The early bird gets the worm and, it seems, only the early riser ever gets a picture of that bird. I greatly admire nature photographer Jesús “Chuy” Moreno, who is quite happy to get up in the wee hours of the morning, drive off to Villa Corona Lagoon in the dark, throw himself down on the lake shore, covered with a camouflage tarp, and there await sunrise, and – if he’s lucky that day – get an eye-level photo of a water bird, maybe even an award winner.
Yes, I admire those birders but whenever they invite me to tag along, I tend to wince and wish them the best of luck.
However, when birder Chris Lloyd invited me to visit Parakeet Valley near Ahuisculco (25 kilometers west of Guadalajara) I actually found myself saying yes ... and then timorously asking the fatal question: what time?
“We’ll set out at 7:50 a.m.,” he replied.
I had heard several reports of wild parakeet sightings in that green, hilly area and I figured it would make for a nice hike, whether we spotted any of the birds or not. So,
after breakfasting in the dark, we drove to That didn’t sound too bad. “We’re in,” my wife Susy and I both told him.
Oops! We arrived to find that the little bridge had disappeared under a wide, rushing river and the place where we would have to cross it was right along the edge of a loudly roaring waterfall!Ahuisculco and headed for the trail head, which is right next to a little bridge over a lazy, bubbling brook.
Chris poked around with a pole in the chocolate-colored, frothing waters and suggested we used the “let’s wait for someone else to cross first” strategy.
This wasn’t exactly Avenida Vallarta in Guadalajara and I figured we’d be lucky to see a stray dog wandering along this road but, suddenly, a pickup and a station wagon appeared. The driver of the station wagon took two steps and simply stared at the flooded bridge with ever-widening eyes. I could hear him mumbling “no, no, no” under his breath. The pickup driver, however, sprang from his truck, spurted over to the river and splashed his way right into the deepest part of the churning waters, unconcerned about getting his pants and boots soaked.
“No es nada,” he shouted over the roar of this mini Niagara Falls and proved it by driving right across, albeit with several lurches and bumps along the way.
The other driver slowly turned around and with slumped shoulders got into his car and he, too, drove across it successfully.
That was all we needed. Chris smiled, Susy closed her eyes and we lurched our way over to the other side, where we immediately parked to start our hike.
We walked 1.4 kilometers on a long-unused road – mostly following the river – that allowed us to look down into open areas from nice, shady vantage points. Chris would take a few steps and then point: “Over there, a brown-backed Solitaire!”
My colleagues spotted 15 different birds on this little hike, including white-collared seedeaters (Sporophila torqueola), thick-billed kingbirds (Tyrannus crassirostris), stripe-headed sparrows (Peucaea ruficauda), orioles, kiskadees and a Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana). There was one particular tree along the trail which, for some reason, was attracting so many kinds of birds that even I managed to see and photograph a few. This Many-Bird Tree is at N20.56926 W103.71811 and had we brought along chairs, I think we would have happily sat there for hours, watching the show.“Oh, yes, I see it,” Susy would then say. And I would say ... well, nada, because that was usually all I could see.
An unexpected benefit of this route was the discovery that it cuts right through a very large obsidian workshop and mine. The path was literally paved with hundreds of pieces of unfinished knives, scrapers and other tools. We even found what could be called “a combination obsidian-and-corn field.”
At length, it had become too late in the day for birdwatching and we turned back. Sad to say, we had not spotted a single wild parakeet in Parakeet Valley, but we did see many other kinds of birds and flying creatures, including butterflies and San Miguelitos. In fact, my best “bird picture” is of a bright-red dragonfly. I hope some readers of this column will go check out this pleasant hiking trail and later surprise us with pictures of those elusive wild parakeets.
How to Get There
Take Highway 54 (Guadalajara-Colima) south. At 16 kilometers from the Periférico turn right onto the Circuito Metropolitano Sur and head toward Tala. This point can also be reached from the Chapala area via Tlajomulco. Drive 26 kilometers west on the Circuito Metropolitano Sur and turn left (southwest) onto a cobblestone road (N20.57755 W103.70241). Drive southwest 971 meters to N20.57061 W103.70572 and turn right onto Calle Allende. Follow Allende west 333 meters to N20.57027 W103.70854 where you must turn right onto a dirt road heading northwest. Go 171 meters to the bridge (N20.57369 W103.71413), cross it and park (usually the water is very shallow). Start walking south and then west to look for birds. On Wikiloc.com you’ll find the driving route to the bridge under “GuadHikes – Ahuisculco to Selva Negra Woods,” and the hike under “Parakeet Valley Birding Trail.” Driving time to the bridge from Guadalajara or
Lake Chapala is about one hour.