Thursday, October 1, 2009

Los Azufres National Park

Years ago my husband and I drove through the mountainous pine forests a bit west of the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries. Although my Mexican friends told me about this geothermal park, nothing was written in any of the guide books at that time. Our curiosity prompted us to explore...and so we did. Los Azufres was lovely, especially sitting in a steaming hotspring for several hours, and I've been wanting to return ever since.

Thanks to a prompting by Mike Judd, three of us left Patzcuaro early September 17. We drove through Morelia's morning traffic snarl, took the autopista east and exited at the Los Azufres sign. We made a few stops (in the town of Jerahuaro) before climbing into the mountains. The woods were eerily silent, and we weren't able to coax a single trogon in. Nor anything else.
Near the crest and just before a CFE power plant, we managed to find La Gachupina, a presa (dam) that is also an ecological park. We spent most of our time combing this area.

The most amazing bird of the day, as least for me, was a very vocal Green violet-ear. It was territorial and vocalized non-stop. Amazing views, and I kept thinking "Too bad Bob from Boise isn't here with his camera."

We also studied a woodpecker for quite awhile. It's bill was very small, like a Downy's. According to Howell and Webb, Downy's are not a Mexican species. Unfortunately, by the time we retrieved our cameras, we were not able to relocate the bird to photograph it. Thus, we reluctantly listed it as a Hairy.

Hearing the rumblings of our bellies, we sought lunch at Adelita's. The meal was good, another eating establishment to remember for future trips.
Rather than turn back to the Autopista, we decided to make a loop by driving towards Ciudad Hidalgo and then through Mil Cumbres on Hwy 15. Of course, we stopped at El Fresno's El Clarin restuarant just in case there were any swifts in the area. We got lucky: White-throated swifts swirled above. Plus, we enjoyed cold beverages and botanas.

The loop from Patzcuaro to Los Azufres and continuing through Mil Cumbres and back to Patzcuaro is an nice day trip.
Birds seen/heard in order of appearance:
Western meadowlark (singing as we exited the autopista)
Rusty sparrow
Hepatic tanager
House sparrow
Common raven
Barn swallow
Wilson's warbler
Northern rough-winged swallow
Chipping sparrow
Canyon towhee
Black-headed grosbeak
Towhee species
Eastern bluebird
Yellow-eyed junco
Cassin's kingbird
Yellow-rumped warbler
Western sandpipers (11 of them)
Spotted sandpiper
House finch
Cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer
Green violet-ear
Allen's - Rufous hummingbird
Red warbler
Olive warbler
Brown creeper
Black-throated gray warbler
Hepatic tanager
Common raven
Hairy woodpecker (with a very small bill....very similar to a Downy's bill)
Empid flycatcher (pine?)
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Russet or Ruddy-capped nightingale-thrush (didn't fly/didn't see the underwings, no vocals)
Northern pygmy-owl
White-throated swift

Brood parasitism with Groove-billed ani

The juvenile ani just after being fed by a Banded wren

It's true. The more time I spend in the field, the more I see and learn.
In late August, Mike Judd twisted my arm ever so gently to take his wife Cheri and two visiting birders to some of my favorite spots. The visitors turned out to be the executive committee of the Transylvania County Bird Club (Brevard, North Carolina) - Michele and Marvin Barg.

Mike, Marvin, Michele and Cheri

Company of the non-bird type at La Estacion

While birding Rio Corucha, just south of Tacambaro, on August 24, we saw a Banded wren slinking along the side of the road. Even though h/she wove in and out of the brush, we had good looks at the bird. Calling nearby was a large, blackish juvenile bird: a baby Groove-billed ani. Imagine my shock when the wren deposited food into the mouth of the ani. It was one of those moments when my mind kept reviewing all the field marks of both birds and I couldn't stop the words coming from my mouth...."Look at that wren. What the heck is that baby? Oh my, there it goes feeding that monster. Did you guys see that?" Mike says it was more fun watching me get excited than seeing the birds....but what can you expect from a social worker and herp lover.
In my life, I have seen plenty of Brown-headed cowbirds being fed by much smaller birds - one time even by a Bushtit! This observation equally shocked me and remains vivid in my memory. It was definitely a puzzling WOW experience.

Later that night I read through all of my books, searched the Web and sent notes to mentors (for example, Dr. Dennis Paulson in Seattle, Dr. Fernando Villasenor Gomez in Morelia, Rene Sada and Adrian Ganem Sada in Monterrey) and posted a notice on Tim Brush, University of Texas - Pan American, responded to the post saying he agreed with Dr. Paulson that this was an unusual sighting. All of my sources said there was no evidence of brood parasitism with Groove-billed anis, and I should report it.

So, this blog entry is one of many reports I will be making.

Cold beverages at Arroyo Frio

Marvin and I

Birds seen over two days and in numerous spots:
Great egret
Little blue heron
Snowy egret
Cattle egret
White-faced ibis
Black vulture
Turkey vulture
Common moorhen
Northern jacana
Inca dove
Squirrel cuckoo
Groove-bill ani

An adult Groove-billed ani

Northern pygmy-owl
Black or White-naped swift (no vocalization!)
Golden-crowned emerald
White-eared hummingbird
Violet-crowned hummingbird
Berylline hummingbird
Mountain trogon (3)
Green kingfisher
Russet-crowned motmot -
One day I hope to buy a decent camera!

Acorn woodpecker
Golden-cheeked woodpecker
Northern flicker
Northern beardless-tyrannulet
Tufted flycatcher
Greater pewee
Black phoebe
Vermilion flycatcher
Great kiskadee
Social flycatcher
Cassin's kingbird
Violet-green swallow
Barn swallow
Spotted wren
Canyon wren
Happy wren
Banded wren
Blue mockingbird
White-throated thrush
Mexican chickadee
White-breasted nuthatch
Brown creeper
Mexican jay
Common raven
House sparrow
House finch
Black-headed siskin
Lesser goldfinch
Olive warbler
Hermit warbler
Red warbler
Slate-throated redstart
Rufous-capped warbler
Hepatic tanager
Blue-black grassquit
White-collared seedeater
Rufous-capped brush-finch
Rusty-crowned ground-sparrow
Hybrid towhee (Collared x Spotted)
Canyon towhee
Black-chested sparrow
Stripe-headed sparrow
Rusty sparrow
Chipping sparrow
Yellow-eyed junco
Black-headed grosbeak
Blue grosbeak
Great-tailed grackle
Streak-backed oriole
Yellow-winged cacique