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Down the Hatch in Western Mexico (1 Viewer)


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Arrived in Barra de Navidad yesterday for a two week stay aboard our sailboat, Peregrine. Barra is at 19 degrees 11.734 N and 104 degrees 40.954 W
Woke this morning to some very vocal Osprey. Funny how such powerful birds can have such pip-squeaky voices. As I was going up the steps to pop my head out, another loud call hit my ears; Ringed Kingfisher churring in an agitated manner. I came up just in time to see him fly into one of the trees surrounding the marina. A flock of Gray-breasted martins flew in from the large lagoon that is outside the marina and descended on the masts of most of the boats in the marina, including Peregrine's. A Mangrove swallow landed on the piling right next to me, and immediately took off when he saw me. Barn swallows flew around the buildings of the Grand Isla Navidad Resort which is next to the marina. A Eurasian Collared Dove launched from the top of a mast a few boats over--kind of weird--can't say I've ever seen a dove perched on the mast or rigging of yachts before. Looking for nesting site? The Kingfisher became a pair and drowned out the calls of everything else as they flew together. They split up and one made a flight over the marina seemingly chewing out every other being here, and the other flew into the same tree as it did earlier. Nearly spring and the birds are active. The familiar call of a Golden-cheeked Woodpecker rang out about the same time as a pair of Great Kiskadees called. I'm so happy to be somewhere where the sounds of Mother Nature smack you upside the head! I retreated down the hatch to make my coffee. Have some cleaning to do before I can do an early morning walk. Manana!
Hi Sue... that sounds like a rather nice place to while away a couple of weeks.

..... and a great first report too. Thanks lass.
March 12, 2024

Before I post yet another daily bird list from the Barra area, I should write a bit about the geography, climate and habitat. We are on the Pacific slope of Southwestern Mexico in a rocky, semi-deciduous, dry tropical forest. There are two distinct seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season is from June/July to October/November. As sailors, we often call this the hurricane season. The dry season is from October/November to June/July.

Right now, we are in the dry season and much of the forest consists of leafless dry trees and understory.

The immediate area is populated by people and most of the walking distance area around me has little in the way of accessible 'wild' forest. Still, the bands of native growth between roads offers quite a bit of good birding and nature watching. Peregrine has been moored here for ten years and I'm pretty sure I have seen every month of the year. I'm not going to go through the log to confirm that though. Wink.

Sadly, in the last few years, I have seen the feral cat population expand. They are now in those little bands of wild areas. Last year, I saw a litter of older, but not quite weaned kittens in the area where I found an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper and a Pale-billed Woodpecker (I often see the Lineated, but not so much the Pale-billed). No wonder I haven't seen a Ground Cuckoo in years.

My longest walk consists of going over a good-sized hill and dropping down into a golf course that is situated between the Pacific and the lagoon (image Barra4). The area around the gold course offers some good birding. That walk takes up most of the day. I will time it next time I walk it. The walk behind the Resort complex is easy and short. A lingering walk is only a couple of hours. I did that walk last evening and finally got a few shots of the back of a Streak-backed Oriole. They hardly ever turn their backs to me! The grounds of the hotel itself have offered quite a few good birds. After a long, hot walk that has offered little, it is quite funny and annoying to finish the day with the best birding only a few steps away from boat and shady cabanas on the beach!

The Summer Tanager photo posted here was on the hotel grounds yesterday,

I will take another short walk on the roads around the hotel this evening. Tomorrow, I think I will do the over-the-hill walk to the golf course. Right now, I'm going to join my Navigator on the beach and read a dime-store novel. The little beach has its resident birds: Great-tailed Grackle, Tri-colored Heron, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great White Egret, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, and Whimbrel. Overhead, the always soaring Magnificent Frigate birds and Black and Turkey Vultures silently glide above the palms.

Oops, didn't download the Barra maps in good sequence. Barra image shows the Resort and the town of Barra De Navidad and lagoon, Barra1 shows the resort, marina and road around the resort, Barra4 shows the long walk to the golf course and lagoon and Pacific ocean. Birds are Streak-backed Oriole and Summer Tanager.


