Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the August 31, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

After providing the Black Widow with a cozy home I lay back at the water's edge and read while the sun went down. It was a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, about an old couple who find an aged, decrepit angel half dead on the beach, locked him in a henhouse because his wings bore feathers, and sold tickets to the world to see him.

When the light began to dim I put the book down and saw circling offshore before me a mature male Magnificent Frigatebird, just as you can see at http://www.dlcphotography.net/CR3-3/1D2_02404.htm...  

Magnificent Frigatebirds aren't supposed to occur this far inland. Those of you with me in the Yucatan may recall how Hurricane Wilma blew Magnificent Frigatebirds inland to Hacienda San Juan. Though that was only ten miles south of the beach I thought it was pretty good to see frigatebirds there.

Here in Jalpan we're about 130 miles inland (210 kms) and the Eastern Sierra Madres rise between us and the sea.

Surely Hurricane Dean the previous week had driven the frigatebird here. I've even read that 1988's Hurricane Gilbert blew frigatebirds north into the US as far as Iowa. Still, this frigatebird before me over Jalpan Reservoir was something very special, almost apparitional, just the right thing to see in the magical realism mind the angel story had put me in.

Imagine, on those 7.5-ft.-across wings losing yourself in a stormy night's winds, but this night unlike any you've ever experienced, being carried not only far inland but skywards, all your senses rebelling as you rise and rise up the altiplano's eastern slope, the acrid, chilling odor of pines and junipers diluting the fish smells you live for, and then the winds suddenly plummet on the leeward side, and die, and you circle in a kind of black hollowness, and at dawn the ocean is gone, and you search and search for water and finally find a silvery spot in a deserty valley without sandy beaches and rolling waves, without crabs and jellyfish, without seagulls to rob of their catches, just this calm shininess of saltless reservoir-water...

Sitting there with the book on my lap I figured the storm-buffeted frigatebird before me must have a hunch what García Márquez's disoriented angel felt that day he awoke on his sordid beach, and I lay another flat rock atop the widow's nest to better keep the rain off.