A Walk in Cerritos

The weather this time of year is so absolutely perfect here in Mazatlán: cool nights and warm, sunny days. Greg and I love to take hikes, breathe some fresh air, and see what we can see. This week we set out north, in order to avoid the craziness that is south right now. We went to Cerritos and hiked in from the coconut stand on the road to Manantial, where Danny and the Scouts often used to camp. Greg sometimes runs the trails out there; this time we walked and my loving husband waited while I took photos.

Right now the elephant cactus are in full bloom, and boy are the birds having a field day eating the juicy red fruit hiding inside the fluffy yellow buds! There is a road you can easily walk along, and there are quite a few trails winding in and around the new housing developments they’re building back there. You’ll see a lot of flora and fauna, and the telltale signs that you are on the edge of the city, as well. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The “yellow roses” (Rosa amarilla it’s called here in Sinaloa), or Cochlospermum vitifolium were absolutely gorgeous this time of year! I couldn’t resist trying to capture their color and texture.

Arnica are also in bloom this time of year; I always love their exuberant yellow flowers. The insect below seems to be thinking, “I’m on the top of the world!” I also loved the “inevitable” shot: life and death.

A few other plants caught my fancy, as you can see below.

But mostly I was fascinated with the hundreds of birds we saw! I’m not very good at capturing them; they fly so fast, and my lens isn’t long enough to capture them unless they decide they’re not afraid of me. It can be easier to catch birds in a backyard garden or city park, where they know they’ll be around people.

My friend John is quite the birder, and he recently gifted me a Peterson Field Guide. I love it, but I still am never quite sure what a bird is (yes, I have the Merlin Bird ID on my phone, too). I believe the birds below are a Mexican Cacique (there were sooooo many of these!) and a Black-Throated Magpie Jay that was quite fascinated with me.

Before the heat and humidity set in, I do hope you’ll get out and enjoy this wonderful weather. It’s been cloudier than usual, which makes it more pleasant to be out and about as well.

Amazing Bird Watching in the Heart of Mazatlán

DSC_0118Birdwatching here in the center of town is so very incredible. It never ceases to astound me how, amidst the traffic and pedestrians, and despite the bulldozers that are currently working full blast, the lagoon fills with every kind of gorgeous water fowl: ibis, cranes, herons, storks, ducks, bobos, spoonbills… It makes for a splendid sight, and wonderful sounds as well!

Estero del Camarón is arguably the heart of our city, located as it is halfway between the historic downtown and the delightful marina area, next to the Gran Plaza shopping center, just south of the Golden Zone, one block off the malecón, and one block north of city park/El Bosque de la Ciudad. The estuary, or “laguna” as most Mazatlecos call it, is representative of the brackish waters that dotted all of Mazatlán back in the day, when anyone could cast a tarraya net and bring in enough shrimp or fish to feed their family.

Today, instead of heading over to zumba, I enjoyed a peaceful morning taking pictures of some of those delightful sights in Estero del Camarón. By the looks of all the fish these birds were catching, food is plentiful and the water fowl are hungry! Click on any photo to enlarge it or to view a slideshow.

Today there were two guys fishing in the estuary; you can see them in one of the photos above. I also met Salvador, who was wading through the lagoon shirtless and barefoot, removing the litter that mindless passersby throw into this wildlife sanctuary. Thank you, Salvador! I met another man who told me he stops here every morning to sit for half an hour before work; what a wonderful way to start his day! I’ve previously done an article on the restaurant here, which is currently offering 40 peso breakfasts. I HIGHLY recommend you join them, and bring your binoculars 😉

Photo Safari and Hike in Delfín

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Panoramic photo of the first estuary, right by the new bridge in Delfin

On Mothers’ Day Greg and I took a photo safari up north of Delfín, to where Greg has been riding his bike the past few weekends. We took a cooler filled with drinks and lunch, so we could have a picnic. It was a truly gorgeous place to visit. I imagine those who live in Delfín hike this area often. But for me, it was my first time going up quite this far, and I highly recommend it. It made for a most wonderful Mothers’ Day!

The area where we went parallels the railroad tracks, and is full of estuaries. It is secluded enough that it lends itself well to really enjoyable hiking. I loved how we could hear the surf so loudly, but the second we got back in, even just a little bit, we couldn’t hear the surf anymore.

The beaches felt so private to a “city girl” who lives on the malecón. A man lives up next to the tracks (see his home below), and there are lean-tos that I suppose were built by the railroad workers to shelter them from the sun during construction or repair of the tracks. The grass up this way is really cool. It grows so thick, and the wind whips it all one way or the other. You could tell the area floods during high seas, as there was sand and beach debris everywhere. I was especially fascinated with the railroad trestle. I grew up next to one in Wisconsin, and the reflection of this one in the water was quite captivating. About five minutes after we crossed the trestle the second time, sure enough, a train came by. I was quite happy we were, by then, getting out our picnic! Click on any photo to enlarge it, or view a slideshow.

