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Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views" – Birding, nature, wildlife, photos, books and blog

More birds from mysterious Costa Rica.

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Here I am on top of a volcanic mountain in north west Costa Rica, above the clouds.

High mountains of Costa Rica









I found these mountains and cloud formations too beautiful and thought provoking to describe so I guess you need to go see for yourself.  You can also see the lighting difficulties I faced while trying to photograph tiny birds like the endemic Volcano Hummingbird.

Volcano Hummingbird













We were able to find several females of this species to shoot but no males. The Volcano Hummingbird is restricted to the Costa Rica and Panama Highlands Endemic Bird Area, where it is generally common in highland pastures and open grassland with scrub, usually above 2000 m elevation. This tiny hummingbird is mainly green above, with a brilliant wine-colored gorget in the male (replaced by dark spotting in the female), a white breast band, and greenish (males) or pale rufous (females) over the rest of the underparts. The tail is slightly forked in both sexes, more noticeably so in males. Three subspecies have been named, and these principally differ in the color of the gorget, being purplish gray to brilliant green in the southernmost form. In the non-breeding season, both sexes may defend territories around certain patches of small flowers.  We hiked and hiked looking for a male with no success but while doing this we were rewarded with a chance to photograph a Volcano Junco.  Look close and you can see that this bird has a leg band.

Volcano Junco












I chased this bird threw scrub brush and around rocks for what seemed like an hour before it finally got tired of me and stood posing for 5 seconds so I could take a picture.

The volcano junco (Junco vulcani) is an American sparrow endemic to the high mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama.

This junco breeds above the timberline, typically at altitudes above 3000 m, but there is an isolated population at 2100 m on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica, and forest clearance on Cerro de la Muerte has allowed this species to descend to 2600 m. The habitat is open grassy or brushy areas with some stunted scrubs. The nest is a neat lined cup constructed on the ground under a log, bush or rock, or in a cavity on a vegetated bank. The female lays two brown-spotted pale blue eggs.  The volcano junco is on average 16 cm long and weighs 28 g. The adult has brown upperparts with dark streaking especially on the back. The wings and tail feathers are dark fringed. The underparts are grey. The sides of the head are grey with a black mask through the eye, a yellow iris, and a pink bill and legs. Young birds are brighter brown above with blacker streaking, and have buff-grey underparts.  Volcano junco calls include a thin tseee or a clearer wheew. The song is a mixture of squeaks and buzzes; k’chew chu k’wee chip chip chueee.

The volcano junco feeds on the ground on seeds, fallen berries, insects and spiders. It runs and hops, but flies only short distances.

Time to leave the always windy, very cold mountaintop.  Down in the forested areas I was able to take a photo of a colorful bird that has a mean expression to it’s face, a Red-headed Barbet.

Red-headed Barbet












Lots of people enjoy birds.  Actually, bird watching is one of America’s most popular hobbies.  There are folks that enjoy “backyard” birdwatching.  There are many that go for a walk in the park to see birds.  Me, I guess I’m an extreme birder.  Carlos and I would hear a bird call way off the trail we were walking and no matter what, off we would go through tick and chigger infested woods.   The Red-headed Barbet is a spectacularly colored, small barbet of montane forest. The male’s brilliant red head and breast contrast with the green upperparts and horn-colored bill. The female lacks the red, and has pearly blue-gray cheeks. This species is conspicuous as it moves about middle and upper strata with mixed flocks or feeds in fruiting trees. Its song, a purring trill, is also loud and distinctive. The Red-headed Barbet feeds primarily on fruit, but also take arthropods, which it sometimes gathers by searching through dead leaf clusters. The nest is an enlarged woodpecker cavity or a self-excavated hole in a rotting tree.

What’s that Carlos?  Me referring to a bird’s call from up in a tree.  Mountain Elaenia he says and asks “do you have it”?  “Do you have it” means have I taken a photo of this bird.  I shake my head no and off we go again.  Up a leaf-covered game trail Carlos stops and whistles a pygmy owl’s call.  Many birds will try to mob a pygmy owl and come to escort the owl out of their territory.  Among other birds here comes the Elaenia.

