Monday 27 March 2017

Borneo - The Beginning

Following an overnight flight via Kuala Lumpur we eventually arrived in Kota Kinabalu around 11.15am, minus some of our luggage. We met our excellent guide Lee Kok Chung and drove the short distance into downtown Kota Kinabalu where we checked in to our rooms, had some lunch and then drove out to a coastal site just 30 minutes away from the hotel. The tide was just receding and there were a few shorebirds present. Within a couple of minutes we were scoping a female Malaysian Plover, a much wanted bird for some of the group. And what a nice way to kick-start the tour. More and more shorebirds began arriving and we enjoyed decent scope views of both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Kentish Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, at least 6 delightful Terek Sandpipers and a pair of Ruddy Turnstones. I was surprised to hear a Yellow-bellied Prinia singing and it eventually showed reasonably well, alongside a Yellow-vented Bulbul. A Blue-throated Bee-eater also appeared nearby and a Striated Heron flew close by. 

From here we drove to an area of wasteland with large trees and bumped the list up even more with Green Imperial-Pigeon, Pink-necked Green-Pigeon and a pair of lovely Blue-naped Parrots

Blue-naped Parrots

This latter species was something of a surprise and it turns out that there is a self-sustaining feral population around the town, just like the 3 Java Sparrows we also encountered here. Again, another big surprise. 

This area was also good for White-breasted Woodswallow, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Zebra Dove, Chestnut Munia, Pied Triller, Pacific Swallow, Brown-throated and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Asian Glossy Starling and even our first endemic – Dusky Munia

So, as I said earlier, we saw mainly a bunch of list padders but it was enjoyable to get out and put binoculars on some birds after the long flight from Europe. We returned to the hotel by 5pm and met up with Martin, our final group member, who had just flown in from Germany.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

West Mexico - The End

We spent a few hours at Cerro de San Juan this morning and got off to a decent start with a displaying male Bumblebee Hummingbird, but it was more heard than seen but still an amazing sighting. The first of many Rufous-capped Warblers gave crippling views and excellent photographic opportunities, and there was also a female Anna’s/Allen’s Hummingbird, and both Broad-billed & White-eared Hummingbirds here as well.

Rufous-capped Warbler

 Moving higher up the mountain a large flock of buntings were feeding in the fields and we were particularly pleased to see our first Lazuli Buntings amongst the numerous Indigo and a few Varied Buntings, with White-collared Seedeater and both Stripe-headed and Rusty Sparrows as well. A walk through the pine forest was pretty quiet but a close White-striped Woodcreeper and Crescent-chested Warbler showed exceptionally well. 

Crescent-chested Warbler

White-striped Woodcreeper (endemic)

And that was it, the Fat Lady was singing and we had to head back to the highway and drive 3 hours to Puerto Vallarta for a shower and change of clothes before our evening flight to Mexico City and onward journey to London.

We had enjoyed a fabulous time in Mexico with Kim Risen, nailing 327 species seen and of those, 47 were Mexican endemics. Not too shabby huh? I look forward to repeating this tour in March 2019, but let's do Oaxaca next year....

Friday 17 March 2017

Copala - Tepic

We spent the first couple of hours looking for Five-striped Sparrow without any joy, but picked up our only Yellow Grosbeak of the tour along with plenty of other previously seen species including more Military Macaws and Mexican Parrotlets. By mid-morning it was time to set out on the drive south towards Tepic and we made pretty good time arriving around 2pm. 

After a long siesta we headed up into the hills shortly after sunset where one of the major highlights of the tour appeared within just a few short minutes of our arrival. Surrounded by large oak and pine trees the huge shadow of a Mexican Barred (Cinereous) Owl flew over us and we tracked it down to an overhanging branch where this monster stared balefully at us from its perch. What a view we had and for once there wasn’t a branch or a leaf across the bird in question! 

Cinereous or Mexican Barred Owl (endemic)

At the same spot a Mexican Whip-poor-will called repeatedly but we couldn’t locate that sucker as it remained high in the canopy around us. But just a short distance away we were surprised to hear an Eared Poorwill calling and after a little judicious tape playback it landed on a nearby branch where we enjoyed nailing this much-wanted species. 

Eared Poorwill (endemic)

And we ended a really excellent spot of night-birding with a Mexican Whip-poor-will flying down the road in front of our vehicle.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Durango Highway

Our day birding along the Durango Highway began in spectacular fashion with a  flock of 15+ Tufted Jays and they instantly became our bird of the trip. Not only are they stunningly beautiful, but they are a very localised endemic and hung around for a good 25 minutes or so. 

Tufted Jay - a stunner and another Mexican endemic

We decided to have our field breakfast here and by hanging around we were lucky that a large flock moved through with Painted Redstart, 8+ Olive Warblers, several Grace’s Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-and-white Warbler, both Cassin’s and Plumbeous Vireos, Yellow-eyed Junco and Mexican Chickadee

Painted Redstart

Arizona Woodpecker

Black-headed Siskin

Grace's Warbler

Zone-tailed Hawk
Across the road a White-breasted Nuthatch appeared and is of the western form that is due to be split. Moving on a Zone-tailed Hawk flew over and we enjoyed great views of Flame-coloured Tanager, Bridled Titmouse and Brown Creeper

Flame-colored Tanager

The rest of the morning was spent birding along the quiet highway, and our setting was fantastic as the views were unbelievably stunning as we looked across the deep canyons to forested ridges stretching away to the horizon. So we also saw Scott’s Oriole, Red-faced Warbler, several Blue-throated Mountaingems at a large flower bank, along with Green-crowned Emerald, White-eared Hummingbird, and both Green-striped and Rufous-capped Brush-Finches.

Berylline Hummingbird

Blue-throated Mountaingem

Green-striped Brush-Finch - endemic

Rufous-capped Brush-Finch - endemic

From here we drove up to the Tufted Jay Reserve where we had our picnic lunch. Here we had a territorial Mountain Trogon giving it large and flying in to check us out, as well as a Red warbler of the form with dark grey cheeks.

Mountain Trogon

Military Macaws

We got back to the lodge at 5pm and had a short while to shower and admire some low-flying Military Macaws before taking an early dinner and then we drove out in the dark to a quiet road where a Mexican Whip-poor-will played hard to get but fortunately most of the group saw it perched before it flew away. A calling Vermiculated Screech-Owl  was here as well.