Friday 17 February 2017

Mexico: The Last Three Days

Cerros de Guaybitos. Punta Raza and Chula Vista.

Jan 28 2017 Cerros de Guayabitos 6.30 a.m.-11am
Sadly our little sojourn in Mexico was coming to an end.

There were just a few mornings left of the trip so I decided to take full advantage by rising early and making my way to a hillside trail behind our hotel.
I took this picture from the lookout before sunrise.

One bird I had been photographing without much success was the blue bunting. They can be very sculky and difficult to photograph. When one landed about twenty feet in from of me I finally I had my shot.

Blue Bunting (endemic)


Jan 29 2017 Punta Raza 7.38a.m.-11.38
Next morning bright and early I met Canadian 'Snowbirds' and part-time Los Ayala residents Ed, Kevin and Myrna. The trail to Punta Raza is accessed through a hole in the fence. It's probably best to go with someone who knows the trail system before going on your own as it would be easy to get lost. We walked uphill through a jungle of mixed hardwoods, thorn trees, palm, coconut and banana trees. A few orchids and tillandsia (air plants) were blooming high up on overhanging boughs. I was puzzled by all the holes in the forest floor, even though we were nowhere near the ocean turns out they were the lair of land crabs.

 The trails have been kept open by a number of Canadians, including one elderly gentleman from Saskatoon who spends part of his four months holiday escaping the bitter prairie weather and expending the trail system for others to enjoy.
Exiting the forest we began to see some good birds including northern mockingbird, rufous-bellied chachalacha, four species of flycatcher and a rose-throated becard.
According to Ed who knows the area well the farmland we were passing through was under several feet of water this time last year.

Thick-billed Kingbird
Tropical parula.
Brown-crested flycatcher.

Jan 29, 2017 7:38 AM - 10:38 AM

Protocol: Traveling

7.6 kilometer(s)
60 species

Gadwall  2

Blue-winged Teal  22

Rufous-bellied Chachalaca  3
Blue-footed Booby  5
Neotropic Cormorant  3
Brown Pelican  10
Great Blue Heron  2
Snowy Egret  2
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  3
Black Vulture  19
Turkey Vulture  10
Osprey  1
Great Black Hawk  1
Gray Hawk  1
Zone-tailed Hawk  1
Black-necked Stilt  1
Killdeer  3
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Inca Dove  3
Common Ground-Dove  2
Ruddy Ground-Dove  2
White-winged Dove  4
Groove-billed Ani  12
Squirrel Cuckoo  2
Cinnamon Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Green Kingfisher  2
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker  8
Mexican Parrotlet  5
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper  1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher  6
Dusky-capped Flycatcher  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher  1
Brown-crested Flycatcher  2
Great Kiskadee  8
Social Flycatcher  4
Tropical Kingbird  12
Thick-billed Kingbird  3
Masked Tityra  2
Rose-throated Becard  3
Plumbeous Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  6
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  22
Happy Wren  1
Sinaloa Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  12
Rufous-backed Robin  4
Northern Mockingbird  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  6
Nashville Warbler  7
Common Yellowthroat  2
Tropical Parula  4
Yellow Warbler  2
Black-throated Gray Warbler  4
Wilson's Warbler  3
Yellow-breasted Chat  1
Stripe-headed Sparrow  3
Streak-backed Oriole  3
Yellow-winged Cacique  2


Jan 30 2017 Chula Vista and area "Last Day in Mexico" 7a.m-12 noon

Today would be my second visit to Chula Vista and the last day of birding. Would there be any surprises? We, that is Monica Nugent, Ed Jordan, Kevin and Myrna Field, Gareth Pugh and myself all squeezed into a taxi and left for our destination about ten kilometres south of Rincon de Guayabitos. Chula Vista is popular with local bird guides for obvious reasons. Last time we had 102 species in three hours.

Our first stop was, a large the pond quickly produced northern jacana, anhinga, stork, least grebe and more listed at the end of this blog.

Sinaloa Wren


Chula Vista farmer.

Passing through a plantation blue-black grassquit, vermillion flycatcher, Sinoloa wren, northern mockingbird, white-winged dove were added to our list.

Our walk took us through a long stretch of road bordered on both sides by corn and pineapple fields. Small waterways held egrets, white ibis and more storks.

Wood stork.

Laughing falcon.
We heard the laughing falcon from a kilometre off before it flew in front of us and landed in a nearby tree.
Snail kite.
A snail kite came out of nowhere its gaze downwards, looking for its main food, the apple snail. For this reason, it is considered a molluscivore. (Wikipedia)

 Apple snail.

