Mexican Bobcat

dsc_0103bThe below is a guest post by John Childress, a birder and naturalist whom I have the pleasure of calling friend and photography colleague, building on earlier post here about Estero del Yugo.

The Estero del Yugo is a small estuary in the northern part of Mazatlan. It is not very well known by residents or tourists. There is a small inlet to the ocean on the west side and two lagoons to the east, on the other side of Avenida Sábalo Cerritos. The water flows from the inlet to the lagoon via a tunnel under the Avenida and is dependent on the tides.

The area to the east of the Avenida is controlled by the Centro de Investigacion En Alimentacion Y Desarollo, A.C. (CIAD)  which is an organization, in part, dedicated to studies “of the socio-economic impact of the processes of economic development and international integration.” There is a gate with very friendly guards who collect a 100 peso fee to enter and enjoy the area around the lagoons. The paths around the lagoon are very obvious and it would be difficult to get lost. There are also paths that go quite a distance into a semi-arid environment. Bicycle tours are also possible.

The morning of 2.13.17 started off very foggy. By 8:30am I had walked almost all the way around the lagoon and the fog was lifting. I was at the Estero del Yugo to take pictures of birds and I had my camera in my hand (Nikon D3300 with a 70 – 300mm  lens). As I walked around a curve I saw something run across the path. I walked back around the curve and saw an animal running towards me. I saw that it was a cat and thought it was possibly someone’s pet. But then I saw that it was at least twice the size of a normal cat. I immediately started taking pictures of it. As the cat turned to run off I saw that his tail was very short and I thought to myself, “Aha, I know what you are.”

This is the second time in my life that I have taken a picture of a bobcat, but the first time that I have seen the Mexican bobcat. This cat stopped in his move to flee and looked back curiously. The picture included here was taken at this moment. I had a way to go before I got to the entry, but I stopped looking for birds. I was very excited to show someone the pictures and hurried to share it with the guard and the biologists working at the center.

Wikipedia states that the Mexican bobcat (Lynx rufus escuinapae) is a “solitary, nocturnal animal, and are rarely seen by humans.” Que suerte!

Sunrise Hike

dsc_0569I am not a morning person, but with the thought of sunrise over the lagoon at Estero del Yugo in my mind, I got out of bed at 5:15 Saturday morning to make the trek north, so I’d be there and ready by sunrise at 6:00. The guard was ready for me, and I hiked right in and was able to enjoy the pink colors of sunrise over the lagoon.

We are blessed with wildlife in Mazatlán, and this Nature Interpretation Center is another gem for locals, expats and tourists, a non-profit center aimed at conservation through environmental education. It’s a photographer’s dream. Entrance to Estero del Yugo is straight across the street from the Hotel Riu on Avenida Sábalo-Cerritos. The area has a brackish estuary and a fresh water lagoon, an extensive forest, and is great for bird watching: great and snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, great and little blue herons, black and yellow crowned night herons, bitterns, ibis, wood storks, anhingas, cormorants, crested caracaras, black necked stilts, kingfishers, swallows, ruddy ducks, blue winged teals… Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

My friend John saw a lynx there the other day (his photo below)—the lynx is actually the mascot of Estero del Yugo—and you can sometimes see crocodiles and snakes, as well as iguanas, raccoons and the other usual local suspects. I saw tracks this morning for several other mammals. There are loads of huge termite nests throughout the area; the old, broken-up ones are so very cool!

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The Estero del Yugo CIAD (Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C., or Scientific Research Institute on Food and Development) is a non-profit civil association, so if you go PLEASE give generously to help support their efforts. They request US$5 per person to enter without a guide. If you make a reservation, a guide will take you around, help you spot birds and plants, flora and fauna, and know what they are. For a guide the requested donation is US$7 per person. What a bargain! They also have weekly and monthly passes.

This year is their 20th anniversary! The guard is on location 24/7, but  you’ll need to get a pass at the park office, which is open 8am-4pm. You can call them at (669) 989-8700, or email emurua@ciad.mx. Please don’t remove any plant or animal life from the area, and remove any trash you bring in. There is a small gift shop, also.

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I had not been in quite a while, and I was disappointed to see that the walkway out over the closest lagoon, along with the lookout hut, has been disassembled. Eunice assures me, however, that it’s all just under reconstruction. The bird-watching hut on the estuary was padlocked shut, and the boards over the muddy areas on many of the walkways are in disarray. Even the 3-story metal lookout platform has seen better days.

The hike around Estero del Yugo is about 4km; the paths are fairly clear and well-marked. The trail takes you behind MazAgua Water Park, then winds around and back to where you started. On two sides you have busy roads: the street to Cerritos and the road past Emerald Bay out to the highway. Inside the park, however, all is peaceful. People also frequently bicycle through the reserve.

