An early plan this next day was to go toward the Botanical Garden hoping there would be gasoline on the way in, but there would not be, Bonnie said. I would then go all the way to P Vallarta, I thought, but since I was not sure how much I had left, we're not that family yet BE and I, it would be wiser to stay put until El Tuito again would be considered worthy of a delivery. I don't like to stay put! I like to have a plan from the morning on, doing practical stuff without too many human interactions or demands regarding creative or philosophic efforts. Warming the brain up slowly to excel in the afternoon and evening is preferable.
So despite the chances being small that the gas truck would have been there that early in the morning I packed my stuff as if I was going to the garden, with a quick stop for a refill first.
I bumbled through El Tuito, and was very relieved to find cars lined up at the gas station. News spread fast for sure. And good news. I lined up too, and when it was my turn I said asked for the green one. Please. The green one is the cheaper one. The red one is the expensive one, which however, is supposed to last longer. No scientific study of course, but I could swear that this last red refill she gave me had no such positive effect on my mileage. Actually worse since I was doing the refill after only 450 km. Don't like to pay 300 pesos extra for a tank so I asked for the green one, please..! But as we have all experienced it, miracles comes in every size, and this day's gas station miracle proved to be one of the smaller ones: "No green yet! Only red. The green truck arrives later...".
I reluctantly filled it up (the manual says to avoid it I now know), not knowing if I would be back in time to be lucky with the green version. And then I drove off toward El Jardín Botánico de Puerto Vallarta.
Midway between El Tuito and Puerto Vallarta, 20 km, the entrance was only 150 pesos per person, not 180, which was a positive start, and for that modest amount of course you could bring your potent camera on a stick if you wanted. And I did. This would be my last chance to get one of the missing hummingbirds.
We went here on the expensive trip back in 2006 too, but I only had faint memories of a Stripe-headed Sparrow that the guide had me identify all by myself. I was good already back then!
The best area in the park to look for the hummers would of course be around all the flowers and special plants in the central and cultivated part of the park. But still I decided to start off with exploring the peripheral trails leading through natural vegetation up and down the different creeks that surround the center. There is a river too streaming by below the main building. Signs say you can swim there, but at your own risk. This day the warning was absolutely appropriate: The water was cascading and thundering away downstream, almost like a top quality white water river!
In less than an hour I had done the peripheral trails. The birding was very modest. Same species as on the ranch, but mostly heard only. The motmot and the woodcreeper and some caciques, to give you an idea. In these shady areas I only had Cinnamon Hummingbird of today's target family. I knew I had to get out to the flowers, or perhaps take a chance with the feeders.
I went up to the restaurant and bought a cold drink and waited for the birds to come in.
They have two feeders hanging over the railing on the side overlooking the river. Below it they have a large feeding platform for other species.
The action soon started, or perhaps was on all the time: Cinnamon Hummingbirds in various numbers visited frequently and so did the Plain-capped Starthroats. And a single cacique did a good job getting to the nectar too, albeit, less elegantly. All the birds managed to stay clear of the many bees or wasps that swarmed around too.
Then two intermediate chachalacas found their way to the platform for a while, and a nice Boat-billed Flycatcher landed in a tree giving good views. Probably my first in Jalisco too!
And that was it! Modest birding indeed, and I had anticipated it coming.
One of the waiters confirmed that the hermit was rare to see, and never visited the feeders.
I finished my drink, and made a short souvenir stop on the way down, before heading for the flowers.
I bought a photo guide about the wildlife of the Puerto Vallarta area. Mostly I bought it because I have an ambition to make reviews of all the literature relevant to Mexican birding. But I also bought it because I felt animated since we managed to id a snake I found on the ranch the other day, using Bonnie's copy of that guide.
The snake was new to both of us, and the guide book said it was poisonous! I had found it while it was crossing the access-road, and had unknowingly stepped over it, before I realized that it was a snake. A Mexican Moccasin Cantil. A smallish, 50 cm, brownish-purple one with an ill-defined fine white-streaked pattern on the body. The short tail was light greenish.
This guide book only said it was poisonous. Later, using the biggest guide book of them all, I found out that it could be lethal too - and aggressive if feeling threatened...[Photo]
I've complained about it many times: That I never find snakes in the wild. I still haven't encountered a rattlesnake for example. Now, with this experience I might want to keep quiet about these things. What would have happened if I had stepped on the snake instead of crossing over it? Don't want to think about it.
So I went out into the sun and started walking the several trails and aisles around the flower-beds. I walked and walked, and got a Golden-crowned Emerald, another but more common endemic hummingbird. But even though I walked and I stopped and I waited and I hoped, the hermit and the woodnymph wouldn't show.
After 4 hours in all I decided to give up, and accepted that it should not be this time. And that it probably simply isn't the right time of year for these birds in this area. I hope...
Other birders do see them here, and at times, many other interesting species, thus concluding negatively about the park as birding destination would of course be misplaced and reveal a basic misunderstanding of the dynamics of birds.
Therefore I'll hold my breath until next spring's visits and hope hope hope there'll be reason for a big thumbs up, when the Mexican Hermit flashes by...
The evening round-trip on the ranch was nice but didn't reveal much new, except for a single Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush.
I walked the Stolen-Parota area again, and enjoyed the beautiful orange flowers in the fields while observantly balancing my way around the wetter parts that were still more than plenty.
A restful night, a quick morning-swim and the next and the last full day was on its way.
Somehow we got to talk about a road that I had still not visited, on the mountain side of the El Tuito, El Camino de La Bascula. There used to be a truck weight up there. First road south of the gas station, on that side.
