Safe Boot

What a strange combination of words.

I start up my brand new MacBook to upload lots more amazing bird photos but something is seriously wrong. Two words, in suitable blood red, appear in the top right corner of the screen. “Safe Boot” they taunt. I have never seen this before. I enter my password to get access to the machine but it is refused! My Mac is FUBAR.


I do everything I can think of. Nothing works. I cannot write blogs, I cannot upload photos, I cannot browse the web. Very bad news.

Won’t let me in.

From my phone, I post a plea for help on my Instagram feed, @ryutaro_higa. I am on a desolate beach some way North of San Blas on my way to Mazatplan.

10 minutes later, the learned Robert Mallon from Okinawa, gets back to me. He explains what to do. I do it. Safe Boot is vanquished and I am back in action.

Two conclusions: first Instagram is amazing, post a message from a beach and hundreds of people get it immediately; second Robert Mallon is a hero!

Cooper’s hawk

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Jose Antonio

So as you know the principal goal of my trip to San Blas was to see lots of birds. I realize that to do so effectively I am going to need help. I go to the Tourist Office. Er, this sounds very chrome and glossy. Not so, it is a room with a delightful lady in it. I mime birdwatching guide. The smiling lady gets it and 10 minutes later a young man shows up. This is Jose Antonio. He explains  that he is busy for the next few days but, as of 20th, we can go birding.

I look at a clump of undergrowth and maybe see a warbler, which one I have no idea. Jose Antonio, before even looking at the clump of undergrowth,  knows what birds are there just through the songs. He then points out masses of birds, hardly any of which I would have seen alone, and of course he knows exactly which obscure warbler or humming bird is which. He is amazing.

Northern Potoo. Amazing photo seeing as what it was very dark. Click on all these photos
Boat Billed Heron
The very rare, except in San Blas, Common Black Hawk.
Great Blue Heron
Golden Cheeked Woodpeckers. Super rare
Wide winged Butterfly . Makes a change
Black necked Stilt, Blue winged Teal, Tri colored Heron

What is more, he is a really nice guy and speaks excellent English. We spend 3 days together and see a vast number of birds, the majority of which I have never seen before. 

Black bellied whistling ducks
Northern Jacana
Juvenile Northern Jacana

We cruise through swamps as the sun goes down. We are high in the mountains as the sun comes up. In between we are in fields, lakes, even Tepic city park.  So many birds! What joy!

The photos represent a small percentage of the species we saw. Importantly missing are all the Warblers, Humming Birds, Trogons, Flycatchers, Sparrows, which are very difficult to photograph.

Crocodile. Very easy to photograph. Apparently they can go for years without eating.
Wood Stork with Great White Egret
Roseate Spoonbill with White Ibis
For it is he.

So, this is his website: Forget your next vacation. Go to San Blas instead and hire Jose Antonio!

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Hotel Paraiso Miramar

For the last 5, or is it 6 days, I have camped in the grounds of the Hotel Paraiso Miramar near San Blas. Come here.

Why go anywhere else?

It is paradise. Perched on a cliff top overlooking the ocean, it has a sprawling park of huge trees and coconut groves. There are 2 swimming pools, hot water showers, flush toilets, a restaurant, fast wifi, hence all the recent posts, and above all birds!

This morning I stumble out of the camper at 8:00 ish and see this.

Black Necked Magpie Jay. They are huge!
Yellow-winged Cacique
Lineated woodpecker. Poor photo – hands shaking with excitement.
Iguana taking morning air.
Vermilion Flycatcher
Meadowlark – less exotic but beautiful.

There were also Citreoline Trogons but the photos are too poor to expose here. All that in the first 15 minutes of the day encourages you to lie down for the rest.

Frigate birds I have seen previously, usually flying very high and far away. I blurt, “Look, quick, a frigate bird!”

A fleet of Frigate Birds! Outside the restaurant where I usually eat.
The sort of stuff I eat.

