Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oaxaca and Western Chiapas WINGS Tour: Day 7, Tehuantepec to Oaxaca City

March 18, 2010
Today was largely a travel day, from Tehuantepec to Oaxaca City. Not wasting the best morning birding hours, we got an early start and stopped in some roadside scrub not far north of town.

This area is in the middle of the very tiny range of Cinnamon-tailed (or Sumichrast's) Sparrow, and we found two almost immediately. The dry season is very long and hot here, and the plants that have adapted to it are quite interesting.

This twiggy Euphorbia caught my eye.

This is another Euphorbia in the Pedilanthus group, similar to one we saw at Sumidero Canyon.

 There are many species of prickly-pear here. This lovely red flower was growing on a 9-foot tall plant.

We then returned to the Guiengola area, where we had looked for owls last night. This area is even hotter and drier, with limestone slopes being very poor at holding water. We saw a Lesser Ground-Cuckoo and heard a Colima Pygmy-Owl here.

 We all oohed and ahhed at this gorgeous lizard. I recognized the pattern as being similar to Rose-bellied Lizard, but the colors of the upper side are strikingly different. I was surprised when Jon Campbell at University of Texas Arlington said it was indeed that species,  Sceloporus variabilis smithi. It turns out that this subspecies is easily recognized by the colors of the stripes, is restricted to the Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, and that we were in the type locality where Hartweg and Oliver first discovered it in 1936.

We then began the long drive up to Oaxaca City, with a couple stops to stretch and see some birds. In this habitat about halfway to Oaxaca we saw our first Bridled Sparrows and Gray-breasted Woodpeckers.

 This yellow Opuntia was on a very small plant, just a few pads growing close to the ground.

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