Mexico Travel Diary - p. 2Tufted Jay (80064 bytes)

18 March 2002
Today is my last day in the barranca.   I've found a hillside that the jays frequent during the morning, where they feed from the tree canopy down to the ground.  They are especially fond of epiphytes on the oaks, probing them for insects.  I sit on a mossy rock near the top in full camouflage regalia:  cap, face cover, and gloves, with camo cloth covering camera and lens.  The jays approach out of curiosity when I imitate owl calls, but aren't fooled for a minute.  Like all jays, they are keen-eyed and wary; my slightest movement sends them gliding across the hillside out of sight.  Their most vexing habit is to fly straight toward me up the hillside - then land precisely behind a tree or shrub, and peek around to watch me.
    This goes on for several hours.  It is difficult photography - low light, wild birds.  No feeders, no blind, no semi-tame backyard birds here.   Whatever I get will be through patience, perseverance, and luck.  Finally, perhaps through the latter, a jay perches in the open some 60 feet away for about 5 seconds.  I shoot 4 exposures before it flies, and that's it.  No other chances present themselves, and soon it's time to leave the mountain.  Six weeks from now, when the slides are developed, I'll know what that one chance yielded. 
Military Macaw (86447 bytes) 

- Later 
I drive down to the village of Copala and Daniel's Hotel, my lodging for the night.  Near the village I am greeted by several Military Macaws, feeding in the bare trees as the sun sets.  One confiding bird preens himself while I stop, set up the camera, and shoot half a roll.  Later over beers, I reflect on the vicissitudes of birds and the mountains with Daniel, a California expatriate who moved here many years ago.   He says that he has long tried to discourage the villagers from shooting macaws in the wing in order to capture them for the caged bird trade.  I relate my experiences hiking alone in Barranca Rancho Liebre for the past four days.  The barranca, it seems, has a bad reputation among birders because several were relieved of their money and watches there a few years ago.  Daniel says that it got so bad that the bandits were even hijacking the Bimbo bread trucks that ply between Mazatlan and Durango.  Finally the Mexican army stepped in and rounded up the bandits, shooting a few in the process and hauling the rest down the mountain to Mazatlan and Mexican justice.  It's been peaceful since then, he says.

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