It may sound awful, but sewage ponds are a good place to look for birds. And that is exactly where we went on our first morning outing in San Blas.
If I can trust my camera roll, the first birds we saw were an assortment of seedeaters and kingbirds, but I have given first position to this very attractive Groove-Billed Ani, because I never noticed the unique woven-looking pattern of the nape feathers before.
And now, the Seedeaters…
Tropical Kingbirds can be good subjects. Below this one is a Thick-billed Kingbird for comparison, but the name doesn’t seem all that descriptive to me.
Those of you who know me know I adore Crows, so I was thrilled to observe a new species doing Crow Stuff.
I don’t think a day went by without a Zone-tailed Hawk, either…
I was impressed with the graceful flight of a Wood Stork.
This falcon could have been laughing at me for as long as I waited for him to turn his head for a profile shot.
Unlike my last Texas trip, I don’t recall hearing the incessant chatter of a Bell’s Vireo, but at least we saw this one.
Great Kiskadees were ever-present but nearly impossible to photograph. I wonder why I bothered with this one.
Not sure I have any better images coming of Roseate Spoonbills, but here’s one flying.
All these species would have been way too many for me to get my head around without taking pictures. A new woodpecker!
Below, what an endearing little flycatcher for such a long name. I confess I don’t know what makes it “beardless.”
Not a day went by without a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher distraction. Some days were Blue-grey though.
I think we had a record number of pygmy owls on this trip.
The remaining images are…more birds seen.
This Yellow-Winged Cacique was having a bad hair day. Lovely flower though.
I didn’t manage to photograph many butterflies with a 100-400mm lens, but these are a few that we saw. I’ve put the Vermilion Flycatcher with them because unlike previous trips, I never got close enough to one to do it justice. I will try to identify the rest of the butterflies when my new butterfly book arrives…
Raptors aplenty – Short-Tailed Hawk is new for me.
I was going to include the afternoon river excursion photos, but I think they deserve their own space. So my chronicle of this day in San Blas will continue soon.
We had beautiful weather for the entire trip, which made the drive from Puerto Vallarta to San Blas, Mexico, along the Pacific coast in the state of Nayarit, that much better. It’s a long drive, and we made several stops along the way to look for birds. Some were familiar, like Yellow Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Summer Tanager which visit my habitat during spring and summer.
We had San Blas Jays and Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers in abundance. The Golden-Fronted are common in Texas, but the San Blas Jays are endemic to Mexico.
We encountered some doves and Painted Buntings foraging along a dirt road…
I don’t know where I saw this heron, but the camera doesn’t lie, so we must have encountered it on that day. I don’t see Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons very often, especially juveniles.
At some point it was temporarily cloudy along the way. So you may wonder why I am including these very dark pictures. The Cinnamon-Rumped Seedeater is of some significance in that it has been split from the White-Collared Seedeater, which makes it an endemic species. And such a close encounter with some Black Vultures seemed friendly enough.
One of many Grayish Saltators on the trip.
We would see Sinaloa Wrens again. Which didn’t stop us from searching for a species called “Happy Wren” which we heard quite often, but hardly saw it once.
This could have been our only Gila Woodpecker. I had thought it was already on my life list but it turns out I haven’t seen it before, except in a field guide, so I am glad I have proof.
We would see Rufous-bellied Chachalacas again, but for a large bird they are amazing difficult to capture.
Our first Citreoline Trogon. I was surprised to find I actually got a fairly decent picture.
Later in the day, we were on the beach, and this lone Willet gave us good, if distant, views as it expertly navigated the shore.
An assortment of beach bums were gathered – Brown Pelicans, Black Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds, various Herons – I think a man had left them some food.
We were assured all cormorants would be Neo-tropical…and most of the terns were Royal.
Before we checked into our hotel, we stopped at a historical site, El fuerte de la Contaduria, when we arrived in San Blas. It’s situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I wish I had paid more attention to the historic significance which our guide, Steve, was trying to impart to us, but I was pretty tired from traveling by then. I believe the statue is of Don Jose Maria Mercado.
It’s been a longer haul than usual, and I apologize, but I find myself finally ready to start writing some posts from my trip to San Blas, Mexico, which occurred officially between January 6 and 14, 2020. I arrived a day early to take advantage of the weekend, since the tour didn’t begin until Monday. The myriad images in this first post are actually from the very first and last days of the tour. That leaves several days in between with more photographs to sort through.
