Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Winter Mexico Tour Y2K16, Days 7-8: Isla Del Rey and Tecuitata

Dipper Dan, Flycatcher Jen and Stilt (nerds) stroll giddily toward a flock at Isla Del Rey.

Remember when I said that was the end of San Blas? Well...I lied! I'm a liar! Live with it!

On the morning of Day 7, we left San Blas returned to Lower Singayta to rebird it. The birding was ok...the new bird shine that we enjoyed here for our first morning in town had begun to wane a bit and it wasn't quite as good as on that first day. Such is life. However, we did get a group lifer, which a Washingtonian had scouted for us...White-throated Flycatcher! This was a milestone lifer for Flycatcher Jen, which cements this bird guessed...her spirit bird! So, if you run into her, she now prefers to be called White-throated Flycatcher Jen. You can see our eBird list here.

In the afternoon four of had become quite conscious of a gaping our life lists. We had never seen Purplish-backed Jay. So despite the bitter, borderline violent protests of Dipper Dan (who had seen them), we got a panga and headed over to Peso Island, which is really called Isla Del Rey. After about a half hour of birding, we found a flock of them along the main trail. Life lists no longer gaped, only mouths. Stoked!

Shortly after the jays departed, we got out to the beach on the west side of the island. A big flock of birds loafed to the south, near the base of the breakwater. California Gull was a trip bird here, and a boring one at that. The scenery was nicer.

A confiding Common Black-Hawk was hunting in the dunes right above the beach. I'm used to poor to mediocre looks at these birds, so a brazen flyby unobstructed by bullshit vegetation was a great change of pace. And who knew black-hawks hung out in dunes? There is nothing these birds can't do. crush. This is one of those species I remember seeing in field guides as a kid...I never thought I would see one, yet here I was standing on goddamn sand dune, crushing the shit out of one. I've seen a lot of black-hawks over the years, but every now and then I'll see a bird like this and get a weird flashback...I never thought I would see this. You see, this is the kind of damage you can do to yourself if you become a hopeless nerd at such a young age.

Common Black-Hawk on a dune. Suitable habitat. Now we know.

Despite the black-hawk's mellow ways, this American Oystercatcher left me chuffed. Not only was this a quality trip bird, it was a frazeri. This is the subspecies that shows up in California, which confusingly also looks like Black X American Oystercatchers, which are fairly common in SoCal and in coastal Baja. I've written and worried extensively about that here.

Note the jagged breast band, a classic trait for this subspecies.

The white wing stripe often does not extend onto the primaries in frazeri, which is the case for this bird. In the photo below, you can also see some dusky coloring on the white uppertail stripe, another trait the nominate subspecies lacks. Its cool seeing these birds where you know they aren't just hanging out and boning down with Black Oystercatchers, for the sake of ID of course.

If you are so inclined, here is our eBird checklist from that afternoon. Oh, it is totally possible to circumnavigate the southern part of the island, but only at low tide! We learned that the hard way.

On the morning of Day 8, it was time to head south for real. We would bird one more site in Nayarit, above the little town of Tecuitata, which is one of the new hot shit birding spots in the area. I copied down the instructions included in the excellent Birds of Passage, and even managed to find Teodoro (the first Mexican Miracle of the morning) who have us the green light to head up the hill away from town. He said we had to talk to someone else (I forget his name) in order to pay the birding fee, but said we could pay after we were done birding. We found the right parking spot mentioned in Birds of Passage, and eventually even found the guy we were supposed to pay a couple hours later on the trail (the second Mexican Miracle of the morning). It seems they are pretty serious about developing ecotourism here, and with the high quality birding the area offers it's a perfect fit. I will say one thing that Birds of Passage left out...when you park, the road that goes left is much longer (and thus preferable) than the road that goes up the hill to the right; if you go right, you will probably have to turn back around after a little while. The habitat is great in both areas though.

Shortly after parking, we found a massive flock of birds feeding in the fruiting trees. Many Black-throated Magpie-Jays adorned the trees. This remains a bird that I am not comfortable with looking at...they are just too crippling.

Much of the flock was made up of Yellow-winged Caciques, loud, flashy birds with funny crests that do not at all fit in with other birds I've seen. There is something different about them, and it's not just the way they can devour an avocado.

Citreoline Trogons are always nice to gaze upon. What is not nice to gaze upon, I can say from experience, are Colima Pygmy-Owls...I walked up on one and flushed it from about 15 feet away at eye level before I knew it was there, just to have it fly into the forest, never to be seen again. I am not counting it. Colima Painful-Owl is more like it.

Golden-cheeked Woodpeckers are everywhere, but they are flashy birds.

We had some great mixed flocks that morning; one of my favorites had Yellow, Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks all in the same combo/binocular view. As Flycatcher Jen mentioned over at I Used To Hate Birds, this was Don Francisco's trigger bird when he was a kid, as he solemnly and ceremoniously told us at the very beginning of the trip. Looking at a Yellow Grosbeak is like looking into fully-realized Frank's soul.

I was really stoked to get this as a lifer a couple days before in La Bajada...its not like I'm going to run into one of these in southeast Arizona anytime soon. What an absurd head.

Overall, Tecuitata was great birding and I would highly recommend it to anyone birding in Nayarit. Lots of great, mid-elevation habitat, and big mixed flocks. The checklist from the morning is right here.


  1. That grosbeak combo was one of my favorite combos of the whole trip. I am thinking that Frank should abandon his whole Arctic Tern spirit bird ridiculousness and accept the Yellow Grosbeak as his true one.

    Fyi, it has also been suggested I should go by Social Flycatcher Jen now.