10 March 2009

Seeing Red at La Cumbre…(Oaxaca, Mexico): 6 March 2009

We spent the morning birding the La Cumbre road, just off Highway 175 running north out of Oaxaca City, (around 23km north of there). Our main target was the endemic Dwarf Jay that turned up just as we had lost hope at around 11am, when we decided to have a brief scout of the logging road southwest from La Cumbre, when a quick burst of tape brought one of these small blue jays screaming in above us. The bird seemed to be alone and called repeatedly, indicating they have begun the breeding process, as they are said to be virtually silent in winter, when they hang out with the much commoner Steller’s Jays.

For me though the top sighting of the morning was a bird I had longed to see for some time, arguably the brightest bird in the book, the Mexican endemic Red Warbler. None were heard or seen initially despite scouring the abundant warbler flocks up there, that held many wintering boreal warblers such as Townsend’s, Hermit, Black-and-white, and Wilson’s Warblers. Also amongst the warbler horde were a few of the near-endemic Crescent-chested Warblers, a bird that very occasionally also wanders into the southern US. As we hopped out of the car to check another roadside flock, I thought I heard a Red Warbler (see photo), so ‘popped’ the tape, and was very pleased to see a glowing red bird come into the tree above me, sporting a ghostly white cheek patch that stood out in the woodland shadows. Other birds along this pine and oak-fringed highland road were a calling male Mountain Trogon, and many calling Brown-backed Solitaires. In the afternoon we birded around our scenic mountain cabins in San Jose del Pacifico. Overall things were ‘deathly’ quiet with no Hooded Yellowthroats as hoped, although I got lucky with a short sighting of the endemic White-throated Jay closeby.

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