This was our first tour back to Mexico after a gap of several years. All in all the tour went well and the group recorded over 370 species with several Mexican endemics being observed. The high group total was in no doubt down to our local excellent guides with Rafa around Mexico City and Jorge from Perote until the end of the trip in Oaxaca. The following trip report and bird species list is bound to bring back happy memories of the fantastic birds we observed in some stunning scenery and surrounds.
January 8th: London, Mexico City, Cuernavaca,
January 9th: Cuernavaca, Las Maravillas, Cuicuilco, Lerma
Daily 75 New 75 Running 75
Weather: Sunny and warm on a SE wind 5c/18c
An early start today as we met up with Rafa our local guide at 0545. Travelled to an area known Las Maravillas with a habitat of bunch grassland, pine forest and farm land. On arrival a Grass Wren was singing from cover and a Cooper’s Hawk flew by, on nearby pylons American Kestrel and a dark phase Red-tailed Hawk. On searching the grassland Striped and Sierra Madre Sparrows were located two scarce Mexican endemics. Also in the vicinity were wintering Lincoln’s, Savannah Sparrows, Spotted and Canyon Towhees, Buff-bellied Pipit, Northern Flicker and several Audubon’s Warblers. A walk on trails through the forest was productive for Mexican Chickadee, Rufous-capped and Green Striped Brushfinches and fleeting views of Olive Warbler. In a patch of forest with shrubs things got even better with close views of a Colima Warbler, Red Warbler and the uncommon Hooded Yellowthroat. In the mature pines the group located exceptional numbers of the rare Strickland’s Woodpecker some of which were displaying. Further up the track a wintering Swainson’s Thrush, Russet Nightingale Thrush and hummingbird species which included White-eared and Mexican Violet-ear. The return walk added Cordilleran and Grey-silky Flycatchers and an Acorn Woodpecker. The next birding stop was at Cuicuilco in the southern suburbs of Mexico City and an important archaeological site. This oasis in a built up area was great for birds with the car park attracting Berylline Hummingbirds and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. A walk in the grounds added Bewick’s Wren, Inca Dove, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer and wintering Nashville, Black-and-White Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeak and Cassin’s Kingbird. The last area today was the degraded marshes at Lerma. On arrival the wetland held Pied-billed Grebe, Western Cattle Egret, American Coot, Common Gallinule, Sora Rail and swirling groups of Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds. In the drainage ditches we quickly located the localized Black-polled Yellowthroat, Common Yellowthroat, Blue Grosbeak, the distinctive race of Song Sparrow which is probably a species in its own right, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, both yellowlegs and a pair of Killdeers. Flying over the marshes we had views of Northern Harrier and White-faced Ibis. Back to base in Cuernavaca.
January 10th: Xochicalco, San Juan Talcotenco
Daily 78 New 60 Running 138
Weather: Sunny and warm although humid in the afternoon. SW wind 4c/23c
Today I went southwards and west to the archaeological area of Xochilcalco an area of dry thorn forest. En route we added Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Mourning and Eurasian Collared Doves. Our main area was the eco campground and adjacent area with a walk along a dusty track. In the scrub the group located Stripe-headed and Clay-coloured Sparrows, Nutting’s, Social, Least, Buff-breasted and Vermillion Flycatchers, Groove-billed Ani, Common Ground Dove, Western Tanager and Streak-backed Oriole. In the grounds a leafy tree was a magnet for Nashville and Virginia’s Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Warbling Vireo and wintering Painted and Varied Buntings. Bare twigs attracted the endemic Dusky Hummingbird, Violet-crowned Hummingbird and Plain-capped Starthroat. In the valley thermals started to attract American Black and Turkey Vultures, Great Black, Short-tailed and Zone-tailed Hawks, Northern Crested Caracara, American Black and Vaux’s Swifts. A short break for coffee was welcome with a calling Happy Wren in the background. Next stop by the visitor center proved to be good after a slow start with the highlight being Lesser Roadrunner wandering about without any fear. A walk along the road added a pair of Squirrel Cuckoo, Western, Cassin’s and Thick-billed Kingbirds. In the afternoon a visit to the forest of San Juan Talcotenco which is run by the local community for birding purposes and training local people to be bird guides. It was quiet to start with the first section having Hutton’s Vireo, Slate-throated and Painted Redstarts, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-eared Hummingbird. Further along the track a mixed feeding flock kept us occupied for some time with highlights being Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Grey-banded Wren, Red and Hermit Warblers, Brown-backed Solitaire and the uncommon White-throated Thrush. Heard but not seen included Blue Mockingbird and the noisy but elusive Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo. A return to Cuernavaca where we said goodbye to Rafa an excellent guide.
January 11th: Cuernavaca, Puebla, Perote
Daily 20 New 3 Running 141
Weather: Sunny with afternoon fog and cold at night 0c/16c
After checking out at Cuernavaca I headed south and east towards the city of Puebla the fourth largest in Mexico. The road passes through some spectacular scenery and landscapes with only a few isolated villages and nothing in the way of facilities. Arrival in Perote was around 1500 hours where we met up with Jorge our guide for the remainder of the trip. A short journey into the pine woods above Perote added Transvolcanic Jays and a pair of Red Crossbills whilst another area held Yellow-eyed Junco. The fog made birding and birdlife almost impossible so we headed to our traditional Mexican Inn for the night.
January 12th: Perote, Camino Humeros, Xalapa, Miradores
Daily 86 New 42 Running 183
Weather: Early fog giving way to sunny spells and cloud on a E wind 4c/23c
This morning I joined the old road that leads to Puebla which leads through grassland habitats and open pine woods making an interesting mix for birds. Early morning fog was a problem at lower elevations although we did find a few American Kestrels on power poles and Lesser Goldfinch feeding in shrubby plants. Higher up a stop for Striped Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren and Orange-crowned Warbler. The sun eventually broke through and we located several sparrow species including Rufous-crowned, Chipping, Black-chinned, Lincoln’s and Clay-coloured. Also present in the area were Hutton’s Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Olive Warbler, American Dusky and Buff-breasted Flycatchers. On the return to Perote the steppe like habitats attracted Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon both being rare visitors to Veracruz. In the grassland itself we located Buff-bellied Pipit and Horned Lark whilst stands of grass had Savannah Sparrows. Back to Perote for brunch and then a short trip to Xalapa the state capital. We followed this by a visit to Miradores an area of farmland with scrub, trees and water. The first birding stop had a female Ladderback Woodpecker, Sociable Flycatcher, Wilson’s and Black-throated Green Warbler, Least Flycatcher and Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. In the bare scrubby habitat with flowers we had good views of Mexican Sheartail, Buff-bellied Hummingbird and House Wren. Further along the track access to a water area added Great and Snowy Egrets, Green Heron, Blue-winged Teal, Little Blue Heron, Northern Jacana and Ringed Kingfisher. A farm with large trees and short cropped grass attracted Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Phoebe, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-faced Grassquit and a perched Roadside Hawk. Our last stop was incredible for birdlife with sightings of Northern Bobwhite, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Common and Grey-crowned Yellowthroats, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Grass Wren, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse, Brown Jay, Clay-coloured Thrush and a wintering Summer Tanager. The light was starting to fade as I made the journey back to Xalapa after an excellent days birding.
January 13th: Xalapa, Haya Park, Chavarillo
Daily 79 New 38 Running 221
Weather: Sunny with light winds 9c/22c
Our first location today was near Jorge’s house at Haya Park. A short journey from the hotel to the park resulted us in seeing several species near the minibus. Birds of interest included Plain Chacalaca, Red-billed Pigeon, White-fronted Parrot, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Band-backed Wren, Common Bush Tanager, Hooded Grosbeak and Montezuma’s Oropendola. A house with hummingbird feeders attracted Wedge-tailed and Azure-crowned Hummingbirds. On entering the park itself we ambled along the trails at a slow birding pace. At the entrance we found Black-headed Saltator, Acorn and Golden Olive Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Boat-billed and Dusky-capped Flycatchers. Roaming flocks of warblers attracted a lot of interest as they swiftly fed amongst the vegetation and trees. Careful searching revealed Blue-winged, Magnolia, Nashville, Black-and-White, Hermit, Orange-crowned, Rufous-capped and Golden-crowned. The supporting cast was also good with sightings of Grey Catbird, Western Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Gartered Trogon and the scarce Chestnut-headed Oropendola. Near the end of the trail the group located Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos and a single Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Back to the hotel for brunch and out again at 1415 hours. I travelled southwards to the village of Chavarillo which has extensive forests and orchards of lemon and orange trees which are bisected by a railway line. Before arriving a small pond held Least Grebe, Snowy Egret and Black Phoebe. A walk through the lemon groves added the beautiful Yellow-winged Tanager, Altamira Oriole and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers. Across the railway tracks a trail through the forest was productive for Masked Tytyra, White-tipped Dove and in a distant bare tree Painted and Indigo Buntings. A walk along the railway was good for views of Lincoln’s Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Grey, Zone-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks and high above the forest flocks of Chestnut-collared Swifts. A dead tree had a Keel-billed Toucan before the weather started to change from sunny spells to showers and eventually heavy rain.