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I tried to sit on the beach and read, but after 15 minutes on the same sentence, I realized I'd rather be birding. I wandered around the grounds of the hotel for 45 minutes or so.
  1. Magnificent Frigatebird
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Snowy Egret
  5. West Mexican Chachalaca
  6. Whimbrel
  7. Spotted Sandpiper
  8. Inca Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. Heard Citreoline Trogon
  11. Lineated Woodpecker
  12. Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
  13. Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
  14. Tropical Kingbird
  15. Rose-throated Becard
  16. Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
  17. Happy Wren
  18. Yellow Warbler
  19. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Had to laugh when I saw this one. This is one of the few birds I get in my miniscule yard. It feeds every day on my hummingbird feeders, till it takes off in the spring. I didn't have it on my Barra list--so a new bird for here.)
  20. Orange-breasted Bunting
  21. White-collared Seedeater
  22. Great-tailed Grackle
  23. Streak-backed Oriole

4 cats
As much as I hate seeing the cats, I feel bad for them. A couple of these looked like they needed a vet.

Images: Happy Wren, Lineated Woodpecker, Whimbrel


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So much happened by 1:30 this afternoon that I don't know where to start. I'll end with my screw-up which I'm sure qualifies me for the Inept Birder of the Year award.
The morning started with hurriedly finishing my coffee, throwing on some clothes and hurrying down to the marina drive to see what all the ruckus from the Ringed Kingfishers was all about. Maybe I could find a burrow? I didn't bother with sunscreen or mozzie spray or even taking my bum bag with a water bottle. I was simply going to walk about 400 feet to check out the Kingfishers. They were gone when I got to the trees they've been active in, but bird activity was high. Birds were chattering and flittering all around me. The first bird I put my bins on was a male Orchard Oriole. Not a new bird for the Barra list, but not a resident and not seen very often. Then, a bird I couldn't see well through leafless but heavily tangled branches. I took a few photos that were worse than the views I got with the bins. Some part of my undisciplined mind wrote it off as a Yellow-winged Cacique, even though the tiny disciplined section of my brain knew it was not a Yellow-winged Cacique. (Clue #1 I would have heard it before I saw it.) I was soon absorbed with the Gnatcatchers. I have been trying to find a Black-capped Gnatcatcher here for years, and all I've seen are Blue-grey. Today, all I saw were Blue-grey. It's mid-March. Why are they still here? It seems that no matter when I am here, all I see is Blue-grey. I'm beginning to think the range maps are not correct and that they are resident birds. They are resident inland. I guess when I get home, I will have to go through lists and see what I might have in the summer months. At any rate, even if they are still here, why aren't they showing some breeding plumage yet? I did see some pale, pinkish color at the base of the bills on a few and that is diagnostic of Blue-grey. So, once again, no dice on the Black-capped. There was so much activity, that I continued on down the road out of the marina. That road loops around and comes to a T. One can hang a right and take the road to the Hotel, or turn left and drive out of the resort area through the little town of Colimilla. I decided rather than turn around and walk back to the marina, I would continue on and go the long way back to the marina through the hotel. A partial list of birds I saw along the way: Grey Hawk, West Mexican Chachalaca, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Mangrove Swallows, Golden-cheeked Woodies, Tropical Kingbird, Myiarchus-don't know which one yet, Empids, Rose-throated Becard, San Blas Jay, White-bellied Wren, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-green Vireo?, Orange-breasted Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Streak-backed Oriole.
By now, the sun was rising and so was the heat. The bugs were nipping, and I was getting thirsty. So much for a 400 foot walk. I walked into the hotel lobby with a group of people. One young guy asked if I had been birding. After a brief talk, I found he was a bird guide. I will post more information about him later on this thread.
So, the screw-up. I think the bird I saw that wasn't a Yellow-winged Cacique was an Audubon's Oriole. Why didn't I keep my bins on it long enough to see it better? I knew it was unusual. I have some really lousy shots that I will try to edit and see if it can be ID'd. It's not way out of range. I also have seen a White-throated Thrush here several times and it supposedly doesn't come down the coast. Although, it was said to be 'nearly sea level' and 'winter wandering occurs but poorly known', while the Audubon's is listed as 500m to 2500m. The Audubon's would be a lifer for me. If I can get confirmation with the terrible photos, I will post it on e-bird so it could be considered possible for sea level in this area.
I did go back to the area after viewing my photos. I found the Orchard Oriole again, but not the Audubon's.
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I think the Oriole looks OK for a Black-vented Oriole, which is a bird I have seen here several times. At first, I thought the yellow looked as if it were on the mantle rather than just the shoulder, but I think the angle is just weird. Black-vented makes sense. Now I just have to figure out what the bird I thought was a Yellow-green Vireo is. ;)
I determined the vireo I saw is a Bell's. Yellow-green wouldn't have a wing bar, forgot that. I have been confused by this bird before, in fact, I think I put it up for confirmation on BF at one point. For the myiarchus, I'm leaning to Nutting's because I did hear a repeated 'wheat', however, I did not see the bird vocalize. That being said, the face is greyer than brownish which is a point in favor of Ash-throated. The less 'cresty' look the bird has leans back to Nutting's. If someone can say the bird is a Ash-throated rather than a Nutting's, I'll believe it. :) I have had trouble with these two since Nicaragua. Images: Orchard Oriole, Nutting's/Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo.


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Yesterday after my walk, I ran into Julian Villegas and Kenia of Explora Calocitta, in the hotel lobby. I was carrying my bins and a camera, so he recognized me as a birder. We had a pleasant conversation about the birds here. We touched on the feral cats a bit too because he was asking me if I had seen a this or a that. I told him I had because Peregrine had been moored here for 10 years and I had lots of hours wandering here. I mentioned the fact that I hadn't seen some species in some time. One was the Lesser Ground-Cuckoo and wondered if the feral cats might be why. He rolled his eyes. Obviously, he understood the problem. He said he had just seen two Lesser Ground-Cuckoos in Melaque (sort of an ex-pat town close to Barra). I told him I didn't hire guides personally but would put his information on the bird forum for those who have limited time and need to utilize local help. He gave me his company's information. His English is perfect and he seems passionate about the birds. I don't know when the company started, but I don't believe it was here last May when we were here. Barra is no longer an unknown birding site! If anyone wants to visit an area of SW Mexico for birding and needs a guide, I'm sure Julian would fit the bill.

Julian Villegas 317 119 4049 [email protected]

He is on FB. I don't have a FB account, but I was able to view his. He pointed out the feral cat problem on his account. I also saw on his site that they take tours to the Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra de Manantlán. This is an area I have wanted to visit but wasn't comfortable going on my own. I have never hired a guide for any of the birds on my life list, but I am sorely tempted by this. I would be very comfortable going with Julian and Kenia, and I know he would allow me to find my own birds if possible.

This morning, I went birding with a French Canadian photographer I met at a fundraiser here last year. When we were coming back into the resort grounds, Gustavo, an employee of the resort (I know many of them fairly well and they know I am a birder) was disembarking the water taxi and came up to us and told me he went to the golf course with a bird guide who told him all about the 'pirate' bird who stole fish from other birds (Magnificent Frigatebird). He was so enthused by what he had learned. Good for Julian for spreading knowledge and passion!
It sounds like you are having a fantastic birding time.
I am. It's nice to have some nature to wander in. I don't enjoy birding at home very much. It's so noisy and crowded. You think I might have gotten spoiled by the truly wild places I got to experience during our 13 years of floating around the world? ;)
When I got back this morning, my husband looked like someone had beaten the crap out of him. He took a nasty nosedive on the cement docks while carry up the trash. Face, hands, and knees had skin removed. Poor viejo! We are much clumsier and slower in our old age than we used to be. He is going to have his 81st birthday this month.
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Hope your husband suffers no lasting effects from his nosedive.
Thanks, Lisa. He appears to be ok this morning; a bit stiff with some swollen, sprained fingers. He is a tough cookie. The docks are made of preformed panels and they don't fit flush in places. We know this, but he just wasn't paying enough attention.
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As usual, the little Mangrove Swallows were on Peregrine's bowsprit and dock lines this morning. We can hear them chittering away through the open hatch in the v-berth where we sleep. They are the cutest little birds. Gene made a comment about their agility and speed by saying they are the avian equivalent of bats, I thought that was apt. These are not the best photos of them because Peregrine's bow faces the rising sun.


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March 18, 2024
Had two walks today. One for only about an hour around the hotel grounds this morning and a walk along the water to the entrance of the lagoon this afternoon. My camera was out of battery this morning, so I went with bins only. Can't remember when I last did that. Saw a Northern Waterthrush in the same area I've seen it in years past. I wonder if it's the same individual? He might like to stop at a nice resort on the way back north. Crested Caracara flew over and a Yellow-winged Cacique joined the crowd. Most of the same birds as the other day were out and about, including the Lineated Woody.

The afternoon walk offered some different birds because I walked the path that borders the water. Regal Terns, Brown Pelicans, and Heerman's Gulls flew in and out of the lagoon. It's a pretty walk and a few years ago some fellow birder/sailors told me they saw a flock of Mexican Parrotlets along it. I still haven't seen one. Except for the sea birds, it was pretty quiet and it turned out to be more of a nature walk than a focused bird outing. The waves pounded against the granite cliffs and rocky coast and the spray filled the air with the scent of the sea. The sun was out but the air temperature was not too hot. It was a perfect day.

We took the water taxi into town for dinner and ate at a favourite place that overlooks the ocean. A few surfers surfed and the Pelicans were diving for dinner. Three big flocks of Neotropical Cormorants flew toward the lagoon.


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March 21, 2024

Had a great day birding yesterday but was too tired to write last night. Got a new species for the Barra list: Blue-black Grassquit. If memory serves, I haven't seen one since Panama.
I was up and out at 7:00. I decided to take the long walk and go over the big hill to drop down to the golf course area. I had to keep telling myself to not stop and investigate every sound because if I did, it would be dark before I got to the golf course. I did look without bins. Yellow-winged Caciques and Citreoline Trogons ruled the day. I think I saw about 20 trogons by the time I got to the top of the hill. The hills were alive with the sounds of brrrrs, bleeps, blaats, chirrs, cooos, drumming, etc. I could hear the waves pounding on the beach from the Pacific side. It was a perfect temperature. I started the descent and at one point, my feelers told me I was in a stop walking and watch zone. My eyes were soon drawn to an acrobatic warbler with a worm dangling from its mouth. The light was in my eyes so the bird was a dark silhouette. Black and White Warbler came to mind because this thing behaved like a nuthatch. I snapped a few photos and later I confirmed what it was. I continued to scan and found a Myiarchus perched. A Thick-billed Flycatcher. I don't often see them. As I backed away, I noticed a shot-gun shell on the dirt at the edge of the road. Felt a pang of disappointment. I started to move down the road again but stopped because I still felt this was a wait spot. I put my bins up at any movement. Trogons, Yellow-winged Caciques and San Blas Jays and Streak-back Orioles sounded and flew from one side of the road to the other.

I put my bins down and turned to glance down the road. There was a young buck standing on the sidewalk! Soon a doe was standing in the trees on the downward slope beside him. I slowly brought my camera up and took a few shots, then froze. He kept walking toward me and finally stopped. He looked directly at me. Suddenly, a Coati-mundi was on the same sidewalk behind the buck. The deer finally turned and went back into the trees on the downslope of the hill. I couldn't help but think that was the reason for the shot-gun shell.

Just about that time, a woman came around the bend to start going downhill also. We stopped and talked for a bit. An ex-pat Candian who lived in town for half the year. She was out for the exercise. We walked and talked and as we rounded a bend, we saw a flock of Black vultures in the road feasting on something. She continued on and I waited. The birds flew off as she walked by. A few minutes later, she had turned around and was coming back. I decided I would also move so that we would depart the area at the same time and let the Vultures have their breakfast. We both hugged the edge of the road and one lone bird braved staying as we passed. At a safe distance I stopped again to watch the birds descend again. Their large, heavy wings sounded as they landed.

Soon after, I was at sea level again and at the edge of the golf course. There is a reed filled body of water at the edge of the course and I could hear what must be frogs. The sound reminded me a bit of the Tungara frogs I used to hear in Panama. I walked along the road parallel to the water and tried to take in all the things flying. I got my bins on a seedeater with a streaky breast. Not an Orange-breasted female. There were many Orange-breasted Buntings around. Hmm. She turned out to be a Blue-black Grassquit. Something with a striped head or neck popped out and disappeared before I could register what I saw. Wren? Thrush? I could see Northern Jacanas and a Purple Galinule on the other side of the pond. Green Heron. Anhingas. More San Blas Jays. Across the road, on the dry wild side, I saw a very active bird darting about. Got my bins on him. Black-headed Vireo.

By now, it was starting to get warm and I was out of water. I didn't want to carry a backpack and my bum bag only has capacity for a small bottle. I put on some sunscreen and headed home. It was noon when I returned.


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