So then aim of this trip was to do birding in Mexico. I have seen bits and pieces on the road and at the seaside, notably Frigate Birds and Blue Footed Boobies, but everything changed today.
I came to Alamo as it has a reputation good birding. I contact the McKays who are local experts and they kindly direct me to an arroyo outside Alduana a village nearby.
It is frenzied- new species are everywhere. By the time I have walked 100 yards up the riverbed, I have seen 15 new species. Birds but not just any birds I mean like amazing birds. I look up and about a dozen Black Throated Magpie-Jays float over! They are huge, at least 3 feet long. Hummingbirds buzz me constantly. Yes, the Elegant Trogon, male and female, is there too. Woodpeckers hammer out a samba and dozens of smaller stuff keep me mesmerized all day.
Hooray! I love birdwatching. You are outside, you go for a long walk, in this case in amazing scenery, you are hyper alert and your brain buzzes with logic and analysis.Er the birds are pretty as well. Great way to spend the last day of the year.
Technology has changed birding. I now have a camera with a zoom lens. Rather than look through binoculars, seize image in head and fumble around in a field guide, I now take a photo and in the comfort of somewhere identify the bird from full size IPad screen. Now to hit the wild streets of Alamos on New Years Eve!
Wordpress seems pretty flaky on the IPad at the moment so I do not know if these photos will work.
Black Chinned Humming Bird
Black-throated Magpie Jay. – big
Streak-backed Oriole
Mrs Elegant Trogon
Painted Redstart

Streak Backed Oriole

Painted Redstart


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Black Vulture

How often do you miss things because you are not looking properly? Turkey Vultures are everywhere in the US and Mexico so when I see a vulture I just go, huh, Turkey Vulture. You get used to things and often miss exceptions. Like yesterday a group of vultures were ripping at a dead dog – charming Mexican cameo – and I take some photos. Only after do I think, wasn’t there something odd about those birds? Sure enough they were all Black Vultures, a species I have never seen before. Yippee!
Just goes to show how much you can miss by assuming that what you normally see,do, hear, is reality.
Black Vulture – may not mean much to you.

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Troubles come not as single spies but in battalions

This is a fish, of which I caught many before things started to go discordant. The first indicator was that my faithful ITouch went catatonic. Nothing I could do would make it speak to me. In addition it seemed to be using it’s energy to heat up. Weird but clearly an omen lest my parents taught me augury in vain.
I leave Bahia de Kino and head South towards next destination – Alamos. After about 5 hours of driving down dead straight highway through nondescript country I stop in the outskirts of a pretty major town Cuidad Obregon to get a coffee. I notice an ATM machine in the corner of the store and on the premise that it it is always good to have cash, use it. Weird, it refuses my card, oh well I try my French card – refuses that too. Let’s try the Wells Fargo card again. I cannot find it. But you only had it a minute ago you protest. Well, yes but I cannot find it. I go through my wallet 6 times. All my other cards are there but no debit card. I go through every pocket, crawl around on the floor but it is not to be found. I then read the receipt that the ATM spat out and see that the last four digits of the card I used are not those of the debit card but those of my Wells Fargo credit card. That explains why I could not get cash but poses two further questions. Why did I try to use my credit card in an ATM, something I do not think I have ever done before? More important question – where is my ATM card? Without this card I can not get any money and I do not have sufficient cash to even buy enough gas to get me back to the USA. I empty my bags, empty the car, wrack my brains to have a revelation as to whereabouts of the precious plastic. Nada.
I am in trouble.
Following much thought and different possible strategies I work out a plan. I saw a Holiday Inn on the way in and perhaps someone there speaks Ingles. We could track down the hotel where I stayed last night and hope that I left the card in the room. All hotels in Mexico miraculously have fantastic wireless. I can find the hotel’s web site and phone.
Luiscarlos Sanchez Ramirez is behind reception at the Holiday Inn He speaks a little English but he has a big heart. Of course I can use the Internet. Here is the code. But my wonderful IPad has gone catatonic. I was using it to listen to a novel just five minutes ago but now it has given up all signs of life. I turn it on many times, nada. I get the recharge cable and plug it in, nada. What does this mean? Why now after months of faultless service ?
By this time Luiscarlos has quietly found the number, has phoned and,wow, the card is not there. OK, I will have to turn back and try to blackguard my way back to the border,- remember I have little cash and Mexican gas stations are cash only. Once in the USA I can use my credit card for everything. However first I must cancel the card. I have a Wells Fargo emergency number and Luiscarlos phones.
Suddenly everything changes, I am speaking to crazily helpful Wells Fargo guy. “No problem Neil, your card is cancelled and you will receive a new one in the mail in 3 days. Would you like us to send you some cash so you can enjoy the rest of your vacation?”
Say what?
” We can send money right now to a Western Union office near you and er yes there is one about 4 blocks away from your current location.”
Say what?
” Go to 802 Ave No Reelection, great name – Ed, give this number and show ID. They will give you the cash.” This is a simplified version of the transaction but with much help from Luiscarlos, to whom I will raise a glass at each festive gathering, I set off into the churning mass of downtown Cuidad Obregon. There is no Western Union office at that address but there is one close by at the back of a furniture store – no joke.
I try to explain in my pitiful Spanish and get nowhere. ” Do I want to buy a sofa?”
Suddenly a young woman of about 17, who speaks perfect English, pops up and guides me through the procedures. At the last moment she says, ” Just give me your passport. I need to make a copy.”
I give her my passport and she zooms out of the store. I have just given my passport to someone whom I have only known for 3 minutes, whose name I do not know, and she has disappeared onto a street of a million people. Oh dear. My energy level is very low.
I should not have doubted for she skips in all smiles with the copy and 5 mins later I am on the road again with my pockets stuffed with cash. I will probably leave it somewhere.
Looking back on this adventure, every single person involved went out of their way to be as helpful as possible. Viva human nature!


