Monday, September 6, 2010

Serious Birding for 3+ Days

Okay, I give up.....Google has a bug in it today, and I've tried and tried to re-order the following photos and to eliminate a few duplicate photos to the point that I am not going to waste anymore time. The gist of our birding is found after the photos. When I get more photos from Liz, Sid, Jerry and Pat, I'll post them separately.

Swallow-tail butterfly larva

A bat under the eaves of my house
Male black-polled yellowthroat

Black-chested sparrow

Birding at La Estacion near Erongaricuaro

Behind the concession stand at Arroyo Frio
south of Tacambaro

Black-chested sparrow at Tacambaro

Yes, La Espiga bakery. What a way to start the day!

Maestro at La Espiga bakery

Prowling the bushes for Red warblers near Zarzamora

Sid just ticked off another bird on his life list!

Lunch break in Erongaricuaro on market day

Friends Liz and Sid visited from Tucson last week along their friends from Spokane, Pat and Jerry. Hugo was able to join us for two days before he headed to Long Point Bird Observatory.

We visited the bridge to Jaracuaro, La Estacion, Columpio near Zarzamora, and various favorite spots in the Tacamabaro area. Watching three hummingbird feeders at my house also kept us busy. No Rufous, Allen's or Calliope's have made an appearance yet this season.

With six pairs of eyes belonging to six serious birders, I was hoping for something rare to show up. No luck, however. No swifts, no unusual flycatchers, no new warblers.... the one bird that was a potential lifer - a largish owl - briefly caught my eye before delving deep in a tree on the other side of Rio Corucha. Hugo saw it, too, but not enough for either of us to identify it.

Liz and Jerry have promised photos of birds, bats, dragonflies, insects butterflies, moths, etc. I will post them when the CD arrives.

Species seen/heard (101):

Great egret
Little blue heron
Snowy egret
Cattle egretWhite-faced ibis
Black vulture
Turkey vulture
White-tailed ite
Cooper's haw
White-tailed hawk
Red-tailed hawk (dark morph)
Northern Jacana
Black-necked stilt
Inca dove
White-tipped dove
Groove-billed ani
Lesser roadrunner
Barn owl
Unidentified owl
Golden-crowned emerald
Violet-crowned hummingbird
Berylline hummingbird
Magnificient hummingbird
Russet-crowned motmot
Acorn woodpecker
Golden-cheeked woodpecker
Hairy woodpecker
Northern flicker
White-striped woodcreeper
Pileated flycatcher
Greater pewee
Pine flycatcher
Black phoebe
Vermilion flycatcher
Great kiskadee
Social flycatcher
Cassin's kingbird
Thick-billed kingbird
Rose-throated becard
Northern rough-winged swallow
Cliff swallow
Barn swallow
Gray silky-flycatcher
Spotted wren
Canyon wren
Happy wren
Bewick's wren
House wren
Curve-billed thrasher
Blue mockingbird
Eastern bluebird
Brown-backed solitaire
Orange-billed nightingale-thrush
Russet nightingale-thrush
White-throated thrush
American robin
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Mexican chickadee
Bridled titmouse
White-breasted nuthatch
Brown creeper
Mexican jay
Common raven
House sparrow
Warbling vireo
Golden vireo
House finch
Black-headed siskin
Lesser goldfinch
Olive warbler
Crescent-chested warbler
Hermit warbler
Black-and-white warbler
Louisiana waterthrush
Black-polled yellowthroat
Gray-crowned yellowthroat
Red-faced warbler
Red warbler
Painted redstart
Slate-throated redstart
Rufous-capped warbler
Yellow-breasted chat
Hepatic tanager
Blue-black grassquit
White-collared seedeater
Rufous-capped brush-finch
Hybrid towhee (Collared + Spotted)
Canyon towhee
Black-chested sparrow
Stripe-headed sparrow
Rufous-crowned sparrow
Rusty sparrow
Striped sparrow
Song sparrow
Yellow-eyed junco
Back-headed grosbeak
Great-tailed grackle
Bronzed cowbird-juvenile
Streak-backed oriole
Yellow-winged cacique

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It pays to be on your toes: a new bird seen