We saw loads of gorgeous flora and fauna—birds, reptiles, insects, mammals, trees, flowers, plants and cactus. We found quite a few different bones and skeletons along the way as well. It was a bit too overcast for my taste and for great photos, but, on the other hand, it made for comfortable hiking. I will most definitely hike up this way many more times.

To get to Delfín, just drive north on Camarón Sábalo to the road to Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay. Turn left and go past PBEB, and just keep driving. Eventually the unpaved, very rustic road will fork. The right-hand fork takes you through a ranch and out to the highway. The left-hand fork is the one we took. We planned to park at the estuary by the train trestle, and hike north from there. However, we ended up spending quite a bit of time at the first estuary right by the new bridge, as it was filled with every kind of waterfowl you can imagine—herons, storks, ibis, pelicans, spoonbills… We also spent a significant amount of time at the second estuary—just walking around and enjoying ourselves. So, in the end, we didn’t end up hiking north of there along the dirt road, as had been our original plan. I guess we’ll just have to go again!

Please, share with me one of your favorite hiking spots!

Jungle Tour of a Mangrove Swamp, right here in Mazatlán

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Jungle Tour Mazatlán

Many people don’t play tourist in their hometowns; it’s very often the truth worldwide. For years, we’ve seen advertisements and heard about a “jungle tour” here in Mazatlán. Those tours weren’t offered, or at least we never heard of them, back when we came here as tourists. We’ve thus never been on one, but I’ve been curious.

We did a “jungle tour” last Christmas in Nayarit that was one of the most incredible birdwatching experiences of my life, and a few years ago we’d done a Marismas Nacionales tour down in Teacapán, where there are over 250 species of birds. We very much enjoyed both of these tours. But here in Mazatlán we’ve already lost so much of the gorgeous mangrove swamps and brackish water estuaries that are this city’s heritage, in which those delicious shrimp and crab thrive, attracting that great variety of water fowl. Would we be disappointed? Would there be much to see up here? We obviously have a lot of gorgeous water fowl here in Mazatlán, so maybe, just maybe, we’d enjoy such a tour.

Then, at Christmas, on the way back from Stone Island, the panga driver asked me if I’d be interested in a jungle tour. He said he could do one for us, and assured me that we’d journey through mangrove swamps, see loads of water fowl and maybe even some mammals, and that there was a farm at the end of the tour with crocodiles. He promised, over and over again, that we’d love it, and gave us a price (1500 pesos for 8 people). He gave us his cell phone number, and when we had a group of friends here with a young boy, and another group that loves the outdoors but really doesn’t enjoy climbing, we thought the jungle tour might make both groups happy. And, indeed, we were all thrilled! HIGHLY recommended!

The tour began in one of the water taxi pangas, departing from the embarcadero near the brewery. Our guide wanted to leave at 11:00 am for a 90-minute tour, but because we all wanted to spend the day eating zarandeado and lounging on Stone Island, we told him we wanted to leave at 9:00 am. I’m glad we did! LOTS of birds were out and about, and we didn’t make it to Stone Island to eat until about 1:00 pm! Our guide kindly took us wherever we wanted to go, allowed us to dally as long as we wanted, and the journey transformed into a four hour one that everybody greatly enjoyed.

As always, the tour of the port itself was fun. We saw shrimp boats coming in, a small panga decked out with a homemade sail (somehow reminiscent of southeast Asia), and loads and loads of tuneros, camaroneros, and ship repair yards. I’ll post about those later, but here are some basic photos of the port portion of our tour.

We turned right, southeast, at the end of Parque Bonfíl, and into swampland. At first the passage was fairly wide, but gradually it became narrower and narrower, shallower and shallower. Our guests, three from Italy, one from LA, and another from Nebraska, saw mangroves for the first time in their lives. They especially enjoyed seeing how the oysters grow on the roots of the mangroves, and the six-year old Italian kept his eyes peeled for wild cayman (we didn’t see any this day, sadly for him).

Bird watching was not disappointing! Everyone in the boat was shutter-happy, and Jesús was happy to cut the motor or pull the boat around in order to help us get the best photos of our subjects. As always, I wished I’d brought my bird guide, or that I knew the names of more of the birds than I do. Please feel very welcome to tell me what these birds are in the comments below, and I’ll label them properly.

