Birding Without Borders

Day 330: Earthquake!

A little volcanic shakin' going on.

November 26, 2015: Tangkoko, Sulawesi — I woke at 3 this morning to the sound of something falling on the ground and with the distinct, unsteady feeling that my bed was vibrating. The shaking stopped in a few seconds and, after wondering sleepily what had just happened, I returned to my dreams.

An hour and a half later, I asked Monal at breakfast if he’d felt anything during the night. “Yes, I woke up too,” he said. “That was an earthquake. We get them all the time. There are 11 active volcanoes in this area!”

It might have been a tiny one, but I was excited. My first-ever real, live earthquake! I’ve managed to avoid even the slightest tremor during my entire 29 years on this planet thus far (we don’t get them much in Oregon), so I was stoked to get shaken up this morning.

Then I remembered something else. “Hey, happy Thanksgiving!” I said to Monal. 

He looked blank. “Huh?”

At 5 o’clock this morning, I found myself explaining the traditions of Thanksgiving, with Halloween thrown in for good measure, to an Indonesian audience. Both holidays began to sound pretty weird the more I described them (Black Friday… Jack-o-Lanterns…). Which brings up an interesting point: Is is still Thanksgiving if you’re in a place that doesn’t celebrate it, and if it’s not actually Thanksgiving yet (because of the time difference) in the U.S.?

In the past few years, I’ve spent three Thanksgivings in Antarctica, one in the Galapagos, and one in Amazonian Ecuador, so this one had a lot to live up to. I needn’t have worried. It was yet another fantastic day in the field.

The highlight came this afternoon when Monal and I boarded an outrigger canoe, a new form of transportation for me, which was piloted by two men from the local fishing village. We launched straight off the beach, crossed a bay in the sunshine, and meandered up a twisty channel into a mangrove forest at high tide. This was the realm of the Great-billed Kingfisher, a skulky Sulawesi endemic, and Monal was on high alert for this special bird.

He spotted it soon enough, perched on a mangrove branch overhanging the water. We admired the kingfisher, turned around, and floated back out to sea, where Lesser Frigatebirds wheeled overhead and Pacific Reef-Egrets dotted the rocks under the watchful eye of a White-bellied Sea-Eagle.

I have many things to be thankful for, from a supportive family to the wonderful community of birders around the world who have helped at every step of this year’s adventure. My dinner today included whole fried fish, rice, and veggies. I’ll save the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for next yearmeanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

New birds today: 14

Year list: 5388

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