I have to get out of here!

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Get Your Motor Running

Not a care, few helmets, talking on phone, kids loving it, what a cool way to get around.

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Stuff that Started Life in the Sea

I tell you, when it comes to ingesting fish and other stuff that started life in the sea, then the west coast of Mexico is hard to beat. In San Blas, if you stop, close your eyes, spin around and open them again, then you are facing a fish restaurant.

No messing

These restaurants are rarely more than shacks with palm roofs and earth floors. The cooking is done over a very slow burning grill, more smoking than grilling really. The menu is look at the grill and choose what you want.

Just a break from pictures of fish monotony.

The market is overwhelmed with fish stalls.

Fancy a snack?
She makes me fresh ceviche, which around here is mashed fished, carrot,onion,garlic,tomato, cilantro and lots of lime juice.

I go to an upmarket restaurant, one that has a menu.

Oysters are good for the libido.
Fresh octopus with fried banana .

You look out onto the ocean. Frigate birds and pelicans drift by. The meal, with 2 mugs of homemade limonade, comes to $8:00.

I eat a lot of shrimp and ceviche.
Where I live at the moment
I am not roughing it.
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Bosambo of the River

I fix up a meeting at the bridge for 7:00 am. They were to boat me around the estuary swamp land that surrounds San Blas. I am there at 6:45, still terrified of being late and thus unworthy. I sit in a cafe and order breakfast, refried beans, eggs, warm tortillas and Nescafe. By 7:15 no one has shown up. I start to sob into my refried beans. An older guy, riding by on a very beat up bike, comes to comfort me.

“I have boat, come. I not speak English!”

5 minutes later we are skimming over the estuary towards the swamp. Anyway, this reinforces my ever strengthening opinion that organization is grossly overrated, especially in Mexico. Not a criticism.

Very rare Common Black Hawk
Little Blue Heron
Groovy billed Ani
Green Kingfisher
Frigate Bird taking a rest from all that flying around.
Not a bird; it is a crocodile of which there are lots
Yellow Crowned Night Heron.
Lesser Nighthawk
Green Heron
Baby crocodile
Bare throated tiger heron.

Incredible trip. Ricardo, for it is he, has a fantastic eye for birds and we see so, so many species. The photos are small selection. My biggest problem was that we got so close to the birds and reptiles that my big bird lens had too much magnification, allowing only close ups of heads or other body parts.

Thanks Ricardo!

A who knows what hummingbird, on feeder I hung beside the camper.
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What Larks Pip

Slow internet equals no posts. Happy New Year dear readers, a small but distinguished bunch!

I head off to San Blas in Nayarit, Mexico for a 6 week trip of hardcore birdwatching fun.

It takes me a week to get there. There is too much to say. The US and Mexico are huge and very scenic.

Very cold camp at Mono Lake California.
Much warmer camp in Stovepipe Wells Death Valley
New Year’s Eve somewhere in Arizona.
I spend 2 days at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument because it is so amazing.

I burst into Mexico at a tiny place called Lukeville. For the first time I get all the documents for legal driving in Mexico. Normally everything is so chaotic that I give up and just drive – never been busted. About 15 miles South of the border there is a big shiny new building where I get my Temporary Importation Permit, my Tourist Card and insurance. I feel very old.

Inside camper – super comfy
First new bird – Curved billed Thrasher.

I drive down the west coast of Mexico. There is nothing here. I stay in a hotel in a Puerto Libertad.

Wifi? Non

ATM? Non

Gasolina? Non

There are a lot of fisher folk chopping up fish.

Mushy peas

California, Arizona, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit 2,300 miles. Well done truck! What is more the dreaded turnbuckles did not budge an iota. I settle into an idyllic camping spot in San Blas where I am only disturbed by coconuts thunking into the ground and by the grunting of White Faced Ibis that cluster around.

I take a couple of days off to concentrate on seafood.
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