05 April 2009

Valley of Sparrows…(Oaxaca, Mexico): 21 March 2009

We spent the morning making our way south from the ‘beer city’ of Tuxtepec along highway 175 back to Oaxaca City. The journey saw us initially rising in altitude to over 2700m or more passing through pine-oak cloudforest on the wet Atlantic Slope, and finally dropping down in altitude into the tinder dry interior valley of Oaxaca. An interesting journey full of contrast in environment and climate. On the Gulf slope we experienced a couple of bursts of heavy rain and chilly temperatures where we were surrounded by high pines sprinkled with the odd bromeliad clad to their trunks. However, by the end of the day we were struggling to breath in the hot, dry scrubby environment of the Oaxaca Valley, with clear azure blue skies overhead, and low leafless scrub surrounding us. As we passed through Valle Nacional we checked out birds along the highway, like flocks of deep-blue Unicolored Jays in the higher stretches of forest, although best of all was a tiny, tiny male Bumblebee Hummingbird singing from the top of a tree. As we zigzagged down the highway we picked up some bright red shapes in the trees, the distinctive white cheek revealing three or four more sightings of the incredible Red Warbler that once again foiled our attempts at photographing them.

Once we dropped into the Oaxaca Valley just north of the city with the same name, we had a few special targets in mind. When we had visited just a few weeks earlier we could have nicknamed the place ‘death valley’ as there was little sign of life and the birding was dead. However, we had a tip off from a friend Michael Retter that the birdlife had picked up, indicating that maybe spring had finally come to the valley. Not only that but he had given us up to the minute gen on some of our targets – the endemic sparrows of the interior valleys. We hopped out of the car where Michael had indicated and almost immediately flushed a group of birds that included Bridled Sparrow, a few Oaxaca Sparrows and a black-and-gold male Black-vented Oriole. All lifers and all seen virtually within just a few minutes. The odd White-throated Towhee was also in their company. The change in birding fortune from just a few weeks previously was amazing, with barely a bird seen or heard in this same valley earlier in the month. A great return to the valley. A Rufous-backed Robin around our hotel in Oaxaca City was also much appreciated, although Michael’s tree ‘covered’ in Dusky Hummingbirds was unfortunately now devoid of birds just a few days later, because presumably the flowering bounty was now over as far as they were concerned. With such success we turned to re-jigging our plans for our final few days in the state of Oaxaca.

1 comment:

Ricky Peterson said...

Nice sparrow. Mexico is a 18 megadiverse countries in the world, most diverse fauna and flora species in the world. Oaxaca is a constituent state of Mexico.Oaxaca has the biggest bird reserve in Mexico. Birding tourism in Oaxaca is Oaxaca Valley, Cloud Forest, Sierra Sur, Pacific Costal Lowlands there are many Other birds spotted in Oaxaca. For more details refer Oaxaca Mexico