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A Report from

Jungle Bob's Oaxaca '97 Birding Trip,


Oaxaca, Mexico, October 1997


My wife and I worked for many years as linguists among the Chinantec people in a small village in the municipality of Lalana in the district of Choapan, Oaxaca, Mexico. In October 1997 I determined to return to this village to visit our many friends there. But since this is a lowland tropical area, I wanted to take advantage of the birding opportunities. To that end I invited my friend Brad Schram to accompany me. My eldest son Erik, his wife Dawn and their son 2 yr. old son, Gavin, also came along so that Erik could visit the village he grew up in.  Erik and his family could only stay for one week. After they left, Brad and I explored (birded) the rest of the state of Oaxaca. The report that follows was originally authored by Brad and appears here with some editing by me. Enjoy!



This trip took place in two acts, a trip taken by Bob Mugele and Brad Schram from October 21 to November 2 1997 in Oaxaca.  The first week was spent in, and in transit to and from, a Chinantec Indian village on the Rio Lalana in remote northern Oaxaca.  Bob is a linguist who worked for many years in this village and speaks the Chinantec language as well as Spanish. He is well acquainted with the tropical gulf slope of Oaxaca. The second week was spent in a rental car with occasional stops to get out and look at birds.  We covered as wide a variety of habitats as possible throughout the state of  Oaxaca. We lodged in San Pable Villa de Mitla the second week with one overnight in Tehuantepec.

The Chinantec Village was a 10 hour walk from the nearest dirt road when  Brad visited there in 1979.  On that visit we flew in with a bush pilot. While there on this trip a branch of the much extended dirt road was being bulldozed right into the the general area of the village. Thus we  were able to drive (with 4wd) to within a .5 hr. walk of the village. The altitude at this village is approximately 700 feet according to a bush plane's altimeter.  It lies in an area of steep ridges and foothills once totally blanketed in rainforest but now 60% grassland and milpa.  Scanning from a nearby ridge shows other remnant patches of rainforest in the steep terrain.  This topography ultimately ascends to the south as foothills becoming the sierra and the continental divide.  The village is 25 miles  of dirt road south of highway 147 which skirts just south of the Veracruz state line as it runs east-west through lowland range land.  It is a full day's drive without significant stops from Oaxaca City to the village via highways 175 and 147 and some unnamed dirt roads.

Our second week started with a morning in the lower slopes of the mountains just north of  Oaxaca City on hwy. 175 below El Estudiante, looking for the rare birds of the foothill scrub, afternoon was in the dry pine forest on the pass at a guesstimated 7500' altitude just north of Mitla.  We drove to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec the following day on hwy. 190,  over-nighting in the city of Tehuantepec, and returning up 190 the next day, stopping to bird at likely looking turnouts each way.  The following day we left Mitla and drove hwy. 175 out of Oaxaca City to the moist rainforest-clad north facing slope above Valle Nacional where we birded turnouts with modest success. The following day was spent in cloud forest just to the north of  Oaxaca, City off  hwy. 175 west of La Cumbre.  The last morning we returned to the scrub on hwy. 175 below El Estudiante was followed by a return to Mitla and an afternoon visiting Bob's long-time friends in Mitla completed the itinerary.

Generally, quiet characterized the forests. Beyond a brief dawn chorus one did not hear more than occasional call-notes, a function of the time of year.  In the highlands only the solitaires contradicted this state,  a contradiction we enjoyed immensely. Although we found a pair of  Blue-crowned Motmots in the village forest Brad had  never once heard them call, a sound characterizing this forest when he was there in August 1979.  Brad did not hear a Barred Antshrike the entire trip, although Bob has seen them many times over the years in this known habitat.  Brad likewise reported hearing a trogon once in the forest along the Rio Lalana where he'd seen many in 1979, and Chachalacas were seldom heard there this time.  Some of the quiet there may also be the result of deforestation however.

When roaming the rainforests near the Rio Lalana in mid-August 1979 only a lone Black and White Warbler and both Northern and Louisiana waterthrushes were found along the river to betray the start of temperate northern fall migration.  The numbers below show the influx of northern species to be dramatic, as one would expect, providing an interesting example of seasonal avifaunal change in this area.

One can generalize and point out that northern migrants in the Oaxaca valley and adjacent mountains are western species while migrants in the rainforest lowlands are eastern species.  Although generally true, we did find blue-headed Solitary Vireos along with both Plumbeous and Cassin's in the interior.  This may well have been from the western edge of that population, however, as undoubtedly were White-eyed Vireo and Tennessee Warbler.

A word about the numbers quoted below:  round numbers are estimates, and it will be safe to assume that numbers of vultures in open country and large yellow-bellied flycatchers in forests are underestimated. They are so commonplace that one stops noticing.  Regarding Tropical/Couch's Kingbirds, they were not calling and so are listed as Tropicals. One can safely assume, maybe, that some of those in the tropical lowlands to the north of the continental divide particularly were Couch's.  The reader will note a dearth of seed-finch things in these notes.  Seed-finch types are abundant here, the variety is not great, the sun is very hot and although they were bounding about the grassy fields near the village with abandon we chose to ignore them and concentrate on the forest where the birds were more interesting.  It was also significantly cooler there.


