Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter Mexican Tour Y2K16, Day 6: Chacalilla and Chenchoing Part I

On the morning of Day 6, we returned to Chacalilla, parking at a random spot near the north end of town and birding our way out along the main road that leads directly north (out of town) until we ran out of decent habitat. We did pretty well, and I got a life bird (Elegant Quail), though that is definitely going on the "better views desired" list. We had also seen them them on the east side of town a couple days earlier, but I got shit looks. I suspect there might be better roads to bird in the area than the northern one but we did end up with a pretty impressive species list that morning. Along with some big mixed flocks in town, there were also a number of grackle-esque Sinaloa Crows, which never failed to hold my interest despite being crows.

Great-tailed Grackle on the left, grackleesque Sinaloa Crow on the right.

Along with Sinaloa Crows, one of the most abundant local specialties in the area is Golden-cheeked Woodpecker. They are loud, conspicuous, and seemingly everywhere.

Our first Bare-throated Tiger-Heron of the trip was perched on a snag in a dry field, scanning/lording over its domain.

Weird birds. Such thick necks. We got to hear them doing their low grunting sounds at Lower Singayta, which was a nice lifer vocalization.

Cinnamon Hummingbirds are very common in the lowlands of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. Go there and you will see many, and inevitably begin cursing their abundance when you begin struggling with finding other hummingbird species.

Cursed abundance aside, it is a very attractive bird with an attractive tongue.

I find Groove-billed Anis to be fascinating. Anyone else feel this way? I can always stop and look at anis, even when there is more facemelting stuff available.

There were a good number of raptors in the is an immature Zone-tailed Hawk, which were a fairly common bird to find during the trip. You can view our heavy eBird checklist from the morning here. Definitely consider birding around Chacalilla if you ever bird San Blas, it has hella species and is a quick drive from San Blas.

Here is Flycatcher Jen, gently caressing the love of her life, Campana. Campana lives, more or less, at the Bucanero (our motel in San Blas). Campana is one of the perks.

As we finished up our morning of birding at Chacalilla, we weren't sure how the rest of the day would play out. What we wanted to do was go on a boat trip with Chencho, the now world-famous guide who is notoriously good at showing birders waterbirds, which he knows the names of in English. Chencho could get us Northern Potoo. Chencho could get us Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. Chencho was a birding god as far as we were concerned. We did not want to go with anyone but Chencho...however, we made no prior arrangements with him. I was told he could be reached through Hotel Canela Garza, so we went there, but the lady working the desk did not acknowledge knowing of his existence. Then we went to the spot next to the bridge where a lot of tours leave from...but we were told that Chencho launches from the other side of the bridge. So we went over there, and of course Chencho wasn't there. Then we got Chencho's cell number from Mark Stackhouse, but our motel didn't have a phone we could use. This all happened over several days. Chencho was becoming a mythical figure. Finally, on the way back to town from Chacalilla, we went back to Chencho's launch. Dipper Dan talked to a guide there who knew Chencho, who then drove away on a bike to get Chencho, who then returned with Chencho's son (also named Chencho, I believe), who then told us that Chencho Sr. would meet us later in the afternoon for a bird trip. It was a Mexican Miracle.

If any of you want to try a similarly unplanned, haphazard way of finding Chencho, he launches from a spot on the west side of the river next to San Blas, just south of the bridge into town, at the end of the only paved street that gets anywhere near the base of the bridge. Its easy to find. Chencho said he works in a cooperativo, and that there are only two other bird guides who do river trips, I think they were Oscar and "Huevos"? Why "Huevos", I don't know. Anyways, if Chencho can't take you I guess look for them.

Chencho did show up that afternoon, giant spotlight in hand, and it was all smooth sailing from there.

Great Blue Herons hunted in the shadows of the mangroves.

Ospreys soared with the frigatebirds above the river.

Anhingas offered some more exotic flavor.

Anhinga feet. I don't think I've really looked closely at Anhinga feet before...they're yellow, weird and muscular. What cankles.

Very early on in the boat tour, we were dealt one of the highlights of the trip, in the form of Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. Astonishingly, we saw two different Rufous-necked Wood-Rails on opposite sides of the river. It was astounding. I couldn't fucking believe we got to see two of these things, let alone one, and no playback was required. I really didn't think we would see one, and this was one of the top target birds of the entire trip. Dipper Dan spotted both of them, and he all got extra sloppy HJs from us that night. I'm no wood-rail expert, but I'm pretty sure the only reason we saw them is because we were looking for them at a lowish tide; if the tide was too high the birds would be back in the dense mangroves and thus not visible.

Although this photo is absolutely not worth bragging about (though seeing this species is), I'm amazed I even have an image that is recognizable; I managed one frame, focused on nothing but pitch black shadows, and somehow got something. They look much, much better than this in real life, I assure you.

More birds provided by Chencho coming soon.

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