Mexico Travel Diary
|11 March 2009
High in the Sierra Madre Mountains of western
Mexico, the cabañas at Tufted Jay Preserve offer a rare, almost unique
experience. I refer not to fascinating bird life or delicious Mexican
home cooking, although both are in abundance. What is
most remarkable here is the silence. It is like a graveyard at midnight.
Last night I sat on the patio. I
could see the faraway lights of Mazatlan, 2 hours west of here along the Pacific
Coast. The moon had just risen, casting its light on pines and oaks around the cabaña.
But I could hear
nothing. Not the roar of traffic somewhere. Not even the rumble
of refrigerator or other electrical gizmo. There is no electricity here,
only the quiet.
And this morning, amid feeding flocks of warblers and finches, more
silence. Occasionally a Townsend’s Warbler would rattle off a cheerful ditty.
In the distance came, now and then, the plaintive kyow-kyow of a Mountain
Trogon. But mostly the birds went about their day with scarcely a peep.
Here then is a sanctuary, offering
respite from the blaring TV; from the clamor of traffic, the air conditioner,
the lawnmower, the chatty cell phone user,
the neighbor’s yapping dog and every
other assault on our ears that comes with modern life.
In the afternoon, stillness again. Not even bird song
now, just the sigh of wind in the pines beneath a deep
blue sky you see at an elevation of 6800’. The hours drag by. I take a
nap; drink a cup of instant coffee, and strain to hear any sound other than the
Two hours before sunset, the birds are
active again. A flock of Tufted Jays, who live in these
mountains and nowhere else in the world, passes near the cabaña. From
them comes an occasional chenk-chenk, but they are far more taciturn than
our own garrulous Blue Jays. They feed and move about quietly. Like the other
birds, they seem in full accord with our philosophy here that silence is golden;
the less said, the better.
Afterwards I have a Pacifico beer
with Alfredo Valdes Aragon and Carmen Esquival, caretakers who provide my
breakfast and supper. The quiet is interrupted for a while by Carmen’s grandson
Orlando, but he is only three so it is to be expected.
By seven they are gone; silence
returns and now darkness as well. With no street lights, no house lights
blazing in every room, night descends like a shroud. I have a flashlight and
battery-powered fluorescent tube, but the night rules. With it comes a dazzling
blanket of stars. Here at 23°N
latitude, Orion sits high in the sky near
the zenith. The binoculars with which I viewed Golden-browed Warblers and
White-eared Hummingbirds today now reveal
the Great Nebula
in Orion’s belt, a splendid sight.
12 March 2009
I rise at dawn, have some instant
coffee, then survey the open areas near the
for all the skulkers: Spotted Towhee, Blue Mockingbird, Russet-crowned
Brush-finch, and the most common bird here, Yellow-eyed Junco. It is very
similar to the gray-headed race of our Dark-eyed Junco, aside from those
startling yellow eyes.
birded with Santos, a birding guide from the nearby village of Palmito. Alfredo
told me that Santos spoke a little English, but that
proved not to be the case. Except for the occasional American birder passing
through, it seems I will spend the week without conversing in the King’s English.
12 March 2009
An unsettled day, with high wind in the morning that dampened bird activity. In
the afternoon Santos showed me a road
below the cabañas that leads down into Barranca Rancho Liebre,
a narrow canyon
that I visited exactly seven years ago. In the open
pine forest was a Red Warbler, but
it is a nemesis bird. In two trips here, I have failed to get a
photo of this beautiful little warbler.
So I must be content with a nice Slate-throated Redstart,
another warbler who flycatches for insects, in this case a tasty moth.
Redstarts are always found in pairs here, among the most common and conspicuous
Fog rolled in over the mountains,
so we returned to the cabaña for a beer, then an evening meal of tostadas a
la plaza: tostadas with frijoles and shredded chicken and cheese. Carmen
does all the cooking and dishwashing, while we men politely wait for her to set
a plate of food before us. In this part of the world we abide by the old