Mitla, Oaxaca October 21, 7-10 am.
Birding dry scrub at the edge of town and the trees near the river and cemetery.  The Gray Silkys and Rufous-backed Robins were plundering a ficus at  the cemetery entrance of its small ripe figs.  Although Western Tanagers were seen elsewhere in Mitla, they were likewise using this tree. Yellow-rumped Warblers were also pecking the figs and fly-catching here and the Tennessee Warbler was here also.

Cattle Egret 12
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Swainson's Hawk 1
[White-tailed Hawk? Juv.]
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove 3
Inca Dove 50
Common Ground Dove 1
Green-breasted Mango 1
Berylline Hummingbird 4
Beautiful Hummingbird 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 6 They are attracted to a large white tubular flower on a large common shrub. They grasp the lower petal in their feet and plunge their head and bill deep in the funnel while beating their wings  to remain upright
Gray-breasted Woodpecker 5
Western Wood Pewee 2
Willow Flycatcher 1
Vermillion Flycatcher 20
Tropical Kingbird 4
Social Flycatcher 20
Great Kiskadee 5
White-eyed Vireo 1
Solitary Vireo 1
Loggerhead Shrike 10
Gray Silky 5
Rufous-backed Robin 8
Curve-billed Thrasher 15
Boucard's Wren 8
Bewick's Wren 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Tree Swallow 12
Barn Swallow 30
House Sparrow 45
Lesser Goldfinch 30
House Finch 10
Tennessee Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 5
Yellow Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 30
Black-throated Gray Warbler 1
Townsend's Warbler 1
Wilson's Warbler 10
Clay-colored Sparrow 6
Lark Sparrow 45
White-throated Towhee 20
Western Tanager 10
Indigo Bunting 1
Painted Bunting 1 eclipse male
Baltimore Oriole 1 male
Great-tailed Grackle 3
Bronzed Cowbird 6

October 22 Travel Day: Mitla, Oaxaca -- Tuxtepec -- Chinantec Indian Vilage

Drive from Mitla to Oaxaca to Tuxtupec to Rio Lalana, 7 am to 5 pm, via hwy 190 to hwy. 175 to hwy. 147 to 25 miles of dirt.  A lunch stop in Valle Nacional.

Neotropic Cormorant 1 on river N of ValleNacional,
Great Blue Heron 1 approx km 210 hwy. 175
Great Egret 8 N lowlands
Cattle Egret 100 N lowlands
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk 1 in highlands at Ixtlan, hwy. 175 km 150, harassed by an Am Kestrel
Gray Hawk 1 N of Valle Nacional on hwy 175
Roadside Hawk 5 N lowlands
Crested Caracara 1 Oaxaca valley
Am Kestrel 30
Inca Dove x in Oaxaca Valley
Groove-billed Ani 15 N lowlands
Lovely Cotinga 1 male near Rio Lalana village
Vermillion Flycatcher  both sides of mountains
Tropical Kingbird 50
Thick-billed Kingbird 1 interior valley scrub  above Rio Cajonos hwy. 175
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 3 grassy lowlands, off hwy. 147
Social Flycatcher x
Great Kiskadee  on electric wires in both the Oaxaca valley and the N lowlands
Dwarf Jay 1 in mixed flock approx km 97 hwy. 175
Brown Jay x in forest above the Rio Lalana village
Loggerhead Shrike 5 Oaxaca valley
Hermit Thrush 1 in scrub along Rio Cajonos hwy. 175
Gray-breasted Wood Wren 2   at approx. km 97 hwy. 175
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2  at approx. km 97 hwy. 175
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2  in Ixtlan, km 150 hwy 175.
Red Warbler 1 in mixed flock approx. km 97 hwy. 175
Golden-browed Warbler 4 km 97
Rufous-capped Warbler 6 in scrub along Rio Cajonos hwy 175
Yellow-eyed Junco x in highlands
Rusty Sparrow 3 in mixed flock approx. km 97 hwy 175
White-throated Towhee 3 Rio Cajonos  scrub hwy 175
Summer Tanager 2 in riparian along Rio Cojonos. The male was in full alternate,  the female (?) was bright yellow-orange with a red cap.
Yellow-billed Cacique 3 in village on hwy.  147
Baltimore Oriole 1 male
Melodious Blackbird 4 hwy. 147
Great-tailed Grackle large nos. near settlements in both Oaxaca valley and in N lowlands

October 23 Chinantec Village on the Rio Lalana

Birding in the rainforest above the village in the early morning (6:30-8:00) Brad by himself and in the late morning with Bob. Brad by himself again in the late afternoon.  Bob's social obligations kept him in the village with the Chinantec Indians much of the time.  Brad comments:

