In December 2009, I participated in the first ever Christmas Bird Count in Guadalajara’s Primavera Forest.
This involved rising at 5:15 a.m., driving to the meeting point through the pitch-black forest on a dirt road strewn with obsidian (broken chunks of natural glass) and then discovering that no one at all had shown up at the appointed starting time of 6:30 a.m.
The event, however, did eventually get going and a total of 877 birds of 76 different species were recorded that year for the Primavera Forest.
Eight years later, my conscience started nagging me when notice of the 2017 Bird Count popped into my email inbox. I had pushed off participating for too many years and could hardly come up with a good excuse anymore because one of the three meeting points for the Primavera Count is right inside Pinar de la Venta, where I live, and I know that non-birders are extremely helpful to the success of the Count. Why? Because the experts in the group depend on “many eyes watching in many directions” to tell them where to look, usually resulting in an instantaneous identification. Thus, if you can walk and you can see, you should not hesitate to volunteer for your local Annual Bird Count, even if you can’t distinguish a hawk from a hummingbird.
“I’m joining you for the Count, come what may,” I texted Jesús “Chuy” Moreno, co-leader of the Pinar contingent.
This is where Murphy comes into the story. For months we’ve had nothing but blue skies – perfect weather for bird watching – but on the night of the 17th, menacing black clouds appeared overhead …
“The one day in December when we need clear skies and Murphy is about to put a whammy on it,” I told my wife Susy. So, I decided I would show Murphy a thing or two and rummaged around in my camping equipment for my “Extreme Wet” kit: a waterproof poncho, rain pants, water shoes, and my Coolpix AW-100, able to take fine photos at an underwater depth of ten meters.
Having laid out all this equipment the night before, I was sure I’d see clear skies the next morning, but, alas, a steady rain was falling at 7:15 a.m. when I drove through the darkness of dawn to meet Chuy and Julio Álvarez, the organizers, at the Pinar gate – where we soon discovered that not one volunteer had turned up.
“It looks like rain all day, so we are postponing the event,” Chuy told me.
I was geared up for a hurricane and had even waterproofed (with acrylic spray) my spanking new “Quick Guide to the Birds of Guadalajara & Chapala,” so I decided to venture into the Primavera arroyos next to Pinar to see if I couldn’t spot a bird or two, despite the machinations of Murphy.
What I found were the woods transformed: the Río Seco was no longer “seco” and had actually turned into a genuine Río, and down the high canyon walls were flowing never-before-seen waterfalls. On top of that, everything around me had a deeper and richer hue than I had ever seen before, offering new opportunities for photography. The one thing I didn’t spot was a single bird – until I got back home, where I found several of them happily trying to empty our bird feeder. So my personal Count for the day was three birds, meaning they definitely need to repeat the Primavera Bird Count.