Saturday, April 10, 2021

Down the mountain

 We'd spent the morning of Day 2 in the pine forest elevation level in Oaxacan highlands.  We spent the midday there too, trying to find Dwarf Jay, a bird whose breeding range is comparable in size to Kirtland's Warb.  It took some doing.  We would occasionally hear Northern Pygmy-Owls, but they were quite hard to see, and it took some walking around and craning our necks upward at different angles before Alex located the bird.

We drove around a bit and stopped for some activity.  Gray-barred Wrens were again calling form the treetops, but this time Alex was able to bring them down

We found Red (which again wouldn't stop for a pic) and Golden-browed Warblers 

Suddenly Warren and I had a jay fly across, it turned out to be a group of 3 or 4 of the Dwarf Jays, which didn't like to come out in the open at all.

I'm not totally sure what this next bird is.
Alex thought it was a young Golden-browed Warbler, but it's not a plumage that's in any of the books.

With success on Dwarf Jay we headed down the mountain, to a thicket of scrub habitat that potentially could hold Dwarf Vireo.  The Vireo's habitat was flooded by the full sun and heat of the late afternoon lowlands and we didn't see many birds, and definitely not the vireo.  A Myarchid flycatcher appeared above us as Alex was taping for the vireo.

I looked with interest since Nutting's Flycatcher is a bird that just reaches Arizona occasionally, and is differentiated from Ash-throated based on how much dark outer color of the tail wraps around the end of the tail.  On this bird ... it's neither, the tail's mostly dark with some lighter color along the feather shaft.  I realized it was a Dusky-capped Flycatcher, which Alex pointed out was in the background of the vireo tape he was playing.  Well, at least something responded.

Finally a little empid we found.
With the big teardrop behind the eye it's clearly not one of our Eastern empids, and I was suspecting it was Cordilleran.  I forget why Alex said it couldn't be Cordy, but the entirely pale lower mandible eliminates most of the other Western empids ... so, what's left.  Oh yeah, Mexican empids, because we were in Mexico! It's a Pine Flycatcher, a bird that actually lives next to, but not in pines, so perfect!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Oaxacan pines

After watching Fulvous Owls pre-dawn, sunrise found us in some pine forest at pretty reasonable elevation.  The birds had changed over completely from the desert of the day before and Brown-backed Solitaires serenaded us.  They weren't quite as musical as the Black-faced Solitaires in Costa Rica, but they were a lot easier to find!

They mostly didn't come down low, the only one I found at eyelevel was still in deep unlit gloom

We worked pretty hard for a bit to find Gray-barred Wren, but would see it much better in the afternoon, as well as for one of the jays, but it didn't show at all in the morning.  Warblers instead were the star of the morning.

Crescent-chested is a relative of our Parula

Next up is one of my favorite birds of the trip, Golden-browed Warbler

It seemed like an oddly localized bird, a relative of Rufous-capped Warbler.  But unlike Rufous-capped, which ranges from Arizona to Colombia, Golden-browed is limited pretty much just to southern Mexico and northern Central America.

And one more warbler, we had a chance at seeing every member of the Black-throated green group on this trip.  I'd only seen one Hermit Warbler previously, and didn't manage a photo, so I was happy to see this one.
Birds are a lot easier to photograph when they're not halfway up a sequoia!

Would we see the others?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 27, 2021


With not a lot doing in the way of migration at Tiscornia this morning, I joined the exodus when an Eared Grebe was reported a bit inland.  I however didn't go look at the presumed Horned and went to walk Whirlpool instead.  Birds were singing, crows were cawing, sandhills were sawing (or whatever they do), and then I heard something croak softly that sounded intermediate between a crow and a sandhill.  It took a second for the sound to register, but when it did I looked up to see a big black bird approaching...

It had to be my county lifer Raven, though the silhouette in the view finder was a little thrown off by its central tail feathers not being fully grown.  If you zoom in you can see the honking big bill

A (considerably smaller) crow started to mob it as it flew away, quelling any worries about the ID.

