Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Elegant Trogons!

Hot Springs at Feliz Estancia
For many years I have heard about the beautiful but elusive (at least in Southern Arizona) Elegant Trogon. " This stunning bird is related to the Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), the bird of the Maya emperor-gods." A friend told me she had seen one in Madera Canyon south of Green Valley, Arizona, but nature had never graced me with this experience until we began to visit the hot springs at Feliz Estancia near the town of Aconchi, to the south of Banámichi.

I am not a bird-watcher in the sense of collecting species seen on a life-list, but I love watching animal behavior, so I do tend to notice birds. The first time I saw a Trogon flit by was several years ago during a visit to Feliz Estancia. I have had several glimpses of them since then, but only just glimpses.

This week we visited Feliz Estancia again. I noticed how now, when we go there, I always have a longing to get a really good view of the Trogon. After several hours in the lovely warm water, we were about to leave and noted to myself that once again the Trogon had been elusive. Just at that moment, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a flash of color which registered as a Trogon! Then there were 3 of them, two males and a female, right there in the tree in front of me.

Female Trogon showing me her back

Male Trogon rubbing his beak on a branch

Male Trogon giving me the stink eye from a stone wall

According to the Audubon Society description,  "The male Elegant Trogon has a metallic deep green head, upper breast and back, black face and throat, and red-orange lower breast and belly. He shows grey upper wing coverts. It has a stout yellow bill and a square tipped tail. "  They like to move along canyons and streams through sycamore woodland, and range from south-eastern Arizona to Costa Rica. According to they are about a foot long and weigh about 1/8th of a pound.

Notice how he can swivel his head almost 360 degrees!
I stalked them as silently as I could with a camera. I noticed how they could incredibly swivel their heads through nearly 360 degrees as they followed my progress. Each time I got too close for comfort (unfortunately this was also about as close as I needed to be for a really good picture!) they took off, flying  to another nearby tree...never too far, but very fast.
 Male Playing hide and seek
The Audubon society says that they like to nest in "sycamore tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes and earthen banks. They line the nest with straw and anything else that is soft. They lay two-four eggs." Feliz Estancia must be a perfect place for has a canyon, warm water, sycamore trees, woodpeckers and earthen banks.

Finally, I thought I had chased them far enough and we got in the car to leave. As we drove out, we saw them again, this time, the female and one male in a nearby tree while the second  male sat on the ground munching on a grasshopper...apparently their diet consists of insects and fruit, mostly caught on the fly, and it is fairly unusual for them to spend time on the ground.

Feeding on grasshopper...notice the iridescent green back

We headed home in a celebratory mood. What a great experience and treat to have finally seen not just one, but 3 Trogons playing together in the woodland! Banámichi and the Rio Sonora continue to find ways to delight me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Go To Hermosillo?

One of the realities of life in Banámichi is that occasionally trips to Hermosillo become necessary. Where is Hermosillo? It is 2.5 hours drive to the south of us, and is the capital of the state of Sonora, our nearest large city. Why do such trips become necessary? It could be anything from a need for diversion from the quietude of Banámichi, to a  desperate need for items not available locally.

One such item is fresh vegetables. Well, OK, we can get some things locally... iceberg lettuce, green chilis, onions, and sometimes some limp green beans. As you may have surmised I am a bit of a "foodie" and am especially partial to good veggies. So when our friend Gerlinde showed Lynn  a special market with fresh produce, I planned a trip to Hermosillo.

It is a big deal to go to Hermosillo. It requires a whole day and is always a bit of an adventure. You never know what you will encounter and where. This time our first surprise was at the military check point in Mazocahui, about an hour down the road from Banámichi. This is a place where the military is usually out in  the road with automatic weapons asking "Where are you going? Where are you from? What are you carrying?" I suppose this could be somewhat intimidating, but generally they are very young good-looking men, who are given to being friendly and polite when they find we are cooperative and also friendly.

This time, we pulled up to the checkpoint and the men were chatting off to one side, not at all interested in us. But a medium size brown dog with curly fur stood in the road in our path, staring at us. Dan inched the vehicle towards him. He didn't blink. Dan honked, and he continued staring as if deaf. Finally, Dan sighed and drove around him. The military guys cracked up, smacking their hands together as if to say "just hit him!"  and waving us on. We all had a good laugh and off we went.

