From our balcony we can often watch raptors gliding on ribbons of air overhead. But further towards the coast, you can see clouds of them pushing through on their journeys north in spring and south in autumn. This migration is called el Rio de Rapaces, or River of Raptors, for that is what it seems to be, this epic pouring forth of hawks and vultures and other species. Pronatura Veracruz is the local branch of Pronatura Mexico, an “asociación civil” as such groups are called here, and it has done a huge amount of work to bring these birds to national and international attention and to promote an understanding of the need for their protection as part of the greater effort to take care of our planet.
Pronatura Veracruz is very involved in counting the birds in these migrations – the densest, I think, in the world. It is so large in part because they are so confined: the birds are funneled by wind and weather and geography into a narrow passage over Mexico and Central America. Every spring and fall “counters” collected by Pronatura gather in several places, binoculars and clickers in hand to try to enumerate the numbers and kinds. The observation post at Chichicaxtle, just a bit inland from the Gulf has been transformed into a full-fledged observatory, and we were invited to its opening this past Friday. This observation post is very much a part of the local community, so even though there were plenty of big-shots in evidence, there were plenty of local folks, and especially local kids, too.
Chichicaxtle is a pueblo just inland from the Gulf, a warm place softened by the breeze. There is perhaps too much warmth near the Gulf, especially in the spring, but oftentimes, especially morning and evening, it is a sensuous, soft, inviting warmth. It is rarely as miserably hot as San Antonio in the summer.
It's a sometimes dangerously moody place, though, susceptible to extremely damaging hurricanes and tropical storms and tropical depressions, the last of which can sometimes bring even more rain than the first. This year the Gulf Coast in Veracruz was torn to shreds in many places by what must have seemed to the people living there never-ending turbulence. In the winter, the coast can be subject to cold winds and more rain. Cortés's search for a harbor was in part determined by safety from stormy weather.
But Friday was a perfect day for a ceremony.
Governor Fidel Herrera Beltran who gave an excellent speech describing the importance of teaching our children to understand their place in the environment, of protecting it, of appreciating it. He also seems very aware that the economic future of Mexico may very well depend on environmentally sustainable business practices.
Sra. Ramos' husband, Dr. Mario A. Ramos, a world-renowned ornithologist and environmentalist, died last year. You can read a bit about him here: http://www.gefweb.org/Outreach/Talking_Points/06/november/spanish/Necrologica_Mario_Ramos.html
Present also was Kenn Kaufman, introduced as one of the world's great ornithologists:
You can read more aabout Kenn Kaufman here.
When Jim and I arrived, one of the host/master-of-ceremonies/announcer types greeted Jim with one of those fancy handshakes and treated him like the celebrity he should be treated as but rarely is. We think maybe it was because the host/m-c/announcer type got him mixed up with Kenn Kaufman:
This all took place at the tail-end of the migration season, so we actually got to see some large flocks flying south. I give you only one picture because of the fact the birds look like dots in my photos: I don't do them justice.