Are You My Mother?


You have read of the lovely rosy finch families that have nested on our deck the past 5-6 years. First it was one family, then two, and now up to three families nest on our eleventh floor terrace each spring. We love it! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Every year we are blessed to wake up to their bird song, and to hear it throughout the day. We watch as the mother and father make their nest, then as they feed their babies. They zoom in and out the windows, they dance on the railing, and they poop a LOT. The family below had three babies this year. Aren’t they cute? They climb on top of each other in order to peer out. Once in a while one or the other will get his feathers stuck on the edge. They grow so very quickly.

Then, suddenly, one day, the nest is empty. We hear no more singing, and we are sad. In the process, we usually lose one of our plants, because we stop watering it while the birds are nesting.


This year, however, two unusual things have happened. First, one family of nesters left an egg that never hatched. How very sad! It is so, so tiny, and oh-so-precious!

Then, last night, Greg was awoken at 2 a.m. One of the small birds in the second set of nesters had either fallen or flown from the nest. He was standing on the tile floor right in front of our sliding glass door, looking in at us, and chirping his heart out! “Are you my Mommy,” he seemed to be asking.

Greg googled at 2 a.m. to read that the parents were no doubt nearby, and would take care of the bird; that we shouldn’t worry. We should just leave him alone. So we did. And he chirped all night long. Well into the morning.

Just before I left for church, we read on the Internet that it’s a wive’s tale that birds will abandon their young if humans pick them up and return them to the nest. The article cautioned, however, that young birds have parasites and germs, so it’s best to pick them up and move them with a container.

I used an old yoghurt container to gently take our baby bird and replace him in his nest. Twenty minutes later, he was down again, this time inside a pot of aloe. Again, he was chirping his heart out. I went to church, and Greg went running.

By the time we returned, our young friend was again out on the deck, looking in at us and crying. We were worried. It would appear his mother had died; we hadn’t seen her since yesterday. Then, miraculously, Daddy showed up!


Our guess is that Mom has, sadly, disappeared. Thank goodness that this father isn’t an absentee Dad! He seems to be taking good care of the two remaining in the nest and, the one hyper-active child who keeps thinking he can fly before he’s ready.

Wednesday Hump Day


Mid-week. Wednesday. “Hump day.” We decided we needed to get out, see a bit of the “interior” of our beloved Mazatlán that we hadn’t seen in a while. Not like we don’t often do that, but, hey, it’s Wednesday and we’ve been working hard …

We ended up driving toward Infiernillo. We were so very psyched to spend time noticing just how clean everything looks, we suppose after it was cleaned up from the flooding last year. Danny’s Scout troop has gone out there many times cleaning up. But this was obviously a clean-up of larger, more mechanistic proportions. Well done, city!

We stopped at a little mariscos and taquería that Greg had noticed yesterday, when he was refilling the gas for the grill. It is called El Pariente, and it did not disappoint.

The owner was very gregarious, and worked busily on the outdoor grill. His wife worked the indoor kitchen.

Despite the pull of the ceviche de jaiba and other cold dishes, we all ordered shrimp: camarones rancheros and

camarones a la diabla. Both were really tasty, portions were huge (we couldn’t finish), and

prices were definitely right: 80 pesos per plate.

Plus, the view was very pleasant!

After lunch we drove around the other side of the estero, past the fishing pangas,

the waterfowl,

the recycling truck,

the gas delivery truck,

the roof dog protecting a roof-top camper shell (?),

and a hand painted and festively decorated mural of the Virgen.

All in all, a most welcome mid-week respite to recharge our batteries and ground ourselves in the reality and security of our beloved city before we headed back to work.


El Faro/The Lighthouse

At 160 meters above sea level, the El Faro de Mazatlán is said to be the highest naturally located lighthouse in the world. I don’t know for sure that this is true, but neither can I find evidence to contradict it (see my notes on Gibraltar at the end of this post). What I do know is that a hike up our beloved El Faro hill is WELL worth it. In every season of the year it is gorgeous!

The view from the top of the hill is of course SPECTACULAR. You can look west to the Sierras, out over the city and waterways of Mazatlán, or east to the vast expanse of the Pacific. It’s a great place to sit and have a picnic, and take some panoramic photos of the pristine beaches of Isla de la Piedra while they remain undeveloped.

Your hike up the hill will only take 15-20 minutes. There are plenty of people who run the route. It starts out as a dirt path, and higher up turns into about 300 concrete steps which wind their way around a few switchbacks. Each turn and each elevation provides you a different vantage, and all are delightful. It’s as pretty on a clear day as on the rare cloudy or rainy one.

You’ll see ferries, cargo ships, shrimping boats, fishing boats, party boats, sailboats, and pangas.

You start your hike on the east side of the port. This is where many of the fishing excursions and party boats load their passengers, and there are a few dry docks and boat repair facilities to catch your interest.

At the entrance to the lighthouse walk, at the base in front of the port, is a coconut seller. You might want to join him for some refreshment on the way up or down.

The flora and fauna on your hike will delight your senses. In the early spring the cacti bloom. The green contrasting with the brilliant blue of the ocean will make you so glad you came! In just about any season of the year you’ll see something flowering.

We climb the lighthouse hill at least once a week, we enjoy it that much. Two weeks ago I told everyone we were “Wasting Away Again in I-gu-a-na-ville,” because we saw at least eight different iguanas sunning themselves during our climb to the top. We saw lime green, deep green, yellow, orange, brown and black iguanas.

This week I had to change that to “Arañaville,” as the spiders were out spinning their webs in whatever direction you cared to look. It was incredibly gorgeous!

Along the route people have graffitied the stairs. Near the top of the stairs is one of my favorites: a Spanish lesson. It teaches the difference between “top” and “abyss,” which sound similar in Spanish (or at least the Mexican version of the language).

Once you reach the top, and after you take in the view to your heart’s desire, there is also a trail that takes you down behind the lighthouse, on the other side. There are several resting places, and a steep climb involving rope at one point that leads down to the water.

Here you can see our much-worshipped cervecería, the Modelo beer brewery, from lighthouse hill.

NOTE: The highest lighthouse in the world, some have told me, is the Europa Point lighthouse on Gibraltar. However, though the Rock of Gibraltar is 426 meters high, the lighthouse is located on the waterfront, not the top. There is only an aviation beacon at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. Thus, I’m not sure how our local El Faro ranks globally. It may indeed be the highest.

Crane Convention

As I was driving Danny to school this morning, it seemed every crane, heron, wood stork, ibis (scarlet and white) and roseate spoonbill on the Pacific coast wanted in on the party. Was it a birthday? Quinceañera? Maybe a wedding? Or a discussion of how big birds should respond to the flu pandemic? No doubt it was the fact that something edible had just spawned in the water there, but it was beautiful!

In the estuary north of Insurgentes, behind Howard Johnson’s and Cherry, south of Mega. Right in the middle of town!

Link to the photos themselves or a larger slideshow.

Sinaloa Geckos

An online acquaintance of mine, Ken Layne, lives in the mountain pueblo of El Quelite. He’s a terrific writer, and I loved this story about our Sinaloan geckos. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Hawaii has its geckos that hang around people’s homes, schools, and businesses to keep the bug population under control. These little green lizards have been memorialized on thousands of tee shirts, baseball caps, handbags, and countless other tourist items. They even star in TV commercials for an insurance company. Sinaloa, too, has its own unique family of lizards that challenges the Hawaiian geckos as household fixtures.

Most folks in Mazatlan do refer to these little lizards as geckos, and they probably are members of the gecko family. I think there are couple dozen varieties of geckos worldwide. These Sinaloa gecko-lizards are unique, though, in appearance and lifestyle.

These little lizards are integral parts of every building in El Quelite, patrolling the ceilings and upper walls for insects. Unlike the Hawaiian geckos, which are bright green and can grow to a good size, the Sinaloa lizards are quite small — average length, about 3 inches — even when fully grown, and are almost translucent. Small size doesn’t hinder them in their insect-exterminatin g job, however. I’m sure that they are a major factor in keeping the Sinaloa spider population as low as it is.

In our house, the lizards hide by day behind the paintings on the walls and in small cracks and holes at the rafters. Conchita makes it a point never to take the pictures off the walls for cleaning. Rather, she dusts them in place. If you disturb the lizards, they might get upset and leave home — not good.

The lizards start to come out of hiding around 4:00 in the afternoon. They appear gradually. One may sprint out from behind a picture and run to the top of the wall. There, it will sit absolutely motionless for what seems an eternity. I think they even stop breathing and go into a catatonic trance. I know that any lizard can out-wait me. I’ll give up staring at one and go away before the lizard decides to move.

After the first lizard emerges, others gradually appear and start chirping. Yes, chirping! These little lizards talk to each other by chirping. Lizard chirp has a lot of volume and expressiveness. Lizard chirp is in the vocal range of a mocking bird or a magpie.

The first chirp is usually notice that the lizard has appeared for duty:

“Chirp! Lizard number 4 on station.”

How something that small can made such a noise is amazing.

These lizards are quite territorial. Each has its own area to patrol; if one lizard wanders into another’s turf, a war of words breaks out. A mighty dialogue of chirping ensues for several seconds until one lizard gives ground and retreats.

Occasionally, when tempers flare high, the lizards will square off like two Sumo wrestlers staring each other down. Then one lizard will launch a Kamikaze attack on the other. Darting across the wall or ceiling, the attacking lizard tries to strike a blow on the other’s flank. The rule seems to be that if the attacker achieves a strike, the other must leave the field of battle. If the attacker misses, it must continue on, out of the disputed territory. They don’t try to harm each other; they simply count coup to settle their disputes.

As I said, the lizards are territorial. Lizards on the south wall, never venture to the north wall, just 30 feet away. Ceiling lizards keep to the ceilings, while wall lizards patrol the walls. The latter never venture below windowsill level. I’ve yet to encounter a floor lizard.

One wise and enterprising lizard staked out the territory around the kitchen light. The kitchen light is a bare bulb in a receptacle mounted on one of the kitchen ceiling beams — decidedly not a decorator item but perfect for a lizard. The lizard in charge of this area will sit on the beam for hours, motionless for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Here he enjoys the warmth of the 60-watt bulb and snatches any flying insects that venture too close to the light. Lizards are very smart.

Throughout the evening, the lizards come and go. They patrol their territory but periodically dart back to the safety of the pictures on the wall. We take a lizard census each evening. The highest count that we have gotten so far for the number of lizards present at one time is 8.

At bedtime, our lights go out. We can lie there in the darkness, falling asleep to the chirps of the lizards on patrol. At sunrise, we awake and the lizards are all gone — back to their hiding places until the afternoon when they once again appear on station.