Monday, August 3, 2015

Chiapas: La Sepultura

Our fifth and last field trip had arrived, a journey to the southwestern part of the state of Chiapas.  This journey was labelled La Sepultura due to the fact that we were going to travel through and skirt the edges of the La Sepultura Biosphere on our way to the Pacific coastal grasslands and plains.  This was going to be a totally different habitat experience for us.  I was feeling much better this day and when our group assembled in the early morning, we discovered that instead of 9 or 10 participants, we had dwindled down to 4 participants and we has 2 leaders!!!  Now this was going to be some serious birding!  Fewer people can sometimes lead to better views and sightings.  Our original group consisted of Chris, myself, Mark Davidson, from Canada, and Helen from the UK.  Helen did not attend that last two field trips.  The other group that was assigned to this adventure this day was a team of 5, but only one of them joined us, Tom. Our awesome leaders were Francesca Albini and Matt Hale.  We were in for a real treat. 

Once we left the city of Tuxtla, we had to travel through an area of mountains and it was along this road that we made a couple of stops for some target birds, the first being the much sought after 'Rosita's' Bunting.  Recently the name of this bird has been changed to Rose-bellied Bunting.  Definitely does not have the ring to it like Rosita's Bunting.  Personally, I like the old name of Rosita's Bunting better.  I had seen photos and illustrations of this bird many times and always was hoping that some day, I would be lucky enough to see one in its natural habitat.  Our guides knew exactly where to find them and all of us got great views of them and heard several of them singing.
I think most will agree that this is one very sexy looking bird.  I have to apologize for so many photos, but it is hard to ignore this bird when you see it for the first time.

 Rose-bellied (Rosita's) Bunting

Russet-crowned Motmots were also quite numerous and even though I had seen and photographed this bird a couple of times before, when opportunity presents itself, one has to take advantage of the situation and I ended up with probably one of my better photos of this really cool bird.  They have a very curious behavior of wagging their tails from side to side which is a bit reminiscent of a metronome.  

Russet-crowned Motmot

After enjoying the bunting and the motmots and a couple of other cool birds, we hopped back into our van and headed a bit further down the road to search for another stunning bunting; the Orange-breasted Bunting. This was another drop dead gorgeous bird.  It is hard to decide which one was the most beautiful and it just seemed to be such a coincidence that both of these stunners are found in almost the identical habitat and could be found together.  

 Orange-breasted Bunting

The grand finale in this brief stretch of mountain road, we also had the fortune of seeing and hearing another endemic bird to this area; Sumichrast's Sparrow.  This is another bird that has undergone a name change and it is now know as the Cinnamon-tailed Sparrow, and once again, I like the original name of Sumichrast's Sparrow much better.  Another bird that has a very small range on the Pacific slope of the Isthmus of Mexico.  This bird was very stubborn in showing itself and when it did, it knew that if it had the sun to its back it could see us much better, just like we can see them much better with the sun to OUR backs.  This makes photography difficult with a back lit sky.  Plus they seemed to like perching high in the trees which also made viewing a bit of a challenge.

Cinnamon-tailed (Sumichrasts's) Sparrow

What an exciting beginning to an awesome day.  From here we ventured down to the lower elevations and the flat grasslands near the Pacific coast and near the small seaside town of Puerto Arista.  The continuation of this spectacular day will have to be covered in probably 2 more blog posts which will follow in the next few days.  


  1. Wow Mr. Gordon, you've been cleaning house out there!!!! I like the tanagers :)

  2. Caleb, this was quite the trip and I learned a lot about birding in the tropics. Vegetation is so thick and many of these birds are very secretive and hard to get visuals. However, there are so many different families of birds that we do not have here in the US that it is really mind boggling. Thanks for the comment and I have much more to post.

  3. Gordon, what stunning birds! I like the original names as well! The buntings are so beautiful they almost don't seem real. If they look this good in photographs, I cannot imagine their beauty in real life! What a treat!

    1. Kathie, the 'Rosita's' Bunting was high on everyone's lists. The Orange-breasted I think was a bit under the radar for most of the birders, but it should not have been. It too is a spectacular bird as well. My 2nd post from this trip will be posted tonight. And this trip was so awesome, I will have a 3rd post on it as well. Stayed tuned and thank you for the comments.

  4. Beautiful buntings! Both of them. Love the motmot and the sparrow too. What an awesome trip. Visiting again from Chris's Las Aventuras!

    1. Thank you Marie! Chris will surely bring on a different perspective than I so I am quite certain you will enjoy his post on this day trip when he get it posted. I am looking forward to it as well.