6 - 29 March 1997
by David Geale
We arrived in Mexico city at one o'clock in the morning. The first bird when I woke up the next morning was an AMERICAN ROBIN. We went to have breakfast at Vista Hermosa school and found BLUE-THROATED and WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRDS around the school's flowers. There was also a flock of BUSHTITS. After school, I checked out a little ravine behind the house and found that there were a few birds around. I saw BEWICK'S WREN, CINNAMON-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
We took a four hour bus trip to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan. At the sanctuary, apart from thousands of butterflies, we found a disappointing variety of birds, but we did see TOWNSEND'S and RED WARBLERS.
We spent the day in Mexico City, mostly at Xochimilco, a water treatment plant which is normally not open to the public. There were many waterbirds there (GREEN HERON, CATTLE, GREAT and SNOWY EGRETS), as well as SONG SPARROWS and BLACK-BACKED ORIOLES.
I went to a ranch in Valle de Bravo, west of Mexico City for the afternoon. There was some dry pine woodland which was home to many birds, including RED CROSSBILL, BLACK-HEADED SISKIN, YELLOW-EYED JUNCO, HERMIT WARBLER, GREATER PEWEE, TUFTED and BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS, SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, GREEN VIOLET-EAR, GREY SILKY-FLYCATCHER, OLIVE WARBLER, RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH, MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, WHITE-STRIPED WOODCREEPER and STRIPED SPARROWS.
We spent the day at Vista Hermosa; no new birds.
After visiting the Museum of Anthropology, we went to Desierto de los Leones. I found GOLDEN-BROWED WARBLER, BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRES, WHITE-THROATED ROBINS, MEXICAN CHICKADEE and MOUNTAIN TROGON.
We went to Tepotzotlan for the day and found CEDAR WAXWINGS, RUFOUS-BACKED ROBINS, BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHER and LESSER GOLDFINCH in the only trees in town outside the cathedral.
After the morning downtown, we visited a house with a hummingbird feeder and found WHITE-EARED, BROAD-BILLED and BERYLINE HUMMINGBIRDS as well as WESTERN SCRUB-JAYS.
On the way to Teotihuacan, I saw the only EUROPEAN STARLINGS of the trip. At the ruins, there were very few birds other than HOUSE FINCHES and a LARK SPARROW.
All day around the city; no new birds.
We finally got away from the city on an overnight bus and a taxi ride to Catemaco, a small town on a lagoon in south Veracruz. In the town, we found RED-BILLED PIGEONS, a nesting colony of SNOWY EGRETS, SUMMER TANAGER and SOCIAL FLYCATCHER. After breakfast, we walked along the lagoon and saw GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER, GROOVE-BILLED ANI, GREAT KISKADEES, MELODIOUS BLACKBIRD and GREY-BREASTED MARTIN. There were dozens of men trying to fish us in to a boat ride on the lagoon. One of them included a stop at a "Biological Reserve", so we tried it. From the boat, we saw NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, SNAIL KITES (about 4), BELTED, RINGED and GREEN KINGFISHERS, BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS and NORTHERN JACANA. At the "Biological Reserve", we found that you had to follow a guide around. We still managed to find YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIAS, MONTEZUMA OROPENDOLAS, BROWN JAYS and BLUE-WINGED WARBLER. Back in Catemaco, we saw BAND-BACKED WRENS, HOODED WARBLER, BLUE-GREY and YELLOW-WINGED TANAGERS and BALTIMORE and ORCHARD ORIOLES.
Around Catemaco in the morning were CLAY-COLOURED ROBINS, SCRUB EUPHONIAS and MANGROVE SWALLOW. We got driven out to Laguna Escondida, where we got our first real taste of rainforest birds. We saw BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER, MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS, WHITE HAWKS, CHESTNUT-HEADED OROPENDOLAS, MASKED TITYRA, ROSE-THROATED BECARD, BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT, RED-THROATED ANT-TANAGER, KENTUCKY WARBLER, WHITE-BELLIED EMERALD (nest building), STREAK-HEADED WOODCREEPER, LAUGHING FALCON and OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER. We drove to Jicacal, where we were greeted by two FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWLS. Other birds there were ALTIMIRA ORIOLE, BROWN PELICAN, COMMON BLACK-HAWK, CRESTED CARACARA and WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER.
We took a morning bus to Villahermosa and went to the La Venta Park. There weren't many birds around, except HOODED and KENTUCKY WARBLERS and ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS.
We took a bus to Palenque (seeing WOOD STORK and LIMPKIN on the way) and checked in to Hotel Kin-Ha. Around the Hotel, we saw VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, PALE-VENTED PIGEON, RUFOUS-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER, TROPICAL KINGBIRD, RUDDY GROUND-DOVE, BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR and YELLOW-WINGED TANAGER.
We started a two day tour to Yaxchilan and Bonampak at 5:30 in the morning. From the bus, we saw KEEL-BILLED TOUCANS and YELLOW-TAILED ORIOLE. When we arrived at Yaxchilan, we found YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER and BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK, CHESTNUT-COLOURED WOODPECKER, LONG-TAILED HERMIT, SCARLET MACAWS(two flying over - rarest bird of my life! The locals said they saw them fairly regularly), GOLDEN-HOODED TANAGER, BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER, VIOLACEOUS TROGON, CRIMSON-COLLARED TANAGER, BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE and BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR. On the boat ride back along the river, we got better looks at a WHITE HAWK and saw two KING VULTURES beside the river. We got on the bus again and headed for Lacanja for the night. There were only six people (we were four of them), and it was quiet, except for the dogs. We head 3 or 4 PAURAQUES and saw two in our flashlight.