January 14th: Xalapa, Las Barrancas, Tlacotalpan, Playa Azul at Catemaco
Daily 106 New 42 Running 263
Weather: Early rain easing then sunny spells on a E wind 5c/27c
Checked out at Xalapa and travelled south towards Veracruz. Driving was tricky due to rain and heavy trucks moving towards Veracruz port. Our first birding area today was Las Barrancas a large area of farmland used for cattle raising and a mix of shrubs, trees and seasonal pools. A short distance down the road a stop near a ranch produced a good range of raptors including Northern Harrier, Aplomado Falcon, American Kestrel and the two common vultures. In the trees and scrub we located Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Tropical and Northern Mockingbirds, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and Grey Catbird. Several warblers were present; Nashville, American Yellow, Wilson’s, Orange-crowned and Myrtle. In the open areas Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Plain-breasted and Ruddy Ground Doves, Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows, Vermillion Flycatcher, Morelet’s Seedeater and Blue-black Grassquit. Further along the road shallow pools attracted Greater Yellowlegs, Northern Jacana and the localised Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. In the grassland we found a pair of Double-striped Thick-knee and a perched White-tailed Kite on a fencepost. Next was a more open area where a Peregrine Falcon was observed on a post and a juvenile Grey Hawk perched in a bush. In the wetter parts American Purple Gallinule, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Tricoloured Heron, Little Blue and Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, White-faced and American White Ibis. An area of wet scrub had Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, calling Northern Waterthrush and Common Tody Flycatcher. Above our heads we had a single Magnificent Frigatebird. A diversion down a track added Rose-throated Becard and MacGillivrays Warbler. It was starting to warm up and bird life decreased so we headed to Tlacotalpan for lunch. The entrance road is good for birds as it passes through lagoons and mangrove stands. Species of interest which were seen included Western Osprey, Wood Stork, Laughing Gull, Belted Kingfisher, American Royal and Caspian Terns, Black-necked Stilt and Mangrove Swallows. The town of Catemaco was our final destination and the rather run-down Playa Azul Hotel although the grounds are excellent for birds. The gardens held Red-billed Pigeon, Collared Aracari and Hooded Warbler.
January 15th: Ruiz Cortines
Daily 46 New 23 Running 285
Weather: Rather windy with sunny spells 16c/26c
Overnight we heard Common Paraque and Mottled Owl. At 0645 hours we set off towards the remote village of Ruiz Cortines which is surrounded by pristine cloud forest, patches of cleared land and degraded forest. At the first stop we were greeted by the songs of Slate-coloured Solitaires and distant calling Keel-billed Toucans. As with this habitat birding can be slow going with feeding flocks moving through the forest. Species which showed for the group included Red-throated and Red-crowned Ant Tanagers, Scaly-throated Foilage Gleaner, Lesson’s Motmot, Collared Trogon, Eye-ringed Flatbill and Common Bush Tanager. Also heard in the vicinity were White-breasted Woodwren and the endemic Long-tailed Sabrewing. After passing through Ruiz Cortines another stops for birds in an area with large trees festooned with air plants, creepers and vines. On this occasion species included were Wood Thrush, Buff-throated Foilage Gleaner, Elegant Euphonia, Plain Xenops, Black-throated Green, Black-and-White and Wilson’s Warblers and calling in the distance Green Jay and Emerald Toucanet. Lunch was taken in the village with Buff-throated Saltator and Blue-black Grassquit for company. A surprise was in store for us as a Roadside Hawk crashed into the windows knocking itself out, hopefully it will make a full recovery. The afternoon birding session was very slow as the weather started to change in front of cool weather from the Caribbean. Feeding flocks included Golden-browed and Golden-capped Warblers, Spot-breasted Wren, Ivory-billed, Olivaceous and Spot-crowned Woodcreepers and above the forest Violet-green Swallows.
