Friday, August 23, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Oaxaca at Christmastime in December 2018

My final tour of 2018 was the trusty of Oaxaca at Christmastime tour, the first foreign tour I led solo exactly 20 years earlier. I offer it only every other year now, though it’s probably popular enough to run it every year. But leading it means giving up a bunch of Christmas Bird Counts. In past years the organizers of the local Oaxaca CBC have worked around our schedule, as they always need more observers, but that wasn’t the case this year. We just birded as we usually do, starting with a lovely morning at Monte Alban ruins just outside the city.
Monte Alban

That first evening of the tour, and every December 23, is the Noche de Rábanos, where locals compete in a radish-carving contest all around the zócalo, or town square.
Noche de Rábanos

We spent a few days in the pine-oak forest above town, seeing most of our target birds, including Dwarf Jay and this Red Warbler.
Red Warbler

Following a picnic dinner on December 23, this Fulvous Owl came in to my calls. This may be the same Fulvous Owl pair that has been here since I first found them nearly 9 years ago.
Fulvous Owl

Only once before, almost seven years ago, did I see this Rhynchostele cervantesii in bloom. I suspect it usually blooms a little later in the year.
Rhynchostele cervantesii

There are more and more fancy restaurants in Oaxaca these years, with fewer of them taking reservations. Some even dabble in “molecular gastronomy” using local ingredients.

After morning birding one day Jesús Hernández of Teotitlán del Valle gave us a wool cleaning, carding, and spinning demonstration, as well as dye demonstration on the palm of one of the participant’s hands.
Jesús Hernández of Teotitlán del Valle

Here are a few photos of our two-night side trip to Tuxtepec, where we see species more typical of humid tropical lowlands: Collared Trogon.
Collared Trogon

Streak-headed Woodcreeper.
Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Louisiana Waterthrush on its winter grounds.
Louisiana Waterthrush

I was delighted to spot two species of the odd family Marcgraviaceae along the Valle Nacional cloud forest road. This one is Marcgravia mexicana.
Marcgravia mexicana

This Marcgravia stonei is pendant at the ends of long stems, presumably pollinated by bats.
Marcgravia stonei

Besides seeing Sumichrast’s Wren well on the hike into a rough limestone rain forest, we saw these huge cycads, Dioon spinulosum.
Dioon spinulosum

I wondered if it would still be here after so many years, and it is: a huge sign with a glaring typo. The Spanish word for isthmus is “istmo.”

On the way back to Oaxaca City we stopped in the pine-oak cloud forest and found this rarely seen Chinanteca Pine-Satyr, Paramacera chinanteca.
Paramacera chinanteca

We had one last day in the dry intermontane valleys where we added a few more birds. This Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl was very confiding.
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Boucard's Wren was our last endemic of the tour.
Boucard's Wren

Even though it’s not a palm, Beaucarnea gracilis is usually called “ponytail palm.”
Beaucarnea gracilis

This fancy flower comes from the tree Ceiba aesculifolia.
Ceiba aesculifolia

Our final group lunch was at a restaurant owned by one of the largest mezcal distillers, and we get a chance to taste several kinds.

It was a bit like herding cats, but we finally assembled for our group photo at Yagul Ruins.

I had an extra day on my own after the tour and visited the market downtown and stocked up on a variety of dried chiles.

I also had time to finish two late scarves for my neighbors.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Colorado in December 2018

With just two weeks between tours I stole away for a few days to celebrate the holidays with close friends south of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. But before I left, an early exchange of gifts included these gloves I knitted for Andrew.

In return, I received a custom made apron.

In Colorado, the entire Coker-Collins family gathered for good times.

Mich and I occasionally went out birding, but winter had fully arrived, and there were few birds around.

I contributed by cooking up a batches of fudge, caramel, and English toffee.

Most of our time was inside, and for the kids Malcolm and Mara we celebrated Christmas morning a full week early.

Mara and I made this ornament together, very much like I did with my Grammy when I was Mara’s age.

I had to leave before a bunch of other friends arrived, but I just finished Roland's socks, waiting for him when he got here

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Guyana in November-December 2018

I departed the WINGS group in Minas Gerais a day early in order to catch my flights to Georgetown for a private tour with my client-friend Joe Thompson. Joe is almost as much into butterflies and dragonflies as I am, and he had a very small list of target birds.

We first took a short internal flight from Georgetown to Iwokrama, with a short stopover in Fairview.

It was a commercial flight, but a small plane using gravel runways.

We flew over miles and mile of untouched rainforest, arriving the middle of  it all, and found a surprisingly comfortable Iwokrama River Lodge.
Iwokrama River Lodge

Much of our birding was along the main highway that runs southward through the middle of the country. Since the southern towns are mostly provisioned through Brazil, there was virtually no traffic along this road, making for great birding.

This silk moth, an Arsenura sp., was at the lodge in the morning.

I was surprised to see this metalmark Helicopis cupido in the lodge as well; previously I had found it only in rather young forest understory near permanent water.
Helicopis cupido

We saw only about 20 species of odonata, including this sylph Macrothemis brevidens.
Macrothemis brevidens

Our second accommodation was Atta Lodge, which I assumed was named after the genus of leafcutter ants, but it turns out to be an indigenous word. Of course we did see some Atta sp. leafcutter ants, but this Daceton armigerum up in the canopy platform was much more impressive.
Daceton armigerum

We first spotted a Blackpoll Warbler at the canopy platform, but later we found one in nearly every canopy mixed flock.
Blackpoll Warbler

We never did locate the highly desired Blue-and-yellow Tanager, but we had a truly fabulous experience with the local and hard-to-see Red-and-black Grosbeak. I just barely managed to get a photo in the dark understory.
Red-and-black Grosbeak

As we searched for these specialties, we encountered many cool critters. This is the widespread South American Lancehead, Bothrops atrox.
Bothrops atrox

Though it looks just like our northern firetails, this damselfly is a threadtail, Neoneura rubriventris.
Neoneura rubriventris

The last few days of the tour saw us in the seasonally dry interior, also with different soils, resulting in a very different, much more open habitat. We met up with a private vehicle driven by Fernando.

The Vermilion Flycatchers here look very similar to the ones in Arizona, though the dark areas are perhaps a bit darker.
Vermilion Flycatcher

One of Joe’s targets here was White-bellied Piculet, which we saw with little trouble.
White-bellied Piculet

A new bird for both of us, and requiring a long jeep ride to a very specific location is the spectacular Sun Parakeet.
Sun Parakeet

During the early part of that long drive we were entertained by this very confiding Crab-eating Fox, Cerdocyon thous.
Crab-eating Fox, Cerdocyon thous

On another walk in the savanna a local driver and guide spotted this gorgeous Tropical Rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus.
Crotalus durissus

These Mysoria barcastus firetip skippers may be among the most colorful members of this typically drab family.
Mysoria barcastus

After a short flight across the entire country from Lethem in the south to Georgetown on the coast, we arrived at the fancy Marriott and enjoyed appetizers and a rum tasting in the lounge.