Great Egret 2  flying down river
Cattle Egret 50
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture  TVs predominated in the village area, neither abundant
White-tailed Kite 1 over milpa
Common Black Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
Plain Chachalaca 2 heard
Red-billed Pigeon 1
Ruddy Ground Dove 1 near milpa
Aztec Parakeet  a couple of flocks
Chimney Swift 12  rocking in close formation
Vaux's Swift 40
Little Hermit (Hummer) 1
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 4+
trogon sp. 1 heard
Black-cheeked Woodpecker 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1
Golden-olive Woodpecker 1
Lineated Woodpecker 1
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper 1
Lovely Cotinga 1 male  This bird was first  seen early in the morning at eye level as it sat quietly on a bare branch beneath the  jungle canopy downslope.  A Black and white Warbler foraged close to it and it leaned  forward with its mouth gaped wide in a  threat display, the warbler retreated.  Seen again in the afternoon in a fruiting  tree with Clay-colored Robins, as close as  30 feet.  At such close range we could see  that its plum-colored throat shield actually  extended stiffly, if  barely, outside the rest of the throat feathers on the side of the  throat. Absolutely stunning bird.
Sepia-capped Flycatcher 1 in mixed flock
Yellow-bellied Elaenia 1
Northern Bentbill 1
Eastern Wood Pewee 1
[Willow Flycatcher 1?]
Vermillion Flycatcher a few in milpas
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 2
Tropical Kingbird x
Cassin's Kingbird 3 in milpa
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1 in milpa
Boat-billed Flycatcher 1 in mixed flock,  perching in  mid-level unlike its congeners
Social Flycatcher 10
Great Kiskadee 10
Rose-throated Becard 1 imm. male
Black-crowned Tityra 2+
Brown Jay 20
Solitary Vireo 2
Lesser Greenlet 1
Wood Thrush 1
Clay-colored Robin 10
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 8
Mangrove Swallow 1
N Rough-winged Swallow 6
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2
Magnolia Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 4
Black and White Warbler 4
American Redstart 3
Ovenbird 1 walking around base of a buttress-rooted tree with a male Hooded Warbler right behind it, flicking its tail  feathers.
Blackpoll Warbler 1 this out-of-range bird  was very accommodating, giving me (Brad) leisurely looks  to validate itself vis a vis BBWA
Kentucky Warbler 1 (Bob only)
Hooded Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 10
Golden-crowned warbler 1
Bananaquit 2
Common Bush-tanager 1
Red-throated Ant Tanager 2
Blue-gray Tanager 2
Yellow-winged Tanager 20
Yellow-throated Euphonia 1
Blue-hooded Euphonia 2
Golden-hooded Tanager 10
Red-legged Honeycreeper 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Black-headed Saltator 1
Montezuma Oropendola 25
Baltimore Oriole 1 female
Melodious Blackbird 3
Great-tailed Grackle 6

October 24 Chinantec Village on the Rio Lalana

We birded the forest in the morning, approx. 7-11 am, Brad birded here alone in the afternoon.  The morning highlight was the White-collared Manakin lek, with birds  (usually invisible in deep cover) popping their wings loudly and calling.  Occasionally a female would leave the deep cover  and fly to an overhead fruiting tree for a snack before  returning to observe the fray.  Quick looks at males bouncing  around in the cover had to suffice.

Cattle Egret 20
Green Heron 1 down river
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Gray Hawk 1
Plain Chachalaca 2 seen
Red-billed Pigeon 2
Aztec Parakeet 15
White-crowned Parrot 2
White-collared Swift 1
Chimney Swift 4
Vaux's Swift 20
Little Hermit 2
Fork-tailed Emerald (Hummer) 1
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1
Golden-olive Woodpecker 1
Lineated Woodpecker 1
Lovely Cotinga 1 male close in fruiting tree
White-collared Manakin 4+
Northern Bentbill 1 heard
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 1
Tropical Kingbird x
Boat-billed Flycatcher 2
Social Flycatcher 10
Great Kiskadee 10
Brown Jay 20
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Clay-colored Robin 10
Band-backed Wren  4 a family bathing in an immense bromeliad high in a large forest tree.
Spot-breasted Wren 1 deep in cover
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 15
Northern Parula 1
Tropical Parula 2  these birds were both in  a large emergent cecropia tree, chasing the N Parula who also  wanted to exploit its  resources
Magnolia Warbler 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Black and White Warbler 5
American Redstart 2
Kentucky Warbler 1 male foraging at mid-level in a leafy branch close to the trunk of a large forest tree
Wilson's Warbler 6
Western Tanager 2
Blue-gray Tanager 6
Yellow-winged Tanager 20
Golden-hooded Tanager 2 flocks
Red-legged Honeycreeper 10
Montezuma Oropendola 30  In 1979 Brad only  saw one of these birds here.  The Chinantec's name for them means "orange birds" because they attack the oranges in their trees.  Both oranges and fruiting trees are ripe now and this  may well account for them being the most conspicuous bird in the forest. Bob sez that in 25 years of  experience here, he has never seen such large concentrations of Oropendola
Baltimore Oriole 8
Melodious Blackbird 1
Great-tailed Grackle 3

