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.

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