Mountain Elaenia










The Mountain Elaenia is a small flycatcher of highlands in Middle America.  The species ranges from Guatemala south to Panama, and also in northwestern South America from northern Venezuela west to central Colombia, primarily in shrubby areas and open woodlands from 1500 to 2500 meters in elevation.  It is olive-brown above with a yellowish-white eyering, rounded crown, two off-white wingbars, and yellow-olive underparts.  Like many other Elaenia species, the Mountain Elaenia is more identifiable by its calls than by its visual appearance:  listen for its descending, two-part, whistled call to clinch identifications.

Easy to see where this bird gets it’s name.  The Yellow-thighed Finch proved especially difficult to photograph.  It seemed to know exactly what I wanted to do, (take his picture), and it would stay just out of range in the dark woods.  I would sneak up and just when I was get ready to shoot, off it would fly across the dirt road.

Yellow-thighed Finch











Like I always say, “It’s not just the birds that I love, it’s all about the places birding takes me”.  I see places in the world I would have never seen staying at 5 star resorts, etc.  ’til later,     Happy Birding                                                                                                   




Costa Rica welcomes this Baja birder with open…

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Well, you can see what I mean.  These Caiman (an American Crocodilian species) lined the slough banks with mouths open cooling themselves in the very humid, warm weather of the Costa Rican low-lands.  My guide, Carlos Urena curenach.cr@gmail.com and I were searching for Jabiru, my main target bird for this trip.  I’ll say that Carlos is a fantastic birding guide, birds by ear, speaks english, knows what he is doing and I am already booked for next year.

Caiman in Costa Rica







I’ll blog about the Jabiru in my next post but today I’m gonna focus on the owls and other night birds we successfully hunted.  I’ve never liked using flash photography to shoot birds at night because of the red-eye effect and the possibility of injuring the bird.  After doing a lot of on-line research, I purchased a five star rated light that does a wonderful job of “painting” owls and nightjars without bothering the birds.  Fenix TK35UE is the name and I’m pleased as pie with it.  Check out this Bare-shanked Screech Owl I photographed at about 30 feet at night under a forest canopy, dark as can be.

Bare-shanked Screech Owl










I’ve been to Costa Rica before but, with the expertise Carlos possessed, I was able to to add about one hundred fifty new birds to my camera’s list.  The nights were full of the sounds of cicadas and and all sorts of animals but Carlos recognised the call of this owl. The Bare-shanked Screech-Owl is found from Costa Rica to extreme northwest Colombia, although it is largely absent from most of Panama, except the far west and the extreme east of the country. It is generally found at altitudes of 900 to 3300 m, and the species is strongly dependent on dense montane forest. Compared to other Megascops in the same range, it can be separated, given reasonable views, by its tawny facial discs, which lack any obvious rimmed effect, and its whitish-spotted underparts. It is also a relatively large screech-owl, with a proportionately large head, but small ear-tufts. However, like other Megascops, the Bare-shanked Screech-Owl is most likely to be located by its deep-whistled song, hu-hu, HOO-HOO hoo

Another owl I was able to get a shot of was the Black and White Owl.  This bird seemed very shy and kept it’s distance, maybe fifty feet.  Still lit up fairly well.

Black and White Owl












It’s an eairy(sp) thing to do to hunt owls at night in the forest in a strange country.  Black and White Owls are only active at night.  Both sexes are similar, but female is larger than male and has longer wings. 
Adult has sooty-brown to blackish upperparts. The tail shows four narrow white bars. The legs are feathered white with dark bars. 
Underparts are white, all narrowly barred dark brown to blackish.
This black-and-white pattern extends to the neck sides, the nape and the upper back.The head is rounded, with black facial disk. Eyebrows are speckled white. Crown is blackish.
Eyes are dark brown. Bill and feet are orange-yellow.Juvenile has whitish face, white barred dark brown upperparts and buffy-white barred dark underparts. 

Carlos and I were slowly driving down a dirt road out in the boonies one night and he heard a call.  “Pacific Screech Owl” and out of the car we go.  Using my light, which is a tiny thing, but has 3200 lumens, we spot the critter.  Just then a guy drives by us, stops and backs up and gets out of his car.  Obviously drunk as a skunk he tries to ask us in a threatening tone, what we are doing.  I stayed where I was, about 30 feet away and Carlos goes to face him.  He’s ready to blast the guy in the face with the high-intensity strobe my light has if he gets aggressive.  The guy just utters something and leaves, whatever.  