January 16th: Catemaco, Camacho, Santa Maria Jacatepec
Daily 92 New 18 Running 303
Weather: Overcast with variable E winds 24c
Checked out of the Playa Azul and went to the La Finca Hotel for breakfast on the opposite side of the lake. From the hotel restaurant you have good views (elevated) of the lake, islands and adjacent vegetation. A variety of the commoner herons and egrets were on show plus Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe, American Royal Tern, Pied-billed Grebe and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. A short stop was made to repair a slow puncture before travelling to Camacho an area of seasonal wetlands and marshes interspersed with sugar cane and pineapple production. The roads were poor with many potholes meaning a tricky drive. The first lagoon held Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue and Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Jacana, Wood Stork, American White Ibis, Limpkin, Belted and Ringed Kingfishers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least and Spotted Sandpipers and Black-necked Stilts. In roadside shrubbery wintering Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia and Wilson’s Warblers, White-eyed Vireo and Common Tody Flycatcher. Further along the road another stop added Bat Falcon, Amazon Kingfisher, Gull-billed Tern and overhead groups of American White Pelicans. I joined the highway towards Veracruz with a Common Black Hawk resting on the ground in an adjacent marsh. It was time to take Road 175 towards Oaxaca via Tuxtepec where we had a late lunch. The final birding stop was beyond the picturesque village of Santa Maria Jacatepec. The habitat here is meadows and forest the latter being interspersed with outcrops of limestone. Along the road grassy patches attracted House Wren, Painted Bunting, Blue-black Grassquit and Morelet’s Seedeater. A patch of bushes held American Redstart, Magnolia, Hooded and Wilson’s Warblers and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. Next was a steep-sided patch of forest dotted with rock outcrops. A difficult walk provided us with calling Sumichrast’s Wren a rare Mexican endemic. Other species of interest included Olive-throated Parakeet in noisy, mobile flocks and lesser numbers of Red-lored Amazon. The light was starting to fade as I arrived in Vallee Nacional our home for two nights.
January 17th: Vallee Nacional, Camino Morales, Cerro Marin
Daily 96 New 31 Running 334
Weather: Overcast and humid with no wind 25c
A short drive this morning to bird along Camino Morales which passes through forest and farmsteads. The first section had the commoner species plus Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Black-cowled Oriole and a calling Collared Forest Falcon. The road increases in altitude albeit slowly with the next area having White-bellied Emerald, White-necked Jacobin and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. The mixed feeding flocks added Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Worm-eating Warbler and a showy Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Close views of an Ovenbird feeding on worms by the road. Overhead the cloudy weather had groups of White-collared and Vaux’s Swifts to lower levels. A bonus came in an adult Black Hawk Eagle. Bird life started to quieten down although the group located the uncommon Tropical Peewee, Orange-billed Sparrow and Blue Bunting. Back to base for lunch and out again at 1515. Cerro Marin is a small village with a road that runs steeply uphill into forest habitats. The larger trees attracted several species including Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Chestnut-sided and Tennessee Warblers, Northern Parula and Red-legged Honeycreepers. Lower down in the shrubbery we found Stripe-throated Hermit, Black-cowled and Yellow-tailed Orioles, Crimson-coloured Tanagers, Greyish and Buff-throated Saltators, Yellow-billed Cacique, Blue-black Grosbeak, Olive-backed Sparrow and Bananaquit. The light started to fade as we returned to Vallee Nacional.
January 18th: Valle Nacional, Oaxaca via Road 175
Daily 72 New 10 Running 344
Weather: Sunny with light E winds 25c
Today was spent birding along road 175 towards Oaxaca. The route took us through spectacular scenery with forests and areas of grassland. The first stop was around 10km from Vallee Nacional with sightings of Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-winged Tanager, Montezuma’s and Chestnut-headed Oropendola’s and in the distance Singing Quail and Bright-rumped Attila. Further along the road wintering flocks of warblers plus Warbling Vireo and a female Variable Seedeater. The road starts to rise in altitude and a stop in an area with large trees and mistletoe was productive for the uncommon Black-faced Grosbeak and overhead a party of White-crowned Parrots. In the smaller trees and scrub a trio of orioles notably Baltimore, Hooded and Black-cowled. In roadside flowers the spectacular Violet Sabrewing, Long-billed Hermit and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Late morning was spent searching for jays and we eventually located Unicoloured Jay and heard Azure-hooded. Other species of note included a party of White-collared Swifts, Scaly-throated Foilage Gleaner, calling Emerald Toucanet, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A late lunch was taken before travelling down to Oaxaca situated in a dry valley our final base in Mexico.
