Tuesday 28 September 2010

Mexican Gripes

I am finding myself and my camera less welcome around the world these days. In Mexico this week for example, my photographic gear caused me to be challenged no less than six times. I was refused entry on one occasion and had to leave my tackle at the security booth. Two other sites insisted that I needed an official permit and even chased after me with a clipboard for more information and to demand recognition and credit for the photos. In the mountain forest of Desierto de Los Leones, ranger vehicles stopped on two occasions to question my motives and to establish how I intended to use the pictures.

If only they knew how rubbish I am at photography, they would have no need to worry, but people are easily impressed by tripods it would appear.
I would imagine that anyone with a sensible sized camera and lens wouldn’t have any trouble. But despite evidence to the contrary, people assume that I am a serious photographer and that I will be profiting from my activities.
Permits are free from my experiences this week, and an attended cloakroom was available when the camera was refused admission to the Museo.

Another piece of grit in my life’s Vaseline this week is the lack of a comprehensive field guide to Mexico. Steve NG Howell and Sophie Webb have written an excellent book for Mexico and Northern Central America, but have not illustrated huge chunks of the avifauna, such as waders, gulls and warblers. The families are written up in the species accounts, but when a bird is in the bush, a picture paints a thousand words.
I appreciate their efforts to keep the volume down to size and their preference to “ devote plate space to Middle American species”. I understand that the families in question have been very well illustrated elsewhere and to include them would be repetitive. However, when nearly 150 pages have been given over to introductions, appendices and bibliography, surely another few plates would only serve to enhance an otherwise great book.
As it was, I found myself cursing Steve and Sophie at a lung-busting 3000m above sea-level in the Desierto de Los Leones mountain forest when I had to carry the Sibley guide to North America as a companion volume; all for the sake of a dozen or so plates.
How much better a complete field guide would be.

For all my spume, I now note that my copy of their guide was published in 1995. If it has been re-issued as a complete field guide since then, I take it all back and will get a new copy without delay because with the extra plates, it will be the perfect guide to Mexico.

And another thing..... high in the thin air of the mountains, I hardly had any cause to use the Sibley guide. I tried to identify an Empidonax flycatcher, but to no avail.

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