The Hummingbirds of San Juan Bautista were excited to hear from their big-footed cousins on the Isla Robinson Crusoe some 400 miles off the coast of
Chile. They stay in touch because they both live in San Juan Bautista. San Benito County has it’s San Juan Bautista, but so does Chile in South America.
The Firecrown Hummingbird evolved on their little comma-shaped island off Santiago, Chile to become one of the world’s rarest birds and one of the most protected. UNESCO has placed the Juan Fernandez Archipelago in the World Biosphere Reserve to protect the 3000 remaining hummers. The Firecrown male is a beautiful cinnamon color with a red head, white belly and the biggest feet of all hummingbirds. Their lovely mates are smaller, green with a blue-green crown and a needle-fine beak.
San Juan Bautista, California and San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe Island have much in common. American San Juan has it’s San Andreas Fault; the southern island suffered a thirty foot tsunami in February, 2010, after an 8.8 earthquake. Sixteen people were lost, but not one hummer.
Our county has Father Serra and the island has Robinson Crusoe.
If Robinson Crusoe were only a real person this tale could end here, but he was not. He was the main character in history’s first English novel written by Daniel Defoe in 1719. The real “Robinson” was a rowdy Scottish mariner, Alex Selkirk, who argued with his captain in 1704 over shoddy repairs and the sea-worthiness of the ship. (He was right, the old ship sank a month later with all hands).
He was put ashore and was marooned, with his soon-to-be friends, the Firecrown Hummingbirds, for four years, four months. Hummingbirds can cure loneliness, or so say my birds. The Firecrowns feel they prevented Selkirk from going insane. He was a lucky man, all agreed, since the island was covered with goats and the sea was bubbling with the Spiney, clawless lobster (langostas). Selkirk was rescued and his story told.
Later, Defoe fictionalized his story and made a small fortune. He didn’t share with Selkirk, even though he was a Puritan. Hummingbirds share, they wonder why some people don’t.
There is rumor that 800 tons of Spanish gold is buried on the island. The Firecrowns are still looking for it and, if they find it, they have told their cousins in San Juan Bautista, California that they are coming to the Happy Hour and will be buying.