October 25 Chinantec Village on the Rio Lalana
Brad spent the morning, dawn until 10:45, on a heavily forested trail alone except for the 150 Chinantecs flowing into town from other villages  for the regional harvest thanksgiving celebration here this weekend. Afternoon spent in the village being social.  The constant greeting of people on the trail (large delegations from outlying villages, men women and children in groups) cut down on effective birding time.  An amazing highlight, however totally unexpected, was a lone Azure-hooded Jay which came into a loose mixed species flock downslope at eye level.  It worked across in front of me at 40 feet +/- for about a minute or so -- impressive bird!  Howell says its range is above 1,000 meters elevation, so what it was doing at approx. 800 feet I can't say, but I thank it.

Cattle Egret 20
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture 1  This bird  came in over grassland at the edge of the forest, its gleaming yellow head impossible to miss from my ridgetop  perch nearby.
Gray Hawk 1
Plain Chachalaca 1 group heard in a distant patch of forest
Aztec Parakeet x
White-collared Swift 2
Chimney Swift x
Vaux's Swift x
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1 Bob only, at river. The Chinantec name for this bird means "hole bird" beacuse it nests in holes in the sandy soil of the river banks.
Green Kingfisher 1
Blue-crowned Motmot 2 working close to the ground in morning
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1
Lineated Woodpecker 1
Olivaceous Woodcreeper 1
White-collared Manakin 1 lek heard
Yellow-bellied Elaenia 1
Northern Bentbill 1 heard
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 2
Tropical Kingbird x
Boat-billed Flycatcher 1
Social Flycatcher x
Great Kiskadee x
Azure-hooded Jay 1
Brown Jay 20
Yellow-green Vireo 4 a fruiting tree had  these and Warbling Vireo, a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a male Scrub Euphonia
Warbling Vireo 2
Clay-colored Robin 10
White-breasted Wood Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 6
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Black and White Warbler 1
Am Redstart 1
Wilson's Warbler 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 1 in plantings near  homes in the village
Red-throated Ant Tanager 4
Scrub Euphonia 1 male
Golden-hooded Tanager x
Red-legged Honeycreeper 10
Montezuma Oropendola 50
Baltimore Oriole 5
Melodious Blackbird 1
Great-tailed Grackle 2

October 26 Travel Day: Village on the Rio Lalana to Mitla, Oaxaca

A few birds seen on the walk through the forest and along the road  while driving.  A large white-bodied/headed raptor flying at the  turnout below Km 70 on hwy. 175 (approx. 3100' altitude) stopped us,  following which the fuel pump died in the jeep truck we were driving. The juvenile Ornate Hawk Eagle perched obligingly at about eye-level  for breath-taking looks and some photos.  Bob then flagged a pickup and rode to a phone.  Brad stayed at the turnout for 2 ½ hours, happily  picking off a couple of spectacular lifers after an initial dull hour.  We ultimately abandoned the Jeep truck, caught a local bus down to Valle Nacional where we then bought tickets on the Valle Nacional  to Oaxaca express for a night-time drive.  We got a taxi in Oaxaca City, arriving back in Mitla about  11:45 pm.  It didn't matter, the two hawk eagles made it all worth it and  more.  All  birds below are from the N. lowlands unless noted otherwise.

Tricolored Heron 2
Great Egret 3
Cattle Egret 400
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite 3
Gray Hawk 1
Roadside Hawk 7
Swainson's Hawk 1
Black Hawk Eagle 1  this bird was first seen  high to the north of the km 70 turnout while waiting for Bob's return. I heard the juv Ornate Hawk Eagle calling from an invisible perch downslope and scanned.  On seeing the shape in the distance I assumed it would be a parent.  As it came overhead the very large, long-winged bird  showed its checked  pattern on the flight feathers from body to primaries, black wing lining and body with white flecking on belly/legs. Its long tail was, of course, banded black and white underneath.  It cruised off to the east over deep rainforest.
Ornate Hawk Eagle 1 juv.
Crested Caracara 2
Am Kestrel 4
Bat Falcon 1 km 70, chasing White-collared Swifts
Black-necked Stilt 4  Tuxtepec
Red-billed Pigeon 3  village
Ruddy Ground Dove 3
Aztec Parakeet 1 village flock
Yellow-headed Parrot 2 in lowlands south of hwy. 147
Groove-billed Ani 30
White-collared Swift 25 Km 70
Fork-tailed Emerald 1 village
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 1 village
Amazon Kingfisher 1 Tuxtepec
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 km 70 hwy. 175
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1 km 70 hwy. 175
Vermillion Flycatcher 1
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 1 km 70 hwy. 175
Tropical Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Brown Jay  village
Yellow Warbler 1 Tuxtepec
Hooded Warbler 1 village
Common Bush Tanager 1 km 70
Yellow-winged Tanager 7 km 70
Blue-crowned Chlorophonia 1 km 70
Red-legged Honeycreeper 10 km 70
Montezuma Oropendola 15 village
Melodious Blackbird 2 village
Great-tailed Grackle 10

October 27  Mitla, Oaxaca

Birding around Mitla in the morning.  The rest  of the day was spent in downtown Mitla and doing wash, recovering from the village trip.  The ficus in front of the cemetery was picked clean  of fruit, and therefore birdless.

Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Roadside Hawk 1
Rock Dove
Inca Dove 30
Nighthawk sp. 3
Beautiful Hummingbird 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Western Wood Pewee 1
Vermillion Flycatcher 10
Tropical Kingbird
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Curve-billed Thrasher 4
Boucard's Wren 3
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch 8
House Finch 15
Nashville Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15+
Wilson's Warbler 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 15
Vesper Sparrow 1
Lark Sparrow 25
White-throated Towhee 9
Western Tanager 3
Variable Seedeater 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
Great-tailed Grackle 4
October 28  Outskirts of Oaxaca
We took Bob's son, daughter-in-law, and grandson to the airport in Oaxaca, following which we birded the foothills along hwy. 175 below El Estudiante between km 206 and approx 202.  We then went into Oaxaca City  for a rental car and returned to Mitla after the usual difficulty finding the Hertz outlet in a congested city.  In mid-afternoon We drove into the high dry pine forest on the pass just to the north of Mitla and birded in the pines and the oaks immediately below until after sundown.
Cattle Egret 75  Oaxaca valley
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture

10-28 When commenting on the Hook-billed Kite wings I say that the
primaries are ping-pong paddle shaped.  That should be changed.  What I
meant to say was that the long primaries give the ends of the wing a
ping-pong paddle shape--not the individual primaries.

Hook-billed Kite 2  male (dark) w/female (light). These birds surprised us above the pines  on the  pass (7500'+) above Mitla.  Turkey Vultures had been going north over the pass regularly, to the deep valley beyond.  These two kites came from the Mitla side.  The male was black, the tail (both birds) had  broad white/black bands.  The secondaries of the male were blackish contrasting strongly with the obvious checking of the black and white barred primaries. The long primaries of both birds give the ends of the wings a ping-pong  paddle shape, the primaries being longer than the secondaries. The long hooked bill was clearly seen on both birds, the pale eye of  the female was also noted.  On clearing  the summit both birds soared downslope into the valley to the north.
Am Kestrel 1
Rock Dove x
White-winged Dove 4 hwy 175
Inca Dove 2 hwy 175
nighthawk sp. 1 Mitla
Beautiful Hummingbird (?) 1 Mitla
Bumblebee Hummingbird 1 in oak belt above Mitla  below the pass
Rufous Hummingbird 3 hwy 175
Acorn Woodpecker 4 pines
Northern Flicker 1 pines
Greenish Elaenia 1 hwy 175
Cordilleran Flycatcher 1 hwy 175 (range?)
Empid sp. 1 hwy 175
Black Phoebe 2 hwy 175
Vermillion Flycatcher x
 Nutting's Flycatcher 1 hwy 175
Tropical Kingbird
Great Kiskadee
Western Scrub Jay 8  hwy 175  These were interesting birds. Much bluer overall than those seen in pines at km 147 on hwy 190 to the south, with bluer backs and  no  necklace. They also sounded much different than the usual scrub jay chatter.
Common Raven 2 hwy 175
Slaty Vireo 1  hwy 175  This is an amazing  bird.  One male called back to a tape and came in close. Brad shut off the  tape and we watched it below eye-level, sun overhead at about 20 feet for the better part of a minute. Field guide paintings don't do it justice any more than my description could.  The actual colors are much brighter and contrast much more dramatically. One of the showiest birds imaginable.
Golden Vireo 1 hwy 175  looks rather like a cock-tailed female Wilson's Warbler with a bold supercilium
Warbling Vireo 8 hwy 175
Loggerhead Shrike 2 Oaxaca valley
Gray Silky 31  a flock of 25 in the oaks above Mitla was impressive
Hermit Thrush 1 in pines above Mitla
Blue Mockingbird 1 hwy 175
Curve-billed Thrasher 4  Mitla
Bewick's Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Tree Swallow 25 pines
Violet-green Swallow 8 pines
Barn Swallow 100 lowlands
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
House Sparrow x Mitla
Lesser Goldfinch x
Nashville Warbler 2  hwy 175 and oaks above Mitla
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3 pines
Black-throated Gray Warbler 2
Townsend's Warbler 6 hwy 175
Black and White Warbler 1 pines
Wilson's Warbler many on hwy 175
Painted Redstart 1 pines
Rufous-capped Warbler 8 hwy 175
Lincoln's Sparrow 1 hwy 175
Chipping Sparrow 12 pines
Bridled Sparrow 1 hwy 175
Oaxaca Sparrow 3  hwy 175
White-throated Towhee 10, 2 on hwy 175, 8 in oak belt below the pines
Western Tanager 8  hwy 175
Black-headed Grosbeak 1 hwy 175
Indigo Bunting 6  hwy 175
Baltimore Oriole 2 males hwy 175
Great-tailed Grackle 50 lowland

October 29  Travel Day: Mitla to Isthmus of Tehuantepec

We drove to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, getting as far as Bahia La Ventosa on the Pacific coast where we watched shorebirds at a mangrove lagoon in  a high wind.  We stopped at various turnouts in the thorn scrub, but by mid-day everything was laying low, as was our metabolism.  Dinner in Salina Cruz,  before returning to Tehuantepec for a hotel and sleep.

