In September 2021, I wrote for the first time here about one of the great birding spectacles in my region. As our summer rainy season ends, Michoacán erupts in a massive seasonal bloom, which attracts a feeding frenzy by resident and newly-arrived migratory hummingbirds. This spectacle occurs everywhere, from semi-desert habitats to highland forests to wetlands. But while I have located some solid runners-up, I have yet to find a place with a more spectacular show than the little town of Laurelito. That is why I call this town Hummingbird Heaven.
Laurelito, God bless it, is less than 8 miles (13.6 km) from my home. But the route does go steadily upward, placing it at 2,250 m (7,380 ft) above sea level. The varied habitats around the town include pine, oak, and pine/oak woods, as well as grasslands with oaks and introduced eucalyptus trees. Each of these habitats has its own rich mix of bird species. But the beautiful banks of Salvias and other flowers right by the town are what make this spot so attractive to hummingbirds.
I went up to Laurelito last week, specifically to enjoy the hummer show. But, of course, any and all birds are welcome. So my first surprise was to see a Snowy Egret boldly feeding along a section of dirt road leading to the town. There are no real bodies of water around Laurelito. But apparently, this Egret thought a section of pasture that had turned marshy made an acceptable substitute.
Sadly, a section of pine/oak wood just short of the town burned during our historically dry spring this year. Still, the newly dead trees seem to be of interest to many bird species. There were dozens of beautiful Gray Silky-Flycatchers, as there had been on my previous visit to the site. There was also a good number of Brown Creepers on the charred trunks, as well as a few White-throated Nuthatches. A female Hepatic Tanager showed off its decidedly non-hepatic colors. And my first hummer of the day, a Berylline Hummingbird, kindly flashed its colors.
Gray Silky-Flycatchers: an epitome of avian elegance.
Try to take a good picture of a Brown Creeper. Go ahead. I dare you.
And then it happened: I made it to my own little piece of hummingbird heaven. Salvias, and other flowers, were everywhere. But it seems the Salvia purpurea flowers had a monopoly on the hummingbirds’ affections.
I suspect the female hummers buzzing around me were all Rufous Hummingbirds, but it is difficult to rule out female Broad-tailed and Calliope Hummingbirds. And it is almost impossible to rule out the Rufous Hummingbird’s evil identical twin, Allen’s Hummingbird.
Such style! Olé!
Because of this confusion with female hummers, it is a rare and special privilege to see a nice male Rufous Hummingbird:
One female Rufous seemed to be feeding on or near a single pine tree trunk. Was it feeding on pine sap? Insects or spiders on the bark? Do any of you have some insight to this?
In spite of all the Rufous Hummingbirds, they weren’t the only show in town. Mexican Violetears can be hard to see, because they love to “sing” from tall trees, but their very repetitive song was this trip’s unending soundtrack.
A female Archilochus also posed nicely for me. It is probably a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but then, those have their own evil identical twin, the Black-chinned Hummingbird. So one is never completely sure.
Of course, no matter how good the hummingbirds are, there is always something more to see. Our endemic Transvolcanic Jays (recently split from the former Mexican Jay) tend to look a dusty blue in full light. So I’ll sacrifice some photographic definition for the sake of this rich blue color:
And finally, the day’s great surprise: The Bright-rumped Attila (how’s that for a great name!) is a tropical Tyrant-Flycatcher that is rarely seen above 1,600 meters. What it was doing at 2,250 m, I cannot say. One birder friend commented that it was just crazy to see an Attila in pine trees. But there it was! Also, it was by far my best encounter with this species. This species is very noisy, and we had quite a chat.
More hummers will be coming next week.