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March 1996

Author - not known

Recently, fellow birdchatter Jeff Pippen and I took a trip to E. Mexico, primarily around Catemaco in southern Veracruz. Since Mexico information is rather hard to come by, and trip reports are few, I will post ours here.

Friday - March 15.

I drove up to Albuquerque from my home in ElPaso to pick up Jeff. Jeff had about 20 possible lifers to see in NM/ west TX on this trip so we wasted no time in looking for them in the few hours before dark. We saw Mt. Chickadee in the Sandia Mts., and 13 Mt. Plovers at the Grasslands turf ranch near Los Lunas.

Saturday - March 16.

A travel day. We flew out of the Juarezairport to Mexico City on Aero Mexico. A round trip ticket cost 228 dollars. I will report other Mexico prices in pesos, the exchange rate for which was 7.42 pesos to the dollar, or roughly 100 pesos equals 13 dollars. We got our rental car at the Mexico City airport, a VW Golf for about 42 dollars per day, and headed out of town. Beware - bribes still exist in Mexico City. At dusk, on our way out of town, a "policeman" waved us over for supposedly running a red light. Our Spanish is limited and we were not looking for trouble, so we coughed up the demanded 400!!! pesos and were on our way. Ouch! This was our only trouble of the trip. We believe that the cop noticed our car when we started to turn the wrong way down a street. We noticed our error immediately, but the little veer in our travel must have brought us to his attention. We stayed that night in Puebla, in the very nice Fiesta Inn for 330 pesos.

Sunday - March 17.

We drove from Puebla to Veracruz City, thensouth to Catemaco. Birding was generally limited to roadsides. The toll road from Mexico City to Veracruz ran about 175 pesos. Along the coast near the town of Alvarado we found a pair of Aplomado Falcons, along with Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, and other decent birds like Snail Kite , Roadside Hawk, N. Jacana, R. G-Dove, White-collared Swift, and Altamira Oriole. We arrived in Catemaco that afternoon, and got a room at the very nice Playa Azul for 215 pesos. We were sick of the car, and birded the roadsides near the hotel until dark. The area was birdy, with many NA migrant warblers, along with things like P. Chachalaca,W-fronted and Red-lored Parrots, G-b Mango, Ringed Kingfisher, C Aracari, Social Flycatcher, M Tityra, Brown Jay, B-backed Wren, Yellow-winged Tanager, Melodious Blackbird and Montezuma Oropendola. The restuarant at the Playa Azul was excellent, and there we met William Shaldach who lives there. He is a resident ornithologist to whom the Howell and Webb guide is dedicated. He agreed to go with us the next day to the biology station ( about one hour north of town) and then to go out on a boat into lagoons at the village of Sontecomapan. Day list - about 113 species.

Monday - March 18.

Nice remnant forest remains at the biologystation. Several hours of hiking on the trails produced several decent flocks and some good birds - Slaty-breasted Tinamou, L-t Hermit, V Sabrewing, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Violaceous and Slaty-tailed Trogons, B-crowned Motmot, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Barred Woodcreeper, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Eye-ringed Flatbill, B-c Tityra, W-br Wood-Wren, Lesser Greenlet, R-l Honeycreeper, Y-thr Euphonia, Bl-thr Shrike-Tanager, R-thr Ant-Tanager , Crimson-collared Tanager and Yellow-billed Cacique. On the drive out we got great looks at a soaring Black Hawk-Eagle. We went out on a boat for about an hour and a half - 100 pesos - with the best bird being a flushed Pinnated Bittern. We also had Laughing Falcon, Sungrebe, Blue G-Dove, Amazon Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Yellow-winged Tanager, and Yellow-tailed Oriole from the boat. Day list - 128 species.

Tuesday - March 19.

We returned to the biology station for a fewhours. We had more trouble finding birds this morning, but we added a few neat things - Great Tinamou, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Sq. Cuckoo, Collared Trogon, Golden-crowned Warbler and R-cr Ant-Tanager. We then drove out of town, and back up the coast to Veracruz, then west to the town of Orizaba, arriving about dusk inheavy fog. We stayed for about 250 pesos at the very nice Cascades Hotel, which lies along the highway, with beautiful grounds overlooking a gorge with a waterfall. The restuarant there was excellent and we ate ourselves into oblivion for about 160 pesos. On the drive up the coast we found F-tailed Flycatchers, Aztec Parakeet, and also relocated the Aplomado Falcons, in addiotion to adding numerous trip birds like Black Skimmer, Wilson's Plover, etc.111 sp.

Wednesday - March 20.

We birded our way up the slope of themountains most of the morning, before increasing fog closed in near the top. We would stop at good looking roadside pulloffs, but habitat was chopped up and a bit hard to find. Among the more intersting birds were W-eared Hummingbird, Greater Pewee, B-backed Solitaire, Russet N-Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, S-thr Redstart, R-capped Brushfinch, C-b Flower-Piercer, and Black-headed Siskin. When we reached the central plateau the weather cleared, and just before dropping into Mexico City we made several stops in drier pine woodlands. The birds here were rather limited, but we added some neat stuff - Tufted and Pine flycatchers, Mexican Chickadee, Red and Golden-browed Warblers and Y-eyed Juncos. Our last stop was in dry oak woods on the way into Mexico City where we added Stripe-headed Sparrow and Gray-barred Wren. We got the car returned without incident, and stayed near the airport at the JR Plaza hotel for about 400 pesos. Day list 61 species: total trip list for Mexico - about 230 species.

Thursday - March 21.

Mostly travel, but we got Jeff his life Black-chinned Sparrow in the Franklin Mts. at El Paso.

Friday - March 22 .

Jeff's flight left Albu. on Sat. morning, soour plan was to chase lifers for him all day from El Paso up to Santa Fe, then return to Albu. to spend the night. We saw about 98 species on the day, and got a number of life birds for Jeff - Clark's Grebe at Caballo Lake, Monk Parakeet in El Paso, Clark's Nutcracker and Black-billed Magpie near Santa Fe, Mt. Bluebird at Santa Fe, Sage Thrasher (Caballo), Brewer's Sparrow (Caballo), McCown's Longspur (Los Lunas), and Cassin's Finch at Santa Fe.

Species seen only in U.S. - about 80.

Total trip list - 310 species.