it seems to have increased a bit in strength and wind speed.  It isn't named yet, though it will be Tropical Cyclone Ava if it develops enough.  (Right now it is called 24S or something.)

But the weather prediction is for rain beginning tomorrow, and continuing through to the end of the week or even the weekend.  Winds up to 30 mph or so (50 km per hour?).  It is expected that even if it becomes a cyclone, it will head more toward Madagascar than right over Mauritius, but you never know.

So I've included some weather maps, so you can see what we're watching.  BBC News did mention that it looks as if it has grown a bit, so that we'll get some stormy weather.  Not the eye of the storm if it develops one - but definitely inclement weather.

And for our friends in the Caribbean, you might notice that this system is rotating in a clockwise direction.  Yup, Southern Hemisphere.  (In the Northern Hemisphere, they rotate counter-clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on how you want to say it.)

We figure if it does become a cyclone, we'll have encountered a hurricane/typhoon/tropical cyclone in every ocean (except the Arctic and Antarctic, and they don't get tropical storms).  That might be our new claim to fame.

So, Happy New Year!  Bonne Année!  Feliz Año Nuevo!  Buon Anno!!

And thank you to all of our readers around the world!

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