So, back to the owl.  He’s still there in the tree and Carlos lights it up and I fire away.  The Pacific Screech-Owl can only be found right along the pacific coast from Oaxaca to Costa Rica (maybe only as far north as Chiapas). It is extremely similar to the Oaxaca Screech-Owl that inhabits the northern extents of its range in Oaxaca.  It has also been compared to the Vermiculated and Western Screech-Owls but, of course, has a distinct call, different markings, and range.

We hear another owl calling down the road a bit.  Driving slowly, the bird’s call becomes faint.  Patients pays off as we stop the car and wait and now the owl is closer.  Pretty far away for night-time photography but Carlos lights up the bird and I try for a shot.  This is a beautiful Striped Owl.

Striped Owl












The striped owl (Pseudoscops clamator) is a medium-sized owl with large ear tufts and a brownish-white facial disk rimmed with black. Its beak is black, and it has cinnamon-colored eyes. It has shorter, rounder wings than most of its close relatives. The upperparts are cinnamon with fine black vermiculation and heavy stripes. The underparts are pale tawny with dusky streaks. It is native to South America, and parts of Central America.

I hear a bird’s night-time call and ask Carlos what this is.  Dusky Nightjar he says.  Not an owl at all but a bird I want to shoot.  We drive around the curve in the road and find a place to pull over.  Out of the car we go and Carlos starts calling the nightjar.  I don’t know what it is about nightjars but they always want to land on my hat and this one tried to as well.  It settles on the ground nearby returning the call and my camera does it’s job.

Dusky Nightjar











Also sometimes called the Dusky Whip-poor-will, on account of it being perhaps more closely related to the other whip-poor-wills than to other New World Antrostomus, this nightjar is restricted to a relatively small range in southern Central America. It occurs from central Costa Rica to westernmost Panama, where it is found in montane forests and woodland between 1500 and 3100 m. This is a mid-sized brownish nightjar characterized by its buff throat band and lack of white wing markings; males have white tips to the outermost rectrices, but these tips are buffish in females. Although Dusky Nighthjar is locally common, very little appears to have been published concerning its ecology or behavior.

The last bird I’m posting about today is the weirdest.  There were two of these things sitting on posts by a river in the dark.  Carlos swatted at a large bug by his head and when it flew away from him both Great Potoos  attacked it, in total silence.  Spooky birds!

Great Potoo












With its characteristic drawn-out moaning growl, the vocalizations of the Great Potoo are among the most exciting and perhaps most unsettling nocturnal sounds in the Neotropics. Apart from its vocalizations, the Great Potoo is an intriguing species. Great Potoos are nocturnal and feed on large flying insects, and occasionally bats, which they capture in sallies from a high perch. During the day, they remain motionless in mimic of broken tree branches. The Great Potoo is distributed throughout humid and semihumid forested habitats in Central and South America. Across this vast region, there is little geographic variation in size or in plumage; two subspecies sometimes are recognized, but these do not differ greatly from each other. Despite the lack of conspicuous geographic variation, populations on either side of the Andes have been found to be very distinct genetically. This level of divergence is similar to the genetic divergence found between other species of potoo, pointing the possibility for ‘cryptic’ species within the Great Potoo lineage.

Carlos and I hunted birds from high mountains to lowlands.  The people of Costa Rica were some of the friendliest anywhere.  I’m going back for more but this time I’ll be ready for the ticks and chiggers, the worst part of my trip.  After every day I had ticks embedded in my legs and chigger bites there as well.  ’till next time, Happy Birding from   chrisllewellyn0211@gmail.com 





Birding the Nevada Volcanos in Colima, Mexico.

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Rugged terrain, awe-inspiring beauty.  This is Nayarit and Colima, Mexico.  A place for adventure.

Chris’s view from The Durango Highway.

I started this journey with hopes and a list of birds I wanted to photograph for the first time.  I set a goal to find 20 new birds.  My guide, Mark Stackhouse put me on 19 photographed and the last one, an Aztec Rail, heard but couldn’t be coaxed out of the cattails before the mosquitos attacked and we were forced to retreat.  I think the photograph I’m most pleased with is this one, a Cinnamon bellied Flowerpiercer.  For the better part of two days, this quick little bird insisted on staying deep inside the brush only to peak out from frustrating time to time only to duck down just as I started to focus.  I finally took one shot I could live with.

Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer













The cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer (Diglossa baritula) is a species of bird in the family Thraupidae. It is found in El SalvadorGuatemalaHonduras, and Mexico. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and heavily degraded former forest. It is a species known to be a nectar robber, apparently taking nectar while not pollinating the plant.

Photographing birds in the shadows of volcanos and deep jungle-like situations present issues of lighting that can be challenging to say the least.  I took some okay phots of two hummers new to me.  The Mexican Violetear 

Mexican Violetear













and the Violet-crowned Hummingbird.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird













Did a little night birding on a volcano road.  These roads were tight and when we met a vehicle coming from the other direction passing felt like nearly kissing bumpers and slapping side mirrors.  Here is a ghostly photo I took of a Balsas Screech-Owl.  Almost spooky!

Balsas Screech-Owl













Balsas Screech-Owl is the only species of owl that is endemic to Mexico. The plumage pattern of this screech-owl is typical of the genus, although Balsas Screech-Owl is not known to have a red morph, but this species is unusual among screech-owls for having brown (not yellow) irides. This species is resident in southwestern Mexico, with a distribution that is centered on the Balsas River Basin in southern Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, central Guerrero, and southern Morelos. Information on the biology of Balsas Screech-Owl is extremely limited, even though this species is considered to be at risk from habitat loss or degradation.

In the dark of night, windows open to listen for birds and Mark stops the van, “get out”.  I grab my camera, step on the road and right away a bird almost lands on my cap and then lands on a nearby bush.  Mark shines his flashlight and we both can see an Eared Poorwill.  The bird takes off before I can focus but Mark whistles and back it comes again, almost landing on my head.  It lands…

Eared Poorwill












The eared poorwill (Nyctiphrynus mcleodii) is a species of nightjar in the family Caprimulgidae. It is endemic to Mexico. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Birds in the family Caprimulgidae, which includes Eastern Whip-poor-will , have been referred to as “goatsuckers” based on a superstition that goes back well over 2000 years. They all have tiny beaks that open to reveal an impressively large mouth used to catch flying insects, and they are active mainly at night. Their nocturnal habits made them mysterious, and their bizarre appearance required an explanation, and as early as the 300s BC Aristotle wrote about the trouble these birds could cause with goats. Four hundred years later not much had changed, and in 77 AD Pliny passed along the prevailing wisdom:

The Caprimulgi (so called of milking goats) are like the bigger kind of Owsels [Thrush]. They bee night-theeves; for all the day long they see not. Their manner is to come into the sheepeheards coats and goat-pens, and to the goats udders presently they goe, and suck the milke at their teats. And looke what udder is so milked, it giveth no more milke, but misliketh and falleth away afterwards, and the goats become blind withall.

Leaving the mountain and down at the base we come across another type of goatsucker, the Buff-collard Nightjar.  Beautiful bird!

Buff-collard Nightjar











The buff-collared nightjar (Antrostomus ridgwayi) is a small sized nightjar. Adults are dark with brown, grey, black, and white patterning on the upperparts and breast. The tail is dark brown, with darker finely barred markings throughout. The male has large white outer tail tips on the 3 outermost tail feathers. The female has buffy tail tips. The most distinguishing characteristic to determine its identity from its closest relative the Whip-poor-will is from where the bird gets its name. It shows a prominent buff-colored collar around its neck and nape. Its song is also very different. It sounds like an accelerating cuk, cuk, cuk, cuk, cuk, cukacheea.[2]

Their breeding habitat is open country of Mexico and Central America to central Nicaragua. The northern limit of its range reaches just over the Mexican border to southeasternmost Arizona and southwesternmost New Mexico–(the Madrean Sky Islands in the eastern Sonoran Desert mountain region), where they are the only breeding resident birds.[citation needed] The nightjar’s two eggs are laid directly on bare ground near rocks or scrubby vegetation—there is no nest. The adult may feign injury to distract an intruder from the eggs or young birds.

They catch flying insects on the wing, making forays to catch their prey from the ground or a perch from a bush, tree, or large rock. They are mainly active at night, but can also be awake at dawn or dusk. They usually rest on the ground during the day.

Okay, bye for now.  If you like this blog,” like ” it please.

This Baja birder leaving the Durango Hwy. and on to San Blas, Mexico.

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Here is a photograph of my guide, Mark Stackhouse, at one of the viewing areas on the Durango Hwy.  You can see the hazy lighting conditions I’ve been whining about.  Still had a great time there.

Mark Stackhouse










Now on to San Blas.  Mark knew right where to find this hummer of a hummingbird.  The elusive Mexican Woodnymph.

Mexican Woodnymph













Sorry about that watermark but people were always stealing my photographs. The Mexican woodnymph (Thalurania ridgwayi) is a species of hummingbird in the family Trochilidae and is endemic to western Mexico. Its habitats include subtropical or tropical moist lowland/foothill forest and plantations . It is threatened by habitat loss. It has been considered conspecific with the crowned woodnymph of Central and northern South America.

In some of the wetlands of san Blas, we found Spotted Rails.

Spotted Rail













These birds had to be coaxed out the thick waterplants by calling them.The Spotted Rail is a large rail of Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.  It is relatively poorly known, and is curiously distributed in widely disjunct patches.  The species has proven to be a long distance vagrant, with a specimen record from southwestern Pennsylvania, USA.  Adults are quite dark overall, with a tapered, yellow bill with red spots at the base of the mandible, blackish head with red eye, black and brown upperparts, black underparts with white spotting, and pinkish legs. 

Moving to a different marsh we call up a Ridgeway’s Rail…

Ridgeway’s Rail













Ridgway’s Rail is a handsome gray-and-rusty bird that lives most of its life concealed in dense vegetation. It uses its formidable bill to probe into muddy wetlands for invertebrate prey. It lives in saltwater marshes, freshwater marshes, and mangrove swamps in California, Arizona, Nevada, and coastal western Mexico. Populations are declining largely due to wetland loss and degradation, and the species is listed in the U.S. as federally endangered. This species and Clapper Rail were considered the same species (along with Mangrove Rail) until 2014.

After moving to higher ground and listening carefully, we followed our ears to capture photos of these endemic Rufous-bellied Chachalacas.

Rufous-bellied Chachalacas













The Rufous-bellied Chachalaca is a Mexican endemic found from southern Sonora to northwest Jalisco. The most richly colored chachalaca species, the Rufous-bellied Chachalaca has bright chestnut on the belly and undertail-coverts and a bare red skin patch around its eyes. These birds are found in tropical deciduous forest and thorn forest, as well as palm plantations and mangroves where they forage for fruit and berries. The Rufous-bellied Chachalaca is tolerant of human disturbance and is not a species of conservation concern. 

Next is a nemesis bird for me.  So darn hard to photograph.  This is the best photo I could shoot of this shy bird. Constantly moving in mostly high branches is the beautiful Elegant Euphonia…

Elegant Euphonia












Unlike most euphonias that are attired in dark blue and yellow, the Elegant Euphonia sports turquoise and orange, similar to Antillean Euphonia (Euphonia musica) and Golden-rumped Euphonia (Euphonia cyanocephala), all three of which were once considered a single species. Most often, this dainty finch is encountered in humid, montane oak forests as high as about 3500 m. It occurs northward to Sonora and Nuevo Leon and southward to the highlands of western Panama. There, flocks, occasionally numbering dozens of individuals, may be seen feeding in clumps of fruiting mistletoe. The male’s bright blue crown and orange belly aid in locating this tiny bird (length 11 cm) in the foliage of tall oaks. The female also sports a blue crown, but her green back and underparts is more cryptic among the green leaves. Elegant Euphonias undergo some seasonal and altitudinal movements, occasionally being found close to sea level….Moving on, I was able to add another new bird to my photo list.  The Flammulated Flycatcher…

Flammulated Flycatcher













Originally described in the genus Myiarchus, Flammulated Flycatcher now generally is afforded its own, monotypic genus, although it has been suggested that the species is better treated as a member of Ramphotrigon. Needless to say, the plumage of Flammulated Flycatcher does recall that of a Myiarchus, but in size this species is smaller than most members of Myiarchus, and the pale supraloral, broken orbital ring, and streaked throat and breast all serve to distinguish Flammulated Flycatcher from any Myiarchus. This species appears to be a Mexican endemic: although postulated to range into Guatemala, no evidence for its occurrence in the latter country has been found to date. Flammulated Flycatcher inhabits dry deciduous woodland and thorn forest, as well as shade coffee plantations, and is found from sea level up to approximately 1400 m.  Lastly for today, one of the most difficult to photograph birds I’ve ever tried shot.  True to it’s name, the Rusty-capped ground Sparrow dodged my camera lens by running along the ground only pausing long enough to tease me…

