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Goat Protection



by Sadhu Govardhan


In order to inspire nature lovers and to remind us of the importance of
creating bird-friendly, healthy eco systems I want to share the following
compilation of bird pictures, lessons and experiences at Govardhan Gardens.

All pictures were taken at Govardhan Gardens between October and
December 2014. For a professional photographer, they may just be
“record shots”, but for me, they are cherished memories of time
spent with my fellow residents at Govardhan Gardens.



1- sonic bloom

reina mora / puerto rican spindalis
(spindalis portoricensis)


When we think of power, we don’t necessarily think of a small bird
 who is primarily noticeable because of his beautiful song. Yet, sound
vibrations set everything in motion in this world.

Life can not be separated from sound and thus they reflect each other.
The less natural sound there is, the less life. It took modern man a
very long time to understand the correlation between bird songs
and their effects in the environment.

Plants don’t just feed from the roots but also through the pores of
leaves (stomata). Specific bird sound frequencies (some are too low
or too high for humans to hear) open the stomata, which allows the
leaves to absorb humidity as well as nutrients.

The result? Wherever there is bird diversity, there is thriving and
abundant plant life. By supporting a diverse bird population in our
environment we can create aesthetically pleasing and healthy eco systems.



2-sound garden

ruisenor / northern mockingbird
(mimus polyglottos)

They are all around us but as long as we are deaf to nature, we can not hear
them. Once we realize their presence and meet them in person, our feathery
friends return the favor by allowing us to live in a virtual sound garden.

Sometimes it’s an incredibly orchestrated symphony; other times just a lone
song. But it's always an exchange, a deep connection with nature once one
opens one’s ears to Mother Nature’s bird concerts.

Not only do the sounds fill the ears of an eco conscious person, the melodies
stay within his mind and heart. Although many sounds may evolve around
simple activities of eating, mating or defending, they always remind a
conscious person of the ecological importance of the presence of birds.

No need for radios, cd’s or loudspeakers – once we are tuned in to
bird music, we are automatically transported into a sound garden
that will help us break free of everything that is adverse to nature.


3-heightened sense perception

bienteveo / puerto rican vireo
(vireo latimeri )


Looking for rare or difficult to see birds can be a taunting experience. It can,
in many ways be compared to a spiritual exercise. You walk very quietly
through the woods – every step is carefully placed and in reverence to
the surroundings –  hoping to hear or see that one elusive bird; it may not
be big, in fact, it's more likely tiny, like this evasive Vireo.


At times, the silence becomes so intense that it amplifies every single sound;
this in turn, heightens the sense of hearing until the ears are at their
highest level of alertness for any new, specific or familiar bird sound.


It feels like walking on eggshells - whenever you step on a dry leaf it
sounds like an unnecessary and annoying explosion.


If we walked through nature the way we carefully tread

the earth attempting to watch birds – hoping to get their sweet and

exciting audience - we would have never destroyed this planet.



4-healthy bonding

bobito / puerto rican pewee
(contopus latirostris)


From the first moment, I saw this Pewee, I felt a special bond. Although

he looks particularly helpless and lost, I know that he isn’t at all. He knows

all he needs to know about his survival. But nature arranged it so he

looks like a born heart breaker for a reason.


Meeting him instilled the desire to meet him more often or even on a regular

basis. But how would he benefit from that? And why should he trust a

human? After all, humans are the most cruel, exploitative and destructive

 species on the planet. Although we feel superior to everyone else, we have
the worst track record when it comes to global destruction. In fact, we are the

only species that systematically destroys the planet.


The way I want to bond with this or any other bird is by making sure

that my land remains a haven for free birds, with highly diversified

natural food, water reservoirs, free of toxins and destruction – in

short, a healthy, highly diversified eco system.



5-bird photography

pajaro bobo menor / mangrove cuckoo
(coccyzus minor)



As adventurous as bird photography may be, I feel that we have to earn

our right to do so. Just prying on them for the sake of getting a good

picture out of them seems somewhat perverse to me.


Every second, countless birds are killed by our “civilization.” Enormous
amounts of natural bird habitats are being destroyed; many existing

bird species are in danger of becoming extinct.


Naturally they need help and protection. The best way to protect birds

(or any other of Mother Nature's creatures) is to embrace an ecological

lifestyle and to protect existing eco systems as well as create new ones.

Once we do that, and only then, do we deserve to enjoy their images.



6-SEED Dispersal

jilguero /antillean euphonia (euphonia musica)


One of the main ecological roles of birds is seed dispersal. One good example

of this vital function is the Antillean Euphonia or Jilguero. He may

just look like a fun playboy or handsome rock ‘n’ roller, but his spreading

of sticky Phoradendron seeds, disperses this important hemiparasitic

plant to many trees.


Tropical Phoradendron species have a very noticable impact in wildlife:

they are an important food resource for many pollinators as well as

ideal nesting sites for many bird species.


Unlike humans, the Jilguero knows exactly how and where to spread the

seeds (usually through defacation but occasionally also by dropping

seeds from his mouth). They find ideal host trees that are also the

perfect perching places for them later on.


Unbeknownst to many, avian seed dispersal contributed largely to

the ecological diversity of original rainforests and tropical jungles. 



7-natural insect control

jui / puerto rican flycatcher
(myiarchus antillarum)


Every balanced eco system has its natural arrangement of controlling

insects. This control would work perfectly well in a healty eco system. Unfortunately, we have degraded all eco systems globally, and especially

those in the tropics. Instead of recreating the original balance, we make

matters worse by addressing problems with chemical and violent warfare.


Some birds are predominantly frugivorous, some are insectivorous,

and yet others nectarivorous. The shape of their beaks is directly

related to the type of diet a bird eats in the wild.


As his name indicates, the Flycatcher’s main diet is insects. One can

observe him sitting quietly on a branch until a fly, weevil, wasp

or hemipteran insect shows up in the air or close to the ground.

His jaws are especially designed to make him an ideal hunter:

the ligaments are reflexive and cause the jaw to

snap shut once he catches a prey.


Instead of buying often toxic and always dangerous insect control

products, it is more advisable to increase the population of natural

and perfectly equipped predators.




aura tinosa / turkey vulture 
(catarthes aura)

Scavenging birds like vultures play a barely appreciated but highly
important role in nature: they are process linkers that take

quick and professional care of potentially disease-carrying

carcasses. Unfortunately, vultures are globally 

declining at alarming rates.


Fortunately, they are still a common sight in Puerto Rico,

especially in dry regions of the island. The Aura Tiñosa was

introduced from Cuba for the purpose of scavenging

in the late 19th century.


The performance of their excellent eco-cleaning services

are part of nature’s program not to entertain the concept
of potentially toxic-turning waste. Historically speaking, farmers

around the world used to have designated carcass areas where

farm animals that died of a natural death were disposed of.

This habit maintained a healthy vulture population and

kept diseases down. 



9-hearing the message

llorosa / puerto rican tanager
(nesospingus speculiferus)


Birds have to live with us but their voice is not heard. The tropical bird

population alone is being reduced by an estimated 144 million per year

and over 500 species have been extinct over the last five hundred years.


Today, we know that birds are absolutely essential and irreplaceable

for any healthy eco system. If we look at their lives, we see two

outstanding qualities:  they love to live and travel freely and their

ecological services are stellar. Their existence is a powerful a message

for us: all they want is for the world to be one giant, highly diversified

beautiful garden. If we can pursue that same goal, we can all live as

freely and happily as is possible in a world of birth,

disease, old age and death.


Just like birds are attached to global beauty and pristine environments,

mankind is determined to ignore this simple but profound message.

Considering the wisdom and excellent ecological track record of

birds, it would be wise to learn from them, foolish to ignore them,

and devastating to drive them to extinction.




zumbador verde / green mango
(anthracothorax viridis)


When we think of pollination, the first pollinator that comes to mind

are usually bees. Although this is true there are also over 900 bird

species that pollinate at least 500 genera of vascular plant species. The

vast majority of avian pollination takes place in the tropics.


Especially in the densely populated vegetation of the humid tropics,

avian pollination is essential. Hummingbirds such as the Zumbador

Verde are territorial and they visit up to thousands of flowers per day,

with each hummingbird species focusing on different types of flowers.


The pollination range of hummingbirds is particularly wide – from

humid tropical lowlands to mountainous regions as high as 17,000 feet.

In order to survive at this elevation, just like yogis in the Himalayas,

hummingbirds shut down their metabolism in order to

cope with freezing temperatures.



11-migratory visitors

reinita de fuego / blackburnian warbler


(setophaga fusca)

Every winter, migrating species travel to or through the Caribbean.

Amazingly, some birds travel as far as 9,300 miles, most “only ” a few

thousand miles. They fly as if going through invisible tracks or

tunnels – an innate ability that they would lose if they relied

on technology. No human in modern history has been able

to do anything even closely like it.


Migratory birds don’t have to bother with customs or immigration

issues yet . The local birds of each country they visit share their

territory, and they are immediately accepted as important

members of the local community.


The Reinita de Fuego is a rare visitor from the north. It’s bill is designed

to probe crevices in the bark of trees which enables it to eat insects

that are very difficult to reach for most other birds. In this way, these

warblers provide a unique ecological service wherever they go.

12-disappearing acts

Pájaro bobo mayor / Lizard cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilotti)

One thing that fascinates me particularly about terrestrial birds in the

wild are their sudden appearances and disappearances. Most bird

watchers use the early morning hours to observe birds. After all, this is the

time when many of them are looking for their breakfast.


Sometimes I go out too early – and it's still very quiet, with some stray

birds singing, or some late night birds still awake but at one point in time,
the bird
traffic along with the first morning orchestra starts. It's
an enjoyable time 
to hear who is around and to watch
how they all go their ways.


But just as they came out of nowhere, they also disappear very suddenly.

As if someone turned off an invisible switch – they are

simply gone. No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t find them

anymore, even fairly large and colorful species like the tropical Lizard

Cuckoo above. I find it a remarkable phenomenon that borders with

the mystic power of invisibility.




calandria / puerto rican oriole
(icterus portoricensis)


This species is interesting to observe: it's very acrobatic when it looks

for insects and occasionally overripe fruits. You can see it in

any imaginable position, trying to pry something open or

inspecting potential food sources.


Whenever I run into Calandrias, I sometimes forget to take pictures

because they are so much fun to observe. Like all birds, they have their

unique facial expressions and I don’t consider it far-fetched that

you can find a human counterpart in each bird species’ face.


Since Calandrias are often high up in trees, especially yagrumos

(Cecropia peltata), they are not too worried about any

human around them. Unfortunately,  there are human monsters

who only watch birds with the intention to kill them. This sad fact

causes many wild birds to avoid humans by all means.


Just like these disturbing assassins surprise their victims with a

murderous weapon, they will meet the same fate one day not

knowing why they were targeted and killed. After all, there is no

legitimate reason for a human being to kill a bird. One way to

recognize a consciously evolved human is by his non-violent diet. 




14-the art of relaxing

zumbador dorado / antillean mango
(Anthracothorax dominicus)


Zumbadors have the very practical and ingenious talent to find plant

materials that can be used as a swing. I watched this particular bird

for a very long time; although he was visibly enjoying his time on

the swing, he looked around occasionally to see whether

everything was safe.


Similarly, it is always wise to never feel overconfident in one’s

enjoyment and to remember to “turn around” once in a while to see

whether we are as safely situated as we appear to be.


The main reason why hummingbirds relax so often is because they
use up enormous amounts of energy when flying.



15-weather forecast

pitirre / gray kingbird (tyrannus dominicensis)

In the past, birds were considered to be one of the most reliable weather

forecasters. In today’s world, this may be considered an outdated form

of predicting weather, but it worked as reliably as any modern

weather forecast technology. Birds have their own internal barometer

that allows them to sense even the slightest

change in weather or climate.


Since everything today has be to “scientifically verified” a recent

experiment simulated storms and spring migrations by manipulating

temperature and lighting in a hypobaric climatic wind tunnel;

interestingly, it resulted in instant eating

and flight behavioral changes.


During one experiment that included attaching geo-locators to

birds, it was accidentally discovered that some birds

uncharacteristically travelled about 1,000 miles just to avoid

tornado-producing storms. Global changes in climate, have forced

countless birds, including the Pitirre, to change their habitat and

migration patterns. It is therefore more difficult than in the past

to rely on birds as weather forecasters.



16-marvels of nature

zumbadorcito / puerto rican emerald
(chlorostilbon maugaeus)


Zumbadorcitos require at least half their own weight in food (mostly

flower nectar) on a daily basis and often drink as much as twice

their body weight.


Hummingbirds are not only the smallest bird species but the only bird

that can fly backward, stand in mid-air, go up or down at will. He is one

of the few species, however, that can’t walk. Interestingly, he has the

proportionately largest brain (4.2% of his body weight) of all birds.


The nest of the Zumbadorcitos is a true architectural and structural
marvel: it is made up of various organic matter, including tree
lichens and it expands as the newly born birds grow.




san pedrito / puerto rican tody (todus mexicanus)


It is natural for us to develop a bond or friendly relationship with someone

who lives with us on a permanent basis. We feed our pets every day and

give them whatever time we can spare. Because of this closeness, they

become part of our lives and we have a personal interest in their well-being.

Since birds surround us by the dozens or hundreds, we tend to assume that

they are all just random visitors. In some cases this is true, but many birds

and their offspring live in the same environment for their entire lives. This

means that we will often encounter the same birds in our close

environment on a regular basis. Although many wild birds have a

relatively short lifespan, some can live for several decades.

The San Pedrito above lives and moves around the same area, and I can

visit him daily. As I got to know him better, I noticed that he is the dad

of a family with two kids. San Pedritos are generally easy to spot and to

photograph – it almost seems as if they enjoy posing for a picture.



18-adaptive beauty

tÓrtola aliblanca / white-winged dove
(zenaida asiatica)


Pigeons and doves are some of the most easily recognizable

birds because they are relatively common in most parts of the Americas.

Since this dove, like other related species, has been extensively

hunted, it has become extremely alert to human

presence, especially in the wild.


Over time, doves were forced to change their nesting habitats and

feeding habits dramatically. They are tenacious survivors who adapted

well to human induced, forceful changes. Interestingly, many of them

tend to take shelter of urbanized areas, partially because they must

have realized that hunting them would be a major risk in

a highly populated place.



19-eco-system engineering

carpintero / puerto rican woodpecker
(Melanerpes portoricensis)


One of the least studied and known benefits of birds are their

eco-system engineering abilities. An outstanding example for this

valuable service would be the Carpintero, an easy to spot bird.


The Carpintero drills cavities into tree trunks with soft wood, or old

and about-to-decay trees. Not only do these cavities become homes

for secondary cavity nesting species, some woodpeckers control

insect outbreaks (including fire ants) or make tree sap

available to other organisms.


Interestingly, the Carpintero gets so absorbed in his work, that

hardly anything disturbs him. One day, I needed to remove a dying

tree that was very close to where a Carpintero was working, and

although I had to use a chainsaw in order to cut that tree down, he

was completely unfazed and he was still working away

enthusiastically when my noisy chainsaw work was done.



20-the trap of familiarity

 zorzal pardo / pearly-eyed thrasher 
(margarops fuscatus)

The more often we see something or someone, the more we tend to

take it for granted and the less we tend to look at it. We may see a bird

species like the Zorzal very often, and thus it may become “less valuable”

or “less interesting” to us than other species we don’t see often or may

have never seen before.


Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or special something may

be to us at first, just being in its presence for an extended period of time,

usually leads to our taking it for granted to a point of not even

looking at it anymore.


The trap or illusion behind this phenomenon is very dangerous and it

is wise to guard one’s self against it. Every living being has its own

unique features and the same desire to live and enjoy like we do.

To the degree we can not see the beauty in nature anymore,

we are signing a seal of permanent loss and destruction.



21-the speed of extinction

tÓrtola cardosantera / zenaida dove 
(zenaida aurita)

We all hear about extinction in fauna and flora, but practically

all of us would be surprised just how fast a plant or animal

species can become extinct. One recent example is that of a

close relative of this beautiful Zenaida Dove, the

Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius).


Less than 200 years ago, the Passenger Pigeon was the most

common bird in the U.S., with a population of over 5 billion at their

peak. Their flocks could stretch 300 miles and they were

described as a “biological storm”.


Someone had the idea to hunt this bird and within just a few

decades, due to the relentless rage of addicted hunters, the

population went from 5 billion to one (!). The last survivor

named Martha died in captivity on September 1, 1914.


Mass extinctions are often blazingly fast in modern times, and

no one is exempt from that threat. Sustainability in nature is a vision

that has to be backed up by exemplary and ecological action as well

as respect and love for all life forms.


No sustainability, no future for anyone.



22-plant growth

clerigo / loggerhead kingbird
(tyrannus caudifasciatus)


In 1900, an Indian scientist named Jagadish Chandra Bose

began to conduct responsive sound experiments on plants.

He started out by measuring plants’ reactions to sound or music.


Bose’s findings were further developed in recent times and led to the

understanding that sounds sequenced in a particular order

harmonize with the internal structure of a plant. These sound

sequences are naturally occurring in the songs of birds,

like the Clerigo shown above.


Certain sound frequencies stimulate the formation of a plant’s
protein and even flavoring compounds. In other words, the
beneficial ecological effects of birds have by far more reach
than is commonly known or understood.



23-birds in puerto rico

comeñame / puerto rican bullfinch
(loxigilla portoricensis)


There are about 10,000 bird species worldwide, roughly two thirds

live in tropical rainforests, and 17 of them are considered to be

endemic to Puerto Rico; another 350 species or so can be observed

here – some only on rare occasions, others quite frequently.


In a healthy eco-system, it is normal to come across 20 to 40 different

bird species and a bird population of about 100 birds per acre. The

more diversified our environment, the more avian species it can

support. Each species has unique features and is consequently

responsible for uniquely differing ecological services.




24-raptor services

FALCÓN común  / american kestrel (falco sparverius)


There is much unawareness about the important ecological
predator role of raptors like this Falcon Comun or the Guaraguao.

Compared to other predators, raptors are highly mobile (falcons can
sustain diving speeds of over 100 mph) and have stunning
vision, which allows them to be highly effective hunters.


We all know how devastating an out-of-control rat and mice population

can be. This is one of the reasons why decades ago, the Asian

mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) was introduced as a means of

biological pest control. In short, his introduction was a complete

failure (rats are active at night, whereas mongoose are active

during the day) and resulted in high losses of

ground nesting avian species.


The ability of raptors to detect rodent scent marks that are

only visible under ultraviolet light, makes them more

effective than any other natural means of rodent control.



25-adapting to the eco flow

 reinita trepadora  / black-and-white warbler
 (mniotilta varia)

The Trepadora is an interesting migrant bird who likes to spend his

winters in the Caribbean. He tends to come to the same areas

every year. This warbler stands out for its unique eating habit: starting

at the base, it climbs up on a trunk and picks out insects along the way.


Timing is the key factor to seeing this bird. Species with elusive

nature or temporary presence remind us how important timing is:

if we go with nature’s flow, it automatically leads to an increased

awareness of what is unfolding around us.


As a society, we have become accustomed (or even addicted) to

doing whatever we want, whenever we want and however we want.
love to brutally and carelessly dominate nature as if there were
tomorrow. By adapting to the flow of nature, however, we can

experience beauty, freedom, peace and we will have

continuous profound realizations.



26-nature boost


reinita PECHIDORADA/northern parula
 (parula americana)


If every person in Puerto Rico would just plant one bird-friendly fruit

tree, shrub, palm, flower, or seed-bearing grass, it would support

the lives of millions of birds – a simple gesture with enormous impact.


Even patches of seeming weed shrubs like in the picture above often
have countless flowers, seeds or tiny fruits that can nourish an
entire web of beneficial terrestrial creatures.


Since the fauna is symbiotically connected with the flora in myriad
often mystical ways, we all benefit from supporting both,
flora and fauna. This win-win situation for all is called
‘mutualism’ in ecological terms, and nothing is easier
than planting something to attract and support birds.




27-peace through diversity

paloma turca  / scaly-naped pigeon
 (patagioenas squamosa)


In recent history, it has become more common for birds

to exhibit atypical behavior: some birds become unusually

aggressive, are afflicted by dangerous diseases, die without

visible cause or have deformed physical features.


What all these anomalies have in common is they can be traced

back to the fact that the avian community is losing its

natural habitat and diversified food sources.


Here at Govardhan Gardens, I have never seen aggressive fighting

of birds over food. With approximately 1,000 different plant

species spread over 10 acres, all visiting and resident birds have

enough to eat. Each species has his favorite areas and food

sources within the farm. Even if several species visit the same

tree, they share food in a civilized way.

28-urban pest control

guaraguao collirojo  / red-tailed hawk
 (buteo jamaicensis)


Since my commentaries are primarily from the perspective of

promoting wildlife in its natural habitat, I wanted to touch at

least briefly on human-dominated and artificial city dwellings.


Since modern cities give rise to enormous amounts of garbage and

pollution, they are becoming breeding grounds for many pests,

including avian pests like Great-tailed Crackles and Rock Pigeons.


In various large cities around the world, hawks and falcons
are deployed to control various pests. Just a bit over a decade ago,
there was a big uproar when the New York City authorities wanted to
remove the nesting site of a Red-tailed Hawk from a luxury
condo in Manhattan. Eventually, the nest was reinstalled and
the hawk was able to continue his pest control services.




Reinita común / bananaquit (coereba flaveola)


One of my bird-related research projects was to find out how many

nests can be found at Govardhan Gardens, a highly diversified

10 acre farm. The total count within three months was slightly over 100.


I was particularly happy to see that about 20% of all nests were

built in recently established bamboos. Each and every bird nest

is amazing in its own way. This Reinita Comun built her nest in as

 little as three days, with her only tool being her beak.


Nest materials include twigs, strips of palm leaves, bark, leaves,

lichen, spider webs (as binding material), plant fibers, ferns, grass,

seed pods, moss, fine sticks and other vegetation.


Nests can weigh from a few ounces (hummingbirds) to a few

thousand pounds (Social Weaver / Philetairus socius ). Some

designs are quite simple, while others are very complex and

spectacular. All of them are made from healthy and

fully sustainable building materials.


Whenever I have to cut a diseased or dying tree, I always check
before to make sure that there is no active nest in the tree.




zorzal patirrojo / Red legged thrush
(turdus plumbeus)


About 25 percent of all birds have become in danger of extinction. The
reason for this threat to their existence are massive destructions
eco-systems caused by our insatiable, materialistic lifestyle.


It’s a sign of our times that the only bird species humans show any

interest in, are chickens. Why? Because they were easy enough for

mankind to abuse, torture and finally be killed by the billions. In the

U.S. alone, 9 billion chickens are slaughtered every year; globally,

50 billion are raised just to be killed.


This Red Legged Thrush, still a relatively common sight, is one of

many species who are seeking a safe place to take shelter. We all can

help to shelter birds by providing a safe, diversified food haven and

home for them. Last but not least, we should become aware of the
that we can not survive  without protecting our environment

and all its inhabitants.


©Sadhu Govardhan (, January 2015

Dedicated to a beautiful but caged bird I've once encountered.











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I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped out this project over the years. Even if I can't acknowledge all of you individually since so many people have supported Govardhan Gardens in so many ways, I certainly remember every one of you.

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