THE DANGERS OF BIRD WATCHING! I.M.B.D. CELEBRATION 2015
Michael Ryan: 18 October 2015
For the sixth time in seven years, I decided to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day (I.M.B.D.). Plans were made for Wednesday morning, all day Thursday, and Friday morning, September 30, October 1, & October 2, 2015 respectively.
That period was extremely hot, easily the hottest of the whole summer with just a little wind from the west rather than from the east as is normal, and the temperature was scorching. On Wednesday morning I checked out some of the Ponds, and on Thursday morning I visited Wingfield Level to look for Warblers. While I built up bird sighting numbers slowly in ones and twos, in general terms, it was not a good birding day. Only one warbler was sighted, the ever present Yellow Warbler.
That Thursday afternoon I proceeded back to the Salt Ponds, and ended up on an old dirt road by The Great Salt Pond on the South East Peninsula. The road had been abandoned for several years so I broke a few branches getting through. A few minutes later I felt the strongest burning sensation on my left side and inside my left bicep. I knew right away. The Manchineel tree is one of the most toxic plants on earth, and sap from a broken branch must have dropped directly on my skin. Manchineel trees are quite common in St.Kitts around the beaches and some of the salt ponds. The Carib Indians used to dip their arrowheads in the sap when preparing for battle, and poison their enemy’s water supply with the branches!
I headed home and the pain over the next few hours and subsequent days was unbearable, forming blisters the size of golf balls! The location of the injury compounded matters, with the inside of the bicep and the chest area often rubbing against each other. It took 3 painful weeks before I was healed!
Notwithstanding, I still have a half a day to complete my bird count which currently stands at 63 but it will be difficult to get those extra 11 species to beat last year’s record of 73 in the remaining 5 hours! I will print a full report & list when I have finished. Wish me luck!!