26 March 2009

Under the Belt…(Chiapas, Mexico): 16 March 2009

Our morning was spent again close to the town of San Cristobal, in highland pine-oak forest, primarily to search again for Pink-headed Warbler and some other titbits we were missing from the highlands. Unfortunately our morning was cut short when a couple of local farmers seemed to suggest strongly that we were not permitted in the area, and rather argue with them (with a car load of stuff for them to retaliate on) we decided to get out of there just in case. However, we still saw some good stuff. We arrived at the ungodly hour of 05.30am to try for Unspotted Saw-whet Owl as we were flushed with confidence following the screech show the night before. Our new found confidence in owling was soon dented when we turned up with not a whisper from the saw-whet. We did however find a female Garnet-throated Hummingbird feeding on a flowering bromeliad, and a triplet of Pink-headed Warblers (see photo) so it was not all bad at all.

From there we continued west to the dramatic El Sumidero canyon, a top tourist attraction for its geological wonder that just also happens to be a Chiapas birding hotspot. The canyon was impressive and huge (even for someone who has viewed the Grand Canyon in Arizona only last year). The birding was also good with a Fan-tailed Warbler or two, and an Eye-ringed Flatbill sharing the same bamboo-draped grove. Best of all though was one of Sumidero’s star residents, the incomparable Belted Flycatcher that looked far from skulking when we saw it on the upper slopes (defying its reputation) – see photo. Lower down the road up the canyon we stopped to admire several Grey-crowned Yellowthroats, that due to its chunky beak is sometimes known as Ground Chat which is a far more interesting name. A “beefy” Rusty Sparrow was also found within the same stretch of dry scrubby grassland. This excellent day was rounded off nicely with a spicy Aztec Soup and a round of chilled Sol cervezas for all, in a cafetaria just off the main zocolo (town square) in Tuxtla Gutierrez.

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