17 - 22 July 1998
by Martin Reid
Here is my report summary; I am preparing a more detailed report, and a site guide for a couple of locations:- please email me privately if you want more details.
Participants: Martin Reid (Fort Worth, Texas) and Philip Bysh (Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, Mexico).
July 17: MR arrived at Ixtapa airport mid-afternoon; met by PB; birded a forest patch in Ixtapa in late afternoon, then drove to Atoyac (night).
July 18: All day driving/birding the road above Atoyac; 3 - 13kms beyond Paraiso. The late afternoon was lost to persistent hard rain. Night in Atoyac.
July 19: All day birding the road above Atoyac; Mostly the section 14 - 20 kms above Paraiso; late afternoon below Paraiso on forested ridge between there and San Vincente. Evening drive to Chilpancingo (on R95 north of Acapulco; night).
July 20: All day birding the Milpillas - Filo de Caballos road: morning birding at the pass 14 kms above Filo (68kms from start of road; 100kms from Chilpancingo); late afternoon birding the thorn-scrub section closer to old R95 highway (night Chilpancingo).
July 21: Most-of-day birding the Milpillas - Filo de Caballos road: morning birding at the pass 14kms above Filo; afternoon birding the lower thorn-scrub section; late afternoon/evening drive to Ixtapa (night).
July 22: Early morning birding in Ixtapa; late morning returned to airport for flight home.
The purpose of this trip was to try to find and photograph the Short-crested Coquette: we failed to do this, but nonetheless we saw a number of good birds and added to the knowledge of this poorly birded region. We feel that the primary reason for missing the coquette was the almost complete lack of flowering plants (at least near the road) along the section of the road that we could get to - at 20 kms above Paraiso there was a 30-meter section of deep soft mud that was only passable in a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (we were in a VW Golf).
Between San Vincente and 20 kms above Paraiso we found only two separate flowering trees (both ingas, and one was already mostly "over") and only three small banks of suitable flowers - all being jealously guarded by a handful of other (larger) species of hummingbird - mostly White-tailed Hummingbirds. In fact White-tailed Hummingbird was verging on being a trash bird, as we found it at every suitable hummingbird spot (seeing perhaps 20+ individuals). Other hummingbirds found (only in ones or twos) were Mexican Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Golden-crowned Emerald, Berylline Hummingbird (surprisingly uncommon), Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, and Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird. Our conclusion is that the coquettes were higher up the road, as both of the flowering trees were near the top of the driveable road. We did walk beyond the mud patch for short distance, but scanning the area of forest ahead revealed no flowering trees within the next kilometer or two. We did notice that a lot of trees and flowers were either in-bud or just finished - it seems we were there at just the wrong time.
Other species of note seen here were: Black Hawk-Eagle (2), possible Solitary Eagle (soaring; at one point close to but higher than a group of Black Vultures - it looked larger than the vultures even though it was further-away), White-faced Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove (surprisingly common), Lilac-crowned Parrot, probable White-fronted Swift (a group of eight fed over us for more than twenty minutes, thus well-studied), Collared Trogon, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Sinaloa and Happy Wrens, Brown-backed Solitaire, Golden Vireo (common), Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue-hooded Euphonia, Red-headed, Flame-colored, and White-winged Tanagers, and Rusty Sparrow.
The most interesting discovery of the trip was just how accessible and excellent is the birding on the Milpillas - Filo de Caballos Road. See details in separate report (in prep.), but in summary this road provides easy access to high thorn-scrub habitat and Pine-Oak habitat, plus the transition zones in-between. In less than two days of birding on this one road we saw the following Mexican specialties: Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, White-faced Quail-Dove, Lesser Roadrunner, Dusky Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, a probable Grey-breasted Woodpecker (seen in flight only), White-striped Woodcreeper, Nutting's Flycatcher, White-throated Jay, Boucard's Wren, Brown-backed Solitaire, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Black Robin, Rufous-backed Robin, Blue Mockingbird, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Dwarf Vireo, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Crescent-chested Warbler, Red Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Rufous-capped Brush-Finch, Collared Towhee, Black-chested Sparrow, and Black-vented Oriole.
Second to the above was the excellent patch of lowland forest that is within walking distance from the main hotel complex at Ixtapa. All you birders looking for a family vacation place that allows you to do some birding - look no further! The prime find was an apparent stake-out for Yellow-headed Parrot (seen in the same tree five days apart) - although how long these birds will remain free in such a populated area is open to question. Other interesting species found here in just a few hours include: Collared Forest-Falcon (at least two calling birds - the one seen was a juvenile), West Mexican Chachalaca (heard a couple of times but not seen), White-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Buff-collared Nightjar, Doubleday's Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon (ridiculously common), Russet-crowned Motmot, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Rufus-naped Wren, Happy Wren, White-bellied Wren, Rufous-backed Robin, Scrub Euphonia, Blue Bunting, Streak-backed Oriole, and the ubiquitous Yellow-winged Cacique. Note that Philip Bysh has birded this area a number of times, and has recorded numerous other tropical species.
Finally, while at Ixtapa airport on July 17 I saw Whimbrels flying around - a flock of 22, plus another group of 4 with 3 Willets - which seems very early.
I am preparing a more detailed report (with maps) for the Ixtapa forest patch and the Milpillas - Filo de Caballos road.
2500 Ridgmar Blvd #0002
Fort Worth, TX 76116