Around Lacanja in the morning were VARIABLE SEEDEATER, LINEATED WOODPECKER, BANANAQUIT(nest building), BLUE GROUND-DOVE, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and BARRED ANTSHRIKE. Then we started the three hour walk to Bonampak. On the way we saw, among other things (including many unidentified parrots flying over), PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER, DOT-WINGED ANTWRENS, ROADSIDE HAWK, GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER, SLATY-TAILED TROGON(four or five, possibly a family group), GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER, LESSER GREENLET, PAINTED BUNTING and SQUIRREL CUCKOO (these last four were at an ant swarm where we should have spent more time). The ruins were quiet, so we headed back, finding RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR, OLIVE-BACKED EUPHONIAS, TAWNY-WINGED and BARRED WOODCREEPERS(both at an ant swarm), PLAIN XENOPS, two CINNAMON BECARDS (nest building), RUDDY WOODCREEPER and WHITE-WHISKERED PUFFBIRD(these last two were also at an ant swarm). Back at Lacanja, we found LITTLE HERMIT, WEDGE-BILLED WOODCREEPER and BLUE-BLACK GROSBEAKS. The grosbeaks were at a nest which the natives showed us.
We found a COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER at Kin-Ha Hotel before heading to the ruins at Palenque. The ruins were very crowded, but we saw SPOT-BREASTED WRENS, BLACK-CROWNED TITYRA, SULFUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER and WEDGE-TAILED SABREWING. We returned to Kin-Ha for the early afternoon. The first (and last!) parrots I found perched within decent range turned out to be AZTEC [OLIVE-THROATED] PARAKEETS. Other birds around Kin-Ha were BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT, NORTHERN PARULA, HOOK-BILLED KITE and a huge flock of WHITE-COLLARED SWIFTS. We took a 5 hour bus to San Cristobal de las Casas and arrived at 10:00 p.m.
In the town square in San Cristobal was a RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW. The Huitepec Reserve (cloud forest) was closed, so we went to the Grutas San Cristobal. By walking past the crowds and climbing a hill beyond, we found what I think was a small patch of cloud forest. In it and the surrounding pines, we saw RUFOUS-BROWED WREN, a huge flock of warblers (TOWNSEND'S, HERMIT, CRESENT-CHESTED, RED-FACED and PINK-HEADED!), GARNET-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, GREATER PEWEE, OLIVE WARBLER, HEPATIC TANAGER, BLACK-CAPPED SWALLOWS and RUFOUS-COLLARED ROBIN [THRUSH].
We headed for Chiapa de Corzo, making an unexpected stop at San Jose Park on the way. At the park were SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, CRESENT-CHESTED and RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER, MOUNTAIN TROGON and ACORN WOODPECKER. El Sumidero Canyon was quiet, but we saw dozens (hundreds?) of BLACK VULTURES and a few BROWN PELICANS.
We went to the Tuxtla Gutierrez Zoo and found an interesting mix of Eastern, Western and domestic birds. The wild ones were RUSSET-CROWNED MOTMOT(bird of the trip for me!), BANDED WREN, FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL, GREEN JAY, YELLOW-WINGED CACIQUE, WHITE-THROATED MAGPIE-JAY and COLLARED ARACARI. These were other birds which seemed to be free to leave (including Crested Guan and dozens of Plain Chachalaca). With better Spanish than ours, you might have more luck finding out from the zoo staff about the status of other birds. We flew to Oaxaca City at noon and went to Monte Alban. By mid-afternoon, it was fairly quiet, but we saw COMMON GROUND-DOVE, DUSKY HUMMINGBIRD, VERMILION FLYCATCHERS and RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS. We spent the night in Santa Ana del Valle, where I saw GREY-BREASTED WOODPECKERS before dark.
Around Santa Ana del Valle in the morning we found WHITE-THROATED TOWHEES (lots), LARK SPARROWS and MOURNING DOVES. We drove to Teotitlan del Valle and found BOUCARD'S WREN. Continuing north of Teotitlan, we saw WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, BROWN-BACKED SOLITAIRE, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, PAINTED REDSTART, RED-FACED WARBLER, and MOUNTAIN TROGONS. By midafternoon, Yagul was mostly silent, but we saw CASSIN'S and WESTERN KINGBIRD, NASHVILLE WARBLER and CANYON WREN. A MERLIN came by Santa Ana just before dusk.
We headed up route 175 to the Garbage Gulch, where we saw BLUE GROSBEAK, THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD, BLACK-THROATED GREY WARBLER and a probable Oaxaca Sparrow. At Cerro San Filipe Ridge, we saw WHITE-THROATED ROBIN, GREY-BARRED WRENS, BLUE MOCKINGBIRD, GREY-BARRED WOOD-WREN, and CHESTNUT- and RUFOUS-CAPPED BRUSHFINCHES. We flew to Acapulco that night.
I was sick all day, no birding.
We went kayaking on the lagoon at Pie de la Cuesta and saw, among other things, , OSPREYS, NORTHERN JACANAS, PURPLE GALLINULE, GOLDEN-CHEEKED WOODPECKERS and BRONZED COWBIRDS. We flew to Toronto that night.
Things to do differently "next time": Rent a car, spend more time in the
rainforest and don't get sick.
Trinity College School
Port Hope, ON