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Words courtesy of Karen Ono

Photos courtesy of Shamar Hooper and Justin Isip

Breakfast (especially with all the bakes in Guyana) might be my favourite meal of the day. But what’s more exciting than breakfast? Birds!!!

Between 6 to 8 AM is usually the golden hour for bird surveys. Around sunrise is when the birds start to get active, thus, the time we usually catch the most birds. Between missing breakfast (eating later), and missing a net run, I would take missing breakfast any day. I knew I loved birds but couldn’t imagine how I’d feel until I actually got to work with them. And when it came the time to handling my very first bird, well – I knew I was falling in love, hard! My love for birds confirmed Lol. I was overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions that I can’t even remember what species the first bird I handled was. There was a life in my very own hands. You could feel its heart beating. Some peck at you but it’s rather super cute and not very painful (at least most of the time).

With no exaggeration I will say that this expedition changed my life. It gave me clarity, that indeed this kind of work is what I want to pursue, and confidence, that as long as I keep going at it I will get somewhere someday. It was scary, not knowing whether I would be adequate enough to work in this field, but regardless I was able to take my very first step. It was such a privilege to spend four weeks in one of the most pristine rainforests intact on our planet. Because we were not graded on our work like we are at university, we got to actually focus on the learning, the doing, and the enjoying too!

I was able to get the most out of the experience thanks to all of the staff members taking such good care of us. I could not thank them enough for being so patient and supportive throughout our learning process. Also, they just all get it – what it’s like to pursue your career in conservation or research, and how challenging that can be. It was such a relief to know I am not alone in this.

Being out in the jungle allowed me to be in touch with probably the rawest side of myself as well – vulnerable, afraid, uncertain – in which as much as I learned about the flora and fauna, I learned more about myself, through this expedition. I am now happier than ever.

When will I ever get to have such an intimate experience with nature again? Soon, let’s hope.

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