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The Birds and People of Volcan Tocana

MEXICO | Friday, 13 August 2021 | Views [173]

Azure-Rumped Tanager, Benito Juarez

Azure-Rumped Tanager, Benito Juarez

THE DAYS BEGIN TO RUN TOGETHER—a different hotel every night, up before dawn, load bags into the SUV, stop for coffee, head out for some morning birding and drive to the next destination. Sometimes we stop for more birding or maybe a quick lunch. 


  Pacific Parakeet


                       White-faced Ground Sparrow


                                                           Tody Motmot

Towns with names that hardly trickle off the tongue quickly slip from memory and Eric’s ad hoc birding stops are rarely on the map. But we do remember the birds like the Pacific Parakeet, the White-faced Ground Sparrow and the tiny, elusive Tody Motmot. I do recall on Thursday arriving in Union Juarez, a tiny town almost a mile high on the slopes of Volcan Tocana where we stayed at Hotel La Fazenda, owned by Eric’s friend Morayma. She also owns the restaurant “Donde Morayma” which she opened especially for us during our stay in Union Juarez. ¡Muchas gracias, Morayma! 


            Best Food in Town

There is some good birding on the slopes above Union Juarez—until the afternoon clouds and rain move in, that is—but our goal was on another part of Tocana Volcano at the even smaller and more isolated village of Benito Juarez. The trip has been physically undemanding so far, but that was about to change. The narrow road to BJ is “under construction,” the work is being done by the villagers themselves, each according to his abilities, as it were, and the road is closed about two kilometers from the village. 


        Road Building—It Takes a Village

Eric’s friend Nelson—a fellow birder and monitor of the endangered Horned Guans and Resplendent Quetzals for Reserva de la Biosphera Volcan Tocana—arranged a motorbike to ferry us one-by-one up the steepest parts of the road. I, for one, wouldn’t have made it otherwise, it was that steep. As I write this my legs and butt still ache from the return downhill walk!

b       b

                 With a Little Help From Our (New) Friends

While Nelson accompanied us up the hillsides among coffee plants, his buddy Tomás scouted ahead looking for Azure-rumped Tanagers, endemic to this area. He kept in radio contact with Nelson while we monitored the village gardens for the Rufous Sabrewing and Blue-tailed Hummingbird. 


                    Blue-crowned Chlorophonia

We hurried to the “tower” when Tomas reported the Azure -rumped Tanager—well, the others hurried while I lagged behind. Whatever. It was then that we learned that our intrepid guide was afraid of heights and wouldn’t—couldn’t—climb the stairs. His loss. Not only had Tomas arranged coffee and cookies on the tower, the Tanager was showing beautifully. And so was the most beautiful Blue-crowned Chlorophonia! Great photos of wonderful birds.


                Eric will do ANYTHING for a good bird photo

As part of the community’s ecotourism program, the wife and her mother of another of Nelson’s birding friends put together a traditional lunch of stew and tortillas for us. The tortillas were so fresh Abuela was making them as we ate. Connie may have fed a few of the tougher pieces of meat to the cat but it was an otherwise wonderful experience. The day was marred only by the dozens of itching no-see-um bites on my arms.


                     Rufous Sabrewing

That should have been enough for anyone but Eric wanted to try the thick forest above Union Juarez for the seldom seen Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge. When neither the bird or the weather cooperated we headed down to Donde Morayma for the best meal in a while—salad, potatoes and fall-off-the-bone ribs washed down by a well-deserved cerveza.


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