Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Posting Sabbatical

Back in (x?) months

On sabbatical. See Extreme Birder site http://patzcuarobirder.blogspot.com/
or for Birding Light http://mypatzcuaro.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Monarch Butterflies

Although not about avifauna, this report should nonetheless interest birders:
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Three of us made the drive to Angangueo today with the intent of seeing Monarch butterflies at Sierra Chincua. (It was about 148 miles from Patzcuaro's LaEstacion area to Sierra Chincua.)Everything worked fine, especially the new highway that's nearly finishedbetween Maravatio and Irimbo. That is, until we arrived in downtown Angangueo....there we ran into lots of soldiers and local police.
My friends who are visiting from Seattle were a little taken aback by so many soldiers in combatgear and I, too, thought it a bit odd. At the top of the hill, we saw a military helicopter flying overhead and were stopped by three police/military patrols. And, the road into Sierra Chincua was barricaded. Now this was definitely leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling. For whatever reason, the officials at the turnoff into the reserve let us proceed; however, at the gate where one normally pays an entrance fee, we weretold we couldn't go further. Sensing our befuddlement, that's when someone probably broke all security rules: He told us President Calderone was participating in a special event and we couldn't enter the reserve until 1 PM. So we had to figure out something to do for nearly 3 hours.

Thankfully today was market day in town, and we were sated with delicious freshly made blue corn tortillas filled with a combination of bifsteak, beans, cheese, and great salsa. (Are you reading this Don y Dona Las Cuevas??......you would love them and at 7 pesos, the price couldn't be beat!) At 12:45 we headed back to Sierra Chincua, where we had to wait at the entrance. Maybe 10 minutes later, the President's caravan of vehicles exited and we wereallowed into the reserve. Well, lo and behold, the ratty structures of the past are gone, and today's event was the inauguration of several new buildings for little restaurants, trinket shops, new bathrooms with American standard toilets,and a huge salon for educational purposes. We were unable to find Don Pancho, an elder of the ejido who has guided me to the butterflies in the past. Instead, we met Noe Valdez who agreed to leave the festivities to guide us to the nearest colony. Imagine my surprise to learn that he's participating in a certificate program to be a bird guide. Perfecto. Although Noe doesn't speak English, he spoke slow enough that I could understand nearly all of his Spanish.

The weather was lovely - not cold or windy. Our walk to the colony took us through patches of green meadow and through oyamel-pine forest. The trail was well groomed and was a gentle climb, not the grunt I've done twice at Rosario. Be that as it may, our hearts were beating and we were somewhat out of breath. Brief stops along the way allowed us torest. New interpretive signs provide important information about theb butterflies, in Spanish and English.When we arrived at the colony (30-40 minutes), we had an amazing experience. We were alone with trees full of butterflies. Noe showed my friends how to sex the butterflies. We were very close to the butterflies; they were flying all around and momentarily landing on us. Because no one else was in the vicinity, wecould hear the butterflies' wing-flapping. This was truly a mystical time with Mother Nature.

While some individuals recommend that the best time to visit the reserve is in January or February when many more butterflies are present, I maintain that it's worthwhile to visit early in the season when hordes of visitors are not there. Soon the area will be roped off and whispering is mandated. It's dustier and hawkers are assertive. Visiting a Monarch butterfly sanctuary is a must-see thing to do. I just wanted everyone to have another perspective. I definitely recommend Noe or Don Pancho as local guides. I doubt you could do better...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

From Lake Patzcuaro to Long Point Bird Observatory

With her permission, I am posting some good news communicated by Georgia Conti, founder of the Patzcuaro Birding Club. Hugo Valencia, of our Lake Patzcuaro area, has received a scholarship for advanced training at the prestigious Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, Canada. I have birded when Hugo was assisting birders. He has a keen eye and ear, and is very helpful and nice.

Hugo and Georgia assist birders at La Estación, a good site near Erongaricuaro.

Hugo with his youngest daughter.

Email from Georgia Conti:

Many of you know that I have been working this past year with Victor "Hugo" Valencia, a local birder from Erongaricuaro. He is an exceptional birder and I couldn't have a better partner in the field.

We recently received news that he has been selected one of three individuals from Latin America to receive free training from the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. His program begins mid-August and ends early November. While in Ontario, he will receive advanced training in bird banding and data management techniques and other field techniques related to bird research and conservation. Since Mexico is recognized as being an important wintering area for Canadian songbirds in Latin America, this training has practical benefits to Canadian researchers and conservationists. This program is also supported by the Government of Canada, in particular Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service. Both Hugo and I hope his training will enhance the field work being done by Dra. Laura and Dr. Fernando Villasenor Gomez at the Universidad de Michoacan in Morelia.

While all of his air travel costs, course training, and all living expenses in Canada are covered, he will need financial assistance to support his wife Lupe and two young daughters, Mariana (5 yrs) and Lucia (6 months) in his absence, and to pay for his visa. Moreove, it would be nice to send him north with a little bit of pocket money. so he is not penniless. I am willing to underwrite some of his expenses, but more importantly, Hugo wants to do as much as he can to pay for his training. This note is to ask that if you have any odd jobs on the back burner, he is looking to work full-time between now and the time he leaves. He's a master tile-setter, [can] repair refrigerators and air-conditioners (he can fix most appliances!), has a green thumb, does interior and exterior painting, and is able to handle most plumbing and electrical work. There is no job big or small that he will turn down. Oh, I almost forgot: he's fluent in English.... And, he knows the difference between mediocre work and that of a master craftsman, not a common talent hereabouts.

This is a chance of a life-time for him. Some of you have added life birds to your list or have experienced many rare sightings in the field due to his skills. If you've birded with him, no doubt you will agree that no one sees or hears birds as soon as he can! He's a patient and exceptional teacher as well. If you don't have a job for him but you are willing to donate funds on his behalf, please write to me privately. I have set up an account for deposits on his behalf. Nothing is too little or too big.

Let's [congratulate] and support a local birder!

Georgia Conti
Arocutin on Lake Patzcuaro

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Birding Cerro Burro

It was a beautiful day, but not a lot of bird activity. The best birds of the day for me were very good looks at the Golden-browed Warbler (a real skulker) and a boisterous, chattering pair of busy Grey-barred Wrens.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Winter Buddy

Love this little guy (Wilson's Warbler), who loves to flit around my garden at La Jacaranda in winter. This is a cold winter for Patzcuaro, but it sure beats winter in El Norte! This pajarito knows why he headed south.