I moved to Mexico in 1983 (and really should update my bio below). Angie, now my wife, moved here in 1985, and we married here two years later. So our now-adult children have never lived in the U.S. But they have embraced some American customs, and one of their favorites is Thanksgiving.

I don’t need to tell you, last year’s Thanksgiving was… complicated. So when this more-favorable autumn came along, my taking up turkey duty again was a non-negotiable. Unfortunately, my daughter, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law all work for Mexican entities that do not give them the day off, so the celebration was moved to Saturday.

Meanwhile, my son Dave was just hired by an American company, and would have loved to celebrate his first Thanksgiving Day off in years on the exact day, with all the trimmings. Since that was not to be, he decided to spend the time with his parents anyway. That meant whatever meal we chose (better-than-chain-restaurant pizza and homemade cake), and lots of American football. Oh yes, and as he specifically requested, a morning of birding with his dear old dad. A son who wants to bird with me? That’s something for which I can be grateful!

My son and I share a number of special bonds. In all the world, I think he is the one who most “gets” my sense of humor, and vice versa. (My wife, God bless her, does not.) Also, I managed to instill in him a love of eclectic, often classic, music. On this outing, he shared with me a playlist he had recently made; it went from Stevie Wonder’s sublime Higher Ground, through Dusty Springfield’s almost-too-on-the-nose Son of a Preacher Man, to the Dead South’s wonderfully quirky In Hell, I’ll be in Good Company. And Jolene. All while discussing Café Tacuba’s Re, one of the greatest albums ever. Could I be any prouder? I don’t think so.

I chose to introduce him this time to Las Mesas, my favorite new site from the past year, which has the added advantage of being relatively nearby. As Las Mesas goes, it wasn’t a particularly spectacular day of birding. Perhaps the fact that we really enjoy talking to each other had a slight negative impact on the number of species seen (“only” 52). But there were plenty of small pleasures to keep us entertained.

Our first stop, at the reservoir surrounded by temperate thorn fores, a lone Least Grebe was present, as was a Belted Kingfisher whose presence I had predicted. Migratory Lark Sparrows were everywhere. A large flock of Violet-green Swallows eventually turned up, descending in waves to strike the waters of the reservoir. (I assume that this a form of bathing, as the action is too violent for drinking, or feeding — unless they are eating small fish Gannet-style.) Watching this rhythmic group behavior was actually quite hypnotic.

Everywhere, we saw a most odd type of spider web: an odd combination of 3D randomness surrounding a perfectly symmetrical 2D web, with an odd suspended “spider house” in the center, from which the owner would emerge, like an arachnid Hermit Crab.

From there, we drove to the town, and walked toward ever-denser pine-oak forest. The showiest birds in the first stretch were a pair of Hooded Orioles, and a lovely male Western Tanager, winter visitors all.

The male Hooded Oriole, also shown at the top of this post

The female Hooded Oriole

The male Western Tanager

In the same area, a Common Raven gave us a novel explanation for current inflationary pressures on food prices:

That’s a whole ear of corn in its bill!

This being Las Mesas, the almost-constant soundtrack of our outing (along with my son’s playlist) was the buzz-click song of Mexican Violetears. One distant Violetear was positioned just right for us to see its full irridescent colors, although a small branch between us kept my camera from focusing exactly.

Another Violetear stayed faithful to his post, even while we walked beneath him.

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird I had seen on my last visit is still present, but stayed in deep brush, denying me a photo. Still, a male Archilochus hummer (of either species) is a rare treat here. And, of course, there were also Rufous, Berylline, White-eared, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds to be seen. Las Mesas is not my best hummingbird spot, but it’s definitely in my top 3.

Michoacán offers a tremendous variety of bumblebees, usually visiting the same flowers as our hummers. We especially enjoyed this odd-looking one.

My son has a special fondness for raptors, which I can certainly understand. What I do not understand is his enthusiasm for the problems of identifying these; I place that challenge in a group with IDing gulls, Empidonax and Myiarchus flycatchers, and all Old World birds bearing the name “warbler”. But there was no doubt as to the ID of the raptor that dropped in toward the end of our outing; she was clearly a Red-tailed Hawk. (I say “she” because females of this species are much larger than males, and this one was definitely One Big Momma.)

I’m sorry I don’t have more photos to share with you; I never seem to be at my photographic best when I’m showing someone else one of my sites. But it was certainly worth it. I hope you all get to be grateful someday as well, for the privilege of passing on a love of nature to the next generation.

Written by Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis moved from California to Mexico in 1983. He lived first in Mexicali, and now lives 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.