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El Naranjo Area and El Cielo Biosphere Reserve

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:

Thicket Timanou
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
White Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Muscovy Duck
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Harris' Hawk
Grey Hawk
Roadside Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Collared Forest-falcon
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Plain Chachalaca
Northern Bobwhite
Singing Quail
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Red-billed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-dove
Ruddy Ground-dove
Blue Ground-dove
White-tipped Dove
Gray-headed Dove
Green Parakeet
White-crowned Parrot
Red-crowned Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Greater Roadrunner
Groove-billed Ani
Ferruginous Pgymy-Owl
Vaux's Swift
Canivet's Emerald
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing
White-eared Hummingbird
Azure-crowned Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Mountain Trogon
Elegant Trogon
Blue-crowned Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Lineated Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Bronze-winged Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Barred Antshrike
Rose-throated Becard
Masked Tityra
Eastern Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Tufted Flycatcher
Greater Pewee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Couchs' Kingbird
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Empidonax species
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Green Jay
Brown Jay
Mexican Jay
Tamaulipas Crow
Chihuahuan Raven
Common Raven
Black-crested Titmouse
Spotted Wren
Spot-breasted Wren
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Brown-backed Solitaire
Hermit Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush
White-throated Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
Blue Mockingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Cassin's Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Gray Silky
Black and white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Crescent-chested Warbler
Tropical Parula
Louisiana Waterthrush
Wilson's Warbler
Painted Redstart
Fan-tailed Warbler
Golden-crowned warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Golden-browed Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Scrub Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Blue-hooded Euphonia
Yellow-winged Tanager
Hapatic Tanager
Summer Tanager
Western Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager
White-winged Tanager
Black-headed Saltator
Grayish Saltator
Crimson-collared Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Blue Bunting
Indigo Bunting
Yellow-faced Grassquit
White-collared Seedeater
Rufous-capped Brushfinch
Olive Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Melodious Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Audubon's Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Lesser Goldfinch
Black-headed Siskin
Hooded Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Michael Delesantro