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September 1997

by Jim Royer

The line of raptors stretched as far as you could see - eight to fourteen birds wide - Broad-wingeds, TVs, Swainson's Hawks, Mississippi Kites, Peregrines, Kestrels, Ospreys, Coops, Sharp-shinneds, and occasional Merlins and Hook- billed Kites. We sat under the palapa, drinking cool drinks for sale on the roof of the hotel, where we gazed with our eyes, our binoculars and with scopes at the spectacle. At the same time we enjoyed the company of birders from around the world. For variety, we watched lines of White Pelicans or ibises, and flocks of Anhingas cruise by.

The third Kern River Research Center Trip to the State of Veracruz (9/27/97 - 10/5/97) not only raised much needed money for the research center and for Pronatura (a great Mexican conservation group building their own research center), but it was a fun trip with a great bunch of people and some really good birds. It was my pleasure to lead this trip with Mexican ornithologist Jorge Montejo. Despite a wetter trip than usual we had some memorable birding

The hawks were the stars of the bird show in Veracruz - both the migrants and the resident species. We had three incredible days of watching the migration of hawks at the official monitoring stations - one day approached 100,000 raptors, but these were only average days for Veracruz! Still, these numbers were enough to convince those in the group who had not quite believed the numbers I had related to them prior to the trip. This really is a phenomenon that must be seen to be believed. (I learned later that in the two weeks after our trip the counters had two days of over one million raptors each day, from this one location! The timing of these really big days depends on weather conditions).

The resident raptors were almost as incredible, with so many looks at Aplomado Falcons that we started to take them for granted. We had incredibly close looks at Snail Kite and Zone-tailed Hawk as well as long looks at Bicolored Hawk(!), Short-tailed Hawk, Collared Forest Falcon(!), Common Black Hawk, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Bat Falcon, Grey Hawk, White Hawk, and (of course) Roadside Hawk.

Our trip total of 260 species included a secretive Agami Heron at a coastal lagoon, 2 Sungrebes swimming and diving right in front of our launch, Brown- hooded Parrots flying over in the rainforest, Wedge-tailed Sabrewings noisily sparring with each other in a city park - in between repeated sighting of surprisingly bold Blue Mockingbirds, 4 Collared Aracaris in a tree right in front of the group, a shy Dwarf Jay in the mountains - next to singing Red Warblers Brown-backed Solitaires and a Golden-cheeked Warbler(!), several Sriped Sparrows in a corn field with Dickcissels flying over - giving their fartlike call notes, a thicknee standing in a fairly open field near a beach, and so on.

The beautiful scenery from the coastal forest and blue lagoons, to the steamy rainforest, to the misty mountains, provided a spectacular setting for a great mixture of Mexican species and North American breeder migrants. The great food (Red Snapper Veracuz must be eaten in Veracruz) and drink, the archaological ruins and artifacts, along with the friendly and understanding Veracruzanos, made our trip complete.

Let me know if you would like our complete bird list or any other info on this trip (or next year's trip). If you can get down to Veracruz at the end of September or beginning of October, do it soon as this spectacle may not continue on this scale for long!

Jim Royer
337 Henrietta Ave
Los Osos CA 93402
(805) 528-8933