Cerro Prieto, Nuevo Leon: April 28, 2019

Last weekend, we headed south to a large reservoir outside of Linares. This part of Nuevo Leon is often referred to as the orange belt, and during the trip we drove past many square miles of orange groves. The highlight of our previous visit to Cerro Prieto last August was spotting several unusual migratory raptors, including Swallow-Tailed Kite. This time, we were hoping to encounter shorebirds and warblers moving north. Also, a few weeks ago, Patrick had discovered Altamira Yellowthroat in the swampy scrub near the shore. This was the first record of this species in Nuevo Leon, and I was hoping to see it for myself. Unfortunately, the local farmers had just cut back the habitat where Patrick saw it, and Altamira Yellowthroat was nowhere to be found. Ironically, on this day the weather in the area was probably too pleasant for migratory birds to stop over at the reservoir. We still made a few noteworthy observations though, including a stout Yellow-Headed Blackbird.

Notable birds seen: Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck, Mexican Duck, American Coot, Blue-Winged Teal, American Coot, Black-Necked Stilt, Baird's Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Ring-Billed Gull, Gull-Billed Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, White-Faced Ibis, Baird's Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Turkey Vulture, Crested Caracara, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, White-Tipped Dove, White-Winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Groove-Billed Ani, Greater Roadrunner, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Killdeer, Great Egret, Black Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Brown-Crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Western Kingbird, White-Eyed Vireo, Brown Jay, Green Jay, Black-Crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Clay-Colored Thrush, Long-Billed Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Lesser Goldfinch, Olive Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Northern Mockingbird, American Pipit, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Hooded Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Red-Winged Blackbird, Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Great-Tailed Grackle, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Rufous-Capped Warbler, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Morelet's Seedeater.

Villa la Trinidad, Nuevo Leon: April 6, 2019

On Saturday, we headed south of Santiago and west into the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The road proved too rough to make it all the way to our destination, Villa la Trinidad, but there was plenty of good birding to be done along the way. In addition to the usual resident birds, we found a few migrant warblers, including Black-Throated Green-Warbler and Tropical Parula. On the return trip, we stopped at a few sites near Santiago, at one searching for Grey-Crowned Yellowthroat in some pasture along the road. Although we missed this target bird, we later found a confiding Crimson-Collared Grosbeak singing its heart out in the midday heat.

Notable birds seen: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Plain Chachalaca, Thicket Tinamou, Common Black Hawk, Short-Tailed Hawk, White-Tipped Dove, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Elegant Trogon, Blue-capped Motmot, Common Raven, Blue-Headed Vireo, Brown Jay, Yellow-Green Vireo, Green Jay, Black-Crested Titmouse, Gray Catbird, Tropical Parula, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Yellow-Faced Grassquit, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Spot-Breasted Wren, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Brown-Backed Solitaire, Olive Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Audubon's Oriole, Rufous-Capped Warbler, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Clay-Colored Thrush, Golden-Crowned Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Crimson-Collared Grosbeak, Flame-Colored Tanager.

Galeana, Nuevo Leon: March 3, 2019

Last Sunday, Patrick and I took an exploratory drive in the mountains southwest of Monterrey near the border with Coahuila. Given how under-birded this area of Mexico is, there is always a chance on these drives to record a new species for Nuevo Leon. It certainly was a promising morning, but we didn't encounter many birds early on, aside from a pair of territorial Curve-Billed Thrashers. Soon, the weather became hot and dry, and we spent most of our time birding agricultural fields and semi-disturbed habitat, where there was more bird activity. At one point, we ticked a group of Pine Siskin, a welcome addition to my country list. At another, we noted Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay.

Notable birds seen: Turkey Vulture, Red-Railed Hawk, American Kestrel, Common Raven, Greater Roadrunner, Mourning Dove, Loggerhead Shrike, Hutton's Vireo, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Mexican Jay, Canyon Wren, Western Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Golden-Fronted Woodpecker, American Robin, Phainopepla, Black Phoebe, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Mexican Chickadee, Bushtit, Pine Siskin, Vesper Sparrow, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren, Curve-Billed Thrasher, House Finch, Canyon Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Slate-Throated Redstart, Scott's Oriole, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Olive Warbler, Yellow-Eyed Junco.

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).

Zipolite, Oaxaca: November 22, 2018

Aimee and I spent the week of Thanksgiving in Oaxaca enjoying many of the state's attractions, including the beautiful coastline. Outside Zipolite, we stayed at Rancho Cerro Largo, a rustic and peaceful posada perched on a cliff. For three days, we mostly relaxed and enjoyed birding from our patio and swimming in the ocean below. In his bird finding guide to Mexico, Steve Howell describes a thorn forest site nearby. Following his directions, I woke up early one morning and hiked up a dry river bed, hoping to see a few regional specialities. Although I missed Orange-Breasted Bunting, Red-Breasted Chat, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, and Russet-Crowned Motmot, I did find a few lifers, including Citreoline Trogon, Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker, and White-Throated Magpie Jay. 

Notable birds seen: Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Zone-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Hawk (h), White-Winged Dove, Inca Dove, White-Fronted Parrot, West Mexican Chachalaca, Squirrel Cuckoo (h), Groove-Billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (h), Cinnamon Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, White-Throated Magpie Jay, Banded Wren, Rufous-Backed Thrush, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Olive Sparrow, Spot-Breasted Oriole, Yellow-Winged Cacique.