6 - 16 February 1999
by Norman Erthal
I would like to thank Mike Flieg, Craig Faanes, Steve Martin and others for the valuable information in their reports. We rented a Chevy Suburban and driver, Moises Michelon Morales, from Transportadora Turistica in Oaxaca for our group of 8 birders. They can be contacted by fax at 52-951-25475 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). This proved to be one of the best decisions of the trip. Moises has driven for Mike Flieg as well as other birding tour groups. He knows all of the birding spots, saving the stress of having to find locations in unfamiliar territory. He also helped with ordering in the restaurants and making hotel reservations. We also were able to cover more territory by walking along the roads, usually downhill, and then having him pick us up or bringing the vehicle up with the scopes. I carried two of the new Motorola Talkabout radios making this even easier. We could have used a couple more to help get everyone to birds that were spotted. I also carried a reflecting mirror to help get people on the birds. I did not plan much time for birding for water and shore birds and instead devoted as much time as possible to Mexican species.
Participants: George Armbrust, Jerry Besser, Marge Burgess, Marlene Eggerling, Gail Evans, David Pantle, Joe Roller
Arrived February 6 at 8:30 pm. I would suggest that you have at least one and a half hours to negotiate the Mexico City airport as we were about an hour late getting to Mexico City. Customs took us almost a half hour. The distance from the international to domestic gates involved a long walk with us getting to the plane less than five minutes before departure to Oaxaca. The signage in the airport is not very clear. We stayed at the Hacienda La Noria on the south side of the main downtown. It is convenient to the major roads and was very comfortable. The cost was $45 for a single and $52 for a double. Ate dinner there that night and had an excellent meal. There is a large grocery store to the west with a typically great Mexican bakery next door where we purchased food and water for the next day’s breakfast.
In February, decent birding light was from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm.
Visited Monte Alban first thing in the morning, arriving before it was light. We parked at the lower gate and waited for it to get light enough to see. Heard ferruginous pygmy owls as well as other birds calling. We then walked up the road to the ruins, gettingto them well after it got light. I would recommend walking to the top as soon as you can see as it was a lot longer walk than expected. That allows you to be at the ruins at sunrise. Birded around the parking lot and then on the trails on the right or west side. I would recommend birding here on a day other than Sunday as it is a free day at the ruins. Birding along the road back to where we had left the car is impossible with the noise from all of the vehicles going up and down the hill. Otherwise there was no problem with birding around the ruins. We saw two Blue Mockingbirds, several White-throated Towhees, Golden Vireo, Mexican Hermit, and an Ocellated Thrasher which sat up in the top of a bush some distance from us. Another was heard calling nearby, but we could not get it to come in where we could see it. We spent about a half hour wandering around the ruins which were fantastic. The museum has execellent dispays.
We then headed to Cerro San Felipe for the afternoon after having lunch at a great restaurant, Hacienda San Augustin, where we had an incredible buffet lunch. Still not sure what part of town it was in.
The turnoff to Cerro San Felipe is at km 192 at La Cumbre. We were charged 80 pesos. Birded the first side road to the left at km 3.5. It was fairly quiet in the afternoon. Not much besides Red Warblers and White-eared Hummingbirds. Stopped at Garbage Gulch late in the afternoon and saw very little moving. Night at Hacienda La Noria
Dinner downtown at La Casita. We took a taxi and then walked back.
Birded at Garbage Gulch in the morning for about 3 hours. Walked up the left side of the gulch and then around to the top of the ridge on the right. Highlights were bridled sparrow, 2 gray-breasted woodpeckers, a flock of gray silky flycatchers, and a very brief look at a Oaxaca sparrow.
Spent the rest of the day at La Cumbre. They tried to charge 160 pesos at La Cumbre, but Moises was able to negotiate the 80 that we had paid the day before. Some distance after km 3.5, there is a small road sharply to the right at a bend to the right at a stream. A pair of mountain trogons were seen along the road but flushed before everyone could get out of the vehicle. We also had a ruddy-capped nightingale-thrush and a male cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer. The latter was seen by only one in the party in the top of a tree. We stood around it for several minutes but could not find it again.
Our next location was taking the left turn after Corral de Piedras and going to the top of the hill. We then took the road downhill to the right and birded this for several hours. I heard a flock of gray-barred wrens coming and we were then treated to the dwarf jays which always seem to accompany them. A golden-browed warbler was spotted in dense vegetation moving along a stream. It was exasperating as it would only give very brief looks to just a couple of us. We got box breakfasts from the hotel. This worked very well.
Night and dinner at Hacienda La Noria.
Left early in the morning for Yagul. Birded along the road to the ruins and then worked our way to the parking lot, which had a good vantage point from the east end where we saw Boucard’s wren and gray-breasted woodpecker. We spent a half-hour touring the ruins, which although not extensive, were worth the time and had good interpretive signs in English. Stopped for a roadside hawk and found 2 dusky hummingbirds along the road near a Mexcal refinery. We watched the process for a while. One member of the troupe bought a bottle for 20 pesos. There is no tax when you get it at one of the many distilleries that you will see near Santiago Matatatlan which is the Mexcal capital of Mexico. We watched the process which was very crude and took some photographs. It is very coarse and smoky tasting as we passed it around at dinner. Did not stop at the microondas as other reports made it sound not very birdy. Tried a gulch further east with no luck in the middle of the day. Stopped at a small village along the road where we saw streak-backed orioles, rufous-naped wrens, and white-lored gnatcatchers.
Moises showed us a small stream just west of the road to the Guiengola ruins at km 235 west of Tehuantepec. While we were upstream which has better access than downstream, Moises and some policeman who were there saw chachalacas cross the road. We had a Doubleday’s Hummingbird which was not well seen by all. Gail found a mottled owl that turned out to be a pair that were being mobbed by several small birds until they flew off after several minutes.
Birded along the lower road into the Guiengola ruins at dusk and found a pair of roadside hawks down the first side road to the right and called in a ferruginous pygmy-owl after dark. Evening and dinner at Hotel Calli in Tehuantepec. This is a very nice resort-class hotel for the unbelievable rate of $26 for a single and $29 for a double.
Left very early for the drive to the Chiapas border. Found Rosita’s Bunting at our second stop near the large concrete box culvert and had 2 Sumichrast’s Sparrows in the same binocular view from 30 feet along with Orange-breasted Bunting. The colors of Rosita’s bunting cannot be duplicated in any drawing with present technology. We stopped at Tepanatepec for a late breakfast or an early lunch. A tour bus showed up about the same time that we did. While we were trying to track down the hummingbirds coming to some flowers, Moises ended up cooking our breakfast because they were so busy. The owner gave him his for free.
We then left for the Rio Amaco site for Nava’s Wren. The drive takes about 4 hours. Did not find the wren but had other good birds there as well as one skulker that we could not get to come out. It was singing within 3 feet of the edge of a small circle of bushes. This area is worth spending some time in the morning although logistically, this is difficult without staying in Matias Romero. On our way back to the main highway, we were stopped at a military checkpoint. The commander asked for one of us to produce a passport. I don’t know if I can ever get used to the teenage soldiers shouldering automatic weapons. It was a very long drive back to Tehuantepec. We did not get back until about 10 pm. Several of the party sang show tunes from the 30's and 40's to help keep Moises awake. My son tells me I can’t carry a tune in a bucket with handles and I can never remember the words anyway so I refrained. Evening and dinner at Hotel Calli in Tehuantepec.
Went on the road towards the Guiengola ruins for part of the early morning and then drove up the steep narrow road to the ruins. Discovered that the ruins are not a good birding spot at least not in late morning. Saw a peregrine falcon soaring along the cliffs while going back down the road. Went back to the main highway to the small stream that we found two days before and birded along it again. Good looks were had of several Doubleday’s hummingbirds, a lesser ground-cuckoo, a half-dozen rufous-backed robins and a distant view of a rufous-crowned motmot. A much debated bird was later decided to be a immature male northern parula. Heard chachalacas downstream but could not locate them.
Left mid morning for the drive to Puerto Angel. Made one short stop for a woodpecker that David spotted out the window from the back of the van that was to be our only pale-billed woodpecker.
Later stopped at Puenta Chacalapa and walked up the stream for over an hour. Birding upstream was very good, with downstream not being very accessible plus it was much more open. Found numerous Doubleday’s hummingbirds, several cinnamon hummingbirds, and white-fronted parrots. Arrived too late in Puerto Angel to do any birding. Large numbers of yellow-winged caciques were flying through town to roost.
Left early for Pluma Hidalgo and birded along the road for the entire day. A brief stop in a small town produced a great view of russet-crowned motmot. We heard several brown-backed solitaires but only one was seen by one of us. Whistled in ferruginous pygmy-owl after spotting one in a tree. Joe somehow saw a sparkling-tailed woodstar perched well off the road sitting in a tree which was looked at through the scope. We also saw emerald toucanets and 1 chestnut-collared swift in a large flock of white-throated very high overhead. As we approached the town, 150 cedar waxwings flew low over the road creating a wind draft. Having the vehicle following us allowed people to take a break when they got tired. Night at the only hotel in Pluma Hidalgo which cost $70N for a double. We had to ask the owner to turn on the water so we could flush the toilets and use the sinks. They were not working the next morning when we left early. I don’t think anyone was brave enough to use the showers. There were separate men’s and women’s facilities. The toilets also were without seats. There was a very nice small church which had sustained damage from an earthquake. Ate at the restaurant next door which was very good especially considering it was such a small remote town. We were the hit of the town as we walked by the children playing soccer at the school. Joe took photographs of a baby boy with permission from his mother. I thought he was going to end up being an adopted grandfather.
After picking up our box breakfast at the restaurant, we birded along the road for most of the morning. A pair of gray-crowned woodpeckers excavating a nest cavity, ivory-billed woodcreeper, spectacled foliage-gleaner as well as hear a long-tailed wood-partridge. We then headed to La Soledad to look for blue-capped hummingbird which we did not find bud we did locate female rose-throated becard, an eye-ringed flatbill with an orange lower mandible and lighter-colored upperparts looking nothing like the plate in Howell & Webb, but matched the plate in Peterson’s, white-throated robin, and chestnut-capped brushfinch.
Made another stop a little further towards Oaxaca at a sharp right turn in the road with a deep stream channel on the right and a wide flat open area on the left where we found a black-headed siskin and a male Blackburnian warbler.
We tried to stop at several restaurants in San Jose del Pacifico that Moises had told us were very good. Moises was dumb-founded that each one we got to was closed. We were famished by this point as it was about 2:30. We then found out that the town was on a holiday as there were several weddings. It appears that they periodically schedule them all on the same day. Stopped for lunch at a new restaurant, Puesta del Sol, with very nice cabins just north of San Jose del Pacifico. We stopped much later along the road and walked through a field that Moises suggested, but literally saw nothing.
Drove to Valle Nacional. I was nervous when Moises showed up with a heavy coat and muffler around his neck. His wife had told him that the weather report showed a cold front coming down from the north. We drove through dense fog for most of the way to Valle Nacional. When we got to the top of the mountain range there was a thick coat of ice on all the branches and Moises asked one of us to take a picture of him standing there surrounded by this extremely rare meteorological event. We walke here for a short distance and found a flock of bushtits but nothing else. I put on an extra pair of pants and two more shirts to attempt to keep from freezing. I had so much gear with me that I did not have room for a jacket even if I had though to bring one.
Going through the village of La Esperanza we saw the villagers dressed in costumes having a parade as part of a local festival. One of the revelers handed us a drink that was reluctantly quaffed by George. We found unicolored jays which being high up the top of the hill had no color at all in the fog. We finally got some at a more reasonable distance with decent light. The highlight of the morning was an out-of-range highland guan, which flew off before everyone saw it. Feeding right along the road in flowers were a male and female cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer and garnet-throated hummingbirds. Further below we found a female barred antshrike, blue-black grosbeak, 30 yellow-winged tanagers, and wedge-tailed saberwing. Stayed in the only hotel in town. It was clean but a little noisy, certainly not bad considering it was $70N double and $60N single. Toilet seats must be extra.
Met the only other birders on the entire trip at our motel. Turned out to be Peter Gaede and Lisa Marchant from Colorado Springs and they joined us for dinner. It was exciting to talk to someone else after that many days.
The next morning we tried a location Peter told us about where they had birded the day before with good luck. It is a trail that goes along the river. It is reached by going north out of town. Just after you cross the river, look for a large light blue colored shrine along the road on the right. Take the trail opposite. We unfortunately went on the right side which either took you to the river to a point with a minimal vantage point and no trail or through town and eventually by the school to a rubber plantation (where there were no birds). As we came back by the school, the students were playing in a marching band. Coming back through town, we saw male and female red-legged honeycreeper, blue-gray tanager, and red-billed pigeons.
Headed back up the mountain, there were thick-billed seedfinch and rusty sparrow in tall grass along the road with numerous white-collared seedeaters. Also saw white-winged tanager, ruddy foliage-gleaner deep in the undercover, sepia-capped flycatcher, olive-backed euphonia, and a soaring white hawk that we watched for a couple minutes.
Night at Hacienda La Noria. We walked around the square, visited the cathedral, and then ate dinner downtown at El Asador Vasco. It was a formal restaurant with exceptional food for reasonable prices.
Departed on 7:30 am flight. Had breakfast at the airport. Best airport food that I have ever had.
Other notes: Credit card company charged a 3% surcharge for currency conversion. I had read Traveler Magazine which had reported that it is better to use a credit card than cash in order to get a better exchange rate. This is no longer the case now that credit card companies are instituting a service charge. You should check with your issuer before your trip to avoid surprises.
We were able to get box breakfasts at nearly every hotel where we stayed or from a nearby restaurant. They universally consisted of two ham-and-cheese sandwiches, a can of juice, packaged cookies, and fruit.
I have checklists for Mexico and Oaxaca as well as indexes for Howell and Webb for both plates and text that I would be glad to E-mail. They are in WordPerfect or I could convert them to Word.
The trip cost was $1050 to $1200 depending on whether the participants had double or single rooms.
Total Species - 243
Mexican endemics - 40
LIST OF SPECIES
bold - Endemic Mexican species
e - endemic, Mexico, Northern Central America
r - rare
m - migrant
s - summer
c - casual
m - mexico tape
c - costa rica tape
t - trogon/cuckoo tape
o - owl/nightjar tape
Feb 7 Monte Alban Ruins; Garbage Gulch; Cerro
Feb 8 Cerro San Felipe; Garbage Gulch
Feb 9 Yagul Ruins; Guiengola Ruins
Feb 10 Chiapas border; Rio Amaca
Feb 11 Guiengola Ruins area; Puente Chacalapa; to Puerto Angel
Feb 12 Pluma Hidalgo
Feb 13 Pluma Hidalgo; to Oaxaca
Feb 14 Valle Nacional
Feb 15 Valle Nacional; to Oaxaca
|X||-||Pelican American White||-||-||-||-||20||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Heron Great Blue||-||-||-||1||1||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Heron Little Blue||-||-||1||2||1||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Vulture Turkey r||X||X||X||X||X||X||10||-||X||-|
|-||X||Chachalaca West Mexican||-||-||H||-||H||-||-||-||-||seen by driver and police|
|X||-||Guan Highland e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-|
|X||-||Dove White-tipped (Fronted)||-||-||-||-||1||-||H||-||-||-|
|X||-||Ground-dove Ruddy m||-||-||-||1||1||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Parakeet Orange-fronted m||-||-||8||-||15||5||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Parrot Mealy c||-||-||-||X||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Parrot White-crowned c||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||6||-||-|
|X||-||Parrot White-fronted m||-||-||-||3||4||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Cuckoo Squirrel ct||-||-||1||-||1||1||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Ground-cuckoo Lesser t||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Owl Great Horned r||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Owl Mottled oc||-||-||2||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|-||X||Screech-owl Pacific o||-||-||-||H||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Emerald Canivet's (Fork-tailed) e||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Emerald Golden-crowned (Fork-tailed)||-||-||-||-||-||2||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Emerald White-bellied e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||In scope|
|X||-||Hermit Mexican (Long-tailed)||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Hummingbird Doubleday's (Broad-billed) r||-||-||1||-||15||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Hummingbird Garnet-throated e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||6||1||-|
|X||-||Saberwing Wedge-tailed e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||2||1||-|
|X||-||Woodstar Sparkling-tailed er||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||In scope|
|X||-||Trogon Mountain m||-||2||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Motmot Russet-crowned em||-||-||-||-||1||1||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Toucanet Emerald m||-||-||-||-||-||8||2||6||H||-|
|X||-||Woodpecker Golden-olive c||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-|
|X||-||Woodcreeper Ivory-billed m||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Foliage-gleaner Spectacled r||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Antshrike Barred m||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||1F||-||-|
|X||-||Manakin White-collared c||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||1F||-|
|X||-||Flatbill Eye-ringed||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||No resemblance to Howell & Webb|
|X||-||Swallow Northern Rough-winged||20||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||1||-|
|X||-||Jay Unicolored e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||16||4||-|
|X||-||Wood-wren Gray-breasted m||-||-||-||-||-||2||2||H||H||-|
|X||-||Wren Band-backed mc||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||2||-|
|X||-||Wren Boucard's m||-||-||6||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Wren Rufous-naped m||-||-||5||-||5||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Mockingbird Blue m||2||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Mockingbird Northern m||-||-||1||-||-||-||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Nightingale-thrush Ruddy-capped m||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Robin Clay-colored m||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||1||-|
|X||-||Robin Rufous-backed m||-||-||-||-||6||1||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Robin White-throated m||-||-||-||-||-||-||3||-||-||-|
|-||X||Solitaire Brown-backed e||-||-||-||-||-||6H||1,7H||H||-||-|
|-||X||Solitaire Slate-colored e||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||H||-||-|
|X||-||Silky-flycatcher Gray em||-||20||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Redstart Slate-throated m||6||3||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Blackburnian r||-||-||-||-||-||-||1M||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Black-throated Gray||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Black-throated Green||-||-||-||-||-||10||5||8||5||-|
|X||-||Warbler Crescent-chested e||-||3||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Golden-crowned c||-||-||-||-||-||-||3||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Red m||3||X||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Warbler Rufous-capped e||8||4||-||-||-||-||-||-||10||-|
|X||-||Yellowthroat Gray-crowned m||-||-||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Oriole Black-vented e||12||1||2||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Tanager Hepatic||1F||2||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-Mexican race|
|X||-||Brush-finch Chestnut-capped c||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||2||-|
|X||-||Bunting Orange-breasted m||-||-||-||6||5||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Bunting Rose-bellied (Rosita's)||-||-||-||5||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Flowerpiercer Cinnamon-bellied e||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||3||1||-|
|X||-||Grassquit Yellow-faced r||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||2||-|
|X||-||Saltator Black-headed c||-||-||-||-||-||6||4||4||-||-|
|X||-||Saltator Buff-throated c||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||2||-|
|X||-||Seed-finch Thick-billed rc||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||2||-|
|X||-||Siskin Black-headed e||-||-||-||-||-||-||1||-||-||-|
|X||-||Sparrow Oaxaca||-||1||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||Only by leader|
|X||-||Sparrow Rusty m||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||2||-|
|X||-||Sparrow Stripe-headed m||-||-||-||2||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|X||-||Sparrow Sumichrast's (Cinnamon-tailed)||-||-||-||2||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|-||-||Total for Day||56||5 0||62||55||55||52||57||39||73||-|
|-||-||Cumulative for Trip||56||76||111||144||162||185||201||218||243||-|
|-||-||Personal Total for Day||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|-||-||Cumulative for Trip||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|-||-||Total Life Birds||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
7761 Everett Way
Arvada, CO 80005-4344