Recently Garry and L. spent some time in the town of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast in Mexico. These are some recollections of that trip.

L. is a bird watcher. Every morning she would get up with the sun, grab her binoculars and head for the Rio Ameca, a river in the bush just 15 minutes walk from our hotel. She would return invigorated a couple of hours later, and examine her bird books to identify the morning’s discoveries. With this in mind we decided to take a bus to Punta de Mita, a small town on the coast one hour away.

We were going in search of the Blue Footed Booby bird. Honest. I am not making the name up. Other species get great names like the Magnificent Frigate Bird or the Elegant Quail. Is the Blue Footed Booby the counterpart to the Great Tailed Grackle? Is the Booby endowed with huge curvaceously, titillating mammary glands? Or does it have a really vacant look in its eyes? I don’t know, but that is the name it got stuck with. It is a tropical bird whose breeding ground is mainly on islands in the Gulf of California including the west coast of northern Mexico. So this was our chance for a real Blue Footed Booby sighting. Can you feel the excitement?

After arriving at Punta de Mita we ordered a delicious red snapper lunch at an ocean side restaurant. L. renewed acquaintances with some of the beach vendors we knew from previous trips and she put out the word that we needed a boat ride to the Marietas Islands. Home to You Know Who.

You should leave before noon for this ocean trip, because in late afternoon the wind picks up and the seas become much rougher. We didn’t fully appreciate this fact until we had agreed on a price with boat owner, Ahab and found ourselves with one other couple surfing up and down monstrous waves in a 24 foot decrepit old motor boat. I began to imagine the ludicrous epitaphs that might go on our grave stones if our boat sank while in search of the Blue Footed Booby.

Suddenly off the starboard bow, (the right front end of the boat for all you land lubbers) a fountain of spray exploded from the sea. Then two immense glistening black forms slid up to the surface. Most of their body was still below the water as they glided smoothly through the waves. The path of the hump backed whale mother and her calf was a vertical arc in which the top section was where water and air met. Their heads appeared first. As they continued the arc path their backs slid into view. As their backs slid by, immense tail flukes emerged. Then as their backs disappeared their flukes slapped the water with a noise like a cannon shot. I hoped those Blue Footed Boobies could sing and dance because it was a hell of an act to follow.

Soon we were at the Marieta’s Islands. There are three islands, each with a distinctly different shape. But all are composed of pitted porous volcanic rock. They jut straight up out of the water irregular, craggy, ancient. There are numerous caves, some high on the cliff face, others reaching down into the watery depths. There were a few sandy beaches. Although we stayed on the leeward sides of the islands protected from the rolling breakers, still the pounding waves made it impossible to beach the boat. Above the sound of the crashing water was the constant cacophony of different species of birds. They were on the cliff faces, on rocks, in cracks, in the open, everywhere. Different species, but nesting side by side. L. was very excited as she rhymed off the names of the various species. Many she had only seen in books. Then she pointed upward and there sitting on a rock behind a huge pelican were a pair of brown backed, white headed birds. They looked a bit like a gull, but with a more tapered pointy beak. And they had unmistakably blue feet.

After circling the islands and taking some digital camera shots we headed back to port. The Blue Footed Boobies couldn’t sing or dance. And I didn’t care. It had been a wonderful exciting trip.