MEXICO CITY: TEOTIHUACAN, POPOCATEPETL & LISTS
(MEXICO CITY), (NC)
Best Time for visit (13th to 15th December 2006)
Birding Site Guide
December 12: Left from Brussels, Belgium via Washington DC, arriving in the enormous sprawl that is Mexico City around 10.30 in the evening. Stayed at Hotel Isabel, about 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. Apart from our lodgings in Calakmul this was the only place we pre-booked (through the internet). It is basic but clean and a good deal at 330 pesos for a double.
December 13: Teotihuacan: Not a real birding day, as we planned to visit the Zocalo and Teotihuacan. We got up at around 6.30 and went for a short walk around the Zocalo before picking up our car at the airport at 7.30. First birds seen in the trees around the cathedral and in the flowerbeds beside it were a soaked female Common Yellowthroat, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plenty Inca Doves and Great-tailed Grackles and a Bewick’s Wren. A single hummer zipped past and remained unidentified.
After picking up the car we headed north out of the city towards the truly impressive ruins of Teotihuacan, about 1.5 hours’ drive north from the city. By the time we arrived it was well after 10 and already quite hot. Despite that most of our attention was focused on the ruins and the heat there was still some bird activity. Our only Cactus Wren for the trip was seen here, among other birds seen among the ruins were a single Say’s Phoebe, 2 Clay-colored Sparrows, Vermillion Flycatcher, several smart Lark Sparrows, a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and a fine male Blue Grosbeak.
We left the site around 2 in the afternoon and spent the next 6 hours trying to get back to, and then through Mexico City to Cuernavaca. The traffic situation around Mexico City is truly bewildering and we ended up getting lost a few times. You’d think that clear directions and road signs wouldn’t be a luxury around and in a city of 20 million people, but the Mexican department of traffic seems to think otherwise. The only good thing about the whole mess was that we ended up spending the night in a roadside hotel (El Zorro, 400 pesos for a double) only a few miles from La Cima. The owners were so kind as to provide us with tea and bottled water as well as prepare some sandwiches for dinner.
December 14: La Cima and Coajomulco: Following the directions (still fine) in Howell we arrived at La Cima shortly after dawn. Though it was quite cold there was a fair amount of bird activity and besides a good number of North American migrants we found all our target birds for this site. The first Mexican species we picked up were Striped Sparrows, which occur in good numbers here. It then took us some time but we did find several Sierra Madre Sparrows, in the bunch grass edges of the fields between about 600 and 1000 meters down the dirt road described in Howell. They showed quite well and we saw at least 4 individuals. There were also plenty of Yellow-eyed Juncos around. Other species seen were a male Olive Warbler and a Grace’s Warbler. A stop a bit further along the highway, and a walk through the mix of pine-oak forest and small fields on towards Coajomulco yielded a cracking Red Warbler, a party of 8 Hooded Grosbeaks, Tufted Flycatcher, a single White-eared Hummingbird and Brown-throated Wren. A mixed flock coming through consisted of a good number of North American migrants as well as Mexican Chickadees.
It was getting close to noon before we finally reached the patch of forest near the turn off towards Coajomulco described in Howell and we birded the forests on the right side of the highway as well as some gardens up a steep flower covered bank on the left side of the road. It certainly did not disappoint and we had a whole slew of North American warblers as well as a good number of Mexican birds. Both red warbler and white-eared hummingbird appeared to be relatively common as we had at least 5 birds of each species here. Among the new birds for the trip were Grey Silky-flycatcher, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Black-headed Siskin, an obliging Blue Mockingbird, Slate-throated and Painted Whitestarts, Rose-throated Becard, Rufous-capped Warbler, a single Rufous-sided Shrike-Vireo, White-throated Thrushes and several Brown-backed Solitaires.
The night was spent in Hotel America (280 peso for a double) in the center of Cuernavaca where a fair was in progress at the Zocalo. The sound of thousands of Great-tailed Grackles coming in to roost in the trees on the square mixed with the Mexican brass band music resulted in quite a cacophony.
