I’m enjoying an icy Dos Equis at Flavio’s, wondering if Flavor Flav ever ate here, when a cute little girl, maybe seven, approaches carrying what looks like the top of a shoebox. Inside are 50 of those colorful little paper mache animals with the bobbly heads. I have at least 100 of them, bobbing away on every window sill in my house, but the kid’s trinket sales probably put a lot of food on the table for her family, so I add five more critters to my collection. I don’t know if they’re duplicates of some I already have, but it really doesn’t matter.
If you get a seat right on the water at Flavio’s, while enjoying the food and drink, you can watch boats come and go from the marina, shrimp boats at anchor, the impressive row of high-rises on Sandy Beach, and some of the best sunsets on the planet. But there are other things going on that infrequent visitors and first-timers wonder about.
SUE JACKSON, MESA, AZ: Why are all those birds diving in the ocean?
CAP’N GREG: It’s a feeding frenzy, Sue. Much like my behavior when my order of shrimp tacos arrives. The pelicans and other diving birds get a little silly in the winter months when they locate a bait ball made up of what can be millions of sardina, which, like sardines, are a member of the herring family. The sardina hardly ever get bigger than seven inches long, and gather in huge balls in the winter months. They are a favorite food for fish and birds, and prized by fishermen here as one of the best baits ever. When birds are diving on a bait ball, it’s a good bet that mackerel and other aggressive species are attacking from below and around the sides.
MITCH WESTLAKE, WINSLOW, AZ: I swear I just heard a dog bark. Out at sea. Am I crazy, or what?
CAP’N GREG: I am not qualified to assess your mental state, Mitch, but in this case I know what you heard barking is a sea lion. Isla San Jorge, or as we gringos call it, Bird Island, about 24 miles southeast of here, has one of the largest colonies of sea lions in the Sea of Cortez. Sea lions dive to find herring, squid and other tasty stuff. When they surface, their bark sounds like a cross between a playful Great Dane and a quarterback being sacked by Troy Polamalu. They typically eat 5–8% of their body weight each day, or between 15 and 40 pounds. I haven’t eaten that much since I was a teenager.
The waiter delivers my three shrimp tacos and a fresh cerveza. Between bites I watch the pelicans diving, hear the sea lions barking, and can’t imagine a better place to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon.