20 - 24 January 2000
by Michael Delesantro
A group from the Fort Worth Audubon Society toured from January 20th to 24th, 2000 in the El Naranjo and El Cielo regions of Eastern San Luis Potosi and Southwestern Tamaulipas. Weather for the trip was perfect and the group saw nearly 200 bird species (listed below) during their five-day stay in Mexico. Some highlights were:
A pair of Tropical Kingbirds greeted us at the FreeTrade Bridge at Los Indios; a great way to start the trip! The rest of the drive down was rather uneventful, but there were many raptors along the road, a good selection of the common species of the area were easily "birded at 55", and some good finds rounded out the first day's list. A very cooperative and talkative flock of Tamaulipas Crows met us in Nuevo Morelos, the Rio Sabinas allowed us a look at its elusive Sungrebes, and a gorgeous male White-winged Tanager displayed in the treetops.
The following morning we were out bright and early to explore the subtropical oak forests and semi-deciduous woodlands west of El Naranjo. As the sun peeked over the ridges and the morning dawned, mixed species flocks began to move through the trees and we were sometimes overwhelmed with the number of birds available to view. Fruiting trees attracted a great selection of tanagers, euphonias, and other frugivores, including quite a few flycatchers taking advantage of the ready meal. My favorite bird of the day was a lovely Smoky-brown Woodpecker who sat in plain view (a rarity among this secretive species), but others thought the Barred Antshrike who gazed at us from a distance of only 15 feet took the prize.
Day three took us to higher elevations in the oak forest as we explored a road up a ridge west of town. Much of the area was tall oaks with a rather open understory and viewing of birds was fairly easy once you found the flocks. The total number of birds was, perhaps, not as great here as on the previous day, but there were many new finds. Among the best were a stunning Golden-browed Warbler, a pair of Blue Ground-doves, and large flocks of Rufous-capped Brushfinches. Late in the day we traveled to Gomez Farias, gateway to the El Cielo reserve.
On day four we left before dawn and headed toward the nacimiento of the Rio Sabinas. We spent a leisurely morning exploring around the water and lunched on the banks of the rio. In the afternoon we traveled as far as we could on the track up toward Rancho del Cielo. One of the highlights of this segment was the active lek of Wedge-tailed Sabrewings along the edge of the road. This was one of several leks we found in the region and listening to the raucous gurgles and calls of this small bird was a treat.
The morning of our final day was spent hiking in the lowlands near town. Birds were excellent, especially the Blue-crowned Motmot that had eluded us up until that time. The drive home was punctuated by a good buffet lunch in Victoria and some great birds in roadside ponds and ditches that egged us on toward the 200 species mark. But, alas, we fell one short as dusk and the bridge across the river put an end to our Mexico trip list ... this time.
Here is our trip list for this region:
Great Blue Heron
Greater White-fronted Goose
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black and white Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler