July 31 (Honest! We did see one!): PART ONE

Two days after our initiation in Furnas’ hot springs we found ourselves heading back with Martin, a huge fan of the warm yellow pool. But, before we got there we decided to explore the northeast coast. Little villages dot the coastline, including one where we stopped for lunch, and I snapped a man photo (one where two men stand stiffly no closer than three feet apart).

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Continuing on we found another man-made, natural swimming pool

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where, in spite of a few jellyfish

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Martin took a dip

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while Max and I walked around the perimeter admiring the local phenomena.

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Refreshed from a dip and watching Martin dip, we headed to Furnas via a dirt road taking us into Parque Forestal da Cancela do Cinzeiro Pedreira-Nordeste, aka, Park of the Priolo, aka, the Azorean Bullfinch.

Roughly ten years ago there were only 300 or so of these little finches, with Sao Miguel their only habitat. Now, thanks to the work of the Centro Ambiental do Priolo, they have migrated from the critically endangered list to the endangered one.

I wanted to visit the center, so we turned in once we saw the sign

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and were greeted by a young guide,

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one who pounced on us and led us into a fifteen-minute tour that started to feel like fifteen hours. But, he was earnest (remember the tuna lady?) and kind and knowledgeable.

Fortunately, Martin knew some of the birds. I say fortunately because, unfortunately, when the guide asked ‘do you know what bird this is?’, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. He waited for an answer. Max and I did recognize one, the woodcock, thanks to staying with our friends Carol and Jim, who once took us to a woodcock mating cocktail excursion.

Glancing surreptitiously out of the corner of our six eyeballs, we saw there were several of these displays that we knew would also have non-rhetorical questions posed; so, we kept inching to our left trying to lead our gentle guide along. It worked to some degree. At one point he must have caught on, probably when I jumped from photograph two to photograph six on one linear display asking my own question ‘oh, and what is this showing?’ Alas, he answered then backtracked, but at least it was only to photograph four.

Finally we appeared to be totally versed in the birds and their habitat when both Max and Martin saw a video room. But, the gods were with us for, by then, the guide knew we were priolo-ed out and were heading to the WC and front door.

However, we politely looked at the shop’s wares, inquired about the health of their organization and took our own Priolo photograph.

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We left knowing it would be a rare day, indeed, for our spotting one of the 700+ remaining.

Yet, we did! As we meandered down the road in the Park heading towards Furnas, we did our usual stopping and snapping

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including seeing up close the heather used for brooms.

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All of a sudden Martin saw two birds flitting away from our car’s front tires as Max slowly maneuvered around some potholes. He exclaimed ‘I think those are the bullfinches!’

Sure enough, we stopped, hopped out, and caught sight of one in the trees.

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We had spotted our own Azorean bullfinch! And, you know what? If we hadn’t listened to our gentle, earnest, kind, knowledgeable Priolo guide, we wouldn’t have recognized the fella and, thus, been able to say we honestly saw an Azorean bullfinch in its native habitat.

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