Friday, July 10, 2015

Day 1 of the GBNA Chiapas Field Trips

Today I led the field trip of 10 participants to the Coapilla and Tapalapa Ejidos of north-central Chiapas. This area of lush cloud forest is a little-vested by naturalists, and we had high hopes for some of the specialties of the area, such as Resplendent Quetzal. We didn’t find any of those, but we did see Black-throated and Azure-hooded Jays, Green-throated Mountain-Gem, Highland Guan, Ruddy and Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaners, and Black-headed and Spotted Nightingale-Thrushes among several others. We also had one unexpected and exciting discovery.

We were watching this fuchsia bush (Fuchsia arborescens) for some time, trying to get good looks at a Green Violetear and a White-eared Hummingbird. This Flame-colored Tanager came in once to dine on the fruits.
Flame-colored Tanager

To get the hummingbirds to move from their hidden perches, I tried imitating Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl, and this Mountain Elaenia popped up. It kept moving around, making it difficult for everyone to get on it, and I eventually started wondering how unusual a bird it might be for here, since I don’t remember seeing it on the study lists. The short story is that there are no records for here – not for this ejido, not for Chiapas, not even for Mexico! I used playback of recordings from Costa Rica and two birds came in quite excited, and I was able to get a couple more photos and some faint recordings of the call notes. A first country record!
Mountain Elaenia

The weather wasn’t all that great – overcast, windy, and occasionally drizzly, but it eventually got warm enough for some butterfly activity.

Diaethria anna, Anna's Eighty-eight
Diaethria anna, Anna's Eighty-eight

Autochton vectilucis, Central American Banded-Skipper
Autochton vectilucis, Central American Banded-Skipper

Smyrna blomfildia, Blomfild's Beauty
Smyrna blomfildia, Blomfild's Beauty

These strange little membracid plant hoppers were on the undersides of a Bocconia leaf.

One of the participants is an orchid specialist, and he recognized the genus of this one. Image searches suggest it is Govenia matudae.
Govenia matudae

On the way back we stopped on the road for Acorn Woodpecker, Clay-colored Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, and Chipping Sparrow in the road, only to discover that they were there because of a swarm of the small army ant Labidus praedator.
Labidus praedator

What an odd mix of species to attend an army ant swarm, but even more unusual was the habitat!

One last stop to stretch and break up the long drive brought us Varied Bunting, Altamira Orioles, Varied Bunting, and this Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

This Gray-crowned Yellowthroat posed very nicely below us.
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat

My friend Paul spotted this grasshopper, a nymph of Aidemona azteca on a leaf.
Aidemona azteca

This Hamadryas glauconome, Glaucous Cracker had staked out a territory on a power pole by the vans.
Hamadryas glauconome, Glaucous Cracker


  1. Great day Rich. And while many of today's birds were lifers for me (since I'm such a new birder), still the most fun for me was seeing you get so excited about the First Mexican Sighting of the Mountain Elaenia. Thank you for making our day wonderful, and congratulations on that First.

  2. Rich, how thrilling! Reading all of this makes me wish I was there too! Thanks for posting all these trip updates!