White kite.

More about the 

Roseate spoonbill.

Our walk was as eventful as the last time with the snail kite, white kite and fulvous whistling-duck being lifers.

Chula Vista Pond, Nayarit, MX

Jan 31, 2017 7:08 AM - 9:48 AM

Protocol: Traveling

4.3 kilometer(s)
69 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  22
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  8

Least Grebe  1
Wood Stork  1
Magnificent Frigatebird  12
Neotropic Cormorant  11
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Anhinga  5
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  2
Little Blue Heron  1
Cattle Egret  3
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  10
White-tailed Kite  1
Snail Kite  2
Harris's Hawk  1
Gray Hawk  2
Purple Gallinule  1
Killdeer  4
Northern Jacana  5
Wilson's Snipe  5
Eurasian Collared-Dove  3
Inca Dove  2
Common Ground-Dove  2
Ruddy Ground-Dove  7
White-tipped Dove  1
White-winged Dove  2
Groove-billed Ani  4
Cinnamon Hummingbird  1
Green Kingfisher  1
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker  5
Crested Caracara  2
Laughing Falcon  1
American Kestrel  2
Merlin  1
Mexican Parrotlet  7
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper  1
White-throated Flycatcher  1
Vermilion Flycatcher  4
Great Kiskadee  5
Social Flycatcher  3
Tropical Kingbird  7
Thick-billed Kingbird  2
Masked Tityra  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  19
Barn Swallow  4
Sinaloa Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  6
Rufous-backed Robin  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  8
Yellow Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Wilson's Warbler  2
Yellow-breasted Chat  2
Blue-black Grassquit  5
White-collared Seedeater  3
Lark Sparrow  12
Blue Bunting  2
Blue Grosbeak  2
Varied Bunting  1
Painted Bunting  1
Great-tailed Grackle  23
Bronzed Cowbird  7
Orchard Oriole  4
Hooded Oriole  2
Streak-backed Oriole  4

Finally the holiday was over. Any expectations or lack of beforehand were met and surpassed. Apart from the three days in San Blas with guide Francisco Garcia of Safaris San Blas (see Facebook) all the birding was done in and around Rincon de Guyabitos.  A huge thanks must go to Ed Jordan. We actually met by chance in La Penita, both of us with bins around our necks, a most fortuitous meeting for which I owe Ed a huge thanks. 

This trip, my second to Mexico produced 224 species with 137 lifers. Most of all I had the time of my life, met some really good birders, their generosity made for an unforgettable experience. 

"It's never too late to start birding in Mexico"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Saturday 11 February 2017

Birding San Blas to La Noria

Jan 24 2017 San Blas to La Noria.
The alarm was set for 4.30 a.m. but I didn't need it, I was already awake, funny how that works! Despite the early hour I was eager to get going for what was going to be a full day's birding.
The first stop would be the local OXO (Mexico's version of 7 Eleven) for a large coffee and muffin.
As we drove out of San Blas the sun was still hiding behind the Sierra Madre Mountains. We passed through chili, corn and tobacco farms, past people going to work, some were setting up roadside stands. The shrimp ponds glowed with the golden light from the sky. I could have spent an hour photographing silhouettes but I was with birders and besides we had a thirty kilometre drive with numerous stops ahead of us. A good enough excuse to return next year.

We stopped at a nondescript hedge and waited for any signs of birdlife. We had three species of hummingbirds in short order. blue-throated, broad-billed and cinnamon. Then a bird I really had hoped to see, a black-capped vireo.

Black-capped vireo.
Climbing higher into the hills we again stopped where guide Francisco hoped we would find the rufous-capped warbler. He has a good ear and soon enough we were onto a pair. 

Wow! My first new warbler of the trip and what a beauty it was. I had photographed many of the wintering warblers that we get back in Canada but this one really captivated me as it flitted through the undergrowth, twitching its tail and diving towhee like in and out of bushes. The others decided to have lunch while I looked for a perfect picture of the dainty bird.

Rufous-capped warbler.
The dirt track we were travelling offered any number of places to stop look and listen. It wasn't long before we heard a russet-crowned motmot. As it turned out there was a pair sitting together on a tree branch.  
Russet-crowned motmot.
We drove on through the countryside climbing ever higher. The humidity of the lowlands was now replaced by an almost perfect mix of sun and shade. There were some great birds. Yellow grosbeaks, hepatic tanagers and a gorgeous red-headed tanager. 
Red-headed tanager.

We eventually arrived at Reserva Ecológica Sierra de San Juan-La Noria, a farm high in the mountains between Nayarit state capital Tepic and our base San Blas. There were all kinds of birds to feast the eyes on. The first were a pair of hepatic tanagers, then a striking tufted flycatcher. In a tree a flock of twenty elegant quail proved impossible to photograph but rewarded us with great views as they suddenly flew off into the forest. The double-toothed kite is not a common sighting especially on the west coast slope. We were able to confirm the ID from a grab shot I took as it flew across our path before disappearing into the forest.
Hepatic tanager (female).
Hepatic tanager (male)

Around one corner we came across a ravine full of flowering vines, a great pace to look for hummingbirds. Without the aide of a set-up I had to shoot at high ISO to get even the smallest chance in the dim light. This is one of the better captures from about fifty shots, most of which ended up in the trash folder.
Mexican woodnymph.

Gray flycatcher.
The tufted flycatcher one of the most accommodating birds of the whole trip always returning to the same perch, a real poser! 
Tufted flycatcher.

The Pacific slope flycatcher, a species that can be found in my home town back in Canada. 

Pacific-slope flycatcher.
Yellow grosbeak.
During the day we saw well over a hundred species, for me many were lifers. I managed decent pictures of some species, others like the one above I consider a good ID shot and others were seen through bins or very distant camera ID shots, which our guide Francisco would then confirm.

Black-headed siskin.
Rusty sparrow.
The rusty sparrow is found from Mexico to NW Costa Rica.

La Noria proved to be productive with sixteen lifers..not bad for one hour and fifteen minutes of birding. If you visit avoid the weekends as it can be overrun with campers, impromptu soccer games, and ATV's. There are no feeders, the owners want the birds to be naturally occurring.

Reserva Ecológica Sierra de San Juan--La Noria, Nayarit, MX

Jan 24, 2017 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Protocol: Stationary
37 species

Elegant Quail  20

Black Vulture  4

Turkey Vulture  3
Double-toothed Kite  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
White-winged Dove  2
Black Swift  23     Seen well , large swifts flying along the tree line. Large, long winged black swift.
Vaux's Swift  100
Bumblebee Hummingbird  1
White-eared Hummingbird  4
Acorn Woodpecker  1
American Kestrel  1
Tufted Flycatcher  3
Greater Pewee  1
Gray Flycatcher  3
Buff-breasted Flycatcher  1
Say's Phoebe  1
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Common Raven  2
Violet-green Swallow  90
House Wren (Brown-throated)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
Hermit Thrush  2
White-throated Thrush  1
Blue Mockingbird  1
Gray Silky-flycatcher  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Rufous-capped Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  1
Stripe-headed Sparrow  4
Chipping Sparrow  2
Rusty Sparrow  2
Hepatic Tanager  2
Black-headed Grosbeak  1
Audubon's Oriole  1
Black-headed Siskin  3

Last but not Least
Wilson's Plover.
The day had been fantastic enough s as we approached San Blas we suddenly turned off the main hwy and headed toward a beach turnout. I knew our guide Francisco hand something special to show us, a Wilson's Plover. They were so camouflaged they were hard to see, eventually one moved, giving away their presence.

Eventually we arrived back at San Blas tired and dusty but satisfied that we had had one heck of a day.

Tomorrow we have a half day of birding before catching the bus back to Rincon de Guayabitos.

"It's never too late to start listing"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Thursday 9 February 2017

Audubon/Birds Names/Pishing etc

Just because I have too much time on my hands.

The spotted towhee (above) was once rufous-sided towhee before splitting.

Today while pishing at Brydon Lagoon I attracted not only a fox sparrow, a Bewick's wren, an Anna's hummingbird and a hairy woodpecker all within a few minutes. I tried it Mexico and it works there too, even for grove-billed ani's.

Grove-billed ani (Mexico)

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Birding Rio La Tovara

4-7 p.m Jan 23 2017 Rio La Tovara San Blas Nayarit Mexico

Following a short break for liquid refreshments we made our way to the river. We were joined by a latecomer, a tourist from LA, his presence helped reduce the cost of the boat hire considerably. It still left plenty of room for all of us to have clear views without being cramped something that can be an issue on packaged boat tours.
 Our guide Francisco Garcia of Safaris San Blas, an avid birder himself had us walk along the riverbank before boarding. He played an audio tape and almost immediately a reclusive rufous-necked wood-rail ran across our path before quickly disappearing into the undergrowth. Before casting off and above us in an over-hanging tree was a bare-throated tiger heron. Two lifers and we hadn't even launched the boat yet. Things were looking promising!

Bare-throated tiger heron.

  • We set off down the Rio Tovara where black skimmers, black-crowned night herons, osprey and mangrove warblers were just a few of the species putting on a show for us. The river at this point is quite wide but shallow. It teems with fish and other wildlife including river crocodiles and pythons.

    Mangrove warbler, a subspecies of the yellow warbler.

     For splitters and lumpers I have to side on the splitters when I say the mangrove warbler looks unlike any yellow-warbler I have ever seen. 

The mangrove warbler (erithachorides group; 12 subspecies[4]) tends to be larger than other yellow warbler subspecies groups, averaging 12.5 cm (4.9 in) in length and 11 g (0.39 oz) in weight. It is resident in the mangrove swamps of coastal Middle America and northern South America; D. p. aureola is found on the oceanic Galápagos Islands.[4] The summer males differ from those of the yellow warbler in that they have a rufous hood or crown. The races in this group vary in the extent and hue of the hood, overlapping extensively with the golden warbler group in this character.[4] (Wikipedia)

A guide points to a boat-billed heron.

By the time we had entered the mangrove forest the light was failing. The shot (below) needed a little illumination from the boat's handheld lamp, invaluable later on in the trip when we would be in total darkness.

Although I had had a glimpse of a limpkin at Chula Vista earlier in the week I didn't count it as a lifer because I didn't get a satisfactory view. This time I did.

Lineated woodpecker.
Boat-billed Heron.
Gliding through channels of the mangrove swamp was an awesome experience. Although I have enjoyed  similar excursions in Kenya and Vietnam, the sheer beauty of the La Tovara forest was especially stunning. Finally we had passed through the mangrove forest and toward the springs where the mangroves end and pampas like grass takes over. Here we saw the second owl of the day, a surprise barn owl.

Egrets hunker down for the night.

As darkness fell the humidity in the air built up, small droplets formed on my lens and camera and chill enveloped us. From shorts and t-shirt to windbreaker and zip on pants in a matter of minutes. Despite that, we still made our way up stream where one tree held thirty or forty egrets, perhaps more. Around the next corner our third owl of the day and another lifer.
Mottled owl.

As is the custom on the La Tovara tours a lamp is used to illuminate the nocturnal birds. Whether this harms the birds is debatable.  Francisco our guide was very aware of not using the light for too long or directly at the bird. I would consider him an ethical birder and would recommend his services.

I think I have these two birds correctly labelled, both lifers and without illumination impossible to see.
Common Pauraque.

Lesser nighthawk.

Finally it was time to leave but one bird had eluded us, the strange looking northern potoo. However as we made our way back the unmistakable reflection of their eyes gave away their location. We eventually spotted 13 of them, sitting on treetops, gazing up at the stars like giant moths waiting for a hapless insect to pass by and provide a meal.

* We needed the lamps to navigate our way out of the narrow mangrove channels. The same lamps give away the location of the many nocturnal species.

Northern Potoo.

The day ended with our return through the humid and chilly tunnel canopy of the Tovara Forest. I'm glad I had bundled up and had a camera bag on my lap to deflect the wind. As we motored home and back into the Rio Tovara we came across an illegal set seine net, a reminder that not everything in this paradise is as it should be.

It was a long day and time for supper. tomorrow we rise at 5 for a 5.30 a.m.start and head through the farmlands up into the cloud/mist forest and above. A full days birding awaits and hopefully plenty of surprises.

Rio La Tovara, Nayarit, MX
Jan 23, 2017 4:04 PM - 7:04 PM
Protocol: Traveling
15.0 kilometer(s)
54 species

Wood Stork  4
Blue-footed Booby  2
Anhinga  4
Brown Pelican  12
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron  1
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  4
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  2
Reddish Egret  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  4
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  10
Boat-billed Heron  5
White Ibis  10
Black Vulture  7
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  2
Rufous-necked Wood-Rail  1
Sora  1     Heard
Limpkin  1
Whimbrel  3
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Willet  3
Caspian Tern  2
Red-billed Pigeon  1
Barn Owl  1
Mottled Owl  1
Lesser Nighthawk  4
Common Pauraque  8
Northern Potoo  13
Belted Kingfisher  3
Green Kingfisher  8
Lineated Woodpecker  2
Collared Forest-Falcon  2     1 heard, 1 seen
Merlin  2
Orange-fronted Parakeet  4
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Social Flycatcher  2
Tropical Kingbird  20
Thick-billed Kingbird  3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  10
Black-capped Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  2
Tropical Parula  4
Yellow Warbler (Mangrove)  4
Wilson's Warbler  1
Streak-backed Oriole  2
Yellow-winged Cacique  2

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Bc Canada.