Friends who work at the Selva Negra Foundation sent me a poster announcing a Festival de Las Aves in the little town of Ahuisculco, located 31 kilometers southwest of Guadalajara. Workshops, photo exhibits, dances, music, theater and bird watching were promised and I told my friends I would be sure to attend.
The birdwatching was to take place early Sunday morning and my plan was to join the birdwatchers at some point along the trail, which I assumed would be the one I know in Parakeet Valley, which is located two kilometers due west of Ahuisculco.
Upon reaching the trailhead Sunday morning, I was surprised to see not a single vehicle parked there. “Hmm,” I told my friends, “it looks like they all walked here from Ahuisculco … what an enthusiastic bunch!”
Well, as you might guess, we met no birdwatchers there, but we did spot one beautiful caracara, a kind of falcon, along the way. None of us was disappointed, however, because this is a delightful trail whether or not you are interested in birds. It follows a small river for just over a kilometer and then loops up into the hills above, taking you right through the middle of the biggest obsidian workshop I have ever seen.
You won’t need any signs to tell you when you’ve reached this workshop. Suddenly you find yourself in a big clearing which is in the middle of a steep slope covered with hundreds of thousands of broken artifacts: knives, scrapers, spear heads, small prismatic blades and the spent cores from which they were all extracted, perhaps 2,000 years ago. All of this had been discarded by artisans working further up the hillside, next to the mine. We could only imagine how many craftsmen and how many centuries were required to build up such a colossal waste dump.
This trail is only 3.5 kilometers long (round trip) and the trailhead can be reached by any sort of vehicle, unlike the Selva Negra Reserve, which is where we went next. Selva Negra is located three kilometers northwest of Ahuisculco and sometimes, during the rainy season, the road can turn into a quagmire. On this occasion we found the road in fine shape and took a walk along the well-laid out, one-kilometer-long trail I call “The Maná Loop, perhaps the only path in the world bordered on both sides by thousands of broken obsidian artifacts taken from the many preHispanic workshops in the vicinity. For more on this protected area, see Chapter 5 of “Outdoors in Western Mexico, Volume II.”
Finally, we headed back to Ahuisculco, hoping to catch the festival fully in progress, where we found organizers Antonio Márquez, Paco Quintero and René Velázquez in the plaza, with music playing loudly and people milling about. But, alas, Márquez informed us we had arrived exactly during the lunch break, when “nothing was happening,” with the next event on the program, a dance competition, to take place much later in the day. I asked him how the festival had been going.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he told me, “with everything somehow related to nature and conservation. For example, yesterday we had a Guignol Puppet Show tailored to children. It was about a boy who is threatening birds with his slingshot, runs into a big problem deep in the woods and is saved by an owl.
As a result, he entirely changes his attitude in respect to nature. I think this is an example of a good vehicle for presenting what we are aiming for. The townspeople of Ahuisculco are working hand in hand with the Selva Negra Foundation and we have a full plan for reforestation, conservation and recuperation, and a festival like this one not only makes people aware of what we are doing; it is also one of the benefits of what we are doing.”
Márquez continued: “We had our first bird festival two years ago and people must have liked it, because this year around 400 people showed up. You could say they have really taken over this event and made it their own – and not just as spectators. The community is getting involved in everything, even helping to transport things from one place to another. Todo el mundo is participating!”
“And the birdwatchers?” I asked fellow organizer Francisco “Paco” Quintero. “We had hoped to meet them this morning in El Valle de los Periquitos, but we didn’t see anyone.”
“That’s because you were entirely in the wrong place,” he replied with a big smile. “The bird watching was done along another beautiful trail you haven’t seen yet, following the Ahuisculco River.”
I’m not sure when the next Ahuisculco Festival de Aves will be held, but, in the meantime, you can take your own birdwatching tour in the spot that I know by following the trail shown on Wikiloc.com as “Parakeet Valley Birding Trail.” After that – if you have a high-clearance vehicle – you might want to visit the Selva Negra Reserve, identified on Wikiloc as “Guadhikes – Ahuisculco to Selva Negra Woods.” Ahuisculco is about an hour’s drive from Guadalajara and 90 minutes from Ajijic.