Monday, March 05, 2012

San Blas and the Birds, Part II

After a few days of exploring San Blas on our own, we made another birding expedition with a guide, Francisco Garcia. This time we went into the mountains that rise up from the shores of Mantanchén Bay, southeast of San Blas, to the small settlement called Tecuitata. The community here has declared the mountainside they own to be a forest preserve, and have stopped cutting the old timber. They continue to farm mangoes and coffee in the understory of the trees, and encourage birding and other forms of ecotourism.

We drove high up into this varied, open forest, then walked for miles, spotting an amazing variety of birds - more than sixty species, twenty of which were entirely new to the crew of Indigo. In the early morning, the canopy was alive with bird calls. The steep hillsides and tall trees made a majestic space for the swooping, fluttering, and chattering birds.

I took no photos, since I was much too busy looking around. I have blatantly borrowed a few drawings from Peterson and Chalif's Mexican Birds. The critter above is a Magpie Jay, a showy fellow, with a tufted head and long tail. The one below is a Yellow-Winged Cacique, a large, showy blackbird relative. Additionally we saw orioles, woodpeckers, hummingbirds....too many to enumerate.

By late morning, the birds began to hide from the heat, and we returned downhill to Tecuitata, where we were served a comida of Chili Rellenos by Marta, a talented local cook. We then looked around at the low key way the community processes the coffee it grows - the beans are separated from the berry by a primitive machine that runs off a truck motor; they are dried in the open air, and sorted and graded by hand.

This was a great expedition for us. We were especially happy to wander around at high elevation, after what is now eight months spent just exactly at sea level.


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