Fall 2018 • 45
44 • Vacations
WHITE EGRET ©ROBERT ORR
LOOKING FOR THAT PERFECT BIRD PHOTO
©BARBARA RAMSAY ORR
MATURE CHACHALACA ©BARBARA RAMSAY ORR
The boat’s motor sputters to a stop, everyone falls silent,
and we hold our breath. There is only the murmur of water
and the faint rustle of wind in the tall grasses. “There!”
whispers our guide, Francisco. “Right at the top of that
tree - a mature Chachalaca in full sun – perfect for a
photograph.” The bird is beautiful, feathers gleaming in
the sunlight – then he emits a cry that is raucously grating,
like a rusty hinge, shakes his wings and is gone.
We’ve sighted our first endemic bird, one of about 30 that
can be spotted around San Blas, in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
We’ll also see many of the more than 300 other species
that either call this area home or stop in as they fly from
northern climates along the Pacific Flyway.
It’s candy land for birdwatchers.
We are six bird lovers on a guided birding safari through
the mangrove-lined estuaries of La Tovara National Park, a
perfect environment for bird populations to flourish. It is late
afternoon, a time when the light is golden, the temperatures
are cooler and birds are beginning to stir from their afternoon
stupor. In quick succession, we see a boat-billed heron, a
potoo, several hawks, some oystercatchers and an anhinga,
drying its wings on a sunny river bank.
We stop for a cool swim at the freshwater spring and then
continue along the narrow channels, ducking under hanging
branches. We listen to the squawks of the ever-present
caciques – strikingly pretty with their black and yellow
feathers – and spy more herons and a rare Colima
pygmy owl. American alligators lounging on logs and
sleeping in the shallows makes us hold a little tighter to
At the end of our three-hour safari, as a final flourish,
Francisco stops the boat in front of a grove of trees.
Festooning almost every branch, preening, alighting
and settling, cooing and posing, are dozens of graceful
For birders, it’s a perfect reason to travel, whether to
check off a species on their list of ‘birds sighted’ or
merely to capture them on camera. Birdwatching has
Withmore than300 species in the area, theRiviera
Nayarit is a candy land for birdwatchers.
By Barbara Ramsay Orr