Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mexico...La Bajada y Cerro San Juan.

The morning of January 5th found us birding the area known as La Bajada, southeast of San Blas, where I lifered hard yet again.  It was not a good day for photos of birds, but I will share what is worth sharing.

This is where we first encountered Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrows.  The badass-ness of this bird will hopefully make up for this terrible photo:

Butterflies and things were a bit more accessible for photos...

We came upon a fruiting tree here.  A miracle tree.

I think we noticed the White-throated Thrushes and Tufted Flycatchers first but there was so much more.  We strained our necks trying to pick out all the warblers and flycatchers and orioles and trogons.  We lied down, propping our heads on our bags, and stared into that tree for a long time.   Trying to get an accurate count of Citreoline Trogons proved challenging, which says something. 

Somehow the only bird photo I have from this tree is this Boat-billed Flycatcher:

On the 6th we went out to Cerro San Juan for the day, birding higher elevations than we had previously.  The birds did not disappoint.

Greater Pewee

Look at this field:

This field was chaos.  Hummingbird chaos.  Rufous, Calliope, Berylline, and White-eared Hummingbirds were everywhere.

White-eared Hummingbird

 We were walking back to the car to drive the next stretch when someone noticed a couple Gray Silky-flycatchers perched up in a shrub along the road.  There is absolutely nothing to dislike about these birds.

Gray and yellow have never looked so good together.

At our next stop we walked up a dirt road and began encountering birds.  A flock.  A flock that was not moving, but rather hanging out on the barbed wire fences and low tree branches.  We did not question it.  There were warblers and tanagers and a trogon and woodcreepers and flycatchers, all ours for the taking.

Hepatic Tanager

 Painted Redstart

Townsend's Warbler

As recounted in Seagull's latest post, "Finally, the five gringo idiots realized why the flock wasn't going was sitting on top of an army ant swarm!"  It was impressive, the steady streams of ants sticking to a handful of paths as they crossed the road, keeping the birds attentive and low to the ground.

This is when my face melted off.  Thanks, Flame-colored Tanager. 

As the ant swarm diminished we headed back down to the car and continued on down the road.  The sight of some birds in coffee bushes next to the road brought the car to a halt.

Red-headed Tanager!  Nearby we had great looks at my first Elegant Euphonias, mind-blowing birds of which I obtained zero photos.  Let me show you some garbage instead.

I can't explain to you why driving a bunch of trash way up a shitty road and dumping it over a steep drop is easier than having it picked up or brought to an actual dump, but I am sure there is a reason.  Perhaps it is cheaper.  Perhaps it is habit.  I do not know.

Much more to come from Mexico!  Better photos too I am guessing, because I am guessing Rancho Primavera is next, and at Rancho Primavera there are feeders, and where there are feeders there are better photos.  Good times!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mexico...Granja de CamarĂ³n y Chacalilla

On the outskirts of San Blas there are shrimp ponds and where there are shrimp ponds there are birds.  White birds.

This one pond in particular was filled with Wood Storks, White Ibises, American White Pelicans, Great and Snowy Egrets.  Even the Short-tailed Hawk that flew over was a light morph.

There were many little roads and pulloffs to explore in this area and we birded many of them over several afternoons and evenings.  Collared Plovers do not exist here, despite what you may have heard.

 Gull-billed Tern

 White-collared Seedeater

Common Black Hawk

One road was filled with puppies. 

 Are you dead? 


This was fun until their mom came out and tried to kill Dan.  It all worked out in the end.

Good momma.

Down this same road we found a dead frigatebird that had likely collided with the powerlines running along the ponds.

And a couple more birds from the road past the shrimp ponds that leads to Chacalilla:

Orchard Oriole

Lesser Nighthawk
As Seagull Steve mentioned in his recent Mexi-report, we heard from local birders that the town of Chacalilla north of San Blas was a becoming a great birding area, and one of the best places to find Elegant Quail.  We headed there one evening to check out the scene and decided to return a few days later in the morning. 

Someone called out quail early on and I caught this one terrible photo of one scurrying across the road.  Not worth counting as a lifer.

Our checklist for the morning included 98 species.  Sigh.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Gray Hawk

Green Kingfisher

 Morning vultures

Frank somehow noticed this mantis eating a butterfly in a roadside shrub:

98 species in 3.5 hours is a very nice thing.  More to come, stay tuned.  Good times!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mexico...Rio la Tovara.

It is known that to find the potoos near San Blas one must first find Chencho.  It took us a couple days to track him down, but track him down we did and a boat ride into the mangroves was scheduled.  Of course we all thought we were in a different time zone which should have complicated things but somehow it did not.  Mexican miracles combined with Frank's excellent luck make for magical potoo outings.

The boat

                      Anhinga y Chencho

We set off with Chencho in the afternoon of January 7th under sunny frigatebird-filled skies, full of hope for our target birds.  We had Chencho so we knew we would be fine.  Within fifteen minutes Dan was calling out Rufous-necked Wood-Rails creeping in the shadows of the mangrove roots, occasionally blinding us with their brilliance.  No photos.  A Magnificent Frigatebird instead:

We cruised around the main river, checking out birds and sleeping crocodile children.

We took a turn into the dense mangroves following the twisty-turny waterway, sometimes ducking to avoid the vegetation.  Birds and crocs were waiting for us.

Mangrove Warbler, a subspecies of Yellow Warbler

 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

We came to a spot packed with Boat-billed Herons, the most ridiculous of herons.

 Further into the mangroves we went until Steve called out our first Northern Potoo, perched directly above a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron.  Ahhhh what do you do?  You ignore the heron and stare at the potoo.  That's what you do.

 Potoos do not look like much while sleeping.  We carried on through the mangroves...

Green Kingfisher

The sun was getting lower as we cruised into Snail Kite country.

Sweetest Crested Caracara pair

 Snowy Egret...I think  Little Blue Heron

We came upon a major Tropical Kingbird and Orchard Oriole roosting spot where a local Merlin was taking advantage and feasting on a TK dinner.  The bats and Common Pauraques started flying as we reached the end of the line where we disembarked for a brief break, waiting for darkness to settle in.  A family of ring-tails scurried along a rock wall offering only the briefest of looks.  Then it was back to the boat.

Chencho prepared his big light for the ride back and we excitedly began spotting eyes reflecting back at us.

Eye of the potoo

We stopped many times to light up perched Northern Potoos, counting a total of 13.

We also caught a very cute but unidentified mammal and a Limpkin.

We rode back through the mangroves to the main river where Chencho was able to navigate without the light.  I remember leaning back and staring at all the stars, feeling the warmish air rushing by, and wondering if things would ever be that good again.

Good times.