To add to my locality exploring I decided to go, but also to do it as a quickie since I had to clean up and prepare things for my departure.
And it turned out to be a very quickie: After 5 hundred meters the road was flooded at a ford-crossing.
I could probably have passed it without problems though I couldn't see the bottom, dirty water, but I just wasn't ready for more break and tire problems now, the day before returning. And not knowing if there would be more places like this further up, the decision was pretty easy to make.
I turned back, and then decided spontaneously to visit Bioto road. That could also be done as a quickie and walking the first stretch from the highway could actually be nice. In the shade and so...
And it was nice. Also the road down to the Bioto road. Curvy and passing through opulently green hills it can be called scenic. Just remember to keep an eye on the road as the potholes are plenty.
I parked up on the main road, and walked down the first 500 meters. And down is meant literally - pretty steep. That's why I decided not to go further. Had to walk up again.
The birding gave a wide selection of the species I had already been enjoying before on this trip, except for two ravens. Thirty some species. The only eyebrower, a brief myiarchus type, could have been a Flammulated, but no sound nor details made it stay an sp.
I hoped for some Black-capped Gnatcatchers which we had had in March, and also Military Macaws, but no luck here either.
The only Military Macaw I had had on this trip until now was the one sitting in Bonnie's chicken-house!
Apparently a rescue-mission that went too well and now the bird won't leave. No wonder, if you can get food for free and fly as you please, and a good shelter in the evening. Though the Opossum did come by the other night reducing the chicken stock by one...or was it by an A. militaris? Don't think I heard it today...
On the way back I decided to stop along the road where there was a good open view overlooking the hills, again hoping for a forest raptor to show up.
That did unfortunately not happen, again, but all of a sudden a Squirrel Cuckoo was sitting completely exposed in the first tree in front of me, and started to call. Was it calling at me, or what? Probably wasn't used to humans walking forth and back on the road like I did while scouting and eating pear. Then something triggered it, and it flew straight toward me!
Passed me by two meters and perched in a bush 3 meters from me, partly visible and at eye-level. It was clearly not happy about the situation, me being there. But since I'm taller and a persistent birder, it finally accepted that I would not yield and it continued upslope into the vegetation. Unusual situation, and of course my camera was lying 50 meters away, in the car. Fundamental my dear Jesper! It happens all the time.
I went straight to the car promising myself never ever to do that again. Hmm.
Without the cuckoo the birding turned quiet again and I started to focus on a large futuristic grasshopper that is very present everywhere these days and which makes a loud noise that some might take for a bird at first. But the unmovable sounds coming from all around at the same time soon makes it obvious to the good observer that the sound has to come from some other kind of creature. Yes. They are all green, but when they make the sound, moving the legs, they reveal a red part on the body that looks...cool.
I was on to one of them, trying to get some photos when suddenly the Military Macaws called a few times at some distance. Distraction, but nice to have registered them, I thought, but it would be nicer if they would come closer for a single photo, or a session. And fortune wheels and cookies, they did! Believe it or not. I couldn't see them yet, but I could hear them coming straight toward me...but very quickly now. And then it happened again: Another cerebral meltdown!
Wanting to get the best possible photos I decided to check the settings on the camera. I was on a spot-centered manual program which could have worked fine, but for some indiagnosticable reason I decided to try for the flying-bird setting I also use, and of course it went completely wrong! The dial landed on the B- program which can only stand for brain-dead because the result of the photos of the two beautiful macaws that flew straight over my head in that same second, was a heart-breaking nothing! The birds were long gone when the shutter finally activated, leaving a black blurry blob on the screen..!
No-one to blame but yourself.
Fortunately, it was not a new photo species, but it always hurts when mistakes smack you in the face like that. And the worst part is that you can say lesson-learned as many times as you want but it never changes anything. They'll keep coming.
Perhaps it is God's way to act concerning mother: "time to wake up, the school bus leaves in 5 minutes..." Sure you hate that one, in the moment, but with time and perspective, you're probably pretty grateful that she did it, right!?
Maybe all the obstacles in life are caring nudges from above, and we should learn to appreciate these moments for what they really are....because who knows what would have happened if I hadn't decided to say enough for today after that bummer?... A Sable-Tiger attacking me from another dimension?... a passing truck through my wind-shield?...or perhaps a fly-over Solitary Eagle landing in a sunlit tree 40 meters away at a spot where I couldn't stop...?!
It can always get worse!
With that I decided that the trip was over, and returned to the ranch to do my preparings.
In all a great trip. Challenging with the rain and the bugs, and probably below expectations regarding birds, but I still got some good species, and added about 15 new species to my Jalisco list which is very important, since it consolidated my number two position in ebird. I still need to upload observations why my ebird-total is not correct yet, but when it is, it will show that I'm at 404 species in Jalisco now. Time to decide which species should be the one putting my in top in front of Homel who is at 406!! With almost 600 species registered in the state there are plenty to choose from and try for.
I could go north to try for a Solitary Eagle somewhere or in the same neighborhood Black-throated or Black-chinned Sparrows. Or go to the volcanoes to finally find a Dwarf Vireo and a Slaty Vireo or perhaps being lucky with a pass-through Colima Warbler in Parque Los Colomos. Or the Eared Quetzal at San Sebastián, or one of the big owls up there as well.
Lot of options. Lot to do!
On the ranch property I got 78 species and in all of the Cabo Corrientes area 125 during my trip.
But most important is that I got to know the ranch well, and that I can return with confidence to give my next clients a super experience.
And for the missing hummers, I guess I just have to pray a little harder in the weeks before we leave...
Thank you to Bonnie for giving me the opportunity, and I hope I'll be able to bring many more clients to the ranch.