December 15: Popocatepetl and the long road to Oaxaca: Day 4 saw us getting up at about 4.30, leaving Cuernavaca at 5 only to arrive after a (very) long day in Oaxaca at about 8 o clock in the evening.
After leaving Cuernavaca well before dawn we drove straight towards Popocatepetl. The aim was to bird the forested slopes of the volcano in the morning and then drive over the Paso de Cortez straight to Puebla to get on the Cuota (Toll) Highway to Oaxaca and arrive at Oaxaca round 6. So far for best laid plans… Turns out that the road up the volcano towards the pass is very good, the part down the mountain towards Puebla is an entirely different matter altogether. “Dirt Track” is more accurate and in places a generous description. No regrets though as both the birds and the spectacular view and landscape are well worth the visit. The lower slopes of the volcano are covered in fairly humid forest, giving way to open Pine Oak woodland upon the higher slopes towards the pass. New birds seen in the lower humid forest were Green Violet-ear (quite common in the flower banks by the road), Golden-browed Warbler, Green-striped and Rufous-capped Brush-Finches, and Colima Warbler! The brush-finches took some work but we ended up with good views of both species.
While stopping at a picnic spot in the open Pine Oak woodland we were invited to share breakfast with a family of Mexicans who were picnicking on the mountain. After exchanging food, chocolate, sweets and some small talk we parted ways, well fed and with the invitation that if we’d happen to be in their neighbourhood to come visit.
Heading further up the mountain with regular stops and walks up the slopes we suddenly saw a woodpecker fly into a lone pine tree and much to our delight found it was a Strickland’s Woodpecker. We ended up seeing at least 2 individuals of this highly localized species. We unfortunately didn’t find either of the nightingale-thrushes and as it was getting towards noon, and we still had a long way to go we reluctantly left the volcano, headed for the pass and then started the descent towards Puebla, only to end up lost in that city. 2 Hours later someone finally could give us clear and accurate directions and we were on the long road to Oaxaca. The scenery of the landscape through the latter part of the road is spectacular with canyons and cactus desert. The new birds for the trip on the long drive were a White-tailed Kite sailing over some fields, and a Northern Caracara besides the road.
The following 3 nights were spent at the Hostel Casa Paulina (300 pesos per night for a double, an excellent and ample breakfast included) located close to the Zocalo of Oaxaca. Hot tip, while we heartily recommend the place, do try to get a room away from the front entrance as the road traffic is very noisy.
Species seen TEOTIHUACAN 13.12.2006
- Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura aura
- Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
- Inca Dove Columbina inca
- Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
- Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
- Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii
- Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher Polioptila melanura
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
- Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
- Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
- Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
- Eurasian Starling Sturnus vulgaris
- Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
- Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
- Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
- Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
- House Sparrow Passer domesticus (introduced)
- House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
- Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea
- Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
- Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
- Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
- Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
- Clay-coloured Sparrow Spizella pallida
- Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
- Canyon Towhee Pipilo fuscus
Species seen POPOCATEPETL 15.12.2006
- Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis ibis
- Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura aura
- White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus majusculus
- Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus fuliginosus
- Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
- Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway
- Green Violet-ear Colibri thalassinus thalassinus
- White-eared Hummingbird Hylocharis leucotis
- Strickland's Woodpecker Picoides stricklandi
- Borwn-throated wren Thryothorus albinucha brunneicollis
- Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
- American Robin Turdus migratorius
- Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
- Buff-breasted Flycatcher Empidonax fulvifrons
- Tufted Flycatcher Mitrephanes phaeocercus
- Grey Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinereus
- Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea
- White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
- Brown Creeper Certhia americana
- Mexican Chickadee Parus sclateri
- Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus
- Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata
- Colima Warbler Vermivora crissalis
- Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
- Red Warbler Ergaticus ruber
- Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus
- Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli
For a full Excel species trip list please contact the authors: