05 August - 06 September 2000
by Robert Machover
This was not exclusively a birding trip, though I did manage to get out for an hour or more on many mornings. There were also stops along the road while traveling, plus a few longer, primarily birding, trips into the mountains. Most of the birding was on the Pacific slope, though I took one trip north over the mountains on Rte 175 to the Atlantic slope. The location key below gives a very rough idea of the time spent birding in various areas.
I think the most unusual finds were the two Aplomado Falcon sightings - one in the Oaxaca Valley, the other along the Pacific coast road - both out of the range shown in Howell & Webb.
I was especially impressed by the mixed species flocks in the mountains. At times, there must have been over 150 individuals of 20 to 25 different species, with as many as 15 different warblers. I can't recall flocks anywhere in the US being so consistently responsive to pishing and Pygmy-Owl whistles. What fun!
I was struck by the early dates of some North American breeders (Least Flycatcher and Black-and-white Warbler in particular), as well as some odd geographic distribution patterns (Townsend's, Hermit & Black-throated Green, e.g.).
Finally, as ever, the eight life birds and six additional new-for-me-in-Mexico species added to the listing pleasure.
The following location key is adapted from Mark Stackhouse and David Wheeler's Oaxaca report of Feb. 19-25, 2000, as posted on the MEX-BIRD list.
1 - Central Valley area, Oaxaca City and neighboring foothills ("Garbage Gulch" near km 205 on Rte 175 north of the city plus south of the city as far as Ocotlán). Moderate coverage (~ 8 hours).
2 - The Sierra de Aloapaneca, north of the city, near La Cumbre/Cerro San Felipe. This is humid pine-oak forest. Little coverage (~ 6 hours).
3 - The Sierra de Juarez, north of #2, with mostly similar habitat. Very little coverage (~ 3 hours).
4 - The area around Tuxtepec. Mostly cut-over humid lowland evergreen forest, remnant forest patches and riparian areas. Very little coverage (~ 2 hours).
5 - The area along Rte 175 south of Valle Nacional. Starts in humid lowland evergreen forest and progresses through cloud forest to montane pine-oak forest. Next to no coverage (~ 1 hour).
6 - Coastal highway (Rte 200) between Rio Grande in the west and Huatulco in the east. Mostly coastal deciduous thorn forest plus some coastal wetlands, agricultural lands, barrier beach and near shore ocean. Extensive coverage (~ 50 hours).
7 - Pacific foothills of the Sierra de Miahuatlán, along Rte 131 (N of Puerto Escondido) and Rte 175 (N of Puerto Angel). Coastal thorn forest, evergreen woodland patches, agricultural land and riparian areas. Below 500m elevation. Fairly extensive coverage (~ 30 hours).
8 - The Sierra de Miahuatlán, between Puerto Angel and Miahuatlán (Rte 175), especially around San José del Pacífico and area between El Mirador restaurant and village of La Soledad. Also mountains north of Puerto Escondido (Rte 131), mostly between km 157 and 187. Above 500m elevation. Extensive coverage (~ 40 hours).
W - Widespread, found in many habitats and locations.
**** Life Bird ** New for me
01) Least Grebe: One ad., two juv. on small lily covered pond - area 6
02) Pied-billed Grebe: Two on Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
03) Brown Booby: A few off Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. Many flying around off-shore rock, Playa Zipolite (Puerto Angel) - area 6
04) Brown Pelican: Fairly common - area 6.
05) Neotropic Cormorant: Common - areas 4 & 6
06) Anhinga: Only one, Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
07) Magnificent Frigatebird: Common - area 6
08) Bare-throated Tiger-Heron: At least two ad., two juv., L. Manialtepec - area 6
09) Great Blue Heron: Only two, Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
10) Great Egret: Common - areas 4 & 6
11) Snowy Egret: Ditto - areas 4 & 6
12) Little Blue Heron: Four or five at Laguna Manialtepec, a few elsewhere - area 6
13) Tricolored Heron: Common, almost as common as greats and snowies - area 6
14) Cattle Egret: W
15) Green Heron: Abundant at Laguna Manialtepec, also other sites - area 6
16) Black-crowned Night-Heron: Two or three, Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
17) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: Fairly common at river-mouths, Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
18) Boat-billed Heron:** Three birds, Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
19) White Ibis: Fairly common in river beds, flyovers - area 6
20) Roseate Spoonbill: Four standing in river bed, N of Pto. Escondido - area 6
21) Wood Stork: Many at various rivers, a few at L. Manialtepec - area 6
22) Black-bellied Whistling Duck: Common - area 6
23) Black Vulture: W
24) Turkey Vulture: W
25) Osprey: Only two sightings - area 6
26) Hook-billed Kite:** One in foothills, ~300m, Rte 131 - area 7
27) White-tailed Kite: One S of Oaxaca, another along the coast - areas 1 & 6
28) Crane Hawk: One at Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
29) Common Black Hawk: Fairly common - areas 6 & 7
30) Gray Hawk: Slightly more common than the previous species - areas 6 & 7
31) Roadside Hawk: Likewise - area 6
32) White-tailed Hawk: One imm. S of Oaxaca City - area 1
33) Red-tailed Hawk: Only one sighting, Rte 131 - area 8
34) Crested Caracara: Common - areas 1, 4 & 6
35) Aplomado Falcon: Two different sightings, both out of the range indicated in Howell & Webb! The first was in the interior foothills on Rte 175, halfway between Oaxaca and Ocotlán. From my notes taken at the time (1 PM 8/8/00): "Yes, I know they don't occur in the Oaxaca Valley. Watched for 12-15 minutes as it soared, cavorted, danced and played with an immature White-tailed Hawk. Terrible glare made it difficult to discern plumage. Classic falcon shape - long, pointed wings, fairly long tail. Managed to glimpse enough of the thin, falcon-like vertical malar stripe, contrasting with a bright white cheek. Dark belly band, wider and darker than most Red-tails. 2/3 the size of the White-tailed Hawk. Wings held flat while soaring. Extremely agile - though the WTHA was also very acrobatic, sticking feet out, stooping, twisting and turning. Didn't really pick up any color on the underparts but the pattern was: Throat and upper breast, pale, if not white. Lower breast and upper belly with boldly contrasting broad, all-dark band. Lower belly and undertail, intermediate - neither dark nor pale." The second sighting (8/23/00) was at dawn along Rte 200, halfway between Pto. Escondido and Pto. Angel. Sitting 20 feet from the car on a telephone wire and facing me so I could see every detail of the face and underparts. Obvious dark streaking on upper breast, more solidly dark central breast and extensive pale cinnamon on lower belly indicated a juvenile. A perfect, but all too brief look, as it flew off straight away from me before barely a minute had passed.
36) Bat Falcon: One perched on top of a very high electrical tower near Valle Nacional - area 5
37) West Mexican Chachalaca: Heard a few times, seen once - areas 6 & 7
38) Northern Bobwhite: Heard (only) frequently - areas 6 & 7
39) Purple Gallinule: One at lily pond - area 6
40) Common Moorhen: Ditto - area 6
41) American Coot: ~6 on Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
42) Collared Plover:**** One at confluence of the ocean and Laguna Manialtepec and another along a rocky river bed near Pto Angel - area 6
43) Snowy Plover: 3 at Laguna Manialtepec outflow - area 6
44) Semi-palmated Plover: Two at same site - area 6
45) Black-necked Stilt: Common at various river mouths - area 6
46) Northern Jaçana: Fairly common in fresh water wetlands - areas 4 & 6
47) Greater Yellowlegs: A few, various sites - area 6
48) Willet: Ditto - area 6
49) Spotted Sandpiper: Likewise - area 6
50) Whimbrel: Fairly common at river mouths - area 6
51) Western Sandpiper: A few at Laguna Manialtepec outflow - area 6
52) Least Sandpiper: One at same locale - area 6
53) Laughing Gull: ~20 on the ocean, Pto Escondido. Also on Laguna Manialtepec - area 6
54) Caspian Tern: Small groups on ocean, Pto Escondido. Others perched on outer beaches - area 6
55) Royal Tern: A few perched on ocean beaches - area 6
56) Black Skimmer: Ditto - area 6
57) Feral Pigeon: W
58) Red-billed Pigeon: One at L. Manialtepec and 1 flyover Rte 200 - area 6
59) Band-tailed Pigeon: One at ~2800m, Rte 175 N - area 3
60) White-winged Dove: One at Garbage Gulch and flock off Rte 200 - areas 1 & 6
61) Mourning Dove: One flock of ~30 birds, south of Oaxaca City - area 1
62) Inca Dove: W
63) Common Ground Dove: A few - areas 1 & 6
64) Ruddy Ground Dove: Common - areas 4 & 6
65) White-tipped Dove: W (a few seen, many heard)
66) Orange-fronted Parakeet: Common - area 7
67) White-fronted Parrot: A few flyovers - areas 6 & 7
68) Squirrel Cuckoo: Fairly common - areas 6 & 7
69) Lesser Ground-Cuckoo:**** One seen, others heard - areas 6 & 7
70) Groove-billed Ani: Abundant - areas 4, 6 & 7
71) Northern (Mexican) Pygmy-Owl: One heard - area 2
72) Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl: Common - areas 4 & 6
73) (Mexican) Whip-poor-will:** One calling (8/8) at San José del Pacífico - area 8
74) Chestnut-collared Swift:** With mixed swift flocks - areas 1 & 3
75) White-collared Swift: Various locales, mostly - area 7
76) Vaux's Swift: Various sites - areas 1 & 8
77) Green Violet-ear: Fairly common in mts. - areas 2 & 8
78) Broad-billed (Doubleday's) Hummingbird: Common areas 6 & 7
79) White-eared Hummingbird: Very common - areas 2,3 & esp. 8
80) Berylline Hummingbird: Very common - areas 1,2 & 8.
81) Cinnamon Hummingbird: Four or five seen on only one morning on Rte 131 between ~700m and ~ 1000m - area 8
82) Green-fronted (Cinnamon-sided) Hummingbird:**** Pair seen at ~1000m on Rte 131 and another at ~ 300m on Rte 175 - areas 7 & 8
83) Blue-capped Hummingbird:**** On Rte 131 - one at km 187 (~1500m) and two different sightings near km 162 (~2500m). Also one glimpsed on Rte 175 below El Mirador Restaurant - area 8
84) Amethyst-throated Hummingbird: One female - area 2
85) Blue-throated Hummingbird: Two at San José del Pacífico - area 8
86) Magnificent Hummingbird: One, same site - area 8
87) Plain-capped Starthroat: Fairly common - areas 6 & 7
88) Bumblebee Hummingbird: Fairly common at San José - area 8
89) Citreoline Trogon: Three sightings - areas 6 & 7
90) Russet-crowned Motmot: Common - areas 6 & (esp.) 7
91) Ringed Kingfisher: Fairly common - area 6
92) Green Kingfisher: A few at L. Manialtepec - area 6
93) Emerald Toucanet: Two sightings, Rte 131, ~1500m (km 187-9) - area 8
94) Acorn Woodpecker: Fairly common - area 8
95) Golden-cheeked Woodpecker: Common - areas 6 & 7
96) Hairy Woodpecker: One heard near San José del P. - area 8
97) Gray-crowned Woodpecker: One seen at km 187, Rte 131 - area 8
98) Northern Flicker: A few heard and seen - areas 2 & 8
99) Lineated Woodpecker: One at ~2000m, Rte 131 - area 8
100) Ivory-billed Woodcreeper: Fairly common - areas 7 & 8
101) Spot-crowned Woodcreeper: Regular part of mixed flocks in mts. - areas 2 & 8
102) Northern Beardless Tyrannulet: One seen, a few others heard - areas 6 & 7
103) Common Tufted Flycatcher: Regular part of high mountain mixed flocks - areas 2, 3 & 8
104) Olive-sided Flycatcher: One fairly high on Rte 131 - area 8
105) Greater Pewee: Fairly common - areas 1 & 8
106) Western Pewee: One definite bird at Monte Alban - area 1. Possibly others?
--- Pewee (sp.): Numerous Pewees (none calling) on Atlantic slope in cloud forest and lower on 9/3/00 - area 5. Looked like Westerns????
107) Willow Flycatcher: Three birds singing "fitz-bew" and calling "whit" at ~300m on 8/23!! Others seen over the next few days - area 7
108) Least Flycatcher: One (probable) at Garbage Gulch on the very early date of 8/7/00 - area 1. Others in coastal thorn forest - area 6
109) Cordilleran Flycatcher: One well seen at ~2200m on Rte 131 - area 8
110) Black Phoebe: One at Garbage Gulch - area 1
111) Vermilion Flycatcher: Common in Oaxaca City and environs - area 1
112) Dusky-capped Flycatcher: Common mid-upper altitude - area 8
113) Nutting's Flycatcher: Fairly common in thorn forest - areas 6 & 7
114) Brown-crested Flycatcher: Two sightings in coastal hills - area 6
115) Great Kiskadee: W - except higher mountains
116) Boat-billed Flycatcher: Fairly common, mid-upper elevations, including a large group (family?) in cloud forest - areas 3, 5 & 8
117) Social Flycatcher: W Common and Widespread
118) Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher: Fairly common, low to mid-elev. - areas 6, 7, & 8
119) Tropical Kingbird: W - except higher mountains.
120) Cassin's Kingbird: Fairly common - area 1
121) Thick-billed Kingbird: Only one sighting, interior hills (~1200m) - area 8
122) Gray-collared Becard:**** Two sightings of family groups, each with at least three immatures and one adult female. One near San José del P. (2500m) on Rte 175 and the other at ~2500m on Rte 131 - area 8. Both with mixed flocks.
123) Masked Tityra: Common mid-elevations - area 8
124) Loggerhead Shrike: Three-four seen - area 1
125) Plumbeous Vireo: One very scruffy individual near Garbage Gulch - area 1
126) Hutton's Vireo: Very common with high mt. mixed flocks - areas 2, 3 & 8
127) Golden Vireo: Common in mid-elev. (~1200 - ~1800m) - areas 1 & 8
128) Warbling Vireo: A few (in Sept only) with flocks high on Rte 131 - area 8
129) Yellow-green Vireo: Common - areas 6, 7 & lower part of 8
130) Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo: One with mixed flock, km 165 on Rte 131 - area 8
131) Steller's Jay: Fairly common - areas 2 & 3
132) White-throated Magpie-Jay: Common - areas 6 & 7
133) Green Jay: Small flocks at km 187 on Rte 131 and km 186 on Rte 175 - area 8
134) Dwarf Jay:**** Two seen in mixed flock with Steller's Jays and GB Wrens, 8.1 km from the entrance gate on La Cumbre road - area 2
135) Western Scrub Jay: Scattered sightings - San José del P. (~2500m) and interior foothills on Rte 131 (~1500m) - area 8
136) Common Raven: Three sightings - areas 3 & 8
137) Gray-breasted Martin: Common - area 6
138) Mangrove Swallow: Two over ocean off Pto Escondido - area 6. Large flock on river near Tuxtepec - area 4
139) Northern Rough-winged Swallow: Small flocks - areas 3 & 6
140) Barn Swallow: Not in Oaxaca - seen at Mexico City airport.
141) Mexican Chickadee: Fairly common with mixed species flocks - areas 2 & 3. Curiously, none seen in area 8, despite many more hours of birding there.
142) Bushtit: Common - areas 2,3 & 8
143) Brown Creeper: Fairly common with mixed flocks - areas 2, 3 & 8
144) Gray-barred Wren: With Steller's & Dwarf Jays - area 2
145) Rufous-naped Wren: Very common - areas 6 & 7
146) Boucard's Wren: Seen at Garbage Gulch and at ~2000m on Rte 131 - areas 1 & 8
147) Rock Wren: A few at Monte Alban - area 1
148) Happy Wren: Very common - areas 6, 7 and at lower part of 8 (to ~1200m?)
149) Banded Wren: Very common - areas 6, 7 and lower part of 8 (to ~1500m?)
150) Bewick's Wren: One in hotel courtyard, Oaxaca City - area 1
151) Northern House (Brown-throated) Wren: One in area 3, one in area 8
152) Gray-breasted Wood-Wren: Very common above ~1500m - areas 2, 3 & 8
153) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: One (on 9/1/00) at ~2500m, Rte 131 - area 8
154) White-lored Gnatcatcher: Very common - areas 6 & 7
155) Eastern Bluebird: About 8 birds, interior mts (~1500m) Rte 131 - area 8
156) Brown-backed Solitaire: Many heard, some seen - areas 1, 2, 3 & 8
157) Slate-colored Solitaire: Heard only - area 5 (would have been a life bird if only one had showed itself!)
158) Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush: A few heard, one seen - areas 5 & 8
159) Russet Nightingale-Thrush: One on road near San José - area 8
160) White-throated Robin: A few small flocks on Rtes 131 & 175 - area 8
161) Rufous-backed Robin: Only one sighting, a flock with ~10 birds on Rte 200 - area 6
162) Curve-billed Thrasher: A few heard, Garbage Gulch - area 1
163) Gray-silky Flycatcher: A few scattered sightings and one huge flock of over 500 birds near the summit of the Sierra de Juarez - areas 2 & 3. Surprisingly, none in area 8
164) Orange-crowned Warbler: One evidently new arrival on 9/5/00 - area 2
165) Crescent-chested Warbler: Fairly common. Present in most mixed flocks - areas 2,3 & 8
166) Tropical Parula: One on 8/24, ~1500m on Rte 175 - area 8
167) Yellow Warbler: Very common after 8/26 - areas 6 & 7
168) Black-throated Gray Warbler: One on 9/03 - area 2
168) Townsend's Warbler: Fairly common on 9/03-5 - areas 2 & 3
169) Hermit Warbler: Amazingly very common in mixed flocks on 9/03-5 - areas 2 & 3. Also at least two Townsend's/Hermit hybrids.
170) Black-throated Green Warbler: Fairly common. Present in most mixed flocks after 8/18 - area 8. Curiously, none in areas 2 & 3. Why only Townsend's & Hermits north of Oaxaca City and BT Greens south? And no Townsend's or Hermits south of the city? It doesn't make sense to me - unless it has to do with different migration dates - I birded area 8 between Aug 8 and Aug 30 and areas 2 & 3 on Sept 3,4 & 5. But again, why no BT Greens in areas 2 & 3? Especially since they're eastern breeders and the other two species are western.
171) Grace's Warbler: Common in pure yellow pine forests - area 8
172) Black-and-white Warbler: Very common - the commonest northern breeder in mixed flocks, mid-to-high elevation - area 8. First seen on the very early date of 8/09/00 at San José. Curiously, only one seen north of Oaxaca City on 9/03 in area 3.
173) Hooded Yellowthroat:****One male glimpsed and one female well seen at San José del Pacifico - area 8
174) Wilson's Warbler: A few (just arrived?) on 9/03 - areas 2 & 3
175) Red Warbler: Most visible, if not most common, warbler in mixed flocks - areas 2, 3 & 8. Very responsive to pishing.
176) Painted Redstart: Only seen high on Rte 131 between km 162 and 168 where quite common - area 8.
177) Slate-throated Redstart: Very common, mid-to-high elev - areas 1,2,3 & 8.
178) Golden-crowned Warbler: Very common, mid-to-high elev - area 8. Not found in area 2 or 3, but one in cloud forest, area 5. Also very responsive to pishing.
179) Rufous-capped Warbler: Very common, mid-to-high elev - areas 1,2,3 & 8. Not limited to mixed flocks as with most other warblers.
180) Golden-browed Warbler: One family near San José del P. in area 8. Very common at high elev - areas 2, 3 & 5.
181) Red-breasted Chat: One in thorn forest west of Pto Escondido - area 6. A nice find!
182) Olive Warbler: Fairly common in mixed flocks, high elev - areas 2,3 & 8.
183) Golden-hooded Tanager:** Three birds together on 9/04, in cloud forest near km 80, 175 N - area 5
184) Red-legged Honeycreeper:** A number of small groups of 8-10 birds, all female plumaged, near km 189 on Rte 175 S - area 8. Also in cloud forest - area 5.
185) Scrub Euphonia: One male, cloud forest - area 5.
186) Blue-hooded Euphonia: One female, near La Soledad, Rte 175 S - area 8.
187) Yellow-winged Tanager: Two small flocks in cloud forest, ~1200m - area 5.
188) Red-crowned Ant-Tanager**** Many out on Rte 131 singing in the pre-dawn for about 20 minutes, then disappearing before sunrise. Some standing in the middle of the road. Between ~300m and ~750m - areas 7-8. Finally! A long-time nemesis bird.
189) Hepatic Tanager: Fairly common in mixed flocks, high elev - area 8
190) Red-headed Tanager: Ditto - area 8
191) Common Bush-Tanager: A few near San José del P. - area 8. Very common on Rte 175 N - areas 3 & 5.
192) Blue-black Grassquit: A few in areas 1 & 7, abundant in area 6
193) White-collared Seedeater: Ditto.
194) Ruddy-breasted Seedeater: One singing male in marsh, west of Pto Escondido - area 6
195) Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer: Common in flowering field in San José del P. - area 8. lso one at highest point on Rte 175 N - area 3
196) Olive Sparrow: Common in thorn forest - areas 6 & 7
197) Rufous-capped Brushfinch: Common in mountains - areas 2,3 & 8
198) Collared Towhee: Two or three seen - area 2
199) Spotted Towhee: Especially common in interior mts - areas 1 & 8. Also at San José - area 8.
200) White-throated Towhee: Very common from San José del P. in south to Ixtlán in north - areas 1,2,3 & 8. Abundant in Oaxaca Valley.
201) Bridled Sparrow: A few seen in Garbage Gulch - area 1.
202) Stripe-headed Sparrow: One singing bird at lily pond on Rte 200 - area 6.
203) Rufous-crowned Sparrow: One studied carefully at Garbage Gulch (not a Oaxaca Sparrow - too bad) - area 1.
204) Rusty Sparrow: Several sightings, high elev - area 8.
205) Yellow-eyed Junco: Common at high elevations - areas 2, 3 & 8.
206) Black-headed Saltator: Fairly common, ~500 to ~1800m - area 8
207) Northern Cardinal: Fairly common in thorn forest off Rte 200 - area 6
208) Black-headed Grosbeak: Only one female seen, San José del P. - area 8
209) Blue Bunting: Fairly common - areas 6 & 7
210) Blue Grosbeak: Fairly common - area 1
211) Orange-breasted Bunting: Common - areas 6 & 7. Males had stopped singing so they were less evident than they would have been earlier in the season.
212) Eastern Meadowlark: One very scruffy bird hanging out at Pemex station near Oaxaca City - area 1.
213) Great-tailed Grackle: W except for higher mountains.
214) Bronzed Cowbird: Several sightings of flocks, 10 - 60 birds -area 6.
215) Orchard Oriole: One flock on 8/26, 3-6 birds, in area 6. Plus another flock of six on 9/04 in area 4.
216) Black-vented Oriole: Three individuals seen at Garbage Gulch - area 1
217) Audubon's (Dickey's) Oriole: Fairly common in family (?) groups - areas 1 & 8.
218) Streak-backed Oriole: Fairly un-showy at this season, though obviously common in thorn forest - areas 6 & 7.
219) Spot-breasted Oriole: One pair seen at ~500m on Rte 175 S - area 7.
220) Altamira Oriole: Two sightings - area 6.
221) Yellow-winged Cacique: Common - areas 6,7 and lower part of 8 (to ~1200m). Usually in twos and threes, but I came across one large flock of over 50 birds.
222) House Finch: Common in Oaxaca City and suburbs - area 1.
223) Black-headed Siskin: Flocks (20+) at San José del P. - area 8. One bird at La Cumbre - area 2.
224) Lesser Goldfinch: Abundant in Oaxaca City and Valley - area 1. Less common higher up areas 2, 3 & 8.
225) House Sparrow: W
175 Adamic Hill Road
Milford, NJ 08848
November 25, 2000 (better late than never)