First Birding Day in Ten Days

12/17/14
Finally felt well enough for a bird walk this morning--it's been ten days.  What a waste as I fly back to Southern California on the 20th.   I wondered if I haven't had a mild case of dengue fever, but Gene scoffs at the idea; something made me too weak to do almost anything. Anyway, went out today for a short walk and got another bird for the Barra List; and a lifer for me:  Thick-billed Flycatcher.
I was walking and glanced up to see a Kingbird with a very large black insect in its bill.  To me 'Kingbird' means Tropical Kingbird.  They are common everyday birds here, as they were in Panama. I put my bins down and was getting ready to scan where I heard some chatter when I realized that it wasn't only the bug that was big. The bill was big.  The bird was big. Several things weren't right.  I put the bins back up and the bird was still there.  Definitely not a Tropical Kingbird.  I remembered that there was something other than a Boat-billed Flycatcher with a big bill and figured this was it. When I got back to Peregrine, I got out the book and had a very easy ID.  Not the same for the female Hummer I found today.  I just can't make the call for Black-chinned or Ruby-throated.  I am leaning Black-chinned; I brightened and highlighted one of the shots that showed the wing tips, and they look blunted and rounded to me. Both birds are in range. I will post for help; I would like the Barra list to be accurate, Thank heavens I saw male Ruby-throateds on visits to the southeast US and have seen male Black-throated at our place in San Diego County.  If I hadn't seen males in their range, I'd still not have them on my life list!
Took a bunch of shots of the Thick-billed and they were all crappy.  I wanted to put one up, so I took the best of the worst and sharpened and highlighted. 
My Barra de Navidad list is near the top of the blog under 'Pages' for anyone who wants to see possibilities for the area.  I have not even taken a panga or dinghy trip to the end of the lagoon--that would be an interesting day.

Barra Butterflies 2


The closest I could come was Montezuma's Cattleheart (Parides Montezuma), but mine doesn't seem to have red on the whole body like the photos of Montezuma's I found, and mine has red dots while the Montezuma's I looked at had larger, almost 'c' shaped orange marks. Here is a link to one (and a much better photo than mine!:
http://www.richard-seaman.com/Wallpaper/Nature/Butterflies/Swallowtails/SwallowtailAtCacahuamilpa.jpg
and another:
http://butterfliesofamerica.com/parides_montezuma_live1.htm
Maybe this is the female and those are males or vice-versa.
                                                                 Tropical Skipper

A Few Butterflies Found In Barra de Navidad, Mexico

For me, birding is not just about seeing birds; it's an immersion into the natural world.  When I go for a bird walk in a reasonably natural area, I take in what Mother Nature is serving up for the day.  It is a way to escape worries and live in the here and now of the hunt for something magical. While scanning for birds my eyes go to movements; a slender branch in the understory that is spinning wildly in an unseen whirlpool of wind, the movement of a gossamer strand sparkling between branches,  a lizard scurrying for the understory or up the branch of a tree and of course, the flickering beauty of one of natures most endearing creatures; butterflies. 
White Morphos Butterfly.
I have been watching these gorgeous things for weeks now and  this is the first time I've seen one land, it must be getting old. They are much like the electric blue kind I saw daily in Panama, but are white. They appear all white while flying at a distance, but they have markings when you see them up close. They fly in the same floppy, bouncy way the Blue Morphos did.
Microtia elva
Elf Butterfly. Tiny little guy.  Wing span 1 to 1 7/16 inches.
 Heliconius erato. Wingspan for this butterfly is 2.2 to 3.1 inches  5.5–8 cm
Above:  A very faded Ruddy Daggerwing
Carolina Satyr ?
I had originally posted the following butterflies with questionable IDs. Thanks to Nick Morgan for helping out. Nick is a butterfly enthusiast from Scotland.  You can check out his blog here:
Master of  camouflage:  Gray Cracker
Guatemalan Cracker
 Possibly Glaucous Cracker
 Four-spotted Sailor (Dynamine postverta) 

Pale-billed Woodpecker

November 30, 2014


Pale-billed Woodpecker, a lifer I was really happy to get.  I didn't think I would be lucky enough to see it before sailing out of range.
While Trudi, the Canadian birdwatcher was here, she arranged for a driver from the hotel to drive us up to the highest point of the hotel road.  I'd never even thought of that, and I still won't ask because I am a lowly boat person and not a hotel guest.  We do have hotel privileges to some degree, but asking for a driver to drop me off to bird might be considered impertinent.  I consider it impertinent.
 