On a whim a few of us spent last Sunday at one of my favorite birding spots - El Columpio. As we opened the car door, we heard a Mountain trogon. Saw it too. Not bad for a start.
Lots of birds around. If I could put my hands on the list at the moment, I'd let you know all of them.
The best sighting of the day, at least for me, was a new bird. I'd been watching for a Red warbler, saw one, and followed it into a tree. Well, imagine my surpise when I had two birds in my binoculars at the time. A Red warbler and something new for me.
I immediately got Hugo onto it, and it was new for him, too. Warbler-like, kinda brownish with a blue-gray facial spot. Hmmm.
Well, we didn't have to wait long for the answer to the quandry: a juvenile Red warbler. No doubt about it when an adult REWA came in to feed it. Whoa, what a treat.
I tried to find a photo of a juvenile REWA on the Internet without success. This photo is from "Warblers of the Americas, an identification guide" by Curson, Quinn, and Beadle, 1994, the only reference book in my library with a drawing of the bird. Mind you, our bird wasn't so red. It was more brownish than this drawing shows. And the facial spot was definitely more blue-gray. Hard to say how much the lighting played with the colors.
Regardless, it was a good bird to see. And, I wish I had a good digital camera to record the moment. Algun dia (one day, as they say hereabouts).
Good birding to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exciting News about Hugo, our local bird guide

Many of you know that I have been working this past year with Victor "Hugo" Valencia, a local birder from Erongaricuaro. He is an exceptional birder, and I couldn't have a better partner if the field. (see June 8, 2009 entry for more information about Hugo)

We recently received news that he has been selected one of three individuals from Latin America to receive free training from Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. His program begins mid-August and ends early Novemember. While in Ontario, he will receive advanced training in bird banding and data management techniques and other field techniques related to bird research and conservation. Since Mexico is recognized as being an important wintering area for Canadian songbirds in Latin America, this training has practical benefits to Canadian researchers and conservationists. This program is also supported by the government of Canada, in particular Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service. Both Hugo and I hope his training will enhance the field work being done by Dra. Laura and Dr. Fernando Villasenor Gomez at the Universidad de Michoacana in Morelia.

While all of his air travel costs, course training, and all living expenses in Canada are covered, he will need financial assistance to support his wife Lupe and two young daughters (Mariana 5 yrs) and Lucia (5 months) in his absence, and to pay for his visa. Moreover, it would be nice to send him north with a bit of pocket money.

I will underwrite some of his expenses but, more importantly, Hugo wants to do as much as he can to pay for his training. This is a poor area of Mexico and there are not many full time jobs. If you are reading this blog and live in the area, perhaps you have some work on the back burner that Hugo could do. He's a master tile-setter, has a certificate to repair refrigerators and air-conditioners (he can fix most appliances!), has a green thumb, does interior and exterior painting, and is able to handle most plumbing and electrical work. There is no job big or small that he will turn down. Oh, I almost forgot - he's fluent in English, so he can act as a translator for you.

This is a chance of a life-time for him. Some of you have added life birds to your list or have experienced many rare sightings in the field due to his skills. If you have birded with him, no doubt you will agree that no one sees or hears birds as soon as he can! He's a patient and exceptional teacher as well. If you don't have a job for him but you are willing to donate funds on his behalf, please write to me privately {antep10[at]aol[dot]com}. I have set up an account for deposits on his behalf. Nothing is too little or too big.

Let's congratulate and support a local birder!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Challenges to Gardening Hereabouts

As I planted one of my raised beds about 7 weeks ago, I heard a repeated chittering nearby. Yep, an adult hummer was letting me know I was invading her territory. This Broad-billed hummer had built a nest and had two eggs awaiting her attention. I let her be for the most part, and she fledged two youngsters. Now, my Oregon sweet peas and Chinese peapods are about to blossom, and I am looking forward to eating them. (FYI, these edibles are NOT available hereabouts.)

Then last week, Hugo pointed out another hummer nest. This one a Broad-tailed. Lucky for me, I can monitor the progress with my spotting scope planted in the living room. She seems comfortably brooding two eggs. Hopefully, she too will fledge her youngsters.

Difficult to spot this nest, isn't it?

Soon to be youngsters

Here's how I monitor the nest.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nesting Barn Owls (Tyto alba)

Photo by Nunes D'Acosta, Brazil. Check out his website at
Thank you, Nunes, for permission to use your photo!
Here's the thing: I get to learn something about birds nearly everyday. This time my lesson was about barn owls.

I knew there were barn owls (Tyto alba) under the bridge to Jaracuaro, thanks to my good friends Wayne and Susan Colony, formerly of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and now living in the Tucson, Arizona, area. As many times as I have birded the bridge, the owls never made their presence known until Wayne and Susan mentioned the owls to me.

Last month, Bruce and I went to the bridge to check out the owls. It's not an easy access, for one must duck under a barbed wire fence, manage to traverse a steep rocky slope, and climb some stones to get under the bridge to where one might peer into the dark ledges of the underside of the bridge to where the owls might be. Of course, there's also the garbage one must step through to get to the vantage point and the very active bee hive one must avoid to reach the best spot to see the owls. I am wary of the hive, for I have been stung twice now.....the last time my arm swelled twice normal size and hurt for several days.

The bridge to Jaracuaro.

A climb up the right side offers a view into the left side where the second set of owlets are.

Along the way, we flushed two owls. No problema, I thought. We focused our binocs on the ledge and, lo and behold, spotted some owlets. We stayed a moment to count them - three babies no more than a day old. How cool can that be?!

We returned the next day to photograph them. Only this time, we flushed one adult and could not find the owlets. I was frantic, and Bruce was left holding a camera with nothing to shoot. I started to scan the area in case the family moved from one part of the bridge structure to another. Eventually, on the other side of the water channel, I spotted an adult. She didn't move, and I wasn't sure what she was doing. Was she hiding the owlets?

Puzzlement set in. Was she hiding the owlets? Had they been moved? If so, how could that be, given their sharp talons and beaks? Mostly I worried about the owlets we had seen - they were freshly hatched and so very vulnerable.

I emailed a couple of experts, and Jamie Acker from Bainbridge Island, Washington, suggested that I make sure there wasn't another nest under the bridge. Duh! It hadn't occurred to me. But sure enough, the next time I visited, I was able to count three adults.

Thus, I can admit to having learned some lessons about barn owls over the last couple of weeks:
  • I have come to believe that the set of three owlets perished, probably due to our having flushed the adults.
  • I know there are three adult barn owls living under the bridge: two females and one male.
  • I have also discovered that the second female hatched two owlets and they are doing just fine. They are white, fuzzy balls very similar to those in Nunes' photo.

The new family is living in the dark area at the top of the columns.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bats, not birds

I hadn't really thought about bats since we moved from Seattle. There we installed a bat house on our home. We have also installed one here in Arocutin, and it is being used as evidenced by the bat poop beneath.

While birding recently, Hugo and I stopped at one of our favorite spots - the Santa Juana road. At this location, we've often been thrilled by Mountain trogons, Red warblers, Hairy woodpeckers, Mexican jays, and Gray-barred wrens. This time we were met by destruction: numerous trees had been removed, probably by illegal timber harvesters. This assessment according to our local forestry advocate, Jose Luis.

Among the debris, we spotted a lonely bat hanging on the remains of a small branch - a Hoary bat. Lasiurus cinerus. In Spanish, it is known as Murcielago nevado.

Murcielago. Murcielago. For me a difficult word to pronounce. Nonetheless, it is a good word to know, and it is good to know about these creatures.

According to a poster I saw recently at the Rosenthal's furniture facture (, the following bats are found in Mexico, in addition to the Hoary bat:

Lasiurus cinerus - Lesser long-nosed bat:

Leptonycteris curasoae - Hairy-legged vampire
Diphylla ecaudata - Ghost-faced bat
Mormoops megalophylla - Funnel-eared bat
Natalus stramineus - Free-tailed bat:
Tadarida brasiliensis - Great false vampire bat
Vampyrum spectrum - Sharp-nosed or Long-nosed bat:

Rhynchonycteris naso - Fringe-lipped bat
Trachops cirrhosus - Fishing bulldog bat
Tonatia evotis - Golden bat
Uroderma bilobatum - White-lined tentmaking bat
Corynorhinus townsendii - Townsend's big-eared bat:

Artibeus jamaicensis - Jamaican fruit bat
Sturnira lilium - Yellow-shouldered bat
Glassophaga soricina - American leaf-nosed bat
Antrozous pallidus - Pallid bat
Carollia perspicillata - Seba's short-tailed bat
Thyroptera tricolor - Spix's disk-winged bat