As you admire the image of the collared aracari selected by design director Kevin Fisher and photo editor Kim Hubbard for this issue’s cover, I hope the story behind it further enhances your appreciation for the photo and the other spectacular bird shots in our green travel article, “Where Dreams Come True.” On his two trips to Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras, a new eco-destination that is home to half of that country’s 700 avian species, nature photographer Roy Toft fell for the toucans. “A lot of times it’s hard to get birds’ personalities,” he says. “But all the toucans have a lot of character. When they perch they’ll cock their heads and are very alert. Then they’ll explode off a branch in groups of 15 to 20.”
It turned out that shooting the toucans was child’s play compared with capturing the lovely cotinga—a bird, T. Edward Nickens writes, with blue feathers “that nearly glow in the sun [and were] so coveted by the ancient Mayans that they were gifts of tributes to the lords.” The bird lives high in the rainforest canopy, so is very hard to see—and even harder to photograph. “The cotinga is a true money bird,” Toft says. “Birders will come from all over the states and U.K. just to see it.” Three weeks after he was skunked on his first trip for Audubon, the Lodge at Pico Bonito invited him back to try again, and he returned to Honduras. For a week the lodge stationed four guides in the forest. Each time they radioed Toft, he would grab his 50 pounds of camera gear and lug it up the hills in the thick heat—“We were sweaty messes,” he says—only to see a flash of blue vanish in the distance. At long last, after so many dashed hopes, Toft shot the rare photo of the cotinga you’ll see on page 58 of the print edition.
Also in this issue, please note the fresh coat of paint applied to the magazine’s front porch, our Field Notes section, under the skillful hands of Kevin Fisher and senior editor Alisa Opar. Our intent is for you to enjoy the mix of newsy, lively, and even irreverent items conveyed not just through the usual photos and text but also the arresting illustrations and fun “factoids.” Says Opar, “We want to pack the pages with something for everyone, whether you’re interested in birds, psychology, renewable energy, or environmental policy.”
Postscript: I get a fair number of calls and letters asking about those pesky little subscription cards that fall out of your Audubon and why we have so many. The simple answer is that tests have shown that doubling them doubles our number of new subscribers. This, in turn, reduces our need to rely on costlier and bulkier packages sent through the mail.
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