Km 65 +/- on hwy. 190 at approx. 4600'.  Habitat was steep hillside, brushy with thorn shrubs and some cactus - lots of blooming flowers.  7:15- 8:45 AM

Turkey Vulture 1
White-winged Dove 8
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl 1 heard
Dusky Hummingbird 1 male
Green-fronted Hummingbird 1
hummingbird sp. 1 (starthroat?)
Gray-breasted Woodpecker 6
Least Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher 1
Nutting's Flycatcher 2
Western Kingbird 2
Solitary Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
White-lored Gnatcatcher 4
Lesser Goldfinch 30
Virginia's Warbler 2
Bridled Sparrow 1
Western Tanager 6
Indigo Bunting 2
Altamira Oriole 2

Km 72 +/- at approx. 3500'. Scrub thorn with cactus and farmer's field below. Ten  minute stop.

Turkey Vulture 2
White-winged Dove 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Rufous-naped Wren 1
Lesser Goldfinch 5
Bridled Sparrow 2
Altamira Oriole 1

Km 73, approx. 7300'.  Steep hillside thorn scrub, some cactus, farmer's field nearby. 9:10-9:40 AM

Turkey Vulture 3
White-winged Dove 10
Green-fronted Hummingbird 1
Gray-breasted Woodpecker 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Western Kingbird 3
Golden Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Rufous-naped Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
White-lored Gnatcatcher 6
oriole sp. 2  [Scott's ? flyover]

Km 97.5 approx. 3300', 10:30-10:50.  Sparse thorn-bush country,  columnar cactus, hot.

Turkey Vulture 1
Lesser Roadrunner 1 heard
Dusky Hummingbird 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Gray-breasted Woodpecker 2
Pileated Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Nutting's/Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Western Kingbird 1
Warbling Vireo 4
Nashville Warbler 6
Virginia's Warbler 1
Clay-colored Sparrow 1
Painted Bunting 1 female

Km 126+ approx. 2,000'.  Flat thorn scrub country. A flock of White-throated Magpie  Jays stopped us.  Neat birds.

Black Vulture 12
Turkey Vulture 3
White-throated Magpie Jay 5

Km 147 approx. 3800' at summit/saddle of a mountain on hwy. 190.  Lovely open dry pine country with a few broad-leafed oaks and sparse underbrush.  We stopped here for approx. 45 minutes. At mid-day. There is a shrine here that truck drivers stop at to make offerings of Coca-Cola and peso coins, and to light candles in order to, one supposes, get the favorable attention of the Virgin for their perilous descent over the steep, winding road.

Black Vulture 3
Turkey Vulture 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
White-tipped Dove 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Townsend's Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Yellow-throated Warbler 1 wh-lored
Painted Redstart 1

Km 167  Three White-throated Magpie Jays flew across the road here.

Km 225  A probable Short-tailed Hawk soared over the road, another three White-throated Magpie Jays scolded from roadside and a pair of Altamira Orioles flew by.

Tehuantepec vicinity.

Black Vulture 300
Turkey Vulture 50
Rock Dove many 100s
White-winged Dove scores
Barn Swallow scores
Great Kiskadee 3
Great-tailed Grackle thousands
Bronzed Cowbird hundreds
Bahia La Ventosa mangrove lagoon, low tide.  Well-named, the wind was blowing a gale, the sun was searing.  Large flocks of peeps with larger shorebirds thrown in, Frigatebirds hovering overhead.  The buildings by water's edge show the effects of the hurricane a couple weeks ago, although this area was somewhat east of its center.

Magnificent Frigatebird 12
Neotropic Cormorant 12
Brown Pelican 10
Tricolored Heron 2
Snowy Egret 6
Great Blue Heron 3
Reddish Egret 2
Great Egret 2
Osprey 2
Am. Kestrel 2
Marbled Godwit 25
Whimbrel 5
Long-billed Curlew 6
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Spotted Sandpiper 10
Willet 20
Ruddy Turnstone 1
Dunlin 5 [status here?]
Short-billed Dowitcher 30
Western Sandpiper 400
Least Sandpiper 6
Red-necked Phalarope 8
Black-necked Stilt 50
American Avocet 300
Black-bellied Plover 8
Semipalmated Plover 3
Laughing Gull 15
Gull-billed Tern 2
Caspian Tern 1
Royal Tern 1
Sandwich Tern 20
Black Skimmer 10
Mourning Dove 1
Tropical Kingbird 6
Mangrove Swallow 25
Barn Swallow 100
Great-tailed Grackle 50

October 30  Travel Day: Isthmus of Tehuantepec to Mitla

We reversed tracks up hwy. 190 toward Oaxaca, stopping at turnouts in the low country in early morning, and then at Km 147 in the pines, a fine birding spot and blissfully dry and cool. Before leaving Tehuantepec we went east on 190 to an area of mango and banana plantations fringed with coco palms. We hoped that these plantations would produce Yellow-winged Caciques. They did. There were also Golden-fronted Woodpecker and more White-throated Magpie Jays.

