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May 12 Oaxaca Update

Birdwatching is about paying attention, being in the present, savoring the moment.

2nd Oaxaca Update

May 12, 2020

Dear Friends and Family, 

Last Sunday, May 10th, was coincidentally Mother’s Day in Mexico as well as the rest of North America. It was reassuring that the feminine powers of nature finally bestowed a proper tropical downpour on Rancho Pitaya. 

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flock to the local wetlands.

Last Saturday, May 9th, was Big Bird Day. It is the worldwide bird count and I participated. I spent 8 hours of birding, covering 5 km. on foot and bicycle from the ranch to the canyon of Lago Laveche and the wetlands of Guendulain. By dark, I’d submitted a checklist with photos to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with 44 species and 465 individual birds sighted. Highlights of the day were a flock of 77 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, two Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers and four Hook-billed Kites – all rare sightings in this habit.

May 10th, Mother’s Day meal with Gabriel.


Life is, at once, tranquil yet interestingly busy. I am simply content. I continue to do training rides Monday – Friday in the company of the agreeable young equestrian, Tess Plein of the Netherlands who, on the wings of serendipity, arrived at Rancho Pitaya in late March.  The horses have never been more responsive and willing – and fit to go the distance! Treat yourself to a week of adventure riding in  2020 or 2021. All-inclusive week of riding begins at $500 U.S. Offer lasts until October 24th.

I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. In a move to generate some income, I began guiding nature walks at safe distance twice a week.  Sundays I bike and bird, visiting my handful of avian hotspots.

Nature walks in the serenity of traditional farmlands.

With this first downpour, over 3,000 liters of rain water was captured in the cisterns at Rancho Pitaya and Casa Murguia. Vegetables have been planted in containers; I’m trying this sort of detente on the insatiable cutting ants. Gregorio transformed the old vegetable beds into an agave nursery and today I sowed hundreds of Tobalá agave seeds collected last year in the wild.

Gabriel has stayed at Alcalá during this contingency, we talk daily and share meals a couple of times a week. He has stayed busy revamping La Mano Mágica, getting the gallery ready for re-opening while staying safely afloat selling art over the internet. The galley has been closed since March 20th but there is a tentative discussion from government of loosening the “quedate en casa” ( stay at home ) mandate around June 1st. 

The city of Oaxaca and its surrounding central valleys still have fewer than 250 confirmed cases. Rojas de Cuauhtemoc is virus free. There is a spattering of cases in the Isthmus of Tehuantepc, Tuxtepec and the Mixtec region. The tightly organized villages of the Sierra Juarez pulled up the draw bridges of their autonomous communities and are, as yet, a COVID-19 free region. 

According to official numbers, Mexico chugs along with 37,000 confirmed cases today and, give or take, a 10% death rate. As in many countries, the actual numbers are substantially higher than the official take but even so, the real-life scenario could be ever so much worse. López-Gatell, the Mexican counterpart to Fauci in the U.S. and Tam in Canada, heads up a nightly information session broadcasted live. Click and see his comprehensive Monday report. It’s worth taking a look at. I’m impressed by his matter-a-fact, concise professionalism. 

Beryline Hummingbird, a daily visitor to the feeders.

There are still sufficient hospital beds in most of the Corona Virus-only public hospitals. Mexico negotiated an agile agreement, whereby, since late March private hospitals have received all nature of non-virus patients, while the vast network of IMSS, ISSSTE, civil and military hospitals give treatment exclusively to those infected with COVID-19.

The Merced Market near Casa Murguia

The markets are well-supplied with Mexico’s lush fresh produce and the supermarket’s shelves are plump for the picking. From fruit stalls to bakeries, home delivery is pleasant and efficient. When out and about, the vast majority don face masks.  The president, López Obrador, did though shut down Mexico’s breweries in keeping with his “stay at home” mandate, and in a recent morning litany encouraged all compatriots to drink pozol, a native corn and cacao beverage instead of caguamas , the liter bottles of beer. Sources have it that the stockpiled brew is about to run dry – Mexico’s hour of reckoning is near!

Join Mary Jane in the foothills of the Valle de Tlacolula.

Oaxaca, with its perfect summer weather cooled by late afternoon showers, is worth considering. Flights are arriving. Fly Volaris non-stop from Tijuana with the convenient San Diego – Tijuana walk-through corridor for a whopping $160 U.S. roundtrip. United still has direct flights from Houston or change planes in Mexico City. 

A month at Casa Murguia begins at $500 U.S. Offer lasts until October 24th. 

From my adobe casita where the mating birds sing and a gentle breeze blows, I send you my very best wishes for health and contentment. 

Hasta pronto, I truly hope we’ll see each other soon! 

Mary Jane

P.S. I just received via email this poem Rest Now Mother Earth by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Her eloquent words resonate.