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Fish soup

I always order Fish Soup if it is on the menu.
There are many varieties. In France you get a brown sludge of ground up fish heads and bones decorated with croutons and roux. Spain however you get fish broth with some onions, garlic, maybe saffron with big chunks of real fish. Around Marseille you can in fact get a real fish soup that they call Bouillabaisse. With this appellation they can charge you $50 a plate. The place to go for fish soup is Mexico er which is where I am.
Sopa de Mariscos – spicy fish broth with shrimp, scallops, clams, lumps of different fish and lots of fresh limes. $3.00.
I also get Filetes Vera Cruz, which is fried fish fillets in a tomato, onion, garlic sauce, because I am greedy. $3.00
It is lunch, it is not Irving.

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Oh no, Seagulls

They are the birdwatching equivalent of a difficult report
that you really do not want to write. You push it aside and hope it
will go away. Neither reports nor seagulls do so. Seagulls look
much the same, differ in minutiae, but worse still have terrible
teenage years during which they wear the most ridiculously ugly
clothes and look nothing like their parents. The beach on Bahia de
Kino is loaded with seagulls- I have the time, I have no excuse so
let’s get to work. What you are trying to see is of course the
Yellow Footed Gull. This one looks almost identical to the
ubiquitous Herring Gull but has, yep, yellow feet. It only seagulls
on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. There are loads of them and
Ringed Billed Gulls and Heerman’s Gulls but not much else. This is
a blessing as all these species are really easy to identify. As I
wander along the classic beach garnished by fishing boats and real
fishermen mending I think real nets, a lady comes out with a
wheelbarrow and dumps a cubic metre of fish guts on the
beach.Bedlam! A squillion gulls hit the guts: but the real
operators are the Pelicans who have the perfect equipment for
scooping up large volumes of fish guts. I had never really thought
about this before, but they go in like low loaders. Three minutes
it is all gone.

Some captions,these could be in the wrong order so
look upon this a a quiz.

Ring Billed Gull.

Brown Pelican eats fish

Brown Pelican swallows fish guts

Sulky Teenage Heerman’s gulls¬†wearing black

Yellow Footed Gull

Sulky teenage Yellow Footed Gull. Notice pink legs.

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The Long But Not Winding Road

Did you know that the Beatles’ ” Long and Winding Road” was inspired by Paul McCartney’s drives down Kintyre to get to his farm.?
You have to love the names of places in the South West. I start in Buckeye, stopping off in the Buckeye Nature Preserve but frightened off by heavy gunfire, then through Gila Bend, next to Why, through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to cross the border at Lukeville. I am in Mexico.
I listen to a novel “The Tree of Smoke” that I do not understand and look at the truly amazing scenery. It is all so wide, deep, high,large. I stop to get gas and take photos of birds but apart from that it is the highway throughout the cacti. I get to Hermosillo and switch off the engine in front of the San Martin Motel – $30.
I am doing all this from my IPad. The WordPress App does not allow captions to photos or more likely I have not worked out how to do it.
Long Tailed Grackle
Very bad photo of a Phainopepla, but it is rare so er um.
Red Tailed Hawk – note dark lines on leading edge of wings.

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Xmas on the Road

I have guilt about being in a car on Xmas day. But things being as they are, US based family has gone to the Philippines and Europe based family is well, in Europe.
Should I hang around in SF and take up kind offers of spending Xmas with friends or hit the road?
The road has always been irresistible and Xmas day sees me leaving Geologist Cabin at dawn to head down to Mexico. I work my way down the track towards the paved road in Death Valley. All goes well except I have little gas and worry about making it to Shoshone, the next gas station . Also worry whether a gas station in a bunch of shacks will be open on Xmas morning. These concerns pale when I hit a river that has washed the road away. There have been record rains in Southern California and I have seen evidence throughout Death Valley- mudslides, lakes on the road- but this is a river from nowhere running straight down the middle of the valley. I have few options, not enough gas to turn back, could take days for the flood to go down. On the other hand stuck in the middle of a river in the middle of nowhere on Xmas morning is not cool.The drop into the river is deep, the water comes right up over the bonnet. This is not going to work! But the car keeps going; we hit another trough half way over but the car keeps going. We get to the far bank but will she be able to climb out? We slither and slide in the deep mud but hey we are back on dry land. God bless you Range Rover!
Of course the gas station in Shoshone is open at 9:00 on Xmas morning. My troubles are over. Now it is the wide open American West: down to I 15, head South on Highway 95 before Vegas, East on I 40 and then South again on Highway 95 along the Colorado River until I hit I 10. Drive East until the junction with highway 85 just West of Phoenix. Hole up in the Westward Motel- $38- in Buckeye Arizona. I love to drive!
Happy Xmas every one

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