Friday, August 7, 2015

A Morning in the Clouds, Oaxaca July 22, 2015

This was to be our last day to go birding. It was also Martin's most anticipated day. We were going up to La Cumbre, a beautiful area in the cloud forest about 24 kilometers from Oaxaca City. This site is where Dwarf Jays can be found, which Martin wanted in the worst way. Michael said he had never seen the jays before 9:00 AM, so there was no rush, but we did arrive quite a bit earlier than that. The valley below was shrouded in clouds.

We immediately found birds. Mexican Chickadees were a new species for the trip. Olive Warblers were feeding high in the trees. Red Warblers were fairly common, a bird I wish we got in Texas!  Band-tailed Pigeons flew by. We worked our way up hill along the road, stopping from time to time. Dwarf Jays associate with Gray-barred Wrens. They feed in small flocks together. Usually the calls of the wrens are what key you into the jays being around. That is exactly what happened. Michael heard the wrens, then quickly found the jays. They moved around mid-level in the trees and we all got good looks, though photos were impossible for me. Martin did get some shots. http://www.martinreid.com/Misc%20website/MX2015DwarfJay.html

I glanced down the hill below us and saw something moving on the trunk of a tree. I initially thought it was a huge lizard, but then as it came up into clear view I could see it was a woodcreeper, with a very large bill. Michael got on it and called out "Strong-billed Woodcreeper!"  This species has a huge range, but is difficult to find in Mexico. It flew up and across the road, calling. We then heard a second bird calling nearby. We all got great looks. I was pretty excited to have found a good bird.

We also found a number of butterflies and beautiful flowers, including a couple of orchids. A Red Warbler with a large worm, flew in very close to us. It seemed kind of nervous and kept moving around, but not far, and kept the worm in its beak. We all moved away, as we assumed it had a nest nearby. Michael actually saw it go into the nest from a distance. Russet and Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrushes were singing around us. We heard Collared Towhees, but never saw them. It was a very successful morning!

There was a place Michael wanted to take us to for lunch to Tlamanalli in Teotitlan de Valle. I am really glad we did go there! The restaurant was lovely. Our server, Rosaria, was a delight. She dressed in traditional clothing, with her hair done up in purple ribbons. She brought us each a shot of mescal to start the meal. I had never drank mescal and was surprised just how much I liked it. We asked how much a bottle was, but it was a little more than I wanted to pay. There was a spinning wheel and huge loom in the corner. There were woven items for sale. Teotitlan de Valle is known for its weavings.

After lunch we returned to the spot where we had glimpsed Ocellated Thrasher the day before. This day we were a lot luckier. We actually saw the thrasher perched up and singing! We didn't see much else and decided to head back into town. We stopped briefly at the Beautiful Hummingbird spot from the day before, but had no luck. We had more fabulous mole for dinner and headed back to the hotel to prepare for the trip home. It was an amazing time. We had way more birds than we expected, many thanks to Michael Retter. The company was great. I am totally in love with Chiapas and Oaxaca. If you have any interest in this area let me know. I will be happy to give you more information. I would highly recommend it!

Photos from the day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157656933105341

Bird list for the day:
FAMILY          NAME                            
Cathartidae     Turkey Vulture                  
Accipitridae    White-tailed Kite               
Accipitridae    Zone-tailed Hawk                
Columbidae      Band-tailed Pigeon              
Trochilidae     Blue-throated Hummingbird       
Trochilidae     Berylline Hummingbird           
Trogonidae      Mountain Trogon                 
Picidae         Hairy Woodpecker                
Picidae         Northern Flicker                
Furnariidae     Strong-billed Woodcreeper       
Furnariidae     Spot-crowned Woodcreeper        
Tyrannidae      Tufted Flycatcher               
Tyrannidae      Pine Flycatcher                 
Vireonidae      Hutton's Vireo                  
Corvidae        Dwarf Jay                       
Corvidae        Steller's Jay                   
Paridae         Mexican Chickadee               
Aegithalidae    Bushtit                         
Certhiidae      Brown Creeper                   
Troglodytidae   House Wren                      
Troglodytidae   Gray-barred Wren                
Troglodytidae   Gray-breasted Wood-Wren         
Turdidae        Brown-backed Solitaire          
Turdidae        Russet Nightingale-Thrush       
Turdidae        Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush 
Mimidae         Ocellated Thrasher              
Ptilogonatidae  Gray Silky-flycatcher           
Peucedramidae   Olive Warbler                   
Parulidae       Crescent-chested Warbler        
Parulidae       Rufous-capped Warbler           
Parulidae       Golden-browed Warbler           
Parulidae       Red Warbler                     
Parulidae       Slate-throated Redstart         
Thraupidae      Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer  
Emberizidae     Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch     
Emberizidae     Rufous-capped Brush-Finch       
Emberizidae     Collared Towhee                 
Emberizidae     Spotted Towhee                  
Emberizidae     Bridled Sparrow                 
Fringillidae    House Finch                     
Fringillidae    Lesser Goldfinch                

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let's sneak a little culture in with the birds, Oaxaca July 21, 2015


One of the nice things about archeological sites in Mexico is birds are often found there. This doubles the motivation to go, particularly with Martin, who is always very focused on the birds. There is a fabulous pre-Columbian site near Oaxaca named Monte Alban.  It is one of the earliest known cities in Mesoamerica, a political and economic center for the Zapotecs for almost a thousand year. It was founded in about 500 BCE, and lost its prominence in about 500 CE and was mostly abandoned by 700 CE. The site is located at the top of a low mountain ridge, overlooking the Oaxacan Valley.