There reportedly is a nesting pair about 11 miles to the northeast, and Raven sightings have been increasing a lot the last couple years in Berrien ... will we have it at Tiscornia soon???

Friday, March 26, 2021

No ahhhh

 Returning to Mexico, and piggy-backing off of the last post, is Barred Owl's southern cousin, Fulvous Owl.

It was too distant (and lit dimly by flashlights) to see if it's actually warmer colored than ours.

The sound very much had a Barred Owl cadence, but stayed on one pitch, and didn't fall off at the end in the characteristic Barred Owl ending, so no hooo-ahh.  They turned out to be reasonably common since we heard them on a couple different nights, sometimes spontaneously, even though they seem to have a pretty limited range.

Here's Barred's for comparison.  There's a few pips in western Mexico that's currently classified as a subspecies of Barred, which doesn't make a ton of sense given how far apart they are from the rest...

A quick search on SORA doesn't really seem to reveal very much in terms of why the west Mexican ones are subspecies of Barred whereas the east Mexican (and Central American) one is its own species.  (I probably should listen on xeno to see if the other one has a hooo-ahh maybe)

Monday, March 22, 2021


Earlier in the week I was whistling saw-whet in a pine stand.  The wind bit through my clothes, but low in a needle-y knoll there was some (much welcomed) shelter.  And as I whistled, there started to be a little noise in the trees overhead.  It created an eerie feeling, anticipation mixing with the unknown.  Something was there in the night, but what?  Maybe bill clicking, maybe a small mammal, maybe even the saw-whet.  But then 10 times bigger and 15 feet from my forehead, a Barred Owl belted out, "Hooooo-ahhh!"   I wasn't the only one interested in seeing a Saw-whet!  It was a climactic moment.  Though the Barred, as far as I know, flew away hungry.

So today as I was walking some bottomland forest it was again fun to hear Barred Owls, this time calling in the daytime, and quite close.  One soon flushed, but didn't go far, and teed up nicely.

Here it's looking off for the other calling bird.

And now leaning forward to answer.

And lest you think I've strayed too far from the Mexican content promised in the header, Barred has a close cousin south of the border ... stay tuned.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Cactus oasis

 In the late afternoon of Day 1 Alex took us to walk a little entry road which led ... I'm not sure where.  The gate was closed.   But we found a flowering cactus which was attracting an impressive number of birds.  In my mind orioles are one of the hallmark birds of Mexico.  They have a wide variety of species and we encountered a handful that were new for me.

This is Black-vented Oriole, one of the more common black and yellow species in the south.

Followed by Streak-backed.

Even the House Finches were in bright colors, much brighter than the ones on my feeder.

I don't remember Curve-billed Thrashers in the southwest being this heavy billed, though whether that's because there's an actual difference or because it's been years since I've seen one I don't know...

Finally a look at a female Beautiful Hummingbird.  It's a close cousin to Lucifer, but just like Lucifer I've only seen one female

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Oaxacan desert

 Most of the winter trips I've done over the years have visited areas with GREEN.  Well, there was green in the desert ... it was just in cactus form for the most part.

After our morning in a shaded mid elevation slope we dropped a thousand or so feet lower to target some desert birds.  Bridled Sparrow was one of the most dramatic.

It looked like a Sage or Black-throated class bird ... except with some really rich rufous in the wings and upperparts.  There was a pair that came scolding into Alex's recording.

He also showed us a few Oaxaca Sparrows that skulked a lot more.
Of course the stick obscures the black lore and bill.  Otherwise the bird looks a lot like the more widely distributed Rufous-crowned, which reaches our southwest as well.

And speaking of our southwest, the bird that I probably most associate with SE Arizona appeared, Painted Redstart.

A female Elegant Euphonia also preferred to stay as deep in the shade as she could get.

But not Boucard's Wrens, a cousin of our Cactus Wren.  They had no problem scolding away at us in the open...

We worked really hard to get a terrible view of an Ocellated Thrasher; fortunately for us we'd see the much rarer thrasher again later in the trip, but this was our only time with Boucard's or the two sparrows.

Finally a view of the desert...