Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Monday, August 17, 2015

Chiapas: All Great Things Must Come to an End

Here it is, almost a month since I returned from my first birding trip to the tropics to the state of Chiapas, Mexico and I am finally getting around to my last post from this almost overwhelming birding trip.  What is cool, is the fact that it keeps these memories fresh in my mind.  I ended up with 121 new life birds on this trip, which I will probably never attain a number like that again in one trip.  We visited several spots in Chiapas, and there are several of them that I would like to revisit if I could, but the chances of that happening is pretty slim.  Haven't won a lottery and probably never will.  I guess you have to purchase tickets to actually win!

Anyway, Chris and I, were down to our last day in Chiapas as we were to head out on Friday morning for our return to Arizona.  We decided another trip to El Sumidero might be our best choice.  It was an outstanding spot on the first trip with a guide and it was local so we could get a taxi to take us there at a very reasonable price.  We arrived at the front gate and paid our very low priced entry fee and took off on foot, walking up the road.  Interestingly, there had been rain showers in the early morning and our walk was strange.  We had sunshine, then a cloud would move in to give us fog and then it would clear.  This happened off and on during our walk.  I ended up adding 3 more life birds on this final day, the first was a Mangrove Cuckoo that gave us a good view, but took flight before we were able to even raise our cameras.  

Once again, Russet-crowned Motmots were seen and heard  and a couple of them perched out on some dead limbs in order to dry their feathers from the early morning rain.  What a cool bird and one I enjoyed watched and listening to at many of the locations we visited.  

 Russet-crowned Motmot

Early in our walk, we had the pleasure of a Plain Chachalaca landing in a nearby tree.  

Plain Chachalaca

On our first trip here, we had several Streak-backed Orioles, but they were not having anything to do with us, so we were also targeting this bird to hopefully get photos on this trip.  We succeeded but they definitely did not make it easy.

 Streak-backed Oriole

As we worked our way up the road some fog moved in, and was obscuring our vision a bit, but a glance at a curve on the road ahead caught our attention and I immediately knew what it was, even in the fog; a Lesser Roadrunner.  I am very familiar with their close relative in the cuckoo family, the Greater Roadrunner in Arizona.  About that quick it flew off the road into vegetation when a car drove by.  We thought we had seen an all too familiar brief glimpse of this bird.  However, that was not the case as we walked up the road to where it had been and as I was scanning the vegetation, I spied it not 20 feet off the side of the road in a tree.  And it was very cooperative for us and allowed a long look and some photos.  What cool new bird and the 2nd new lifer of the day!

 Lesser Roadrunner

We finally were able to get some better views of the White-lored Gnatcatcher that we had seen on earlier field trips.  One of the benefits of keeping the numbers of people low, is the fact that there is less commotion and sometimes birds are a bit more accommodating to views and photos.

 White-lored Gnatcatcher - Male

 White-lored Gnatcatcher - Female

A bit further up the road we fond a spot where a couple of birds were quite agitated.  By this time we were in the fog again, but it dispersed enough to get some photos of the Banded Wren and the Grey-crowned Yellowthroat.  The yellowthroat was my third life bird of the day and the last one of my trip.

 Banded Wren

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat

Just before we headed back down the road to the entrance of El Sumidero, we encountered a sparrow that was a bit puzzling to us.  The only sparrow we had seen on our earlier trip was many Olive Sparrows along this road.  This was definitely not an Olive Sparrow, in fact it was a juvenile which make an identification a bit more tricky since most field guides only show adults in their illustrations.  But we quickly figured it out, it is a Rusty Sparrow, juvenile.  I had seen one earlier on one of our guided tours, but failed to get any photos, so this was redemption time for me.

 Rusty Sparrow - Juvenile

On the return we also had a Canivet's Emerald female along the road sipping nectar out of some very dark purple (almost black) tubular blossoms.  It was nice to see a female since I had seen a male earlier.

 Canivet's Emerald - Female

Bidding adieu to Mexico was bittersweet.  I was definitely ready to go home and recuperate and then reflect on what an awesome trip this was for me as a birder.  Luckily, Chris had opted to go as well and it was great to have him along with his knowledge of the Spanish language to help guide me and get around.  There is so much more to explore in Mexico and some of it is not far from where I live so I can see some future day or weekend trips.  If finances (and Health) allow, I would love to visit many other spots in the tropics in the future.  I have already decided that a basic course in Spanish is on my agenda in the near future to assist me in getting around. 

With that, I will leave this string of blog posts with one last photo of another butterfly.  I believe this is Variable Cracker butterfly.  What an intricate and beautiful pattern!

 Variable Cracker Butterfly


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chiapas: City Birding

After spending most of our morning time in the park next door and to the east of the motel, we decided to walk along the very busy street to the west.  This street has 3 lanes of traffic in both directions and both sides of the streets lined with big and small businesses including some American businesses such as Sam's Club, McDonald's, Applebees, and others.  There was also a fairly large mall on the opposite side of the street.  Traffic was so heavy, that the only safe way to cross, was to use the overhead walkways that went up and over the street.  Birding was not our main objective on this walk, after all it was hot and humid and we were also hungry.  

As we sat in a restaurant eating, we spent time observing a couple of Social Flycatchers feeding right outside the window.  We also had one that we occasionally saw in the lot of the motel, but I never seemed to have my camera with me.  I have always wondered why did they get the name 'Social' Flycatcher?  Still don't know what led to calling them social; however, I have come up my own with my own reasoning, They are pretty social with humans.  We actually discovered 2 nests of these birds right along this very busy street and they had used the metal crossbars of electrical poles for nesting sights.  One nest had a couple of chicks that were on the verge of fledging and they were very vocal.

 Social Flycatcher

Social Flycatcher - Fledglings

A trip to the mall led us through the double decker parking lot which was being used by Gray-breasted Martins.  We had originally mis-identified this bird, but has now been corrected to the proper species; gray-breasted Martin.

 Gray-breasted Martin

Gray-breasted Martin

Once we returned to the motel I finally got some photos of a couple of Scrub Euphonias that had been hanging around the motel off and on.  Like the Social Flycatcher, I just kept running into bad timing by not having my camera with me at the right time.  This time I finally got a couple of photos.  

 Scrub Euphonia - Male

Scrub Euphonia - Male

Scrub Euphonia - Female

One other bird species that was a new bird for me was the Golden-fronted Woodpecker.  Saw many of them in the park and around the motel, but really struggled to get any decent photos of them.  Had to settle with this being my best photo of this bird.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

And one last photo of one of the common birds in the city, the Inca Dove.  These birds are also found in Arizona and where I live in Mesa they are quite common and readily visit my back yard feeders.  However in the the Tucson area they are getting tough to find which might be due to the high numbers of Cooper's Hawks in Tucson.

Inca Dove

So what we discovered is that birding in the city can also have some cool and unexpected results.  We have one day left for birding before we embark on our long journey home.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chiapas: A Day of Rest ???

Our 5 days of guided field trips had finally come to an end and most of the group were all headed home the next day.  But Chris, being the wise man that he is, had suggested when we booked our airline flights to maybe spend a couple extra days while we were there to do some birding on our own.  And I agreed and it ended up being a very wise decision.  We were exhausted from the 5 daily field trips So we decided to take it easy on the first of our 2 free days.  A day of rest?  Not!!  No, we did not sleep all day, but had decided to check out a park across the street from our motel and maybe anything else within walking distance from the motel.  

During our entire stay so far, we had been surrounded by at least 2 species of parrots flying overhead and around the neighborhood of the motel.  We knew we had Green Parakeets and White-fronted Parrots, but we were never able to get very close for photos of either one.  Well that was about to change for both species.  We had already figured out how to identify both species in flight; the Green Parakeets had long pointed tails, while the White-fronted Parrot had a short rounded tail.  Before we got across the street a pair of Green Parakeets flew into one of the trees on our side of the street.  This is the tropics and there are many species of parrots and parakeets that are native to the tropics.

 Green Parakeets

Green Parakeets

Once we got to the park we quickly discovered White-fronted Parrots everywhere feeding in the trees.  Some were feeding on mangoes that were thick in the trees.  Thankfully these birds were quite gregarious and noisy which helped to give away their location.  Had they not been so noisy, they would have been easy to overlook and hide in the green leaves since their basic color was green.

 White-fronted Parrot

One of the most common birds that we saw in Chiapas at just about everyplace we went was the Clay-colored Thrush.  They remind me of a brown American Robin in behavior and structure.  They do not sound like our robin in the US though, as they have a varied repertoire of calls. They are so common that one person referred to them as Clay-colored Trash.  A few have been reported in the United States over the years, and when then do, they are quite the hot commodity for listers to get on their US bird list.

Clay-colored Thrush

Going to this park is a great way to get photos of some of the birds, because the ones that frequent these places are accustomed to humans and are more tolerant and allow for better photo opportunities.  Such is the case with the Great Kiskadee.  We had heard and seen them on a couple of the field trips, but here, I was able to observe them, listen to them and get some photos.  This is another bird who's range extends to southern Texas in the United States, but it was new to me.

 Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

(Update:  Thankfully I have some faithful and very excellent birders reading my blog.  This next photo, I had mis-identified as Great Kiskadee, but instead they are Boat-billed Flycatchers.  I had seen this species on the trip to Sumidero, but did not get any photos, so I am glad, this photo has now been corrected with the proper ID.  Thank you Francesca and Jeanette!)

Boat-billed Flycatchers

We also found a pair of White-throated Magpie-Jays which I had seen on some earlier trips, and since it is such a unique bird, I had to take some more photos.

 White-throated Magpie-Jay

We also had a few birds that we have in Arizona that were a bit more photogenic.  Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher is annually regular in southeastern Arizona in the right habitat, but not always easy to photograph.  The Plain-capped Starthroat is being seen pretty much annually in southeast AZ as well, but definitely not a common bird and much rarer than the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher.  The Groove-billed Ani is pretty rare in Arizona, but one does show up every few years.

 Sulphur-blllied Flycatcher

Plain-capped Starthroat

 Groove-billed Ani

Up in the trees above the river that flowed through the park we discovered a pair of iguanas.  I am not 100% certain of the species, but I believe these are called Green Iguana.  They are quite large, probably close to 4' long.

Green Iguanas

And I just have to share one butterfly with everyone on this post; a Malachite butterfly that was attracted to the remaining flesh on a mango pit that had been discarded by one of the parrots.

Malachite Butterfly

After the park, we did take a break for a while at the motel, but later in the day, we headed out and down the busy street to the west for a late lunch and surprisingly, some more birds in this humanity.  These will be covered in my next blog post.