Birder's Guide

OCT 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 27 of 51

26 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2017 Big Day in Mexico White Hawk, which is unknown in west Mexico). Then a really nice flock with Golden-crowned Warbler, Red-headed Tanager, and friends = 196 species by noon, but the clock was ticking... Into the drier pine-oak zone and a few more species, with number 200 a nice male Rufous Hummingbird. Basically, 200 species in 6.5 hours, but what next? A large volcanic lake about 45 minutes' drive to the north meant some time "lost" driving (thank goodness, though, for the new toll highway), but the new habi- tat kicked in a bunch more birds, which compensated—Bridled Titmouse in the oaks, Clark's Grebe at the lake, House Finches in the brush, and we were up to 241 species on leaving at 3:45 p.m. Well, 250 would seem quite possible (although we weren't counting as we went—no time for that—and had no idea of our run- ning total). But, figure in the drive back to any decent habitat, and the facts that we'd seen most of the species there, that sunset was at 5:34 p.m., and that we were on the shaded (= cold) side of the moun- tain, and all we added before dark were White-tailed Kite, Violet-green Swallow, and Colima Pygmy-Owl = 244. A sunset cold beer and "lunch" (never had time to eat those sandwiches earlier) And So? In January 2017, Steve came down a few days before leading his regular WINGS birding tour to San Blas, and we planned a route, scouted a couple of days to get a sense for driving times, and then took the plunge. It still wasn't a really hard-core Big Day: We didn't leave the hotel until 5:30 a.m., and we were eating shrimp burgers and drinking beer back at the hotel by 8:45 p.m. Call us "soft", perhaps, but re- member, birding is supposed to be fun. We awoke to clear skies and mild tem- peratures (the cold, damp fog that had blanketed the coastal lowlands yesterday morning was gone), so our hopes were high. The first bird (other than roosters) was a Pauraque as we drove away from the hotel. Along the road, Boat-billed Herons clucked from the mangroves before Mottled Owls and a Collared Forest-Falcon bracketed the dawn. Then a few chips—Least Flycatcher, Orange- billed Nightingale-Thrush, MacGillivray's Warbler—and birds were upon us. Seventy species in the first hour of light and it was looking good, but then the fog rolled in. Still, 110 species by 7:40 a.m. as we lucked into a fog-free waterbird pond. Even at the beach, the fog followed us and blotted out the inshore booby rock—but we still managed a couple of Blue-footed Boobies flying offshore = 134 species. Along the coast southward, and away from the fog, we realized we'd somehow managed to miss Osprey (along with other fog-bound species), a bit like missing Red- tailed Hawk on a California Big Day! Oh well, that's part of the unpredictability that makes birding fun. The most bizarre sight- ing of the day came at about 9 a.m., when a kettle of vultures included a Great Black Hawk and a whitish bird, flapping around and circling. It took us a few moments to identify it, so out of context—a Barn Owl, hundreds of feet up in the morning sun! A real Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment, but one more species. Up in the hills, a streamside stop net- ted Louisiana Waterthrush, Orange- fronted Parakeet, and Violet-crowned Hummingbird = 156 species by 9:55 a.m., and now it would get harder. You can't be everywhere in the 7–9 a.m. window, and when we reached the coffee plantations it was pretty quiet, and hot. Finally, a flock pushed us past 180 species, and then we worked steadily up into the hills, in the constant search for flocks in the forest and raptors from the vistas. Our second surprise of the day was a gleaming snow- white spot in another vulture kettle—a white hawk (note the lowercase W and H: it was a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, not a n There is absolutely no way you could miss Os- prey in San Blas... Well, yes there is, if it's foggy and you don't have much time! San Blas, Nayarit, 14 January 2010. Photo © Steve N. G. Howell n Vermilion Flycatcher was species #75, seen easily at many sites. San Blas, Nayarit, 7 January 2017. Photo © Steve N. G. Howell

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