Rusty-capped ground Sparrow












Its size ranges from six to seven inches (15–17.5 cm). The adult has a rufous crown with white lore spot and its face is olive brown with white eye ring while the upper parts grayish olive. Its throat and underparts are white with a black central chest spot and the undertail covers are pale cinnamon. Juveniles are dusky brown on the upper parts with the throat and underparts dirty pale lemon, streaked with brown.

Okay, I hope you enjoy today’s blog.  Happy birding!  My new email is chrisllewellyn0211@gmail.com

Birding the Durango Hwy. and San Blas, Mexico.

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I fly in to Mazatlan to meet my guide, Mark Stackhouse mark@westwings.com , who I have birded with in the past.  He is in a class by himself and probably the best birding guide I have had.  The plan is to bird the Durango Hwy. and then move on to San Blas.  The views of Espenosa del Diablo (spine of the devil) mountains were unbelievable.  National Geographic quality all the way.  Talk about rugged, man oh man!  Now on to the birds.  Only had a week to shoot new birds, of which I did get 30 new species for my camera.  The skies were hazy so the lighting was poor but following are photos of a few of my new birds… 

Red-headed Tanager













This Red-headed Tanager insisted on staying under cover and constantly on the move made capturing an image difficult. The Red-headed Tanager is endemic to the mountains of western Mexico, where it occurs in pine-oak, evergreen, and semideciduous forests and forest edge. This is a small species of Piranga. The male, very distinctive, is olive above and yellow below, with a red head and throat. Females, however, completely lack red on the head; they are olive above and yellow below, with a paler belly. Red-headed Tanagers travel as pairs or in small groups, which often associate with mixed species flocks. They forage from the midstory into the canopy, and consume both insects and small fruits and berries. The nest is a cup of twigs and other vegetation well up in a tree, but otherwise little is known about the breeding biology of the Red-headed Tanager.

One of my target birds was the Colima Pygmy Owl and Mark didn’t disappoint me.  He never does.  Check out this cutie Mark called in just by whistling a call.

Colima Pygmy Owl













I think this owl was as interested in us as we were in it.  Colima Pygmy-Owl is a newly-recognized species. Previously these populations were classified as subspecies of Least Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum), although now the name Least Pygmy-Owl is applied only to the birds in eastern South America. Colima Pygmy-Owl occurs on the west slope of Mexico, from Sonora south to Oaxaca. This species overlaps geographically with the slightly larger Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum), but Colima Pygmy-Owl can be distinguished by its shorter tail, spotted crown, and different song. This species occurs in thorn forest, semi-deciduous forests, and coffee plantations, and locally also in pine-oak forests. The song of Colima Pygmy-Owl is a short series of hollow hooting notes. As is typical of Glaucidium, Colima Pygmy-Owl is partially diurnal and hunts for invertebrates and small vertebrates, but there is very little information available about its biology.

Another target bird I was really hoping to photograph is this Golden Vireo.  An absolutely gorgeous bird that never sits still for a photo shoot.

Golden Vireo












Then off we go hiking and listening for the bird of the day.  I think this is the largest Jay in the world, the awesome, noisy Tufted Jay of Durango.  

Tufted Jay












It was kind of funny.  Once we found this flock of Jays, sometimes called a “party” they followed us back, keeping a distance, to where the car was parked.  Mexico is the best country in the world for jays. More species of jays can be found here than in any other country on earth. Sixteen resident species to be exact. The state of Nayarit on the central Pacific coast of Mexico holds one of the highest diversities with a total of seven species represented, including the endemic San Blas JayPurplish-backed Jay and the very localized Tufted JayBlack-throated Magpie-jays are common in Nayarit and are also regarded as endemic to Mexico – except for a small disputed population in southern California which most experts regard as originating from escaped captive birds.

I almost did’t want to show this next picture to y’all because it’s so dark, but I’m going to.  These hard to find, deep brush finches were really putting on a musical show for us.  Singing and singing.  Green-striped Brush Finches.

