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I'm not actually a birder, I don't have a list I'm ticking off. In fact, I had to ask a friend to ID almost all these birds pictured below for me. I can't yet say I "have an interest" in birds, but I can say that largely as a result of my yearly visits to wildlife refuges in Ixtapa, that birds have become more interesting to me. I used to overlook them in favor of more flashy or cute animals like mammals and the intriguing reptiles of Ixtapa. But slowly they grow on me -- I get a little excited when I see one I don't think I've seen before or one who thinks he's all incognito in the trees but I spotted him anyway.
The exception to my historically placid response to birds has been the roseate spoonbill, which captivated me from the first one I saw at the crocodile reserve (cocodrilario) in the Popoyote Lagoon, a stone's throw down the beach from the hotel I stay in each year on Playa Linda in Ixtapa (Hotel Azul, if you want to check it out). Their population is practically skyrocketing inside this small refuge since my first year sighting them. Very exciting.
Every year I hope to be able to capture them on "film" in flight. Every year I end up with a few shots with blurry dots of pink flying into the mangrove swamp. Now there are so many spoonbills living here that my odds greatly increased this year. These aren't astounding pics, but they're the best I've gotten to date. Seven of them flew overhead in a little pod, if you can believe it! But I only managed to catch a couple. They make for a really interesting sight with their unusual bodies and beaks.
The next bird that I quickly learned to identify and therefore seek each year is the green heron. They are tricky little devils to photograph because they are always so deep into the mangroves ... it's like a photography obstacle course trying to get your lens to ignore all the branches and roots and leaves everywhere to get this one little bird in focus. But these guys are now ones that get me excited when I see them -- maybe for the sole reason that they're one of the few birds I can identify. I feel the first tinglings of what it must feel like to be a birder when I spot these guys. Check out this one in full size and admire the iridescence in his delicate feathers.
This year Erik and I took a little outing away from our resort to another small lagoon wildlife refuge, Barra De Potosi. Our boat driver seemed a wee bit impressed that I spotted the green herons and knew what they were, and subsequently made him cut the motor to get some shots! haha. I dunno, maybe that's my imagination because I felt all smart and cool over my vast knowledge of Mexican birds (bird).
Another little booger I see every year is this dainty yellow birdy, a tropical kingbird. As I spend a lot of time standing under the trees waiting for spoonbills, iguanas, crocodiles and other assorted birds to do something interesting, these guys are always flying overhead tweeting and twittering. I hear their songs first, then try to follow the sound until I spot them. But they're always high above me in the trees, back-lit and almost impossible to photograph ... that is, when I am even able to get my camera trained on them before they flit away. This year I finally got a couple decent shots.
But the most exciting aspect of 2016 was seeing a bunch of birds I had not seen before, or at least had not noticed before. These are great blue herons we saw on our boat excursion into the lagoon at Barra de Potosi. I'd recommend this boat ride to anyone ... no it's not adventurous, it's very mellow, but especially if you're a fledgling birder, here's a nice little trip for you. Not that I am such a person ..... These herons are pretty well camouflaged, at a swift glance looking like just part of the tangle of mangrove tree roots.
Here's a new guy I'd never seen nor heard of before, a tri-colored heron. Guess it's not too difficult to see where the name comes from.
And then I had the Pelican Epiphany. There were loads of brown pelicans at Barra de Potosi. But what I didn't realize is that adult brown pelicans are beautifully-beyond-brown! They have really lovely colors on their head and neck and beak. The opening sentence about them on the website, allaboutbirds.org, sums them up with perfection. But I'll include the whole first paragraph here, in case you, like I, don't know much about them ... "The Brown Pelican is a comically elegant bird with an oversized bill, sinuous neck, and big, dark body. Squadrons glide above the surf along southern and western coasts, rising and falling in a graceful echo of the waves. They feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up. They are fairly common today—an excellent example of a species’ recovery from pesticide pollution that once placed them at the brink of extinction."
There is something about their expressions that is so whimsical and comical that it just makes me laugh. Out loud, even. Looking at the photos after I got home, I swiftly came to find them very endearing. Here are a few of my favorite shots that to me somehow portray their whimsical, happy personalities. They often seem like they're smiling.
This guy is just coming into his breeding colors ... the back of the brown pelican's head turns to a dark rusty red color during their breeding period.
And this fella, on the other hand, is just a young 'un, not yet grown into any colors. But still sporting that pelican personality.
The other thing that I never much paid attention to until now was how prehistoric these animals look. Nearly straight out of a dinosaur book. While floating on the water or dive-bombing in the air, they look a little more like "just" birds. But when they strike a different position, they seem wholly Jurassic.
A new critter that I saw at the Popoyoti Lagoon was this yellow crowned night heron. Pretty neat bird. What blew me away was when I asked my birder friend for some ID on this bird and the little one below it, and learned that they are the same one -- this second bird is a juvenile. I would never guessed that one!
On the way out to the Barra de Potosi, we made a couple pit stops with our taxi driver/guide -- who, incidentally, we managed to track down from the last time we ventured out from our resort on a day trip (that time we spent the day in Petatlan) and he remembered us, too! We watched some bakers making traditional pastries and baking them in giant wood-fired ovens ... but the wood was not your traditional wood! Their fuel came from coconut husks. In their yard we found some other birds! OK maybe they're not the exotic wildlife in the lagoons, but frankly I find turkeys pretty fascinating with their brightly colored heads and wattles. Erik could apparently speak pretty fluent Turkey because every time he gobbled at them, they gobbled right back, quite excitedly ... which makes me wonder what he was saying in their language. Hopefully we did not fail to deliver on a promise that Erik had been making all that time ... "yes, we'll bring you a truckload of tasty seeds and then break you out and take you to Fowl Shangri-La, where the iguanas [lurking in the treetops above] will wait on you hand and foot ... no wait, umm, foot and foot ... and you'll sleep in nests made of silk." Yes, I hope he was not saying that.
Now don't worry, amid all these feathers, I haven't forgotten about my friends with scales -- my primeval pals, the iguanas and crocodiles. I consider them old friends by now, these creatures who de-creepified the reptile world for me. OK, I'm still not super keen on reptiles (particularly snakes), however, the iguanas in particular have convinced me to be more fascinated by than fearful of them.
Finally, a couple shots of the critters for whom this refuge and sanctuary was established -- the American crocodile. What I like about the first photo below is that it's a portrait of texture (look at it full size!).
And my favorite shots, you may know by now because I mention it often, are when multiple species are hanging out together. On African safari, such shots usually are comprised of compatible herbivores or omnivores, for example, elephants with springboks and zebras. I really particularly love the shots available here at Popoyote where the birds hang out so nonchalantly with their predators. And yes, the crocs do eat the egrets ... I've seen it. But hey, an egret's just got to go about his daily life!
But the egret has his own noms, and of course the fish he eats hang out in the water with him, going about their daily lives, as well. I'm not actually exactly sure what this egret was chowing down on. It looks kinda gnarly. But he did seem to be enjoying it.
Okay dear readers ... are you all birders now?? Well, I leave you with some seagulls in flight. They make me smile because the birds seem so terribly intent and they're like a little squadron flying together toward their intended target. At the Barra de Potosi.