Plantation  6:30-6:45 AM  A Common Moorhen in a pond next to the road was the only one of the entire trip.

Black Vulture 150
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 2
Tropical Kingbird 2
Great Kiskadee 4
White-throated Magpie Jay 2
Great-tailed Grackle 50
Yellow-winged Cacique 3  1 imm.


Km 247, Tehuantepec Dump.  We stopped here and birded the hedge-row east of the dump, but could go no further down the dirt road due to a recent washout. (Accosted by police here. Bob chatted with them in  Spanish. They had noticed our car just off the road and seemed  genuinely concerned for our safety!)

Black Vulture 300
White-winged Dove 50
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Barn Swallow 75
Yellow Warbler 1
Lark Sparrow 10
Orange-breasted Bunting 1  male. Absolutely stunning at close range
Great-tailed Grackle 500

Unknown Km spot, approx. 400' altitude, thick thorn scrub, approx. 20 minutes. A brief stop here produced numerous Orange-breasted Buntings coming in to a tape of Rose-breasted Bunting -- a fact reproduced everywhere we played this tape in the lowland  scrub. The kingbirds here were in flocks all flying west in loose flocks, birds having the look of going out to forage from night-time roosts.

Mourning Dove 6
White-winged Dove 20
Tropical Kingbird 11
Western Kingbird 8
Empid. sp? 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Orange-breasted Bunting 5  2 males

Km 233, 600' 8-8:15.  Starting into foothills in dry thorn forest.

White-winged Dove 12
Dusky Hummingbird ? 1
Rufous-naped Wren 3
Nashville Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Orange-breasted Bunting 1  male
Altamira Oriole 2

Km 229 approx., near an eroded limestone hillside, thorn forest.

Turkey Vulture 1
White-throated Magpie Jay 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Orange-breasted Bunting 1 female
Altamira Oriole 4
Between Llano Grande and El Salado in flat thorn scrub country, birds seen from traveling car.

Black Vulture 10
Turkey Vulture 8
Gray Hawk 1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 4
Altamira Oriole 3
Great-tailed Grackle 6

Km 190 at 1500', 9:10-9:25 in thorn forest.

Turkey Vulture 5
Gray-breasted Woodpecker 1
Lesser Roadrunner 1 heard
Western Kingbird 1
White-lored Gnatcatcher 1
Orange-breasted Bunting 5
Altamira Oriole 2

Just below Km 150 at 3400' in thorn, oaks.

Lesser Roadrunner 1 heard
White-throated Magpie Jay 7
Red Warbler 6
Indigo Bunting 4
Altamira Oriole 2

Km 147 3600' in pines 10:15-11:10 good birding this morning.

Black Vulture 4
Turkey Vulture 6
Inca Dove 3  a little high?
White-tipped Dove 1 heard
Elegant Trogon 1
Acorn Woodpecker 8
Ash-throated Flycatcher 2 calling
Western Kingbird 1
Scrub Jay 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Bridled Titmouse 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
Townsend's Warbler 1
Hermit Warbler 1 male
Grace's Warbler 1

October 31  Oaxaca Highlands -- Hwy 175

We drove on hwy. 175 out of Oaxaca City to the wet north-facing slope that ends on entering Valle Nacional at the base.  We started later  than we should have due to general fatigue.  A couple of emergency stops due to problems of Brad's gut also slowed us down - especially the stop at approx. Km 138 where we ran into a large warbler flock.  Birding the segment from Km 100-Km 70 at mid-day was disappointing, but we took it philosophically as most of these birds were likewise in the Chinantec village earlier in this odyssey.  Certain target birds -- jays and toucanet specifically -- were much more important.  Fortunately, things worked out favorably.

Km  170, approx 7,000' first gut stop. arid ridge with scrub growth
(These were seen by Bob only  -- Brad momentarily incapacitated <Grin>)
Rufous-sided Towhee 4
Golden-browed Warbler 2

Km 138, approx 8,000' damp, dark cloud forest full of birds.

Hummer sp. 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Cassin's Vireo 2
Brown-backed Solitaire 5 heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6
Mexican Chickadee 3
Olive Warbler 10
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Crescent-chested Warbler 15
Townsend's Warbler 5
Hermit Warbler 10
Golden-browed Warbler 5

Meadow at approx. 8,200', site of a logging company.

Red-tailed Hawk 1
Acorn Woodpecker 1
N. Flicker 1
Brown-backed Solitaire 2 heard
Yellow-eyed Junco 2

Humid forest on N. slope 6,800', above Km 100.

