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Fall/Winter 1999-2000

by Michael Delesantro

We took several trips to the El Cielo region from September '99 to January 2000.  All proved to be exciting excursions for both birds and butterflies.  Bird activity was the lesser of the events in September and October.  Summer rains had led to an explosion of butterflies and as many as 180 species were encountered on a single trip.  Birds came to the fore in November through January.  As the weather cooled and dried the butterflies started to dwindle and birds became more active.  We saw as many as 176 species of birds on a single trip during those months.

The bridge across the Rio Sabinas, south of El Encino, continued to be a hotspot.  Squirrel Cuckoo and Blue-crowned Motmot were regulars, and pygmy owl, Lineated Woodpecker, and Hook-billed Kite were conspicuous finds.  The highlight of the season was a Sungrebe.  This site thus became the farthest north locale where we have encountered this species (although other secluded areas of the Rio Sabinas ought to shelter them as well).

Along the road from the highway to Gomez Farias the Bat Falcons continued to hold vigil on their power poles.  Other reliable birds are the Gray and Roadside Hawks, anis, and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat.

The oak-bromeliad forest along the road to Ocampo and Tula also continued to produce nice finds.  This area is the easiest access we know to this habitat type and many of the high-country birds are found there, especially in winter when they move downslope to escape the cold at the mountain tops.  Some of our favorites were Gray-collared Becard, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, and Bumblebee Hummingbird.

By far the best and most consistent spot for birds was the walking trail from Gomez Farias to Alta Cima.  This trail can be a bit steep in places but it travels along the forest edge and has many fruiting trees at any season.  Tanagers, grosbeaks, orioles, jays, and a wide variety of other birds were found here on every trip.  Collared Forest-Falcon and Crested Guan serenaded us on more than one occasion.  The area is also great for flycatchers and warblers.

The drive up the mountain to Alta Cima has also been excellent.  The little village was quite birdy, especially for flycatchers, euphonias and Yellow-winged Tanagers.  The people were friendly and the ecotienda seems to be doing a good business in support of the local guan and currassow project.

The final destination to mention is the nacimiento of the Rio Sabinas.  This area was great in the winter.  Tufted Flycatcher was especially nice to find.  It is a species more likely to be found in western Mexico, but a local population exists in the El Cielo range.  It usually is found higher up in the mountains.

Here is our combined trip list for this region:

Thicket Timanou
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Bare-throated Tiger-heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
White-faced Ibis
White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Muscovy Duck
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Hook-billed Kite
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Harris' Hawk
Grey Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Collared Forest-falcon
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon
Plain Chachalaca
Crested Guan
Northern Bobwhite
Singing Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
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
Aztec Parakeet
Military Macaw
White-crowned Parrot
Red-crowned Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Greater Roadrunner
Groove-billed Ani
Ferruginous Pgymy-Owl
Mottled Owl
Lesser Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Vaux's Swift
Canivet's Emerald
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing
Green-breasted Mango
Azure-crowned Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Bumblebee Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Elegant Trogon
Mountain Trogon
Blue-crowned Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Bronze-winged Woodpecker
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper
Barred Antshrike
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Tufted Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Greater Pewee
Eastern Wood-pewee
Least Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Couchs' Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Gray-collared Becard
Rose-throated Becard
Masked Tityra
Loggerhead Shrike
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cave Swallow
Barn Swallow
Green Jay
Brown Jay
Tamaulipas Crow
Chihuahuan Raven
Common Raven
Black-crested Titmouse
Cactus Wren
Spot-breasted Wren
Canyon Wren
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Brown-backed Solitaire
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Clay-colored Thrush
White-throated Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
Blue Mockingbird
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Cassin's Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Crescent-chested Warbler
Tropical Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Black and white Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Painted Redstart
Fan-tailed Warbler
Golden-crowned warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Red-throated Ant-tanager
Red-crowned Ant-tanager
Yellow-winged Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Western Tanager
Summer Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager
White-winged Tanager
Scrub Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Blue-hooded Euphonia
Black-headed Saltator
Crimson-collared Grosbeak
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Blue Bunting
Painted Bunting
Yellow-faced Grassquit
White-collared Seedeater
Rufous-capped Brushfinch
Olive Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Hooded Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Black-headed Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
Hooded Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Michael Delesantro