Sunday, January 24, 2016

Winter Mexican Tour Y2K16, Days 3-5: North of San Blas, La Bajada, Cerro San Juan

After winning all morning at Lower Singayta, we decided to go shrimp ponding north of San Blas. There are a large number of shrimp ponds out this way, and since four our of five of us needed Collared Plover, it seemed like a logical place to bird late in the afternoon.

The shrimp ponds were extremely birdy....a nice variety of waders, some gulls, some terns, sandpipers, passerines in the mangroves....great area to wrack up a big species list. However, we dipped on Collared Plover...which we would do for the rest of the time in Mexico. If a nemesis bird exists for me south of the border, it is this goddamn plover.

We came across one pond filled to the brim with wood storks. I've never seen so many in one place.

Wood Storks galore! Here is our best checklist from birding this area, which we visited multiple days.

At different points in the week we ran into local birding luminaries Mark Stackhouse and Francisco Garcia, who both offered good birding advice. They were both pretty stoked on Chacalilla, one of the emerging hotspots in the area. Chacalilla is a short drive from San Blas, and essentially any of the roads leading out of town can offer quality birding (thorn forest, open country and wetland birds). Here is male Orchard Oriole posing pleasantly, south of town.

The view east of Chcalilla; note the pendant cacique nests hanging off the tree. Shortly after this photo was taken, the sky became plagued with Lesser Nighthawks.

There are hella Common Black-Hawks down Mexico way, this one in Chacalilla. We saw several black-hawks that we were never able to ID to species, so there is a decent chance we saw Great Black-Hawk at some point and didn't know it. Birding is hard.

On Day 4 the nerds went to La Bajada, where the birding was not quite facemelting but it ended up being very, very good. Lifers for me this morning were Mexican Woodnymph, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Rosy Thrush-Tanager (!!!), Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, and Yellow Grosbeak. Not bad eh? Another highlight was an enormous fruiting fig (aka "the miracle tree") that was overflowing with Citreoline Trogons and other frugivores...I've never seen a tree overflowing with trogons before, and I highly recommend it. You can see our La Bajada checklist right here.

On Day 5 the nerds went further afield, out to Cerro San Juan. We approached via the traditional northern route (Mark suggested approaching from the south instead, but we got lost). Birding was steady but never overwhelming...gobs of Tufted Flycatchers, some Slate-throated Redstarts, lots of Berylline Hummingbirds. Finally we got to the big open area where the road reached its highest elevation, and things got really interesting here. We started running into lots of nice flocks, and the abundance of hummingbirds was impressive...eventually we found a particular field that was buzzing with Rufous, White-eared and Berylline Hummingbirds...I've never seen anything quite like it, it was heck of intense. More and more trip birds began to appear...White-striped Woodcreeper (lifer!), Pine (lifer!) and Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Grace's and Crescent-chested Warblers, etc.

The open area around La Noria is known for its accommodating population of Spotted Wrens. They did not disappoint.

The number of Greater Pewees we saw in Mexico leads me to believe that there are far more Greater Pewees in the world than I had previously conceived of. Don't worry, they never got old.

There was a lot of fear and loathing when it came to hummingbirds on this trip. One of the high-priority target birds for all of us was Bumblebee Hummingbird, which we successfully dipped on excessively. We spent a significant amount of time at the right elevation/habitats, but we were empty-handed in the end. Pain. Calliope Hummingbirds like this one offered false hope on several occasions, but hey seeing a Calliope is a lot better than seeing nothing at all.

It turns out that there are a shitload of White-eared Hummingbirds out there in the world. This should not surprise me, yet somehow it does. One would think I would have crippling photos to show for it, but I am putting this questionable one up instead. Blogging works in mysterious ways.

A long time ago, in a county far far away, I saw a Gray Silky-Flycatcher. It was in suitable habitat...suitable habitat in Orange County. It was weird. It was a known bird, and the ruthless Bird Police used their malevolent powers to reject the record based on grounds of uncertain origin. There are those who are still butthurt about this.

Finally, after all those years, I have seen other Gray Silky-Flycatchers. They have eluded me in Mexico before, but not anymore. They are birds impressive in mellowness and plumage. I counted this individual as a lifer. It felt really, really good.

In the afternoon, a random walk in the woods led to one of the best and most mesmerizing flocks of the trip, which was illuminated by this glowing male Flame-colored Tanager. More on those birds next time.


  1. I miss the miracle tree. I don't do enough birding laying on my back.

  2. Favorite line from this post: "One of the high-priority target birds for all of us was Bumblebee Hummingbird, which we successfully dipped on excessively." Enjoyed the read! :D

  3. If you're ever around southeast Georgia / Jacksonville, FL-area, there's a huge Wood Stork rookery at Harris Neck NWR that's worth a visit. There are noticeably fewer Gray Silky-flycatchers, though. That's one dreamy bird.