Tufted Flycatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Townsend's Warbler 2
Hermit Warbler 1
Wilson's Warbler 3
Golden-browed Warbler 1
Red Warbler 3

Humid forest 6,200', just above Km 100.

Squirrel Cuckoo 1 with caterpillar
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Wilson's Warbler 1

6,100' just below Km 100.  We stopped at a washout downslope and saw 3 Unicolored Jays working the edge.  From here, although we stopped a number of times, we saw essentially  nothing in the early afternoon.  Until we got to Km 70, that is.

Km 70, approx. 3,100', approx. 2:30-3:30.  We parked in the  same turnout below the km. marker where the pickup had balked the week before.  Downslope there were a couple of fruiting trees, both up and downhill from the turnout, that were receiving a lot of thrush attention.  Although this is the same location where there was a flock of Red-legged and Green honeycreepers last week, there were none this day.

Emerald Toucanet 5  fine looks at  perched and foraging birds
Tufted Flycatcher 1
Slate-colored Solitaire 5, 3 seen feeding  on small fruit with  other thrushes
White-throated Thrush 30
Black Thrush 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Golden-crowned Warbler 1
Rufous-crowned Warbler 2
Common Bush Tanager 100
Yellow-winged Tanager 30

Km 110 approx.  We did a quick stop on the road here when a flock of six Dwarf Jays flew across the road.

Mirador Summit, 8,500'. We stopped here for a picture to the north toward the gulf, under clouds.  Here we had the only American Robin of the trip.

 November 1 Cloud Forest N. of Oaxaca City

Highlands near La Cumbre, 8100-8500'.  We spent 25 pesos to drive the dirt road to the west (left) at the summit and spent about eight hours birding the forest and drier slopes. Hummingbirds were the most obvious critters in the forest, the "tip-tip" of male White-ears downright monotonous at times. The White-ears foraged at the smaller flowers while the numerous Magnificent hummers seemed to specialize on the deep thistle flowers. The arboreal Gray-barred Wrens were a kick, seen in families of  4 or 5, or heard scolding in the undergrowth.  The song of Brown-backed Solitaires were everywhere in the morning, an amazingly complex, flutey sound.  Like all the rest of this trip, the sky was blue, breeze slight.  The forest was clean and quiet and smelled like the pine forests of California after a rain.

Turkey Vulture 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Band-tailed Pigeon 1
White-eared Hummingbird 50
Blue-throated Hummingbird 1
Garnet-throated Hummingbird 1 fe
Magnificent Hummingbird 8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 town
Broad-tailed Hummingbird 1
trogon sp. 1 heard
Acorn Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 2
N. Flicker 1 beneath pines in fairly dry section of the  forest
Pine Flycatcher 1 small empid., buffy  wingbars, narrow bill, tear-drop eye ring
Steller's Jay 30
Hutton's Vireo 5
Gray Silky 15
Brown-backed Solitaire 11, 3 seen
Brown Creeper 4
Gray-barred Wren 8
House Wren 1 (brn-throated)
Gray-breasted Wood Wren 2 heard
Bushtit (black-eared) 30
Violet-green Swallow 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 30
Mexican Chickadee 8
Olive Warbler 3
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Nashville Warbler 1
Crescent-chested Warbler 5
Townsend's Warbler 20
Hermit Warbler 25
Hooded Yellowthroat 2 in shrubs beneath pines in fairly dry section of the forest
Red Warbler 8
Slate-throated Redstart 6
Rufous-capped Warbler 1 town
Golden-browed Warbler 4
Lincoln's Sparrow 1 town
Yellow-eyed Junco 20
Chipping Sparrow 2
Cinnamon-bellied Flower Piercer 2

November 2 Foothills N. of Oaxaca City

Hwy. 175 below El Estudiante.  The worst weather of the trip, stiff wind coming down the canyon off the mountains immediately  north.  7-9 AM. Both Orange-crowned and  MacGillivray's warblers were obvious and responding to pishing here this morning.  They weren't a few days earlier. Best bird of the day was the Dwarf Vireo. This was one of our targeted birds.

Turkey Vulture 3
Crested Caracara 1 hwy 190
Mourning Dove 6
Inca Dove 8
Lesser Roadrunner 1 heard
Berylline Hummingbird 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Rufous Hummingbird 3
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet 1
Greenish Elaenia 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Cordilleran Flycatcher 1
Vermillion Flycatcher 1
Cassin's Kingbird 1
Common Raven 2
Dwarf Vireo 1 male  Good study of this little vireo that looks like a faded Black-capped
Golden Vireo 1
Solitary Vireo 1
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Gray Silky 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Lesser Goldfinch 15
Orange-crowned Warbler 4
Nashville Warbler 1
Townsend's Warbler 2
MacGillivray's Warbler 5
Wilson's Warbler 6
Rufous-capped Warbler 6
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Western Tanager 3
Indigo Bunting 2

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