The area around Puerto Perdido is lousy with birds and bird-watchers. We're on the fly path of a variety of birds that spend their summers luxuriating in fancy avian digs in Northern Canada and then, in the late fall, commute south to feathery Club Meds in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

Visiting friends have dragged me along on what they call "Eco Tours." This means getting ladled into noisy busses at some ungodly hour to get to the Manialtepec Laguna by seven a.m. Like war, birdwatching is supposed to be best conducted at hours when people of good breeding should still be abed.

We ecofolks then debark and crowd into boats with outboard motors that curse and spit and make enough noise to wake the dead. In a couple of hours, we get to a place in the open lagoon where the sun is moving towards its hottest point in the sky. Our guide stops the boat with the motor still bubbling, exuding oil and gas and CO2, and we rest there in the bilge while he points enthusiastically to a tiny spot bobbing over there in the haze at the edge of the lagoon.

He tells us that it is a Least Bittern which I can sympathize with, because I am getting bittern with many mosquitoes and no-see-ums and a vicious little bastard peculiar to this area known as a "burro" which sneaks up behind you, lights on the back of your neck, jabs you with a horse-needle and in two seconds sucks you dry and then zooms off without a thanks or a bye-your-leave, leaving you bled dry.

There is no mercy on these Eco Tours. We aren't doing our homage to nature if we haven't stayed out there baking in the tropical sun for at least six hours, being moved from here to there in a bobbing bark and being fed with the local version of Doritos and wet sandwiches of ham and cheese and sand for our sole repast.

After awhile, even the most enthusiastic bird-brain in the crowd is satiated with the vireos and grosbeaks and grassquits so finally our leader takes mercy on us and we are allowed back to land where some of us break quickly for the bar and the blessed cool drinks giving us nothing to look at but a twirling sign for Cerveza Aguila which means Eagle Beer which is about all the bird-watching that some of us need or want.

--- Carlos Amantea

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