Laguna La Maria (Colima area), Feb. 21 - 27


        Our route turned inland beyond Boca Beach as we climbed to our southernmost destination, Laguna La Maria, at an elevation of 6,000 feet just north of Colima.  Here an ejido, or communal farming village, has created a lovely but unpretentious resort centered on a beautiful laguna, or lake, surrounded by a dense forest of great trees.  Its varied habitats of field, forest, and lake have attracted a vivid array of birds.
The lake
Rig Row
Down to the lake
Vermilion Flycatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

        Yet over this beauty hung a sense of danger.  Right outside the entrance a lurid sign warned that a volcanic crater just 9.7 kilometers away could erupt in a  cataclysm of flooding lava, smothering ash, and raining boulders.  Laguna La Maria was itself, in fact, a caldera lake rimmed by the cliffs of an ancient crater, and it adjoined the two great volcanos comprising the Volcanos of Colima National Park..  We were camping on the western skirt of the active Volcan Fuego (Volcano of Fire), rising 13,087 feet, to the north of which the higher but dormant Volcan Nevado (Volcano of Snow) rose to 14,220 feet.
Erupting ash (LLM)
Erupting lava, 1973 (LLM)

        At Laguna La Maria the dangerous Volcan Fuego loomed and fumed directly over our heads, emitting daily belches of steam, ash, and visible flame.

        Yet Volcan Fuego was an irresistible temptation for birders because many endemic species of the Colima region occurred at the highest altitudes.  Consequently we organized a long expedition around the mountain and up the rough road climbing it from the northeast to around 11,000 feet.  The birding was so fabulous that Coen Dexter and Brenda Wright stayed on the mountain overnight in their compact camper, experiencing close-up a particularly strong volcanic belch that blackened the sky and showered them with pumice.  Fuego was puffing energetically as the rest of us returned to Laguna La Marina, but the high-altitude birding had proved so rewarding that on succeeding days our most zealous birders drove several kilometers directly up the road from our encampment to the military post that monitored the volcanic threat, where they were allowed to continue upward. afoot.
Fuego's morning ash cloud
From our moving vehicle en route to the Fuego Road
Harry on the Fuego Road
Spotted Wren on the Fuego Road
Volcan Fuego
As we neared Laguna La Maria on our return
Close-up of the crater
Ash cloud at sunset over our rigs

        For additional high-altitude birding, we made an even longer journey around the volcanos to reach the rough road that ascends Volcan Nevado from its northeastern flank.  The road was too rough for Harry above 10,000 feet, but Carolyn and Charlie saw wonderful birds, especially the Green-striped Brushfinch.
Volcan Nevado
Charlie leaves Harry at 10,000 feet
Carolyn at 10,400 feet
The summit at 14,220 feet
Looking down
Green-striped Brushfinch

        Shortly before leaving Laguna La Maria, Carolyn and Charlie visited nearby Comala with Ann and Bob Jenkins.  This mountain town is noted for the loveliness and liveliness of its central plaza, where mariachis roam the arcades and waiters keep bringing you an awesome array of tasty appetizers as long as you keep ordering drinks.
Comala Plaza
Arcade Revels
Reveling birders

Photographs copyrighted 2004, those initialed (LLM) by the management of Laguna La Maria, all others by Carolyn Merchant