Green-striped Brush Finches












Again, following our ears, ahead and way down a valley we could hear the calls of yet another target bird.  Mark new the place to look and listen for the spectacular Military Macaws.

Military Macaw













I’ve photographed these birds before but at that time we couldn’t get any closer than seeing them flying about a mile away.  Still a very shy bird I got a little closer this time.  The military macaw (Ara militaris) is a large parrot and a medium-sized macaw. Though considered vulnerable as a wild species, it is still commonly found in the pet trade industry. It is found in the forests of Mexico and South America. It gets its name from its predominantly green plumage resembling a military parade uniform.

I’ll try to blog some more about the Durango Hwy. birds and then San Blas.  But I’ll be heading over to Colima, Mexico soon and then off to Costa Rica.  The plane ride to Costa Rica is the pits but the birds are worth it.  Hopefully this time I’ll get the Jabiru.

Have fun and happy birding.   chrisllewellyn0211@gmail.com


Baja Hummingbirds and others.

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Here on the East Cape we have two Hummingbird species that are commonly seen at our feeders.  I have photos of 38 different types of hummers and I thought I’d share some of them with you today.  First photo will be that of the Baja endemic Xantus’s Hummingbird.

Xantus’s Hummingbird

Xantus Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird that can only be found in Baja, California. The bird is deemed to be the most distinctive among the few Baja specialty birds. It grows to a length of 3-3.5 inches, and weighs about 3-4 grams upon maturity. It was named after a Hungarian zoologist, John Xantus de Vesey.  Debbie’s photo of a Xantus’s graces the cover of our book, “Birds We See” in Baja.  It is also featured in the book, “Hummingbirds of the World” with our permission.  The next bird is the hummer most often seen here, the Costa’s Hummingbird.

Costa’s Hummingbird

The desert might seem like a bad place for a creature that feeds at flowers, but it is the favored habitat for Costa’s Hummingbird. In Arizona and California deserts, this species nests during late winter and spring, and most then avoid the hot summer by migrating to coastal California and Baja. The thin, high-pitched whistle of the male is often heard over desert washes in early spring.  We move to the high mountains of Costa Rica.  The Volcano Hummingbird.

Volcano HummingbirdThis guy was sitting in the misty rain when I shot him.The Volcano Hummingbird is restricted to the Costa Rica and Panama Highlands Endemic Bird Area, where it is generally common in highland pastures and open grassland with scrub, usually above 2000 m elevation. This tiny hummingbird is mainly green above, with a brilliant wine-colored gorget in the male (replaced by dark spotting in the female), a white breast band, and greenish (males) or pale rufous (females) over the rest of the underparts. The tail is slightly forked in both sexes, more noticeably so in males. Three subspecies have been named, and these principally differ in the color of the gorget, being purplish gray to brilliant green in the southernmost form. In the non-breeding season, both sexes may defend territories around certain patches of small flowers.  The following hummer lives up to it’s name. The Lesser Violet-ear-





Lesser Violet-ear



Lesser Violetear is locally common in montane regions of southern Central America and of South America, from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina, and east to the coastal mountains of northern Venezuela. Formerly Lesser was included with Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus), which occurs from Mexico to Nicaragua, as a single species (“Green Violetear”, C. thalassinus), but Mexican and Lesser violetears differ significantly from one another in plumage, and now are classified as separate species. All species of violetears (Colibri), including Lesser, have a patch of elongated violet feathers on the sides of the head (hence the English name). Lesser Violetear otherwise is mostly glittering green; most populations have a purely green breast, lacking the bright blue breast patch of Mexican Violetear, but reportedly some specimens of Lesser, from the northern part of the range, in Costa Rica, also may have some blue on the underparts. Lesser Violetear inhabits highland humid forest borders, clearings and highland pastures, and is resident throughout its range.  I took this photo of an Ana’s Hummingbird in Oregon.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbirds are among the most common hummingbirds along the Pacific Coast, yet they’re anything but common in appearance. With their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds. Though no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel, Anna’s Hummingbirds make a strong impression. In their thrilling courtship displays, males climb up to 130 feet into the air and then swoop to the ground with a curious burst of noise that they produce through their tail feathers.

