Disrespected Beauty

dsc_0107Mazatlán is blessed with estuaries, lagoons, the ocean, rivers, and all the water fowl and marine life that go with it. Everyday we see glistening fishing boats casting their reflections in the water, and we are blessed to eat the delicious product of their labors.

Perhaps because we are so spoiled by all the natural beauty surrounding us, Mazatlecos all too often seem to take it for granted. Without thinking, seemingly, people throw trash on the beach or the coastline, and that trash ends up in our waterways and all too often into the stomachs of our marine life, murdering them. Especially harmful are fishing nets, lines and plastics, as they entangle marine life and kill them.

One of the saddest of such beautiful places in Mazatlán for me is Estero del Infiernillo. It’s the body of water to the north of Avenida Gabriel Leyva as you go over the bridge, between Avenida Juan Pablo II and Avenida General Pesqueira. I love this place! It is gorgeous! Yet, it is horribly, heart-wrenchingly awful. The photos in this post were taken from where the star is on the map below.

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I know the area fairly well, because our son was a Scout. The Scouts went out to Estero del Infiernillo about once a month for years and years to clean up the garbage. We, and mostly they, would pack dozens and dozens of trash bags full of garbage and remove them from the estuary. It would feel so good! Nature had a chance to shine again after our cleanups! Alas, the following month, you’d never known we had done a clean up, as the trash had somehow always reappeared. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

People in the neighborhood tell us that Mazatlecos come to the estuary specifically to dump their trash. The city has a big sign posted, warning that there should be no dumping of garbage here. The sign is obviously widely ignored. There are many fishing pangas that anchor here, making the area all the more scenic. It’s my guess that these fishermen, also, frequently throw entrails and other trash onto the shore, making the area stinky and unsightly.

Estero del Infiernillo is gorgeous! It has good views of the military school hill and the faro/lighthouse, and in the other direction great views to the cranes of Parque Bonfil/the port. Despite the trash strewn everywhere there are loads of water fowl, and on a sunny clear day the muddy, brackish water looks blue.

A couple of years ago the Municipio put in a nice park at the estero: a basketball court and soccer field combination, jungle gym and swings. Later, they added in one of the gyms we are fortunate to have all over town. At the time they built the park, there were plans for the city to clean up the area and to have kayak rentals in the estuary; plans that have never come true. Now it’s still usable but pretty run-down; the most remarkable thing are the many shoes hanging from the wires.

Kayaking in the area would be absolutely beautiful, even with the trash, but if we as community members could find a way to come together and re-educate ourselves, so that Estero del Infiernillo, and other waterways in town, stayed free of trash, how much better all our lives would be! I shudder to imagine anyone eating fish caught amidst all the garbage flung in that estuary, yet fish there they do.

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!

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!