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!

3 Dead Turtles On The Malecón

dsc_0074In front of our home today was a gorgeous large sea turtle. I ran down with my camera because I thought she was going to lay her eggs.

Upon approaching, however, she stunk. She was bleeding. And her eyes were very, very dead.

Heartbreak. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Carlos, from PROFEPA, was there making sure no one touched her. He told me he was not officially authorized to move the turtle, and he was waiting for his boss to give him instruction. But, he said, the turtle I saw was the THIRD one found dead on the malecón this morning! Carlos assured me all three would be examined to determine the cause of death.

Are You My Mother?

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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.

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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!

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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.

Ballenas Jorobadas: Whale Watching in Mazatlán

©2.DSC_0552-EditDo you know that only two types of whales sing? Lucky for us, the humpbacks that frequent the waters of Mazatlán are most definitely singers! The males are the ones that sing, and they do it to attract a mate. They invent new sounds in order to get noticed, and then, just like humans, other whales then copy their innovations.

Our family goes whale watching at least once each year (lots more info and pics in my posts from 2015, the trip with thousands of manta rays, swimming with dolphins in 2013, and a trip back in 2009 in which the whales approached nearly close enough to touch, and engaged in a lot of slapping and wrestling). We go out with Onca Expeditions, and they have a cute little gizmo (amplifier) they stick into the water to allow all of us on the boat to hear the whales’ singing. It’s awesome!

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Not only do the humpbacks sing, they also love to do acrobatics. Often you will see them curling up out of the water and then diving down, tail raised into the air. When they’re competing for mates you can watch them slapping each other around. The humpbacks will breach, often with their full body in the air above the water, in an attempt to impress a female. Once couples pair off, the acrobatics tend to die down as well; lovers in love are more gentle than that. Often times mothers arrive here with their calves, which is gorgeous to watch. Click on any photo to enlarge it or to view a slideshow.

Whale watching season here is during the winter, and it is one of the activities I most highly recommend for you to do here in Mazatlán. Onca’s guides are marine biologists who are actively engaged in researching the cetaceans that frequent our waters. According to Jesús, who took us out this time, Onca has catalogued 420 whales since Oscar Guzón started his research in our waters, but they’ve only gotten through 2010 data. Jesús told me he believes they have photos and data on 1100 unique tails!

While I’ve been told humpbacks live to be about 50 years old, Jesús said they can live to be 80 or 100. He told me the age of a whale is determined via DNA testing and sometimes via photo ID. They’ve also found whales with bone harpoons stuck in them—sort of reminiscent of Moby Dick, don’t you think?

The official viewing distance for whale watching is 16 meters; no boat in our waters should approach closer than that, although if the whales approach your boat, lucky for you. I was told the humpbacks swim about 10 knots per hour, and the babies drink eight liters of milk per day.

Do not miss your chance to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat! We do it every year, and never tire of the experience.