The first place we wanted to go was Laguna Cartegna, a large expanse of fresh water set among farmland about 20 miles from Guanica. We were there 2 years ago briefly with Hilda and it was a great place to be. We met her at 8 o'clock at the entrance to the farm road that leads to the lagoon about 2 miles along it. We birded the road, stopping our cars every hundred yards or so. Hilda found a mixed flock of bishops--ORANGE BISHOP which we both saw, and the much rarer Yellow-crowned Bishop, which only Shari saw, and I am gnashing my teeth as I write this. Neither of these birds was in their colorful breeding plumage and the bishop I saw could easily be mistaken for a sparrow. But, they're still life birds.
Traveling up the road we found both Yellow-faced Grassquit and Black-faced Grassquit, the endemic Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, along with a couple of species of migratory warblers, swallows, and many Cattle Egret, this flock sticking to tradition and hanging out with the cows. Gray Kingbirds seemed to be on the wires every 20 feet. And we also saw another favorite southern species doing the high-wire act, Smooth-billed Ani.
Photo: Shari Zirlin
And let me tell you, this was mud of a particularly noxious variety--viscous, sucking mud that smelled like and probably was in good part, shit. As Shari tried to back out, she only went deeper and splattered more mud over the hood and windows. I tried to push but there was no way I was going to get that car out of the mud. Meanwhile, I was sinking past my ankles.
Again, I was ready to call Hertz and have hell to pay when speeding up the road came an old Nissan with 2 young workers from the farm. Apparently, this was not such an uncommon circumstance, because they had a chain to pull the car out. But they were reluctant because they were afraid of damaging the car. "It's only money if they damage the bumper," I thought, so I told them to go ahead. I figured it would take a 15 or 20 minutes to get everything set up, but faster than you read that sentence they had the chain attached and while one guy drove, three of us pushed the front as Shari also gave it the gas and in five seconds we were out of the mud! I gave everybody $20 (I was going to give more but Hilda looked at me like I was crazy) and we turned the car around.
|Shari & 2 of our rescuers|
|What we were stuck in|
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Now that we were free of the muck and mire, it was time to figure out where else we could go.