28 January - 03 February 2001
by Michael Delesantro
The trip began in Harlingen, TX with the first night’s stop on the western side of the Sierra Madre southwest of Cd. Victoria. On the drive down, near KM marker 245 on Highway 101, we stopped to verify the presence of some Eurasian Collared Doves that we had seen on a “birding at 65” drive by on an earlier trip. These are the first individuals of this species that we have seen in Mexico. If you have information on sightings of this species in Mexico I would like to hear from you with a brief message on the details of your sightings. Three birds were seen.
Day two began in the desert arroyos and small villages at about 1000 meters and finished in the mountains near the village of La Peña at elevations of 3000 meters or higher. Highlights were 150 Military Macaws feeding in village pecan trees, Olive Warbler in the high pines, and a wide variety of passerines in between. Many of these species were those you might expect in Arizona or New Mexico, and indeed the landscape in this part of Mexico is very similar to that in those states. There were some “Mexican species” however, such as Social Flycatcher, Clay-colored Robin, Yellow-winged Tanager, and Melodious Blackbird.
We started day three at the Laguna de San Isidro, searching in morning fog for waterfowl, grebes, waders, and others. A Yellow-faced Grassquit made an appearance on the wires of a fence and a Crissal Trasher darted into the road for a short dust bath. After a short stay we headed up to the oak forest on the Ocampo-Tula Highway. Several wintering flocks of passerines and associated hangers-on were spotted and we got great looks at Olivaceous and Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, Townsend’s and Rufous-capped Warblers, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, Painted Redstart, Hutton’s Vireo, and others. A Zone-tailed Hawk made a brief flyover. Later in the day we searched the rivers in the lowlands near Cd. Mante and El Limon. We missed the Sungrebe we had seen earlier in the month, but the Crane Hawk made its appearance right on cue and provided a splendid ending to the day.
Day four was spent on the road to Alta Cima and in that village within the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve. We encountered many of the birds of the region along this road as well as large numbers of wintering N.A. birds. However, the highlight of the day was the meadow at Alta Cima where 10 different species of orioles and hummingbirds were coming to feed on the flowers of the coral bean trees. We saw Baltimore, Bullock’s, Hooded, Altamira, Audubon’s and Black-vented Orioles, Violet-crowned, White-eared, and Magnificent Hummingbirds and Wedge-tailed Sabrewing.
The morning of day five was spent along the walking trail to Alta Cima and nearby. Mixed-species flocks of warblers, tanagers, and others were the highlight of the morning. We had Flame-colored Tanager in the trees in the yard of the B&B and several other good birds along the streets of Gomez Farias even before we could get out of town. We took an extended lunch and a brief siesta during mid-day and resumed birding at about 3 in the afternoon. Unfortunately, a freak incident where a sharp rock thrown up by the tires punched a hole in our oil filter cut short our day. It took us a couple of hours to get back to town after all the oil drained out of the engine and we had to patch the filter up and scour the villages for enough oil to get close enough to town to get a tow back to the B&B. Our guests didn’t seem to mind too much as they continued to bird along the road while we worked on the van.
Thanks to the staff at the B&B we had a new filter and were back in business early on the morning of day six. This day we visited the nacimiento of the Rio Sabinas. Tufted Flycatcher and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron were among the highlights. Billy managed to flush up a pair of Ruddy Quail-Doves and a male Elegant Trogon was very cooperative. On the drive back to town we spotted about 50 Ruddy Ground-Doves in a goat herders pens, a Bat Falcon maintained its vigil from atop a large cypress tree, and a large flock of fruit-eating birds, including Brown-backed Solitaire, were working on a cluster of Anacua trees heavy with their yellow fruits.
The final day of the trip we spent exploring the trail from Gomez Farias to El Azteca. This trail starts as a road but turns into a walking trail about halfway to El Azteca. We had the best mixed-species flocks of the trip along this trail. Hundreds of N.A. warblers, gnatcatchers, kinglets, and vireos flitted about among the White-winged and Flame-colored Tanagers, saltators, wrens, flycatchers, and other “tropicals.” We had a nice Brown-capped Vireo in one flock and a male Barred Antshrike in another. But, alas, the time to head back home arrived too soon and we had to tear ourselves away. The ride home produced our best looks at Zone-tailed Hawk and Tamaulipas Crow, but it was still a disappointment to have to leave the tropics Luckily, we’ll be going back in couple of weeks!
Here is the full trip list of all species seen or heard by at least one observer on the trip.
231 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
Eurasian Collared Dove
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Black-throated Green Warbler