Monday, March 30, 2009

El Cielo Trip - Day 2 - March 24, 2009

March 24, 2009

I got up at about 5 and listened to the nightbirds calling. A Tawny-collared Nightjar called “Chip-Willow” in the distance. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl called in the mango trees, seen by early risers but not others. We had breakfast at the hotel and then went back to La Florida, much more peaceful without the bus of bathers. We heard Thicket Tinamou at close range but did not see them. A Bronze-winged Woodpecker put on a good show. This is an endemic subspecies according to the AOU, probably due to lack of work as the vocalizations and plumage are markedly different from Golden-olive Woodpecker. A huge flock of Blue-crowned Motmots made us laugh on the way in, as Roy has missed this species with most of the groups he has taken down to El Cielo this year. We saw a Lineated Woodpecker peering out of a nest hole, and later her mate came in to replace her in the nest.

Things were really rather quiet so we packed up and went to Boca Toma II, a restaurant and fish farm on the river Rio Frio (?) downstream. We took a boat ride in search of waterbirds in an outboard boat with plastic seats and had great looks at Sungrebe and Boat-billed Heron – this is the northernmost known outpost of both species. We also had excellent looks at Amazon Kingfisher, Muscovy Duck, more Blue-crowned Motmots, another pair of Bat Falcons. Walking around Boca Toma until lunch, we found a pair of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls allopreening, the larger female preening the male while sharing a perch. We found at least two nests of Rose-throated Becard, and several of us enjoyed watching adult males of the local very black subspecies after watching the immature male at ELG molting all winter.

Lunch at Boca Toma II was Langostinos and catfish. Langostinos are large freshwater prawns served drenched in garlic butter, and the catfish was filleted special for us as they were out of tilapia, and served steamed with vegetables. Rice and potatoes accompanied the meal. This was truly as much a food trip as a birding trip thanks to Roy's knowledge of the local restaurants. We spent another hour waddling along the canal seeing mostly butterflies in the heat of the day before we decided to move on.

We went next to some cactus (nopal) plantations and looked for birds in the patches of grass remaining. We saw Ruddy Ground-Doves on the way in, always a treat since we look for them and rarely find them in the LRGV. We quickly found Yellow-faced Grassquits, and worked to see Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, White-collared Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit. At one point Roy and I had walked on and the group had remained behind, and Roy spotted an unfamiliar hummingbird. I looked at it and recognized it after a minute as a female Lucifer Hummingbird and snapped off a photo of it as we hurridly tried to set a scope up to take digiscope pictures. Alas, it flew before we could get any more pics. But this was a lifer for Roy, and the first time I heard the term "birdgasm"!

We headed back to the hotel after a pleasant afternoon birding, and sat in the courtyard and watched the birds find us at beautiful Casa de Piedra.