January 19th: Teotitlan, Santa Ana
Daily 79 New 17 Running 361
Weather: Sunny and warm 27c
I left Oaxaca and travelled to the community of Teotitlan. The first stop was on the outskirts of the village where scanning the area produced White-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk and Cassin’s Kingbirds. Further up the road Grey-breasted Woodpecker and Boucard’s Wren were added to the list two Mexican endemics. Beyond the village is a small reservoir which attracts good numbers of birds because of this rare habitat in Oaxaca. Scanning of the lake and its edges gave us sightings of Snowy and Great Egrets, Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Least Grebe, American Coot, Belted and Green Kingfishers, Least and Spotted Sandpipers. On the grass edges we located Buff-bellied Pipit, Lark Sparrows and Berylline Hummingbirds. Our journey continued up the valley with views of the beautiful endemic Bridled Sparrow and Thick-billed Kingbirds whilst overhead a lone Northern Raven was noted. A few kilometers further an area of dry oak woods held several species of warblers, a calling Blue Mockingbird and excellent views of Mexican Sheartail. Lunch was taken followed by a visit to Santa Ana a very dry area dominated by cactus. Birding was hard work with few birds calling although a single Occelated Thrasher was seen briefly flying into cover and Grey Martins looking for insects in the valley. A juvenile White-tailed Hawk and a party of Whitehouse’s Jays completed the day’s bird sightings.
January 20th: Oaxaca including Monte Alban, Hacienda el Arenjuez
Daily 52 New 9 Running 370
Weather: Warm and sunny 27c
A short distance from the centre of Oaxaca is the archaeological ruins of Monte Alban which are surrounded by a habitat of scrub and cultivated areas. On the first trail we located White-throated Towhee, Orange-crowned and Rufous-capped Warblers, Boucard’s Wren and Thick-billed Kingbird. A real bonus was a Slaty Vireo a rare Mexican endemic which was feeding quietly in a bare bush. Other species in the vicinity included Townsend’s, Black-and-White and Black-throated Grey Warblers, Dusky Hummingbird and Black-headed Grosbeak. In another patch the group caught up with Golden Vireo and Blue Mockingbird, Wilson’s and Virginia’s Warblers. Back to the car park to go on another trail which was rather quiet. Near the top a Broad-winged Hawk was noted whilst the scrub had familiar birds plus a Cassin’s Vireo. At 1515 hours we set off again this time to Hacienda el Arenjuez an area of scrub and trees situated within an old estancia. A walk along the track was quiet to start with until a Coopers Hawk flew by. In the scrub we located scarce birds of Mexico notably Dwarf Vireo and Occelated Thrasher and a bonus in the form of a flushed Lesser Nighthawk.
January 21st: Oaxaca, La Cumbre, Colibri
Daily 38 New 9 Running 379
Weather: Overcast and cool at higher elevations 5c/14c
Today was spent in the high elevations of La Cumbre an area of old pinewoods and bushes. Before arriving at La Cumbre a stop was made in an agricultural area for the endemic Oaxaca Sparrow. In the forest our first walk produced sightings of the scarce Black-headed Siskin, White-breasted Nuthatch and Strong-billed Woodcreeper. Other species present included Hutton’s Vireo, Red and Hermit Warblers, Mexican Chickadee and White-eared Hummingbirds. Further up the mountain we explored another area where the group located a female Mountain Trogon, Brown Creeper, Ruddy-capped and Russet-tailed Nightingale Thrushes, Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Chestnut-chested Warbler and Rufous-capped Brushfinch. Around midday we went back down the mountain and turned north for 4km for lunch at Colibri a restaurant with several hummingbird feeders. The only species of note was Blue-throated Mountain Gems and in the scrub below wintering MacGillervary’s Warbler and Yellow-eyed Junco. In the afternoon a revisit to areas visited in the morning. The wind was starting to get stronger and birdlife diminished so I headed back to Oaxaca.
January 22nd: Oaxaca, Mexico City
Daily total n/r New 1 Final 380
Weather: Sunny and warm 27c
A travel day back to Mexico City from Oaxaca which went through spectacular mountain scenery and arid habitats dominated by huge cactus stands. The only new bird was a pair of Harris’s Hawks perched on a cactus. Finally arrived at Mexico City and returned the minibus and transferred to the airport for flights back home.