Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mexico I: Sweet tweet Sayulita (#281-289)

In our house, we like to go big on Valentine's Day. That means that for the second time now, we've loaded ourselves onto flights to my favourite escape destination--Mexico. Because airports are so romantic right?

Edge rolled over in bed and presented my with my Valentine in the morning -
Mexico Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species, (which turned out to be the first of many surprises). Some girls want roses, some want diamonds and I get excited about a $6 bird guide from the Internet. I had wanted to order it, but they wouldn't ship to Canada. Anyways, now I had it in my little hands and was ready to go!

After a rather eventful flight trajectory to Puerto Vallarta, we finally landed. We like to play a little game whenever we land at a foreign airport--see who can spot the first bird, and the first life bird (bonus if it's the same bird).
The first destination was Sayulita (and pardon the bum shots), north of Puerto Vallarta by about an hour. It's a little beach town and we stayed just a bit out of the town in the jungle in Villa Bali at a privately owned casita. This meant that in the morning we were up in the trees (as I've discovered, it's key if you can somehow get yourself relatively close to the tree tops, so being on a hillside is perfect). The owner of our vacation rental, Liz, joined us for some morning birdwatching. 
View from our casita

Home! For a few nights.
The very first obvious sounds were the chachalachas and the caciques.  

The chachalachas I liken to our wild turkeys a bit, large and quite awkward. They fumble around the trees, eating berries.  

# 281: Rufous-bellied (or Wagler's) Chachalaca; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014

Similarly loud with a call described by Liz as "Bryan," the caciques were ubiquitous but decidledly difficult to photograph! I'll add more photos of these birds in later posts. They have a great tuft of hair that they flip forward. Unfortunately you can't quite see it here. 

#282: Yellow-winged Cacique; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014
We were both a little dumbstruck by the magnificence of the black-throated magpie jays. They came flying overhead  with their long tails trailing behind. They came in a group of four or five, but didn't stay long. Don't be deceived by their names...they are far larger than our regular jays, at
58.5 - 76.5 cm long, they are truly magnificent!

#283: Black-throated Magpie Jay; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014

It still amazes me to see the diversity of woodpeckers in Mexico--for some reason I associate them as northern birds--but that's false!

 #284: Golden-cheeked woodpecker; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014

You might need to do a double take to realize that this is not a pileated woodpecker. They must be cousins!

#285: Lineated Woodpecker; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014

Having Liz on hand was great as she was already familiar with some of the birds and could name them for us, and she also had a copy of the book I had ordered before leaving but hadn't received in time. We soon realized that the quick reference pamphlet was missing a good number of our sightings. We had our National Geographic Birds of North America Guide, which I love, but it too was missing many birds--which leads me to a real peeve---why do they call it the Birds of North America when it doesn't have all the birds of North America? Because Mexico is definitely part of North America....HELLO! So they should really call it the Birds of USA and Canada, because it's rather misleading! Anyways, I also just found that Cornell has an online guide to Neotropical Birds.

#286: Masked Tityra; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014

The parrot family birds are fun and tricky! Given their colour, they blend in spectacularly well with their surroundings. You can hear them loud and clear and not see the darn things. Matt spotted these, and pointed them out and I looked forever and ever and had the hardest time finding them. Nevermind that there are around 10 of them in this shot! It's like those games on the cereal box were you have to find all the items...I've included this one full size so you can enlarge and see how good your sleuthing skills are!

#287: Mexican (or Blue-rumped) Parrotlet; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014
 Close up. Did you find them all?
 I love that these were either ALWAYS in pairs, or snuggled up together in a line.

There was one rather elusive bird directly in front of the house. We could tell it was there because of the leaves moving around, but it was so hard to spot. Luckily, we got a good enough look to get a quick shot of another bird with a cousin up north.

#288; Rufous-backed Robin; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014
Remember that post I wrote last time I was in Mexico about grey and yellow flycatchers of Mexico? (well, it's my second most popular post--apparently these birds don't give only me headaches!). This reminds me of one of the ones I couldn't identify. I distinctly recalled the Greater Kiskadees on the Gulf side, but these birds seemed smaller (and habitat different). So for now, I'm not too sure what this is. But it sure is nice, don't you think?
We both spotted this little bird flitting around, and Matt said, hey there's a black and white warbler. Now I'm getting a better look, and it's not at all. I already have a Black-Throated Green Warbler, a Black-Throated Blue Warbler, and now I have a Black-Throated Grey Warbler to add to my collection!

#289: Black-Throated Grey Warbler; Sayulita, Mexico, February 2014
Thought I'd add in this little one that we also have at home, but not the variation that we normally see--a yellow-rumped warbler, but an Audubon's.
This one I am still researching a bit. I'm not sure between the warblers and female tanagers. If I figure it out I'll get back to you!
We enjoyed a few good hours of birding before heading into town. More on that later!