Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Quick Oaxaca Summary

Before I get back to my series of daily blogs from the SE Peru private tour, here’s a quick update from the Oaxaca at Christmastime tour I just finished.

It was a really great group of 8 participants, and the birding, scenery, holiday festivities, and fabulous food made for a wonderful trip. This was my first time leading this particular tour since 2005, up until which time I had led it nine years in a row. It was nice to be back.

We had a very typical count of about 300 species of birds, but the tour was much more than that. We visited some Zapotec and Mixtec ruins, as well as a couple markets, but the main cultural attraction was the Noche de Rábanos (the Night of Radishes) on December 23. Here’s one carved display to give you a hint of what it’s like, but you really have to be there.

Besides birds there were also butterflies. This stunning Glorious Blue-Skipper (Paches loxus) was outside of Tuxtepec.

We were lucky to have a sunny and warm day up at Cerro San Felipe above Oaxaca city to see this Mexican Pine-Satyr (Paramacera xicaque).

Also not far from Tuxtepec was this amazing cycad, one of the largest in the world, Dioon spinulosum. It is endemic to the limestone hills covered in tropical evergreen forest in Veracruz and Oaxaca, with a distribution map essentially identical to that of Sumichrast’s Wren (which we failed to hear or see). The second photo is a close up of the cone releasing the giant seeds.

But this was indeed a birding tour. (If you go to the WINGS website, you'll notice the subtitle "Biding Tours Worldwide," so participants finding this most relaxed of our itineraries to be too intense have little to complain about.) This female Black-crested Coquette was on the Valle Nacional Road, photographed using my iPhone through the spotting scope.

This “Mountain” Northern Pygmy-Owl, tooting at 94 notes/minute was at Cerro San Felipe above Oaxaca.

Red Warbler was a bit elusive our first days, but as we crossed the Sierra Juárez on our way to Tuxtepec they came out in force.

Yesterday, our last day, this Boucard's Wren at Yagul ruins was extremely curious about my playback; I snapped this just before it flew to another cactus for a different perspective.

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