Most of what I know about the birds and the bees I learned from travel.
I learned something of the habits of egrets from walking the slopes of the Audubon Canyon Ranch preserve above Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County. I learned more about egrets from a bearded man aboard the Lindblad Explorer after a morning of admiring those elegant birds by a still stream on Aru, east of Bali.
Tears for Robert
I learned about flamingos in Kenya and became teary at their beauty in the airplane scene from "Out of Africa." OK, so the tears were for Robert Redford, but the birds were pretty, too.
I learned about small white butterflies near the sea grottoes called The Baths on the island of Virgin Gorda. They rise in clouds from the wild grass and waft in the Caribbean breeze. I learned about orange butterflies--some said they were monarchs--that paused and matched the sunset on the Brazilian side of the falls of Iguassu.
I learned something about tropical fish from snorkeling in the South Pacific. I also learned something about sea urchins, which was not to step on them.
I learned that all lambs are born in the same season, and was astounded that they could figure it out. I observed this in the high meadows above Brookings, Ore., and in New Zealand pastures near Te Anau. Sheep, it seems to me, really know where to live.
I learned about tigers in Nepal. They are the noble animals that you tiptoe out to see at stilt camps such as Tiger Tops in Royal Chitwan National Park. The animals you actually see are often panthers, or, as I was told two nights in a row, "a tiger just left."
Captured by Recorder
I shall never forget the first time a giraffe loped by my vehicle on a trail in East Africa, or a working elephant claimed right-of-way in the teak forests of Thailand. I shall never forget the first time a gray whale popped up and rocked our rubber boat in Mexico's San Ignacio Lagoon. One reason I shan't forget is because my tape recorder captured bilingual expletives.
A dramatic experience is being offered this month on the cruise ship Stardancer as she sails between Vancouver and Alaska. On board, thanks to the Raptor Foundation of Denver, are five birds of prey: a falcon, a hawk, a great horned owl and a couple of eagles.
Lectures, flying demonstrations and close-up photo sessions are scheduled to aid passengers in identifying birds they may see in the wild.
That makes my last Alaska cruise seem tame, although a woman from Portland did tell me there were a couple of leeches at the captain's table.