We left the hotel after a quick breakfast and coffee. Monte Alban is located about six miles from the city. As we drove up the hill to the site, we passed numerous walkers, joggers and cyclists. It was pretty impressive, considering it was a week day. We stopped before we reached the gate to walk a trail below the ruins. We could hear one of our main target birds, Ocellated Thrasher. Unfortunately, we never saw the bird. We did see some Cinnamon-rumped Seedeaters, which are classified as White-collared Seedeaters. (I am not sure I agree with that!) There was a Greenish Elaenia, a Pileated Flycatcher and several Cassin's Kingbirds. Martin got a quick look at another target, Slaty Vireo, but several people didn't see it at all.

It was time for the ruins to open, so we trudged up the hill to the entrance. I gained even more respect for the walkers and joggers! Eddie had parked at the top, but came down and gave us a ride for the last part of the walk. The lot was filled with vans and buses. People were starting to crowd the entrance. Vendors selling beads, hats and other souvenirs were scattered around the parking lot. Unlike at Chichen Itza they were not obnoxious at all. There was no constant "ALMOST FREE!" We walked up the steps and got our tickets for the ruins.

The structures were very impressive and in quite good condition. We walked around the perimeter, which was somewhat wooded. We quickly found a Boucard's Wren sitting up singing. As we circled around, we got great looks at a Slaty Vireo, one of the oddest looking birds of the family. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos. We had several Blue Mockingbirds, Dusky Hummingbirds and Rufous-capped Warblers. We walked out into the center of the complex and heard a Canyon Wren singing. We also had a Rock Wren. We took some time to study the carvings on the pyramids and slabs of stone. I was really impressed. Before we left we did a quick walk through of the museum at the entrance, which was very interesting.

We returned to the hotel and went out for a lunch of some nice mole. We got in the van mid afternoon and drove towards the area we had been the day before. We had been discussing some bird possibilities and Beautiful Hummingbird came up. It is a tough species to find. It would take some luck. As we were driving down the highway, Martin spotted a mescal factory/restaurant with a lot of blooming agaves around it. We stopped for five minutes and found Dusky and Berylline Hummingbirds. We decided to stop again on the way back.

We stopped at Yagul Road and birded there for a bit. We had a couple of Gray-breasted Woodpeckers, a Curve-billed Thrasher, a Black-vented Oriole and a few other species. We moved on to another spot, known for having an Ocellated Thrasher territory. It was quite windy when we arrived. A nearby thunderstorm was causing some down draft. Almost immediately Michael heard a thrasher singing. We searched the tops of the bushes, as they sometimes sit on top when they sing. We had no luck at all. Martin excused himself and went around the corner for some privacy. He heard the thrasher nearby and it suddenly popped into view, very close by. Martin came out to the road we were on and motioned for us to come. We had some very poor glimpses of the bird deep in the brush, but not satisfying at all.  The weather wasn't looking very promising and it was getting late, so we headed back.

We did stop at the mescal factory/restaurant again. The agaves were packed with bees and several Dusky and Berylinne's Hummingbirds were feeding greedily. Suddenly Michael called out "BEAUTIFUL HUMMINGBIRD!" This is a small hummingbird. It was sneaking in grabbing a sip or two of nectar before being run off by the other larger hummingbirds. We were really excited! My photos are awful, but I was still happy with them.  A few swifts flew over head. A White-tailed Hawk perched near by. We left and drove back to the city.

I know this is a bird blog, but I did want to add something about the dinner we had on this night. Michael took us to a lovely spot that specialized in moles. It was an amazing dining experience. Our waiter brought out tortillas and two plates with seven small bowls full of different moles. He explained what each one was in great detail. We all tasted each one, actually, I tasted them all several times! He then took our orders. I chose estofado with lengua (tongue), and it was beyond belief. The mole had a slight licorice flavor from one of the herbs. The lengua was cooked to perfection. The food in Oaxaca is some of the best I have ever eaten!

Photos from the day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157656849143645

Bird list for the day:
FAMILY          NAME                             
Cathartidae     Black Vulture                    
Cathartidae     Turkey Vulture                   
Accipitridae    White-tailed Hawk                
Accipitridae    Red-tailed Hawk                  
Columbidae      White-winged Dove                
Columbidae      Inca Dove                        
Columbidae      Common Ground-Dove               
Columbidae      White-tipped Dove                
Apodidae        Chestnut-collared Swift          
Apodidae        Vaux's Swift                     
Trochilidae     Beautiful Hummingbird            
Trochilidae     Dusky Hummingbird                
Trochilidae     Berylline Hummingbird            
Trochilidae     White-eared Hummingbird          
Picidae         Gray-breasted Woodpecker         
Picidae         Ladder-backed Woodpecker         
Tyrannidae      Greenish Elaenia                 
Tyrannidae      Pileated Flycatcher              
Tyrannidae      Western Wood-Pewee               
Tyrannidae      Vermilion Flycatcher             
Tyrannidae      Social Flycatcher                
Tyrannidae      Tropical Kingbird                
Tyrannidae      Cassin's Kingbird                
Vireonidae      Slaty Vireo                      
Vireonidae      Golden Vireo                     
Hirundinidae    Cliff Swallow                    
Aegithalidae    Bushtit                          
Troglodytidae   Rock Wren                        
Troglodytidae   Canyon Wren                      
Troglodytidae   Bewick's Wren                    
Troglodytidae   Boucard's Wren                   
Turdidae        Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush 
Turdidae        American Robin                   
Mimidae         Curve-billed Thrasher            
Mimidae         Ocellated Thrasher               
Ptilogonatidae  Gray Silky-flycatcher            
Parulidae       Rufous-capped Warbler            
Thraupidae      Blue-black Grassquit             
Thraupidae      White-collared Seedeater         
Emberizidae     Spotted Towhee                   
Emberizidae     White-throated Towhee            
Emberizidae     Bridled Sparrow                  
Cardinalidae    Black-headed Grosbeak            
Cardinalidae    Blue Grosbeak                    
Icteridae       Great-tailed Grackle             
Icteridae       Bronzed Cowbird                  
Icteridae       Black-vented Oriole              
Fringillidae    House Finch                      
Fringillidae    Lesser Goldfinch                 
Passeridae      House Sparrow                    

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Road to Beautiful Oaxaca, July 20, 2015


Martin got up early and joined the others for a trip back to the Green Gate Rd. to try for a few birds that they missed. Our plan was to check out at about 11:00AM and make the drive to the city of Oaxaca. Because of the incident the night before, I decided to stay at the cabin and get a bit more rest. I got up maybe an hour after they left and went to sit on the porch of the cabin. Watching the clouds pass through the valley below me, sometimes hiding the mountains, sometimes completely dissipating, was wonderful. There was a scrubby field right below the cabin and I watched birds hop in and out of view. A Rufous-capped Brushfinch was new for the trip, as was a Buff-breasted Flycatcher. The Spotted Towhees were chasing each other all around. Stellar's Jays were working their way through the near by pines. This was not bad!

I was actually a bit hungry, so I slowly worked my up the hill to the office, where there was a continental breakfast. I was in no rush, so I took time to check out all of the birds. I was particularly pleased with a Black-headed Siskin and a White-throated Towhee, though the towhee was less than flashy. White-eared Hummingbirds were very common. I had a bit of fruit and sweet bread, along with some coffee, while I checked my iPad. There was a fire, which was very pleasant. I didn't see any hummingbirds coming to the feeders on the porch. I left pretty quickly after I ate and continued to bird. I was surprised at how well I did walking up and down the rather steep trail from the office to the cabin. I ended up doing the round trip at least four times. I was obviously recovering.

Martin and the group returned. I have to admit I was a bit crestfallen to hear they had a Bumblebee Hummingbird, which I badly wanted. A Hooded Yellowthroat started singing, which helped make up for it. I even got a poor photo. We had several other birds around the office, White-throated Flycatcher, a couple of brown-throated House Wrens, and a gorgeous Amethyst-throated Hummingbird. I glimpsed a tiny brownish hummingbird zip by, which may have been a Bumblebee, but it wasn't enough to count it.

We got in the van and started for the city. We went at a pretty good clip until about 1:30PM, when we all decided we needed lunch. We spotted a sign on the main road for a restaurant which was back on a gravel road. We decided to give it a try and were very happy we did! It was a bit late for lunch, so Michael went in to see if they were still serving. The staff was cleaning the dining room, but they said we could sit outside under the umbrellas. We went into the garden, where we were greeted by a rather scruffy West Mexican Chachalaca, who looked like he made his living begging. We could see a small lake next to the restaurant and scanned for water birds. We couldn't see a lot, because of the trees, but did pick up American Coot and Least Grebe.  A Boucard's Wren, which is in the same family as our Cactus Wren sang from a nearby snag.

Our food arrived and it was great!  I had a shrimp soup that was perfection. The staff was very attentive and seemed thrilled to have us there. They brought out their guest book and took numerous photos of us. I have a feeling they don't see many gringos. After we finished, we walked down a small dirt road, where we could see the lake a bit better. Peggy spotted a small plover, which we got in the scope. We were really surprised to see it was a Snowy Plover, not at all expected in that area. It started to rain, so we decided to make our way to the city.

When we arrived in Oaxaca in the late afternoon we decided to make good use of the light and continue birding, before going to the hotel. We drove out out of town to Teotitlian del Valle. This was a xeric area, with several specialty birds. I added Cassin's Kingbird to my Mexico list, along with Pileated Flycatcher, which has a fancier name than appearance. We were very pleased to see a singing Bridled Sparrow, sitting up, allowing good photos. Michael spotted a Oaxaca Sparrow flitting around low in the bushes. He said that it was as good a look as we could expect. Then the bird sat up on a stick and showed off beautifully!

It was getting a bit late, so we went back into town to our hotel, Casa Arnal. It was in a lovely older area of Oaxaca with cobbled streets. There was a church across the street that was built in about 1700.  Gary realized when we got inside that he had actually stayed there several years earlier. Our room didn't have air conditioning, but with the open window and fan it was very comfortable. We went out to eat and had our first excellent meal in the city, gourmet pizza, believe it or not! I was really excited to experience this wonderful city.

Photos for the day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157656804779295

Birds seen:
FAMILY          NAME                          
Cracidae        West Mexican Chachalaca       
Podicipedidae   Least Grebe                   
Podicipedidae   Pied-billed Grebe             
Ardeidae        Great Egret                   
Cathartidae     Turkey Vulture                
Accipitridae    Harris's Hawk                 
Rallidae        American Coot                 
Charadriidae    Snowy Plover                  
Columbidae      White-winged Dove             
Apodidae        Vaux's Swift                  
Trochilidae     Magnificent Hummingbird       
Trochilidae     Amethyst-throated Hummingbird 
Trochilidae     White-eared Hummingbird       
Tyrannidae      Pileated Flycatcher           
Tyrannidae      Western Wood-Pewee            
Tyrannidae      White-throated Flycatcher     
Tyrannidae      Buff-breasted Flycatcher      
Tyrannidae      Vermilion Flycatcher          
Tyrannidae      Cassin's Kingbird             
Corvidae        Steller's Jay                 
Hirundinidae    Northern Rough-winged Swallow 
Certhiidae      Brown Creeper                 
Troglodytidae   House Wren                    
Troglodytidae   Boucard's Wren                
Turdidae        Russet Nightingale-Thrush     
Mimidae         Curve-billed Thrasher         
Ptilogonatidae  Gray Silky-flycatcher         
Parulidae       Hooded Yellowthroat           
Thraupidae      White-collared Seedeater      
Emberizidae     Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch   
Emberizidae     Rufous-capped Brush-Finch     
Emberizidae     Spotted Towhee                
Emberizidae     Oaxaca Sparrow                
Emberizidae     White-throated Towhee         
Emberizidae     Bridled Sparrow               
Emberizidae     Yellow-eyed Junco             
Cardinalidae    Hepatic Tanager               
Cardinalidae    Black-headed Grosbeak         
Icteridae       Great-tailed Grackle          
Icteridae       Bronzed Cowbird               
Icteridae       Black-vented Oriole           
Fringillidae    House Finch                   
Fringillidae    Black-headed Siskin           
Fringillidae    Lesser Goldfinch              

Monday, August 3, 2015

Up the mountain and over. July 19, 2015

It was time to leave the coast and head inland, eventually to Oaxaca City. We had gone a way up the road we were going to be traveling the day before. We could have made it to Oaxaca city in one day, but that would have left little time for birding and the mountains held so much! Instead of making the stops lower down we had the day before, we headed up to the highest point we had birded. We arrived at about 745AM. The weather was beautiful, sunny and cool.

We walked down the trail and immediately had hummingbirds zipping overhead. Blue-capped were fairly common. We had a few Beryllines. There were at least three Garnet-throated Hummingbirds. A White-faced Quail-Dove called.  Things were shaping up pretty well. We worked the middle part of the trail, looking for Mexican Hermit. This hummingbird feeds on heliconia. Most of the flowers were finished, but we did find one or two plants that still had fresh blooms, but no hermits.

Most of us had moved a bit further down the trail, when Martin called "Come and see this!" We hurried back up and he pointed out something really amazing. He said he had been standing on the path when a large white feather drifted over his head. The "feather" suddenly veered and landed on a tree. When I looked at it with my binoculars, I could see the back of an insect, but the underside looked like long feather plumes. It was the most bizarre bug I had ever seen. We speculated initially that it was a moth, but we could see by the back that it was not. Someone mentioned it might be a leaf hopper. After we finished for the day, I did a bit of research and found it was actually called a plant hopper, a fulgorid. The white plumes are a waxy substance that the insect secretes and then sticks on its body. When a predator goes after it, the plumes dissolve if grabbed, allowing the bug to escape. How fabulous is that?

We added more birds, Grace's Warbler, Elegant Euphonia, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and several species of flycatchers. Several people decided to go further down the trail, but my knees were screaming no. I also was feeling fatigued. I decided to go back to the van to rest. I chatted with Eddie, well sort of, as my Spanish is pretty sucky. I was starting to nap a bit, when Christine came up to the bus and said "They have a Sparkling Tailed Hummingbird!" This was one of my most wanted birds of the trip. I woke up very quickly, jumped out of the van and yelled "Thanks!" over my shoulder. I ran down the trail and around the corner, where they were all lined up searching. Jennifer had seen the bird and alerted everyone. Geoff had also spotted it, but then it disappeared.

We worked that area for quite a while. At one point we heard a buzz overhead that was almost certainly the bird. I kept telling myself it could come back, but if it didn't it was OK. I lie to myself like that when I am birding. Unfortunately, we never saw it again. The group that had gone further down the hill had also seen Mexican Hermit. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, but trying very hard to not show it. We moved on.

We drove up to a road with a green gate where birders are welcome. We passed through the gate and quickly found a singing Russet Nightingale-Thrush. There were some warblers working the area, including Slate-throated Redstarts, Crescent-chested Warblers and Golden-browed Warblers. A few Hutton's Vireos made it sound a bit like home to some of us. We started back and found a rather ratty looking Red Warbler. A Mountain Trogon played coy, but finally allowed a few looks.

We made one more stop before heading to our hotel. Unfortunately, this spot was not in good shape due to extensive logging.  We saw a few birds but didn't stay long. We drove on to where we were spending the night, Cabanas Puesta del Sol in San Jose el Pacifico. This village is at about 8,000 ft. We checked in and headed down hill to our cabin. To be honest, it was a bit daunting. The trails were pretty steep and my knees were still acting up. I have to admit I grumbled a bit when I saw how far it was, but then we got to the cabin. The view off of our front porch was spectacular. The cabin itself was lovely, with a fireplace in the corner. With the altitude, it gets chilly at night. We got settled and then went back up to the office, where there are chairs and tables and a fire place. I spent a little while online checking email and Facebook, and then went back to get ready for dinner.

The walk back did not seem nearly as bad. There is a restaurant next door to the cabanas that used to be part of the hotel. We are not sure what happened, but there had been a parting of ways. The hotel recommended a different restaurant back towards the village, but since the old restaurant was so close we decided to eat there. We started dinner with Oaxacan hot chocolate. It was amazingly good! My appetite was still not back to normal. I finished the chocolate and told Martin I didn't think I could eat my dinner. He said I really needed to eat something, as I had not been getting enough nutrition. I then ran into the bathroom and was very ill. I think the milk in the chocolate was just too much for me. No one else had any problem.  I came back out and told Martin I was sick and needed to go back to the cabin. He walked me back down and I sat on the porch watching the mists move over the valley below. By the time he got back, after eating his dinner I was feeling much better. He brought me my dinner and I actually was able to eat a good bit of it with no problem. One of the men who worked at the hotel came down and lit a fire. I did really love this cabin.

Photos from the day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157654424493033

Bird list:
Columbidae     Red-billed Pigeon               
Columbidae     White-faced Quail-Dove          
Cuculidae      Squirrel Cuckoo                 
Apodidae       Chestnut-collared Swift         
Trochilidae    Garnet-throated Hummingbird     
Trochilidae    Blue-capped Hummingbird         
Trochilidae    Berylline Hummingbird           
Trogonidae     Mountain Trogon                 
Trogonidae     Collared Trogon                 
Ramphastidae   Emerald Toucanet                
Picidae        Acorn Woodpecker                
Furnariidae    Olivaceous Woodcreeper          
Furnariidae    Spotted Woodcreeper             
Furnariidae    Ruddy Foliage-gleaner           
Tyrannidae     Ochre-bellied Flycatcher        
Tyrannidae     Tufted Flycatcher               
Tyrannidae     Dusky-capped Flycatcher         
Tyrannidae     Social Flycatcher               
Tyrannidae     Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher      
Tityridae      Masked Tityra                   
Vireonidae     Hutton's Vireo                  
Vireonidae     Golden Vireo                    
Corvidae       Green Jay                       
Troglodytidae  Happy Wren                      
Troglodytidae  Gray-breasted Wood-Wren         
Turdidae       Brown-backed Solitaire          
Turdidae       Russet Nightingale-Thrush       
Turdidae       Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush 
Mimidae        Blue Mockingbird                
Parulidae      Crescent-chested Warbler        
Parulidae      Grace's Warbler                 
Parulidae      Golden-browed Warbler           
Parulidae      Golden-crowned Warbler          
Parulidae      Red Warbler                     
Parulidae      Slate-throated Redstart         
Thraupidae     Red-legged Honeycreeper         
Emberizidae    Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch     
Emberizidae    Common Chlorospingus            
Fringillidae   Elegant Euphonia          

Friday, July 31, 2015

Up the Mountain, Back to the Sea, July 18, 2015 Oaxaca

We had pretty much cleaned up in Huatulco, so we decided to use the morning to gain some elevation and try to find a different set of birds. We would be traveling on the road we were going to on the following day, but it deserved a good bit of time. We stopped on Pluma Hidalgo road and heard the eerie call of a Thicket Tinamou nearby. Several Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers dodged on and off of the road. This particular sub-species has a rosier colored crown. Golden Vireos were showing well. We had three Citreoline Trogons and six Spot-breasted Orioles. Happy Wrens sang from the scrub. (They really are called Happy Wrens.)

We went a bit further north and up slope and parked where a young Gray Hawk was perching. We didn't bother him one bit. Several people saw the Dickey's race of Audubon Oriole, which I missed, unfortunately. A Wagler's Emerald Toucanet showed off a bit. The views were incredible! We heard both Ruddy and White-faced Quail Doves calling. We started finding some hummingbirds.  A femail Golden-crowned Emerald perched up nicely. Blue-capped and Berylline Hummingbirds fed on the flowers. A couple of Collared Forest Falcons called, but couldn't be drawn in. There were flycatchers , Sulphur-bellied, Dusky-capped and a Greater Pewee. We had a very range restricted butterfly, a Solitary Bolla. It isn't much to look at, but it was probably the rarest bug of the trip.


We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the road. There was a public restroom with a big metal turnstile that charged a couple of pesos. Everyone entered at the same spot, and then there was a small hall where you went left for the women's room, or right for men's. A nice bathroom is a good thing, but this one was even better. There were fabulous moths all over the wall, including a couple of  huge red, black and cream colored monsters, longer than my thumb. After the other women left, I called Martin over to see, as the best ones were on our side. Lunch was good. I was starting to be able to eat a bit more each time.

We made one more stop, a small grassy trail, even higher up which was stuffed with Blue-capped Hummingbirds. We also had a Garnet-throated Hummingbird. Several people walked further down the trail, but I was lazy and stayed up closer to the van. Their efforts were rewarded by seeing a couple of Mexican Hermits, a hummingbird that was recently split from Long-billed Hermit. We stayed for about an hour and then headed back down towards the sea. We would return to this area on the following day.

We drove the winding roads down to Puerto Angel, a small beach town. Michael knew a boat operator there and we were going to do a "mini pelagic" to a huge rock a couple of miles away that has many, many boobies roosting. Michael found him and arranged for us to go. The boat was a lot smaller than the one the day before, not much more than a large skiff with a sun screen. Michael said that he had used this boat for actual pelagic trips and I was shocked. I couldn't imagine going far out in this little thing. They pulled it up on the beach, but you had to wade to get in, dodging the waves. We all took our shoes off and left them in a little restaurant. Martin chose not to go, as the sun was very bright and he burns very easily. I got my freshly washed jeans soaked to the knee, but it was the price I had to pay. Little did I know what would happen later.

We took off and headed out of the small harbor. A Red-footed Booby was one of the first birds we saw. This was a surprise, as they tend to be more deep water birds. We skirted the coast, which was peppered with gorgeous beach homes. We passed a well known clothing optional beach, but it was not occupied, at least that I could see. No, I didn't use my binoculars to check. The rock loomed in the distance and  boobies flew back and forth. A Royal Tern, the only one of the trip, passes us. Magnificent Frigate Birds soared overhead. We reached the rock and went around it a couple of times. Brown Boobies were the most common, by far. There were several Blue-footed Boobies and we had one young Masked Booby, which gave us a five booby trip. (Only in birding can you say something like that!) A group of Bridled Terns flew in and then back out. The waves crashed on the rock. It was very impressive.

The boat sailed back and got to the beach. They pulled it up again, and we all started to get out. Since my jeans were already wet to the knee, I wasn't worried about the water. I swung my legs over the edge and started to get out, when a large wave struck me, knocking me down. I was freaking out about my camera, but one of the men who pulled the boat up, grabbed me and threw the camera up over my shoulder, so it did not get wet. That was about the only thing that didn't get wet. My binoculars went in, but they are waterproof. Thank you Zeiss. When I got to the van, Eddie took one look at me and motioned for me to wait. He didn't want me sitting on the seat of the van. I had my rain jacket, so we put that over the seat and drove back to the hotel. I was actually glad to get to go into the Pacific Ocean. :-)
Photos for the day:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157656554646816

Bird list for day:
 FAMILY         NAME                        
Tinamidae      Thicket Tinamou             
Fregatidae     Magnificent Frigatebird     
Sulidae        Masked Booby                
Sulidae        Blue-footed Booby           
Sulidae        Brown Booby                 
Sulidae        Red-footed Booby            
Pelecanidae    Brown Pelican               
Cathartidae    Black Vulture               
Cathartidae    Turkey Vulture              
Pandionidae    Osprey                      
Accipitridae   Gray Hawk                   
Laridae        Bridled Tern                
Laridae        Royal Tern                  
Columbidae     Inca Dove                   
Columbidae     White-tipped Dove           
Columbidae     White-faced Quail-Dove      
Columbidae     Ruddy Quail-Dove            
Cuculidae      Squirrel Cuckoo             
Apodidae       White-throated Swift        
Trochilidae    Garnet-throated Hummingbird 
Trochilidae    Golden-crowned Emerald      
Trochilidae    Blue-capped Hummingbird     
Trochilidae    Berylline Hummingbird       
Trogonidae     Citreoline Trogon           
Momotidae      Russet-crowned Motmot       
Ramphastidae   Emerald Toucanet            
Picidae        Acorn Woodpecker            
Picidae        Golden-cheeked Woodpecker   
Falconidae     Collared Forest-Falcon      
Psittacidae    Orange-fronted Parakeet     
Furnariidae    Ruddy Foliage-gleaner       
Tyrannidae     Greater Pewee               
Tyrannidae     Dusky-capped Flycatcher     
Tyrannidae     Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher  
Tityridae      Masked Tityra               
Vireonidae     Golden Vireo                
Vireonidae     Yellow-green Vireo          
Corvidae       White-throated Magpie-Jay   
Troglodytidae  Happy Wren                  
Troglodytidae  Banded Wren                 
Troglodytidae  White-breasted Wood-Wren    
Turdidae       Brown-backed Solitaire      
Turdidae       Clay-colored Thrush         
Mimidae        Blue Mockingbird            
Parulidae      Tropical Parula             
Parulidae      Rufous-capped Warbler       
Parulidae      Golden-crowned Warbler      
Thraupidae     Red-legged Honeycreeper     
Thraupidae     Grayish Saltator            
Thraupidae     Black-headed Saltator       
Emberizidae    Olive Sparrow               
Emberizidae    Rusty Sparrow               
Cardinalidae   Red-crowned Ant-Tanager     
Cardinalidae   Orange-breasted Bunting     
Icteridae      Great-tailed Grackle        
Icteridae      Spot-breasted Oriole        

To Sea or Not to Sea, That is the Question. Oaxaca July 17, 2015

We got up and I had to make an important decision. Today Michael had a pelagic trip scheduled. I have gotten very sea sick in the past. I wanted to die when we did the pelagic trip in Peru. I hung off of the back of the boat less than a mile from shore when we went for the Brown Noddy off of South Padre Island. Here I was, still feeling weak from the horrible case of tourista that I had been suffering through, and I was thinking of going to sea. On the positive side, I did have  fresh prescription for scopolamine patches and this was a much shorter trip than pelagics normally are, six hours as opposed to 12 or more. On the negative side, if I did get violently sick, it would drain me even further. The rest of the group was going out for some early birding, since we weren't going out until late morning. I decided to stay at the hotel and rest. I would decide at the last minute.

Martin stayed with me, and we stayed in bed until about 8:00 AM, almost unheard of! I did wake up at about 7:00 AM and heard a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl tooting away. I was unsure if it was an actual owl, or one of the other group members outside imitating one. I asked them when they got back and they said it was definitely a real owl. We went downstairs to the hotel restaurant and I had some amazing cheese stuffed French toast. I was still only able to eat a half a piece, but it was really good! I finally decided I was going to go. With it being a short trip, what was the worst that could happen? We had plenty of water, so dehydration shouldn't be a problem. I put on a patch and decided I would risk it.

The rest of the group returned. We took off for the harbor. We found our boat and it was great! It was small, but very nice. It even had a bathroom. We put on our life jackets because the harbor master demanded it, and we took off. The shore at Hualtuco is really beautiful. If you have seen the movie "Y tu Mama Tambien", it was made about this part of Oaxaca. (WARNING! This is not a family friendly movie!)  The beach here was developed in the 80s by some huge American resorts. Due to flight logistics, it became obvious that this area would not work for North American tourists, so the resorts were sold to Mexican concerns. They are now very popular with the Mexican people. The waters were fairly calm and beautifully blue.

The first bird we had, other than Brown Pelicans, was a Brown Noddy, quite close to shore. It was quickly followed by a Galapagos Shearwater. In Texas you normally have to get way off shore before any pelagic birds are spotted. This was great! The birds came in good number. We had groups of Wedge-rumped, Black and Least Storm-Petrels, at least three species of boobies, including Nazca and Red-footed, both new for me, more Galapagos Shearwaters, and a Wedge-tailed Shearwater. We also saw several Green Sea Turtles and a couple of dolphins, which we were not able to identify. Probably the biggest surprise was three Sabine's Gulls, two of which were in breeding plumage.

We only went out about 15 miles. We saw birds both coming and going. I felt fine! The cooler full of cold water was a big help. I snacked on pretzels. I spilled pretzels, but that was the only mess I made. We were all very happy! We got back to the dock and went back to the hotel. We all cleaned up and then met for dinner. A couple of us had a vague memory of seeing a restaurant that said "wine and tapas bar", so we went searching. After way more walking than we wanted to do, we finally discovered it was actually an Italian restaurant.  The waiter, who might have been the owner, was delightful! I had some excellent ravioli and a glass of wine. I believe it was the most enjoyable pelagic I have ever done!

Photos:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157654252301233

Bird list for the day:
FAMILY             NAME                      
Procellariidae     Wedge-tailed Shearwater   
Hydrobatidae       Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel 
Hydrobatidae       Black Storm-Petrel        
Hydrobatidae       Least Storm-Petrel        
Fregatidae         Magnificent Frigatebird   
Sulidae            Nazca Booby               
Sulidae            Brown Booby               
Sulidae            Red-footed Booby          
Phalacrocoracidae  Neotropic Cormorant       
Pelecanidae        Brown Pelican             
Cathartidae        Black Vulture             
Cathartidae        Turkey Vulture            
Laridae            Sabine's Gull             
Laridae            Brown Noddy               
Laridae            Black Tern                
Tyrannidae         Tropical Kingbird         
Hirundinidae       Gray-breasted Martin      
Thraupidae         Blue-gray Tanager         
Icteridae          Great-tailed Grackle      
Icteridae          Yellow-winged Cacique     

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Relaxed Birding and Real Food! July 16, 2015


We had been going at a pretty good pace since we arrived, though I was slower than normal. This day was going to be a bit more relaxed. Michael had to make some arrangements for upcoming days, so he needed some time off. By the way, he did an amazing job with the logistics! Martin and I were very impressed. Our plan was to bird in the morning, take a long break in the afternoon and then do more birding later in the day.

There was a 24 hour cafe across the street from our hotel. I still had very little appetite, so I just had coffee and toast. I devoutly wished I could take this no appetite problem home with me! We met Eddie and left for Laguna Zacates, a park on the outskirts of town. We walked the road and quickly started picking up birds. A pygmy-owl started calling and Michael counted the notes; less than 13 meant it was a Colima, not a Ferruginous. We located the bird and confirmed the ID. Lilac-crowned Parrots flew over. I finally got a look at a Red-breasted Chat, a bird I had really wanted, but missed on our previous attempts. It as a young male with a more diluted color on the breast, but I found it lovely! There was a Northern Cardinal, which you wouldn't think I would be excited about, but this was a different subspecies, Long-crested Northern Cardinal, which is likely to be split. He had a very impressive crest!


We went to a side road where I finally saw Orange-breasted Buntings. I had missed them the day before, due to being crashed out on the van. They were worth the wait! Rosita's was still my favorite, but these were a close second. We also had good looks at the west Mexican form of Blue Bunting. The males look like the ones that wander into Texas from time to time, but the females are very different, not the same warm brown. This is another potential split in the future. There were a few butterflies along the road, including an unfortunate Rayed Pixie, which had seen better days, and a slightly battered Silver-studded Leafwing. We headed back into town for lunch.

I was actually hungry when we got to the restaurant across the square from the hotel. I ordered a beef tyluda, which is similar to a quesadilla. Michael and Gary decided to share a mixed plate of local specialties, including chapalines, fried grasshoppers. I tried a few and really liked them. They have a great crunch and the seasoning was very nice. Michael warned me that it can be a bit disconcerting to see a leg sticking out between your teeth later. I didn't come close to finishing, but the food tasted great. We went back to the hotel where they have the most delicious air conditioning.

We left later in the afternoon to go to two roads with water towers on the outskirts of town. We had several Broad-billed Hummingbirds of the Doubleday's subspecies, a possible split. There were Citreoline Trogons, Russett-crowned Motmots, Lilac-crowned and White-fronted Parrots, and other birds we had seen before. Then the star of the show appeared, a cooperative Lesser Ground-Cuckoo! He didn't let me get any photos, but he showed himself very well. This bird looks like it has Egyptian eye make up on.  Martin did a photo. Here is a link to his picture. http://www.martinreid.com/Misc%20website/MX2015LesserGCuckoo.html. We stopped to see if we could get into some ruins in a park nearby, but unfortunately, it was already closed. There was talk of going first thing in the morning on the following day.

On the way back into town we made a stop along side the road when someone, probably Michael, spotted some West Mexican Chachalacas in a small tree.  A Russet-crowned Motmot sat in full view on a telephone wire and a White-fronted Parrot was sharing the tree with the chachalacas. We got back to the hotel and Martin and I decided to forgo dinner with the group and eat at the hotel, as we had a pelagic trip planned for the next day and I wanted to be very well rested, if I decided I was well enough to go.

Photos for the day: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157654240685573

Bird list:
FAMILY         NAME                          
Cracidae       West Mexican Chachalaca       
Cathartidae    Black Vulture                 
Cathartidae    Turkey Vulture                
Accipitridae   Roadside Hawk                 
Columbidae     Rock Pigeon                   
Columbidae     Inca Dove                     
Columbidae     White-tipped Dove             
Cuculidae      Squirrel Cuckoo               
Cuculidae      Lesser Ground-Cuckoo          
Strigidae      Colima Pygmy-Owl              
Trochilidae    Broad-billed Hummingbird      
Trogonidae     Citreoline Trogon             
Momotidae      Russet-crowned Motmot         
Picidae        Lineated Woodpecker           
Picidae        Pale-billed Woodpecker        
Psittacidae    Orange-fronted Parakeet       
Psittacidae    Lilac-crowned Parrot          
Psittacidae    White-fronted Parrot          
Tyrannidae     Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 
Tyrannidae     Nutting's Flycatcher          
Tyrannidae     Great Kiskadee                
Tyrannidae     Boat-billed Flycatcher        
Tyrannidae     Tropical Kingbird             
Corvidae       White-throated Magpie-Jay     
Hirundinidae   Gray-breasted Martin          
Troglodytidae  Rufous-naped Wren             
Troglodytidae  Banded Wren                   
Polioptilidae  White-lored Gnatcatcher       
Turdidae       Rufous-backed Robin           
Parulidae      Golden-cheeked Woodpecker        
Emberizidae    Olive Sparrow                 
Cardinalidae   Northern Cardinal             
Cardinalidae   Red-breasted Chat             
Cardinalidae   Blue Bunting                  
Cardinalidae   Orange-breasted Bunting       
Icteridae      Great-tailed Grackle          
Icteridae      Brown-headed Cowbird          
Icteridae      Streak-backed Oriole          
Icteridae      Spot-breasted Oriole          
Icteridae      Yellow-winged Cacique         
Passeridae     House Sparrow