There were loads of birds but I didn’t have the greatest luck capturing them through my camera lens. I love a few of the photos I took of the scenery, and the one above of the tree. Below you’ll see a couple of bird shots, plus the twisted plant they call “the screw.” There weren’t many flowers in bloom this time of year, but the yellow one below was gorgeous.

My muse spoke to me more in non-birding ways on Saturday. As usual, I was mesmerized by the numerous reflections. In some of them, it’s hard to distinguish between what is real and what is reflection!

Textures fascinate me, also. Here are some of my favorite Estero del Yugo textures from the morning’s walk; can you identify what all of them are?

There are so many trees in the forest here, and such a variety, yet somehow on this day it was the cacti that caught my eye. Here are a few pics:

If you go to Estero del Yugo be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes, take a hat and some water. In the summer when bugs are out and about be prepared!

Our Beloved Malecón de Mazatlán

We all love the malecón, Mazatlán’s oceanside promenade. While Tourism sometimes says our malecón is 21 km long, that length would have to include the Zona Dorada as well, which is clearly not malecón. But from Valentino’s to Pedro Infante is 8-1/2 km. If we add in Paseo del Centenario and the real, original malecón in Olas Altas, our annual Carnavál party zone, it’s a few kilometers longer yet. The world’s longest uninterrupted oceanside path is said to be the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver.

Here in Mazatlán you can ride a bike, rollerblade, jog or walk amidst incredible views. When the tide is high you can even get refreshingly splashed. In the fall months you can often witness sea turtles coming into the beach to lay their eggs. You can watch parades, marathons, protests, and incredible fireworks along the malecón of Mazatlán.

Most of us realize how much our malecón has changed over the years: lengthening it, widening it, various concrete designs and paint jobs, different types and colors of benches, planters, lighting, and, most recently, the palmeras. Remember when we had to avoid dog excrement all the time? Fortunately that custom has mostly died out, and by and large pet owners are fairly responsible when using the malecón to walk their pets.

I’ve written previously about how the culture of the malecón has changed. Most significantly to me is how in the past ten years it’s become the world’s largest gymnasium, at the same time that Mazatlán has become a pulsating center of athleticism. Ocean-fed pools are a rarity worldwide, and our own malecón is home to the beautiful Carpa Olivera that’s both historic and refurbished, as well as the Swimming Club. In addition to the athletes, the mesmerizing views, and sunsets unlike no other, our malecón also houses a grand collection of statues and monuments.

malecon-usersOne of the newest efforts on the malecón are the signs to have walkers and runners use the side of the malecón closest to the ocean, and bicyclists, skateboarders and roller blades use the side closest to the traffic. With 14,000 people using the malecón on a daily basis, according to city figures, this can’t always happen, but already I’ve noticed it’s made a significant difference.

All you snowbirds, welcome back! Those who have survived the heat and humidity, rain and wind of this summer, we’re almost ready for cooler weather! I look forward to seeing you on the malecón! Sunrise, sunset, daytime and night views there are gorgeous. What better place to enjoy people watching and the beauty of our city, and get some exercise?

Cross-Continental Bicyclists Sarah and Jacques Visit Mazatlán

We met Sarah and Jacques on Day of the Dead. They were just packing up their bikes, as you can see. They had left Sarah’s home of Vancouver Island, Canada in July, bicycling south along the coast for four months. Then they hit Mazatlán.

“Soooooo much nicer than Baja,” they gushed to us. “We’ve ended up spending three weeks here, our longest stop yet. We have to get going again or we’ll never get going.”

Thus we met two additional interesting people who love this port of ours.

“We stayed here in our friend’s house,” Jacques explained as Sarah locked up. “We loved being here. We had two weeks of ‘Mazatlán,’ and then this last week things changed completely. The Northerners started arriving. It’s like there are two Mazatláns: the summer and the winter version.”

They are planning to pedal their way south to Argentina. I asked how long of a trip they are planning, but it sounds pretty open-ended. They have their whole lives ahead of them, they told me.

“Did you enjoy Day of the Dead festivities here,” I asked. “Did you join in the callejoneada last night?”

“Oh, yeah, it was awesome,” they told me. “It is cool, too, how it’s the extranjeros keeping the Mexican culture alive—artwork, dressing up…” Fascinating to hear a passer-through perspective.

If you’d like to follow their journey, their blog is at www.peacewheel.wordpress.com. We very much wish them many wonderful adventures, much joy, insight, health and safety, on their journey!