08 - 11 January 2001
15 - 18 January 2001
by Michael Delesantro
Both trips saw temperatures much lower than normal for the region. Daytime highs were seldom out of the sixties or low seventies and overnight lows dipped toward 40 degrees F. Except for the 18th, however, when a cold front and rain cut short the birding, the low temperatures did not seem to bother the majority of birds. There were a few species that we missed, but it is hard to say it was because of the cool weather. Rather than give a day by day account of the tours, this report mentions some highlights of the main areas we visited and has a trip list at the end.
Rio Purificacion and Rio Corona – These two rivers are crossed en route to our normal lunch stop in Cd. Victoria. Both are having major work done on their bridges and access to the Rio Corona is discouraged by the workers. At the Rio Purificacion we noted Social Flycatcher, Zone-tailed Hawk, Cedar Waxwing, Scrub Euphonia, and several wintering warblers, etc. We did not stop at the Rio Corona on this trip because of the construction work.
Puente Rio Sabinas – Just prior to the turn to Gomez Farias the Rio Sabinas is crossed. This has always been one of our favorite spots for Squirrel Cuckoo and we were not disappointed on these trips. We also had Amazon Kingfisher, Blue-crowned Motmot, Boat-billed Flycatcher, a variety of wintering birds, and a flyby of Green Parakeets. The highlight was a Bat Falcon that was roosting on the bridge and allowed close approach when it flushed from under the bridge to a power pole.
The road to Gomez Farias – We made several short stops along this road. The 11 KM from Highway 85 to the village can be incredibly productive. Or they can be dead. These trips were somewhere in between. The Bat Falcons maintained their vigil from the power poles and some Eastern Bluebirds adorned a wire in the lowlands, but the best sighting was a flock of Blue Buntings that was rather tame and allowed close looks. We also saw anis, Red-lored Parrots, White-crowned Parrots, Brown Jays, and a bunch of wintering passerines.
The road to Alta Cima – On the first trip this road was incredible. We especially cleaned up on woodpeckers, which can be very difficult sometimes. On the second trip it was very foggy and we did not see as much. Highlights of this road were Bronze-winged, Smoky-brown, Lineated, and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers along with Ivory-billed and Olivaceous Woodcreepers. We also had large numbers of tanagers, grosbeaks, and other passerines, including Hooded, Rose-breasted, and Crimson-collared Grosbeak, White-winged, Summer, and Yellow-winged Tanager, Altamira and Audubon’s Oriole, Masked Tityra, Rose-throated Becard, Black-headed Saltator. Mountain Trogons were numerous. We even got decent looks at Singing Quail, which is usually just a “heard bird,” and several flyovers of Military Macaws.
The Village of Alta Cima - This proved to be one of the hotspots of the region. It turned up most of the usual suspects and more than its share of unusual or out of range species. The most interesting was the sighting on Jan. 9th (and again on the 16th) of a Violet-crowned Hummingbird defending the flowers of a Coral Bean tree near the Hotel el Pino. (This bird was independently identified by other birders to the region and accounts have been posted earlier on MexBirds so I will not give added details here. Suffice it to say that the species is not expected, though I do have a recollection that we have seen it before on the “dry side” of the range. I’ll have to burrow through my notes for confirmation of that.) Other hummingbirds were: Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Azure-crowned, White-eared, and Magnificent. Also of interest was a nice Ochre Oriole (Fuerte’s race of Orchard Oriole; still considered by some to be a separate species). In fact, we saw six oriole species at Alta Cima on the 16th: Altamira, Audubon’s, Bullock’s, Baltimore, Hooded, and Orchard (Ochre). Yellow-faced Grassquit, Grayish Saltator, goldfinches, warblers, Spot-breasted Wren, flycatchers, tanagers, hawks, vultures, and more rounded out the long list for the village.
Oak-Bromeliad Forest – This is our name for the more mesic oak forests south of the biosphere reserve where the trees are heavily festooned with epiphytes. This area is at about 1500 meters in elevation. Highlights of this habitat were Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, Rufous-capped Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Flame-colored Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Mountain Trogon, Military Macaw, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Painted Redstart, and Hammond’s Flycatcher.
Laguna de San Isidro – This is a large lake on the “dry side” of the mountain range. Birds in this area included House Finch, Verdin, Ruddy Ground-Dove, and a host of wintering waterfowl species.
Rio Frio – Along the Rio Frio at several stops we managed to find Sungrebe, Crane Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Clay-colored Robin, and many others. The first two species were definitely the highlights. The former is at the extreme northern limit of its range in the region and is always a great find. The latter has been severely impacted by damage to its preferred wetland habitats and is much more common in the Gulf Coast lowlands.
El Nacimiento – The headwaters of the Rio Sabinas, and the road there, have always been a favorite area. Highlights here were Tufted Flycatcher, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Blue-black Grassquit, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and many more. Nearby we added Blue Ground-Dove. But the most interesting bird was a male Golden-cheeked Warbler that must have forgotten to migrate to Nicaraugua! This individual was feeding, flycatcher like, on little gnats by making sallies out over the nacimiento. We first thought it was just another Black-throated Green. Needless to say we were surprised to see its black back, black cap, and eye line!
On the road home – To make the drive home more tolerable (Who ever wants to leave the tropics?) we spent some time seeking roadside birds with some success. These species rounded out the list (Some might say “padded” the list ;-).) and account for the majority of shorebirds and waders you see on the trip list below.
JANUARY 2001 – BIRDS of the GOMEZ FARIAS REGION – 229 species
(includes species recorded en-route to the region from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas)
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Greater White-fronted Goose
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Black-throated Green Warbler