Friday, January 6, 2017

Birding La Cumbre Ixtepeji in the Sierra Aloapaneca

I’ve lumped our second and fourth days of birding out of Oaxaca City for this blog, as both days we drove to La Cumbre Ixtepeji, just under an hour from our hotel and directly to the highest point on highway 175 heading north.

While the Oaxaca valley is very dry with incredible cactus diversity, Sierra Aloapaneca is covered in a lush pine-oak forest.

The mountains are rather abrupt, and at our breakfast spot over 9180 feet elevation we had a fine view of the city below. Here’s a digiscoped shot of the Monte Albán ruins 13.8 miles away and 2890 feet lower.

The gigantic Agave atrovirens, the second largest agave species in the world, gives the area an otherworldly feel.

We nailed our target of the Dwarf Jays before lunch on our first day, but I didn’t get photos of them. With them were many Gray-barred Wrens, normally in noisy family groups, but these were very quiet.

This Gray Silky-flycatcher sat nice and still for a photo.

Our very first bird up here was actually a Northern Pygmy-Owl (Mountain Pymgy-Owl when split from other forms, this one tooting at a rate of about 100 notes per minute, often coupled). We heard two others as well.

Botanizing here is much more productive in the warmer and wet seasons, from April through October, but we did find a few things. This is a Cuscuta sp., a dodder parasitic on other plants.

I’m pretty sure this succulent, often growing as an epiphyte, is an Echeveria, but it's not as pink as the species I've had identified here before, E. rosea.

I identified this butterwort (family Lentibulariaceae) as Pinguicula moranensis nearly seven years ago when I found a blooming one in late March.

It gets very cold at night and during the passage of cold fronts up here, but it has been very mild so far, and in mid-day there’s enough sun for cold blooded animals to be active. This is Sceloporus grammicus, Graphic Lizard.

I had seen this Paramacera xicaque, Mexican Pine-Satyr, on previous trips to these mountains, and this time we had one pair at our lunch stop.

This Callophrys guatemalena, Guatemalan Hairstreak, was an exciting new species for me.

This Smyrna karwinskii, Karwinski's Beauty, came to our second day’s lunch stop at Carmen’s Restaurant Colibrí and roosted on the ceiling.

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