Should you ever come to bird in central Mexico, and you are only interested in our wonderful endemics, feel free to come in the summer. It’s green, and there are refreshing rains almost every afternoon. Food sources will be abundant, and the endemics will be taking advantage of a relative lack of competition.

But if you really want to rack up the numbers on each and every outing, you should definitely come here in the winter. That is because we receive so many extra species from up north, which can double the number of potential species in many of our most important avian families: Ducks, Hummingbirds, Wood Warblers, New World Sparrows, Tyrant Flycatchers, and many others.

I went back to Las Mesas, just east of Morelia, a week ago. For the first time in months, I ate breakfast at home before leaving to bird, and then I had to change a tire before I could leave my neighborhood. So my probabilities of a banner day seemed low. Nevertheless, by 3 pm I had totaled 69 species — with another 3 that I identified later in my photos! Those are the sorts of numbers I would only expect from a trip to Lake Cuitzeo, with all its waterfowl and shorebirds. Thanks, winter! I could never have reached this total without the help of the 19 migratory species that showed up during the morning.

Another reason Las Mesas can rack up the numbers is because the area includes a wide range of habitats: a thorn-forest-surrounded reservoir, which transitions to mixed fields and forest with lots of hummingbird-supporting flowers, and ends up in mature pine forest. The reservoir area was especially rich in migratory species…

like this Black-throated Gray Warbler, and the Orange-Crowned Warbler up above.
Or this Bluegray Gnatcatcher, a species that seems to be everywhere here in winter.
This Indigo Bunting shows very little indigo during the winter season.
This Bushtit, and a half-dozen relatives, was among the resident species also present near the reservoir.
This resident Great Blue Heron gave me my first action shot of the day.
Followed by the intriguing sight of a large group of Violet-green Swallows, which all dive-bombed the reservoir at once.
I’m pretty sure they were bathing, not feeding or drinking, because they were clearly submerging themselves momentarily.
Four Least Grebes at once! That’s a personal best.

Once I moved beyond the reservoir area, it was once again the hummingbird family that gave me the best photos. There were some other species that got my heart racing (talking about you, Red-faced Warbler and Gray-barred Wren), but things got really dark in the forests they love.

Leonotis leonura (Lion’s Tail) flowers make for great hummingbird shots. Oddly enough, it evolved in Africa, where there are no hummingbirds. This visitor is a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
When it comes to identifying female hummingbirds here, nothing is as helpful as a good tail shot. (I was tempted to insert a Sir Mixalot reference here, but will control myself.) Thank you, Broad-tailed Hummingbird number two.
If it weren’t for this view of the extra-large white patches on this hummingbird’s tail feathers, I wouldn’t know it was a Blue-throated Mountain Gem.
Since it did not show me it’s tail, I’ll have to trust the rufous on it’s back to say this is a female Rufous (or possibly Allen’s) Hummingbird.
Tiny bird, tiny bill, really big head, wings shorter than tail? Bumblebee Hummingbird!
I like Rivoli’s Hummingbirds. Males and females look alike, and neither look like any other hummingbirds.
Do you remember what I said about some species loving dense and dark woods? This Tufted Flycatcher decided to be living proof.
As did this White-striped Woodcreeper. Which is why I do appreciate them postioning themselves so thoughtfully.

 

 

Written by Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis moved from California to Mexico 36 years ago. He lived first in Mexicali, and now in the historic city of Morelia (about halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City), where he and his wife pastor a small church. He is the author of an internationally distributed book in Spanish about family finances and has recorded four albums in Spanish of his own songs. But every Monday, he explores the wonderful habitats and birds found within an hour of his house, in sites which go from 3,000 to 10,000 feet of altitude. These habitats include freshwater wetlands, savannah grasslands, and pine, oak, pine/oak, pine/fir, cloud, and tropical scrub forests.