The trip started in Puerto Vallarta. I went for a walk the morning of the 6th and came back for lunch to sit around the pool area which had its own visiting Green Iguana. Click on the images if you want to see any of them more clearly.
The birds in the immediate hotel vicinity were… a Eurasian Collared Dove, later in the afternoon, an Inca Dove, Great-Tailed Grackles. Then there was a nice Black-Chinned Hummingbird feeding on the red flowers.
On my way to the beach in the morning, I encountered a tree full of Orchard Orioles, Streak-Backed Orioles and Yellow-Winged Caciques, the latter two species, for all practical purposes, endemic to the region. There were also Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers everywhere. And of course, Yellow Warblers. Now you know where they go for the winter. In any event it was a good start for birds seen practically every day.
At the beach, there were some people things going on…
And the reminder of countless daily Magnificent Frigatebirds…
In the afternoon of Monday the 6th, the group met up to go on a short walk with our guide, none other than the incomparable Steve Howell, who is also the author of the impressive field guide, A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. We were fortunate to see our first Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, below. The Western Flycatcher, Grayish Saltator and Rufous-Backed Thrush were introductory birds we would see often throughout the tour.
Now to the images from our last morning of birding. I am starting off with sketchy-but-the-best-I-could-do-at-quite-a-distance images of the bird that inspired my decision to go on this trip altogether. The Black-Capped Vireo, below, is a beautiful little vireo I missed on the trip to Southwest Texas last spring. I decided to see if I might be able to meet it on its wintering grounds, and this trip to San Blas seemed to be the best opportunity.
I did get a much better first look at the vireo on the Friday of our trip, thanks to Steve who knew I really wanted to see it. I was sick after breakfast the day before so I missed an entire day of the trip, but this made up for it. In any event, I decided not to try taking a picture of it the first time in case I might send it flying a lot sooner than the wonderful view I had.
Other vireos from that last morning I will likely never see again are below, the Plumbeous Vireo, and the Golden Vireo, which is an endemic to Mexico.
Steve found us another pygmy owl, this one, the Colima, also an endemic species.
These are not in any kind of order… we spent some time at the beach that last day.
We had seen Magpie Jays off and on flying about but on the last day, this was a rare treat to be able to actually capture one doing its thing. The last Magpie Jays I saw were much closer, hanging out at the breakfast table at the hotel in Nicaragua, which is also very much what jays do, I suppose, depending on their habitat.
We had several Grey Hawks on the trip, but this might have been the only juvenile.
I still have to tally up all the new species I added to my “life list” but I’m pretty sure this was the first time I have seen a Western Tanager. This one appears to be a young male bird.
One more endemic – the Rusty-Crowned Ground Sparrow. Such a long name! It’s quite flashy-looking for a sparrow, though.
We were taunted by Orange-Fronted Parakeets and other psittacidae throughout the trip, but it was extra special to see these two perched and looking at us.
I haven’t seen a Masked Tityra in a while. Nice to get a good look at this one.
So I hope to be back with more to report a little sooner. My travel laptop seems to be cooperating, and it probably likes the attention it doesn’t get the rest of the year. I’ve gotten over whatever it was that attacked me, although I think it took maybe a full two weeks to feel totally sound. Work, choir, the birds at home, everything is back in full swing. Thanks for stopping by!
It seems a good time to go back to my Texas trip photo memories before I lose track of it entirely. Day Two was a travel day from Del Rio, where we had spent the night, to Big Bend National Park where we stayed three days. Of course we birded along the way.
Yesterday I turned on the reluctant travel laptop to see if it was in any mood to let me look at my Texas pictures. Lo and behold I found more images, and the amazing thing is that I was allowed to process them, so here is everything from that travel day, including the domestic waterfowl below which adorned the first stop.
Travel notes from my cell phone… I love the rugged terrain of Southwest Texas.
It was nice to revisit species I have seen before. Some I saw much better than on previous occasions, while others like the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow below, eluded the camera, even though fairly common. And then there were the life birds.
The Morelet’s Seedeater is not exactly new, if I can believe I have seen a White-Collared Seedeater before. Anyway, it’s been split into its own species, so that makes it a life bird. We searched for this guy for a while and then he practically followed us around for the next quarter hour or more.
It would have been nice to see a Western Meadowlark but this Eastern Meadowlark posed nicely for us.
I’ve glimpsed Ladder-backed Woodpeckers in New Mexico but have never seen them so well as on this trip.
Then to see some old friends really well…
We arrived at the Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend National Park, checked into our rooms and witnessed this sunset outside the dining hall that evening.
Meanwhile back home, it’s intermittent thunderstorms and cooler weather. I am fond of rain, but not so much.
We were warming up in Chicago, finally, it seemed, and then last night with the rain the temperatures dropped and now we are cold, windy and rainy again. So even though Spring Migration will continue to distract me when I am capable of paying attention to it, I want to revisit memories of the southwest Texas trip before they become too distant. Here’s a brief recap of one stop on our first travel day.
Driving to Del Rio from the San Antonio airport for our first night, we pulled off the road at a rest stop and found it to be quite birdy. It also became the comparison stop for tyrannus flycatchers. In addition to the Western Kingbird at the top of this post, we had Couch’s Kingbirds and Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers. This was a perfect introduction because we would continue to run into these birds again and again. The Couch’s was a new one for me. Sorry he’s got his back to us, I’ll see if anything turns up later a bit more representative of the whole bird.
Also at that stop was my first look at a Bullock’s Oriole.
In addition to the birds, we encountered Leaf-Cutter Ants which are some of my favorite creatures.
I expected to see plenty of Great-tailed Grackles but there’s always the first one…
A few more of the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher. Better pictures will follow. They were consistently the most cooperative, photogenic birds of the trip.
Reluctantly I keep trying to face the present… The high for today in Chicago is 49 degrees Fahrenheit, which is where we are now, raining with thunderstorms possible. My phone app predicts tomorrow’s high will be 83 and cloudy. What to wear?
One more Western Kingbird… I have so many photos and not much time this weekend but my goal is to move on to the pictures from the next day in Texas. As my attention to warbler-and-others migration keeps getting interrupted…
Now that I have run out of pictures I feel like I should go back to Nicaragua the next chance I get and take more.
Our last day and a half was spent on Ometepe, a large volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua. The approach is by ferry. So some of these pictures were taken on the water and others were on land.
The day before we were staying in Granada and it seemed both evenings over the square a large flock of Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers would come in to roost in the trees. I finally got a picture or two of one, albeit far away, on Ometepe.
White-Winged Doves are perhaps unspectacular but I don’t get to see them at home so I find them worth noting.
On the ferry…and a Laughing Gull or two…
Just as this Magnificent Frigatebird came into view, there was a rainbow.
More views of a Laughing Gull…and the beach, with waves, and a Great Egret below.
On land, and there’s nothing I love more than seeing Cattle Egrets, they always remind me of Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom.
Below, fruiting cashews, the sign at the entrance to Ometepe, and a fascinating petroglyph left by indigenous peoples.
Groove-Billed Anis hanging out on a fence…
and a Great-Tailed Grackle.
But perhaps no bird left a bigger impression on me than these White-Throated Magpie-Jays.
We finally have spring weather and I have already begun to see migrants, so stay tuned.
This will be a collection of some photographs of birds seen out of the hand. Light conditions were not always optimum. Birds were often hiding behind leaves or branches. Sometimes they were ridiculously far away. There weren’t that many species seen, compared to “birding” trips. And yet I don’t think I can manage to do this in one post.
I have been hoping to see an American Dipper for years. I saw the European version of this bird several years ago, but have never seen an American Dipper well, to my knowledge, until now.
Common Tody Flycatcher
Common Tody Flycatcher is a favorite of mine. We saw perhaps three or four individuals over the course of the week, and this is the only one I could manage to get to even half-cooperate.
Tropical Kingbirds are ubiquitous but not always easy to capture. This one embodies my perception of this species as The Bird on the Wire.
I have seen Keel-Billed Toucans much closer but the challenge of capturing the one above makes me glad I tried.
I almost never see Broad-Winged Hawks at home, but they were plentiful in Costa Rica. We saw one every day.
Great-Tailed Grackles are so common you soon forget about how beautiful they can be. This one picked the perfect spot to be photographed.
I will be back very soon with the second half of this post. I am also trying to get some photographs on my flickr page.