Joie de Susie’s

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Joie de Susie’s

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Susie's Burning Desire Hot Sauce

A weak front crept into central Texas last night. Today the high is 95 degrees, and I am wondering if I will need a jacket. How odd that such a slight dip in the temperature will jar my system.

Travel jolts as well. While traveling you are untethered, disconnected from the anchor, home, that is your place in this world. I suspect that is why so few people actually travel. Only around one third of Americans has a passport. With new border restrictions, and the requirement to carry a passport even to Canada and Mexico, the number is significantly inflated above the number that truly travel abroad. Cruise ships and the all-included resort allow a traveler to lug their home along with the passport. You can say you have visited a new country while never leaving the ship. You can mail it in.

A birder, however, can’t lollygag on deck or behind the gates. Birds are out there. To see the birds requires seeing the people. To see the birds requires that you shake off home and leap into the unknown. To see the birds obligates you to connect with a world decidedly unlike your own.

Birders collect birds, or at least experiences with birds. But many of us also collect the places we have visited and the people we have met. Birds spark a birder off the ship and into the wild, but how does one then ignore the world in which the bird lives? Is it possible to see the bird and not the bush?

Antigua 91.1

Here is an example. The SCSCB held its last regional meeting in Antigua. Most of us wandered the island, and included Barbuda on a day trip as well. Yes, we saw birds, fine birds, rare birds. Yes, I do remember the Barbuda warblers, the West Indian whistling-ducks, the nesting magnificent frigatebirds. But between the birds I remember hot sauce. To be specific, I remember Susie’s Hot Sauce.

I spoke at the SCSCB meeting about sustainable tourism, and later appeared on a local radio station. The station, 91.1 FM, called itself Antigua’s “voice of the people,” and their masthead included a quote from Bob Marley. How could I say no? While being interviewed I mentioned the value of local products such as Susie’s Hot Sauce. The hot sauce and I had met early in the trip, and I can’t say that I had a meal there without a little Susie’s on the side. The point I tried to make to the interviewer is that place is a complex notion, and our sense of place includes birds, wildlife, music, taste, sounds, art, smells, voices, friends, and a thousand other elements that coalesce around a single spot on the globe. I have sipped gifiti in Honduras, snacked on grasshoppers in Oaxaca, nibbled bamboo grubs in China, dined on fried oysters in Hiroshima, and spooned calaloo soup in Trinidad. Yes, I can tell you about the birds I saw as well, but how impoverished would the birding experience have been absent a joie de vivre.

SCSCB Field Trip with (from left) Jose Colon, Chan Robbins, and Barbara McKinnon

Today, in this cool 95 degree Texas weather, I am savoring a bowl of rice and beans topped with a squirt of Susie’s Hot Sauce. With each bite I am drawn to Antigua and back to a lunch swapping stories with birding pals and sipping a cold Carib. I can’t image any truer words than the ones written by Pablo Neruda: bird by bird I’ve come to know the earth.

The new Caribbean Birding Trail will lead visitors to life as well as bird experiences. Where are the Caribbean’s best beaches for sunbathing and birding? Every island has at least one hot sauce; what is your favorite? You tell us about the best beers, the best local seafood, the best local music that can be found while birding the CBT. We’ll tell you about the birds.



Gunnar Engblom

June 20, 2011at 10:48 pm

Love this article Ted. You are truly a good a good traveller. In a similar sense: What would Peru taste like without Pisco Sour and Ceviche?

Barbara MacKinnon de Montes

June 27, 2011at 6:14 pm

As always, Ted, your written words are immensely stimulating! Thank you for including the picture as I hadn´t seen it before. I´ve not given up on the Yucatan Peninsula Birding Trail and there is a ray of hope coming from the federal government Tourism Secretariat due to the article published by Defenders of Wildlife by Juan José Cantú et al on the economics of birding. And no doubt, the CBT just may influence the 3 state governments of the peninsula. I will miss being at the SCSCB meeting next month but Rodrigo Migoya of Niños y Crías will be our Yucatan rep this year.

Jose A. Colon-Lopez

June 29, 2011at 10:19 pm

Dear friends,

I’m honored to have been photographed next to “El Maestro” during our last meeting in Antigua. Chan conducted a bird study about birds in contiguous and fragmanted forests at Puerto Rico, in the mid 1980’s and I was, then, his host and assistant to his banding group. There he shared his knowledge and, most important, his wisdom and generosity. Memories to cherish all my life.

By pure coincidence, I just returned, 2 days ago, from Antigua, where I helped conduct a bird monitoring workshop, organized by Jorge Moreno, founder of the Caribbean Ornithological Society (now the SCSCB). Chan Robbins presented his preliminary results at the first symposiun of the society, held in Manati, Puerto Rico. And, also coincidence, the only souvenir I brought from Antigua was 5 bottles, 1 of each flavor, of Sussie’s hot sauce. One will go with me to Bahamas to boost the flavor of our meals at the SCSCB meeting.

There are no coincidences, only mental communication when we are in tune.

Yhanks for sharing,

Jose A. Colon

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Through birds we connect you to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of the Caribbean.

There are countless fascinating stories to be told through birds. Discover an island's bird life, and you will discover Caribbean heritage.

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Caribbean Birdwatch

Catch up on past issues of Caribbean Birdwatch, a feature in Liat's Zing magazine that highlights the region's birding hotspots.


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