Mexico Travel Diary - p. 2
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
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.
- 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.