After about an hour, we pulled into a small farm, that of Jesús’ brother-in-law. There they harvest palm fronds, drying, cutting and bundling them for sale to broom manufacturers, and they also make their own homemade brooms for sale. Their farm was gorgeous, with papaya, mangrove, banana and coconuts growing. During the week, Monday-Friday, the couple lives here in very minimalist quarters, and then go “home” on the weekend. I assume they have electricity and running water at home, as they sure didn’t have that here. We saw a baby iguana, and to humor our young guest, Jesús caught it so Leonardo could pet the reptile.

From this small farm, we walked across to a larger place, where the King David tours put in. Here they’ve built an open-air restaurant where we sampled some of THE BEST cocadas I’ve ever eaten. Here we also saw the cocodrílos, lots of chickens and ducks, and a huge beehive up in a tree. On this farm they were growing squash and yaka. Nothing too exciting, but a pleasant walk. From here it would have been a short walk over to the beaches of Stone Island, but we were way down south from where the palapas are. So, we got back in the panga so Jesús could take us back and drop us off for lunch.

It was a terrific day for all, and one we highly recommend. If you have access to a boat you could do this trip yourself, and I’m confident that most any panga driver would take you for a fee. I am guessing our trip was more expensive than it possibly could have been, as Jesús went through the official channels—we paid at the embarcadero ticket booth. This was just the ticket to enjoyment for three very different groups of travelers!

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UNBELIEVABLE Bird Watching in Singayta

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After Christmas this year we decided to head south of Mazatlán a few hours by car, to check out an area we had yet to visit — the small coastal towns of Nayarit, south of Teacapán and north of Puerto Vallarta.

SLIDESHOW OF SOME OF MY FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM OUR MORNING TOUR:

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One of the highlights of the trip was a tour by lancha or small boat to Singayta, a bird sanctuary that is home to over 350 species. We were told that 80% of the migratory birds of the Pacific coast visit this area. We are spoiled by the daily opportunity to see loads of water birds right here in Mazatlán, so we wondered whether it would be worth waking up at 6:30 in the morning on our holiday. It was.

SLIDESHOW OF ROSEATE SPOONBILLS:

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Our guide told us that the roseate spoonbills were nesting, and that we would have opportunity to see their nests and their babies. That’s what convinced us to take the trip. And we did see many, many roseate spoonbills.

SLIDESHOW OF PARENTS FEEDING THEIR YOUNG:

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We especially enjoyed watching those spoonbills feed their young (slideshow above). The babies were larger than we expected, already a couple of months old, though many of them hadn’t yet gotten their pink color. Our guide said the height of the spoonbill nesting season is October through December.

SLIDESHOW OF VARIOUS BIRDS WE SAW:

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As we boated up the river we saw so many birds of so many types. Our guide told us what all of them were, but I am no birder and it was hard to keep track. We saw eagles, storks, cranes, ibises, herons, nightjars, rails, egrets, cormorants, northern potoos and Jesus birds, among many others.

SLIDESHOW OF SOME EAGLES:

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Our guide was keen to make sure we saw the variety of eagles that we encountered. I suppose it was much easier for us to notice the larger birds, so was glad he pointed out so much.

SLIDESHOW OF THE GORGEOUS SCENERY:

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The area is gorgeous — full of mangrove swamps, estuaries, rivers and other wetlands, along the lines of Agua Verde or Teacapán, much as Mazatlán used to be. We saw a great variety of trees, flowers, lilies and other plant life.

SLIDESHOW OF THE FLOCKS OF BIRDS ON THE ISLANDS:

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As we approached the actual bird sanctuary, we were amazed at what we saw in the distance. Floating islands of green that were COMPLETELY FILLED with large nests and more birds than I’ve ever seen in my life! We felt like we were in a Hitchcock movie! I can also assure you that the smell won’t be bottled for perfume anytime soon! As we approached the nesting area our guide cut the motor and paddled us closer.

SLIDESHOW OF THE NESTS:

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In the slideshow above you can see some of the mature birds as well as their young, and you can get an idea just how many nests each little floating island contained. What a pleasure! Many of the parents were busy feeding their kids, as you can see, and many of the young birds are a different color than their parents (I assume they grow into their colors).

SLIDESHOW OF SOME CAYMAN:

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We also saw a lot of turtles and cayman. Many of the cayman were out sunning, and several of them seemed to want to pose for my camera.

Singayta is a 90 minute boat ride north of San Blas, Nayarit. San Blas is three and a half hours south of Mazatlán, just this side of Tepic on the coast. We took the lancha that leaves from the far side of the river from San Blas — over the bridge from town. The boat and driver/guide cost us 700 pesos, and we could have taken eight passengers for that price. Our guide was very knowledgable about the birds as well as the flora and fauna of the area, as well as very attentive to our needs and desires. The area can alternatively be reached overland via driving and hiking.

We definitely encourage you to make the trip! Not a far drive at all from Mazatlán, and this would make for a terrific overnight or weekend.