Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Week at Palenque WINGS Tour

I returned a couple days ago from leading the WINGS Palenque Tour. With only four participants, all really nice people, and all skilled at spotting birds and getting on them with their binoculars, it was a pleasure leading it. We tallied an official group total (seen by leader and a participant) of 216 birds in just 6 days, as well as 3 mammals, 9 herps, and at least 34 butterflies. (Another 15 leader-only birds were a bit less cooperative, and a Royal Flycatcher was seen by 3 of the participants.)

The best bird came during our last minutes at the Palenque ruins when two of the participants spotted an all blue bird with purple on the throat and belly in the fruiting fig tree above us. I missed it, but they identified it as a Lovely Cotinga, one of my most wanted birds in North America. I've birded many locations over the past 11 years where that bird occurs and had never seen one, so I was in something of a panic and decided that we were going to be late for lunch and checking out of the hotel. After at least 5 minutes of straining our necks, sifting through all the movement of dozens of Scrub and Yellow-bellied Euphonias, Clay-colored Thrushes, Green Honeycreepers, Brown Jays, and Collared Ara├žaris, the bird finally returned on its lightning-fast, rattle-accompanied flight — a fantastical vision of shimmering blue with fathoms-deep patches of lush purple on the throat and the belly. It gulped a fig or two before vanishing again, before everyone could get on it. After another 5 minutes, it returned, this time sitting for about 20 seconds on an open branch just under the canopy, long enough for all of us to get a great view through the 32X spotting scope. Wow.

Click on the photo sheet below for a larger view. Above is a panorama of just a small part of the Maya ruins of Palenque, a bustling city for a couple centuries around 700 A.D., in what is now northern Chiapas, Mexico.


  1. Love reading your blog,the pictures are awesome.-Nancy (Hoyer) Kalpakgian

  2. Cool blog! I am amazed at your knowledge of the natural wold. Love the wine testing too. I had the best time birding yesterday and wanted to thank you again for being so generous.