Not long after we got out of the van, we saw two parrots fly over--squawking loudly of course. The most prominent thing about them were bright yellow heads--we both clearly saw that. The only parrots with bright yellow heads around here are Yellow-headed Parrots, an endangered species.  Unfortunately, I thought I saw longish tails and narrowish pointy wings and thought I was seeing parakeets of some kind at the time.  I would love to just tick the Yellow-headed and tell myself it had to be that because there are not parakeets with bright yellow heads here or anywhere else in Mexico that I can find.  Most logically, we saw the Yellow-headed, but with parrots, you never know what escapees might be out there.  Anyway, I wanted to walk the road again in hopes of seeing the parrots. I have walked the road twice now and no luck.
 
We were talking about woodpeckers at one point and she told me she had seen the Pale-billed at the golf course here on the peninsula.  I did not have that in mind when I set out for my walk, so I was really happy to see one. It turns out that I did see another at the golf course when I got there.  I can't believe you can see a bird like this at a golf course! 

On the first walk,  I finally confirmed a Zone-tailed Hawk I had first seen weeks ago. When saw it, it was engaged a weird aerial dance with a Crested Caracara. They didn't seem adversarial at all. It was kind of like, "Hey, I can do that descent, too.", and together they spiraled down for a short time.  I happened to see this dance at the same time I saw my first Zone-tailed Hawk and the first Crested Caracara I'd seen in Mexico.  My eyes went to the Caracara first in acknowledgment of a bird I have seen fairly often in the past.  My mind must have thought at first it was two Caracaras so it came as a bit of a surprise when I noticed the other raptor was something different.  I clearly saw the black and white stripping on the underwings and then they were split up and were up over the ridge. When I came back to Peregrine and went through my books, I figured it had to be a Zone-tailed.  I have kept my eyes out for it since then and was better informed about what to look for and what else it might be.  It was good to see it well today and add it to my life list. 
 
The road is a bit steep going up from the marina, levels off, then drops in a long down hill stretch.  Coming up was a bit tough for this old bird.  It's a gorgeous walk though and if I take my time, which I do while birding, it is not too onerous. Young and/or people in shape would have no problem at all with this walk.  My first time, I walked to where the road ends at a round-about that gives you the options of going to the beach, the golf course, the little town of Colimilla or exiting out to the highway.  I turned around and went back on the same way as I was nearly out of water and I had no idea how circuitous the way back was. I knew the long haul uphill was going to be a bit tough, but I also knew where I was going.  The second time, I took the road that goes to Colimilla.
 
Here is a Google Map of the area.  If you click to enlarge, you can see my notations about where the hotel is, the Golf Club House is, and where Colimilla is.
Above:  The first walk route. 
 
Blue was the proposed route for the second walk. I never made it to the beach.  I cut off where the red line starts and went home that way.
Gene went with me on the second walk.  However, he gets bored hanging around while I bird, so I told him to go at his own pace.  We decided we would go to the beach on the other side of the peninsula from the hotel.  A fellow cruiser walks this road every day and he said the beach walk is good. Gene was on his way back from the beach about the time I got the round-about.  I heard some weird calls from a small marshy area on the golf course so I decided to go check it out rather than go the beach route.  Gene went home ahead of me, but took the same route home.  We guestimate about 4 miles total.
I think this is enough for one post, I'll post about birds seen in the next post. To be truthful, it's 5:30 and time to go have a cocktail on the beach and visit with our friends. For over a week it was the same four friends:  Bob, the Spotted Sandpiper.  Will, the Willet. Bill the Whimbrel. John Snow, the Snowy Egret. And last but not least, Blaze, the Vermillion Flycatcher.  This past week we have gotten several more regulars:  Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher and Great Egret. Don't know their names yet.

Another Two for the List

November 18, 2014
I think rather than keep posting additions, I will create a "Page" for the Barra list like the Hualtulco list--easier that way for everyone. I don't get the net on the boat too often and I haven't felt like hauling the computer to the lobby upstairs in the hotel, so I don't know when I will get that done.

Today I got a Masked Tityra and a Lesser Ground Cuckoo.  Haven't seen a Tityra since Panama and I love Lesser Ground-cuckoos so it was a good day even though I still have nothing definitive on the Gnatcatchers.  I had a great view of one that makes me fairly certain it was a Blue-gray because of the graduation on the undertail, but I would like to hear some sounds! I also got a mystery bird today.  A skulker with an eyebrow and a very loud call.  Hope to ID on the head and the call I taped--if not, I will be searching for yet another bird to finalize.
Four to nail down now:  The gnatcatchers, the possible Blue Mockingbird and the new mystery bird.  I be getting too old and slow for this.
Lesser Ground-cuckoo trying to hide its beauty in deep cover. He was making very loud snapping noises with his beak.

Two more for the Barra List

Common Black Hawk
Nashville Warbler*

Confusing Gnatcatchers

November 15, 2014

I have been seeing lots of Gnatcatchers every day.  I originally listed what I was seeing as Blue-grays because the head and face were so clear in the field.  I have not been too successful getting decent photos--these things are restless--but I did get a few blurry shots one evening and I noticed a dark line above the eye, indicating a Black-capped.  That's great because it is a lifer, but now I wonder if I am seeing both species or I have just made a bad call for the Blue-gray.  Sibley suggests they are best identified by voice, but I have not heard a peep (or szeewv or je-eeew) from any of them. I need to pay a bit more attention to these guys.

 
Edit:  Turns out this 'lifer' probably isn't.  I posted this blog entry on BirdForum and got this:  http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=294785
 
I will update as I continue to observe.

More For the Barra List

November 15, 2014

A few more for the list.  I have edited the main list and will keep it updated and available on it's on page.

Black and White Warbler
MacGillivray"s Warbler
Royal Tern
Marbled Godwit

Barra de Navidad Bird List

November 11, 2014
Just arrived back at Barra after a long visit home.  Here is a list of what I've seen so far.  I have a few more that I need to verify before adding, and I will be birding here for another month so I hope to add more.  Some of these birds were seen last Spring before we went home. * are lifers for me
View from the Grand Isle Hotel next to the marina.
Brown Pelican
Blue-footed Booby
Magnificent Frigatebird
Neotropical Cormorant
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
Wood Stork
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Gray Hawk
Crested Caracara
Common Black Hawk
West Mexican Chachalaca 
American Oystercatcher*
Marbled Godwit
Spotted Sandpiper
Whimbrel
Willet
Laughing Gull
Heerman’s Gull
Royal Tern
Inca Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
White-winged Dove
Groove-billed Ani
Pauraque
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
Tropical Kingbird
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Vermillion Flycatcher
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
                              Vermillion Flycatcher showing a little flash of flame in the setting sun.
Northern rough-winged swallow
Barn swallow
Mangrove Swallow
San Blas Jay*
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Rufous-backed Thrush
Plumbeous Vireo*
Warbling Vireo
Yellow Warbler
Mangrove Yellow Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Black and White Warbler 
Scrub Euphonia
Sinaloa Wren*
White-breasted Wren*
Grayish Saltator
White-collared Seedeater
Orange-breasted Bunting
Painted Bunting
Varied Bunting*
American Goldfinch
Stripe-headed sparrow
House Sparrow
Shiny Cowbird
Yellow-winged Cacique
Great-tailed Grackle 
Orchard Oriole
Streak-backed Oriole
Grayish Saltator

Copalita Eco-Archeological Park


February 26, 2014

Our time in Hualtulco is running out and with the exception of a tour to a local farm, I have only birded in areas that are walking distance from the marina.  I have been wanting to go wandering around the Rio Copalita area in hopes of finding a Russet-crowned Motmot. I have been a little nervous about going by myself though. Several local ladies have stopped me for a chat while I was out birding and expressed a little concern that I was alone and carrying a camera and binoculars. I don't mean to imply that Hualtulco is a dangerous place, it seems far from that to me.  The locals are warm, friendly and helpful, but there are thieves everywhere and the ladies were just telling to keep an eye out.  Being out in the wilds by myself might not be a great idea.  I saw a sign on the main drag advertising the Copalita Eco-Archeological Park, and I figured it would be a safe place for me to wander by myself, and it was.  I had a great day walking in this park and would like to go again before we take off.  I got my Russet-crowned Motmot! Too bad I couldn't get a good shot, this is the best I got. Another endemic. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
I was in the park for about four hours.  I was so hot and tired when I finally wandered back to the entrance that I decided I would do the archaeology guided tour on another trip. Most people come to the park to learn something about ancient humans rather than looking for birds. There is an ongoing dig within the park boundaries uncovering a pre-Hispanic site.
The 'pathway' through the park is an amazing feat; a hand laid flagstone sidewalk that splits and goes in different directions.  I have no idea how many square feet it is, but it is a lot. 
I wonder how many hours in hot conditions went into this extensive sidewalk; it's a work of art. The fence is made of vines.
Over-looking the mouth of the Copalita River.
Long stretches of beautifully laid sidewalks.
If you go to the park, do not go on a Monday, it's closed.  I went on a Monday, but it was no biggy, I had the taxi driver take me to Bocana Copalitia (river mouth), and I birded  my way up to Tangolunda.  It was a good day and I went to the Eco Park the next day; manana.
 
Bird List:
Yellow-winged Cacique
Rufous-crowned Motmot
Empidonax sp.
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier?
Roadside Hawk
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Lineated Woodpecker
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (heard)
Squirrel Cuckoo
Great Blue Heron
Magnificent Frigatebird
Reddish Heron
White-tipped Dove
Orange-breasted Parakeet
White-fronted Parrot
Rufous-naped Wren
Squirrel Cuckoo
Roadside Hawk

Chahue Bay, Hualtulco 2

HANGING OUT IN HUALTULCO
Doesn't it look like the back feet are on the wrong legs?
February 19, 2014

We have been back since the 9th, but I haven't felt like blogging. The wifi signal is not reaching the boat and I don't want to haul the computer to the restaurant across the street. I feel tired and lazy these days and I'm going to indulge myself. Chahue is pretty and the livin' is easy; it may be awhile before we head out.

I could see this place turning into a Black Hole.  By that I mean a place that pulls you in and holds you far beyond the time you had intended to stay. We've hit a few Black Holes. I probably would stay here for a few years if:
1. We weren't only 350 nm away from finishing the circumnavigation.
2. The wifi signal consistently reached the boat.
3. The showers had hot water and were in an enclosed building.
The draw of the place is such that I think I could even overlook those minor issues though.  Maybe....
A few more birds:
Rufous-backed Thrush
Endemic to Western Mexico
Vermilion Flycatcher
Groove-billed Ani

Chahue Bay, Hualtulco 1

December 15, 2013
We are moored in Marina Chahue and I am enjoying myself very much.  There are great birding areas to walk to around the marina and I have already gotten 15 lifers. After the sad and anxious months spent at home last hurricane season, I really needed a place like this. Yesterday, I got in a bird wave and I didn't know where to look first!  It was frustration at its most excellent.  The climate is cooler and less buggy than Chiapas and we can walk to the grocery and restaurants. Unfortunately, I need to go back home for some medical tests.  We are going back in a few days and hope to return February 9th. 
 
A few locals:                                
West Mexican Chachalaca
Endemic
Click on photos to enlarge them.
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Orange-breasted Bunting
Red-breasted Chat
White-lored Gnatcatcher
Not an endemic or lifer but I just love this bird and since I am the editor, he gets his picture put up.
Yellow-winged Cacique
Isn't he something?