Monterreal, Coahuila: January 12, 2019

Bosques de Monterreal is a resort in the mountains of western Coahuila near the border with Nuevo Leon. There are cabins for rent here as well as an artificial ski slope, and on occasion the area does get actual snow. Below the tree line, pine and juniper forests are interspersed with stands of quaking aspen. The temperature was well below freezing on a recent Saturday morning when we visited the area. Despite the cold, birding was productive in the orchards and forests along the paved highway. We also walked several dirt side roads, where we found the endemic Pine Flycatcher and other common montane species, such as Mexican Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, and Bridled Titmouse. In an arid valley nearby, the habitat changes to chaparral. Here we found a responsive pair of the endemic Hooded Yellowthroat.

Notable birds seen: Blue-Winged Teal, Turkey Vulture, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Acorn Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pine Flycatcher, Say's Phoebe, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Mexican Chickadee, Bushtit, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, House Wren, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Cassin's Finch, House Finch, Hooded Yellowthroat, Hutton's Vireo, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, Olive Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Yellow-Eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, Slate-Throated Redstart, Black-Headed Grosbeak.

Valle de La Soledad: December 16, 2018

Valle de la Soledad is located in the high desert plains near the border between Nuevo Leon and Coahuila. This is the general area to find Worthen's Sparrow, one of the very few endemic species of the region, along with a variety of interesting birds wintering in Mexico, including Sprague's Pipit, Long-Billed Curlew, and Ferruginous Hawk. The temperature was well below freezing when we visited the site last month, but the air wasn't cold enough to keep the prairie dogs in their burrows. The birds became more active as the sun climbed in the sky, and we ticked a decent list of sparrows, larks, and buntings. Notable birds of prey included Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, and Prairie Falcon. On our way back to Monterrey, we stopped at another site near the highway, noting Townsend's Solitaire, Scott's Oriole, and Cedar Waxing in the juniper forest habitat.

Notable birds seen: Scaled Quail, White-Throated Swift, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Long-Billed Curlew, Turkey Vulture, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Inca Dove, Greater Roadrunner, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Crested Caracara, Prairie Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, Sprague's Pipit, American Pipit, Cactus Wren, House Finch, Say's Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher, Horned Lark, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Mexican Jay, Mexican Chickadee, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Lesser Goldfinch, Lark Bunting, Vesper Sparrow, Clay-Colored Sparrow, Worthen's Sparrow, Black-Throated Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Scott's Oriole, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Western Meadowlark, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Great-Tailed Grackle.

Parque Ecologico Chipinque: December 12, 2018

Jagged mountains tower over the southwestern edge of Monterrey, where Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey begins. The park encompasses a steep series of ridges blanketed in pine-oak forest and semiarid scrub. For views of this spectacular landscape, it is possible at Parque Ecologicio Chipinque to climb the first of these ridges. On Wednesday last week, we got a permit to ascend La Eme, one of the most distinctive of Monterrey's many peaks. The route includes innumerable switchbacks and a few steep rock scrambles towards the end. At the summit, we reveled in the rarified air along with a flock of noisy White-Throated Swifts.

Notable birds seen: White-Throated Swift, Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Black-Crested Titmouse, Brown-Backed Solitaire (h), Carolina Wren (h), Canyon Wren (h), White-Breasted Nuthatch, Audubon's Oriole (h).

Parque Natural la Estanzuela: November 17, 2018

A few weeks ago, I finally made it to Parque Natural la Estanzuela, a popular birding site in the Monterrey area. The entrance road to the park offers good scrub and riverine habitat, in addition to a paved trail that loops around a stream bed. La Estanzuela boasts a few specialties not typically found nearby at Parque Ecologico Chipinque, including Crimson-Collared Grosbeak, Spot-Breasted Wren, and Golden-Crowned Warbler. Today, we also found a wintering Louisiana Waterthrush along the stream. Certainly, the most unusual migrant seen was a Golden-Crowned Kinglet, found here near the southern most limit of its non-breeding range.

Notable birds seen: White-Winged Dove, Gray Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Hammond's Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, White-Eyed Vireo, Blue-Headed Vireo, Brown Jay, Green Jay, Common Raven, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Spot-Breasted Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Clay-Colored Thrush, Black-Crested Titmouse, Louisiana Waterthrush, Gray Catbird, Black-and-White Warbler, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Golden-Crowned Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Rufous-Capped Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Flame-Colored Tanager, Blue Bunting, Crimson-Collared Grosbeak (h), Northern Cardinal, Olive Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Black-Headed Grosbeak.

Area Natural Protegida Sierra Picachos, Nuevo Leon: November 3, 2018

On Saturday morning, we visited a series of reservoirs to the northeast of Monterrey, looking for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. We stopped along the way in several places to search for sparrows. Fortunately, I was with some of the region's best birders, who had no trouble distinguishing the call of a Lincoln's from a Vesper Sparrow. The first reservoir we visited was located in a protected area at the base of an impressive mountain ridge. At the second reservoir, near the town of Agualeguas, we spotted a swoop of eight Sandhill Cranes overhead. Judging from my companions' reactions, we didn't see any unusual ducks at any of the reservoirs, it still being relatively early for wintering waterfowl to arrive in northeastern Mexico. The excursion was still a treat, and I got a much better sense how Nuevo Leon is an important migratory pathway for North American birds.

Notable birds seen: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Coot, Blue-Winged Teal, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Mexican Duck, Northern Pintail, Spotted Sandpiper, Green Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Green-Winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Eared Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Black-Necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Tricolored Heron, Stilt Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Long-Billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, American White Pelican, Snowy Egret, Reddish Egret, Ringed Kingfisher, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher,  Northern Bobwhite (h), Red-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Greater Roadrunner, White-Winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Harris's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Gray Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Black Phoebe, Eastern Phoebe, Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee (h), Green Jay (h), Brown Jay (h), Barn Swallow, Chihuahuan Raven, House Wren, Bewick's Wren (h), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Long-billed Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, House Finch, Grasshopper Sparrow, Clay-Colored Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Orange-crowned Warbler (h), Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia.

Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey: October 13, 2018

Early on Saturday morning we headed out into the mountains west of Santiago. The weather was sunny and cool, and the views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular. We stopped along the road at a few places to look for birds, finding a few unusual ones for Nuevo Leon, including Mexican Chickadee, Yellow-Eyed Junco, and Slate-Throated Redstart. The highlight of the morning, though, was surprising a pair of Montezuma Quail along a dirt road, where we had brief but good views of both male and female birds. Heading back at noon, we were awestruck by the thousands of migrating butterflies drifting overhead, notable in the second photograph below.

Notable birds seen: American Coot, Spotted Sandpiper, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Montezuma Quail, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Maroon-Fronted Parrot, Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpecker, House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Western Bluebird, Phainopepla, Pine Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Hutton's Vireo, Mexican Jay, Mexican Chickadee, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, Curve-Billed Thrasher, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Brown-Backed Solitaire, Olive Warbler, Canyon Towhee, Spotted Towhee, House Finch, Chipping Sparrow, Rufous-Crowned Sparrow, Yellow-Eyed Junco, Audubon's Oriole, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Rufous-Capped Warbler, Slate-Throated Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Lesser Goldfinch.

Cerro Prieto, Nuevo Leon: August 25, 2018

To take advantage of fall migration, I tagged along with a group of local birders on Saturday to a site in southern Nuevo Leon. We visited the area of Cerro Prieto, a large dam located east of the city of Linares. The trip yielded some exciting birds, including several new records for the state. We were fortunate to be birding with local guide Rene Valdes, who has probably seen more birds in Nuevo Leon than anyone and helped us tremendously with identifications. In the early morning, we stopped to bird some scrub habit before reaching the shore. Here we found migrating flycatchers and warblers, including Blue-Winged and Canada, mobbing a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

Later, we explored the dam for several hours, looking for migrating shorebirds. Among others, we saw Long-Billed Curlew, Pectoral Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Throughout the day, Rene blew us away with his knowledge and skill, especially as he identified birds by their call while they were streaming south above us. Perhaps the most thrilling moment of the day came at a gas station, where we spotted a kettle, or group of migrating raptors, overhead. A pair of Swallow-Tailed Kites emerged from a group of dozens of Mississippi Kites. Typically, they migrate along the Gulf of Mexico and are not found this far inland. 

Notable birds seen: Common Ground-Dove, White-Winged Dove, Groove-Billed Ani, Mourning Dove, Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, Black-Necked Stilt, Killdeer, Long-Billed Curlew, Pectoral Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, Tricolored Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Blue-Winged Teal, Greater Roadrunner, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Broad-Winged Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Swainson's Hawk, Black Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, White-Eyed Vireo, Red-Eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-Crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Long-Billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Hooded Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Blue-Winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Canada Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Hooded Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Great-Tailed Grackle.