The main room of the "Old Ferreteria"
Our first stop in Hermosillo was at the Ferreteria Maderas, AKA the "Old Ferreteria," a hardware store that surely must date back to Aztec times. It is the only place around that sells an assortment of Talavera tiles and many unidentifiable bits of rusty metal. Oh, and it also has birdcages, ancient pink toilets, tortilla presses and brown clay cooking pots. It is a truly strange establishment that closes for the day at 12:30PM, meaning that we have to leave Banámichi very early to get there. Anyway, I got the Talavera tiles that I need to re-do a window ledge at the house, and off we went to look for the veggie market.

Random metal parts inside the "Old Ferreteria"

Talavera Tile display inside the "Old Ferreteria"

Driving in Hermosillo can be a nightmare. Most maps are inadequate to the maze of one way streets, huge traffic circles and terrifying flyover bridges. After being in rural Banámichi, the traffic seems insane.
Fortunately we had Lynn with us who mostly knows her way around and so we wove our way to Bulevar Solidaridad and headed north. Lynn said "There it is! Turn left by the tall circular sign." and I realized we would never have found this on our own.

Chaos at the market
We took a ticket to get into the parking area and headed into the utterly chaotic fray. There were cars and trucks driving in every direction, guys weaving in and out on bicycles, and people calling out to us, inviting us to buy huge sacks of potatoes that had to weigh 50 pounds. This was obviously the place where all the restaurants and stores in town came to buy their produce. The market was probably not meant for individual buyers, but since no one stopped us, we entered a lovely shop.

Me choosing avocados
There were some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever seen.. big, perfect and fresh. There was most of the stuff you can get in a US supermarket, only fresher and prettier, as well as some more exotic items. WOW! I wanted some of everything! I bought stuff without regard to how I would use it, just because it appealed. I wound up with huge green Mexican grilling onions, lots of avocados, super hot jalapenos, gorgeous cilantro, Mexican limes, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, persimmons that were sweet and soft as mush and just ready to eat, and guyabas - guavas. All of this was well under 10 bucks!

Then we headed across the way to a meat shop. Somehow I thought we would find beautiful New York steaks neatly laid out in plastic trays, but instead we were led into a cutting room, where random hunks of meat were sitting on counters and a spray of red meat coated the wall behind a saw. The man pointed to his head and offered us cabeza - head meat, a Mexican delicacy - and pointed to a bloody blob on the table. No thanks! This is why I was a vegetarian for 25 years! We wound up buying a 5 pound block of frozen shrimp for a ridiculously low price and calling it good.

Restaurant Xochimilco
After running several more errands to Supermercado Ley and Costco, we decided to go to the Restaurant Xochimilco for lunch, which we had heard about but never visited. They have been in operation since 1949 (they must be doing something right,) and specialize in grilled meat. We ordered the goat to avoid the beef tripe which we were all a bit squeamish about. The Mexicans eat everything from the cow but the moo, and I admit that as Americans we are spoiled, but tripe? I don't think so! Anyway, we got a big plate of grilled goat, and it fabulous! Melt in the mouth tender and mild flavor - like the very best lamb. It was simply some of the best meat I have ever eaten anywhere in the world, and it came with a large salad, beans, tortillas, salsa and guacamole. What a treat!

Salad at Xochimilco

Meat grilling behind glass partition at Xochimilco
Trailer selling fireworks
 After lunch we made a few more stops - one has to make the most of these outings since they are so arduous - and then got on the road back to Banámichi. The last stop was just north of the town of Ures where there is a solitary trailer in a dusty field selling "cohetes" - fireworks. We wanted some for the New Year's Eve party at Los Arcos Hotel that has become a tradition in out little community. It had clouded over, and the wind had picked up. Outside, a stray dog jumped, startled by a piece of flying cardboard, and inside, the trailer rocked on its foundation in the wind and the doors banged and pounded. The mood was high, though, as we joked with the clerk and picked out a large assortment of miscellaneous things that go BANG!, and another large "box o' bombs"...ball shaped fireworks about 2 inches in diameter with a big gnarly fuse. Should be fun. I wouldn't light them myself, but have to admit that I like explosions!

By then it was almost 4PM and time to make tracks for home before darkness settled in. As we passed the town of Huepac, it started to rain. Winter has finally come to the Rio Sonora. Hermosillo was fun this time and then it was so good to get back to our nice warm, dry little house in Banámichi!