Fly Into Birdland
Guest post from Iván Gabaldón of Ride Into Birdland for Pronatural Peninsula de Yucatan.
The sun is just beginning to rise but I feel none of its warmth as I walk towards the vintage Cessna on the wet tarmac of Merida’s airport. I’m about to embark on my first aerial photography mission for Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan, a thrilling prospect for sure, but the gloomy weather is taking some of the joy out of the idea of going airborne in a single engine plane. No one says anything but I can sense I’m not the only team member wondering if this is really the best day to fly.
Our unspoken worries notwithstanding, it takes Captain Lawrence “Bud” Sittig one long stare at the horizon to forecast our immediate future. “I can see a window there“, he says with a confident smile after detecting a small parting of clouds to the north. “We’ll be all right, but first we need to take the door off this plane“.
Captain Bud, as we call him, is a volunteer pilot with LightHawk, an organization that donates flight time for NGOs committed to conservation. Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan has benefited from this cooperation for several years and now it is my privilege to have been asked to participate in two flights. Our mission will be to photograph natural conditions in forested areas as well human activities related to agriculture and cattle ranching in the state of Yucatan. We’re also tasked to photograph any forest fires we may encounter and, with any luck, once we reach the sea we’ll be able to document the presence of whale sharks and sea turtles in their migratory routes off the coast of Quintana Roo.