Soon I’ll be traveling to the mainland to bird with Mark Stackhouse, one of the best birding guides ever.  I should have some adventures to blog about.  ’til later Happy Birding.   

A little “ducky” in La Ribera today.

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Sunny, clear and calm today.  Weather looks great for some estuary birding.  Yes, me myself and I.  After loosing Debbie to cancer, here goes some little steps forward.  Upon arrival the estuary looks like it was hit by a flooding, rip-roaring tornado.  I don’t even recognize most of it.  At least most of the man-made debris is gone.  Birds all over the place but they are very shy.  Extremely difficult, even for stalking expert (yah right) me, to get close for good photography but here goes…

Lesser Scaup











Ring-necked Duck












Blue-winged teal











Pairs and small groups of this tiny dabbling duck inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands across much of North America. Blue-winged Teal are long distance migrants, with some birds heading all the way to South America for the winter. Therefore, they take off early on spring and fall migration, leaving their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada well before other species in the fall.  I hear a sandpiper I’m familiar with and looking ahead, out in the shallow water I see a pair of Greater Yellowlegs.

Greater Yellowlegs













Spotted Sandpiper













The dapper Spotted Sandpiper makes a great ambassador for the notoriously difficult-to-identify shorebirds. They occur all across North America, they are distinctive in both looks and actions, and they’re handsome. They also have intriguing social lives in which females take the lead and males raise the young. With their richly spotted breeding plumage, teetering gait, stuttering wingbeats, and showy courtship dances, this bird is among the most notable and memorable shorebirds in North America.  Up ahead I see what looks like mice running all over the sand but I know what’s going on.  These are the always pretty and wary Semipalmated Plovers.

Semipalmated Plover












Now it’s time for me to fly off somewhere for the rest of the day.  Hope you enjoyed todays blog.  I still haven’t fixed my new email to this site.  Feel free to contact me direct if you want—chrisllewellyn0211@gmail.com


A new chapter for this Baja birder.

ChrisnDebbie in Costa Rica

As most of you know by now, my darling wife Debbie, and I lost her 12 year struggle with cancer in September.  Diagnosed with Ovarian cancer with a prognosis of living six months, we decided right away to stop working 24/7 and travel the world, cameras in hand.  While on safaris in Botswana we noticed while other couples watched the lions and elephants from one side of the Land Rover, we were captured by the beauty of the birds.  Thats when I came up with the idea of writing a book named “Birds WE See” and donate the profits to cancer research.  

Debbie in bird heaven.

I thought after 12 years of surgeries, chemo and living life around hospitals, even being Life-Flighted back to the states from other countries a few times, that I might be able to cope with my loss.  My family, friends and the birds remind me that Debbie, also known as “Lotta Tidbits”, is no longer in pain but my heart is still broken.  She was a strong and brave woman.

Debbie pointing at sleeping lions in Sandibe

Trying to get my life back, I took a boat ride from Los Barriles to a “fishing spot”.  While the captain was focused on catching fish, which we did, I spotted a “different” bird (new to me I thought).  From the rocking boat I took my first photo since Debbie’s passing.  Turns out the speedy, diving, single species is a Nazca Booby.  Although I had photographed them in The Galapogas Islands  it is a rarity for these parts.   I reported the bird, photo included, to eBird and it was confirmed and given the “rare bird” designation it deserved.

Nazca Booby












That’s all for now.  This is the most difficult post I’ve ever tried to make.  By-the-way, I only have incoming email for now and can’t send.  I’d like to hear from you but I can’t reply.  Chris@birdswesee.com.  Have a great day and happy birding.  Please “like” this site so others will know what’s going on.  or chrisllewellyn0211@Gmail.com

Wading birds we see in Baja


The weather is looking stormy today so I thought I’d pull up some photos of estuary birds to take a look at.  We all know  the golden slippers and dark beaks of the Snowy Egret sets it apart from the Great Egret, which has black legs and a yellowish bill.

Snowy Egret


Great Egret

I have wonderful memories of sitting in the sand watching and photographing Reddish Egrets as they chase baitfish all around the shallows.  Beautiful birds they are!

Reddish Egret

Black-crowned Night Herons occasionally make an appearance here.  Unlike the Reddish Egrets, they tend to forage with less enthusiasm and are often spotted sitting in trees.

Black-crowned Night Heron

What a lucky pair Debbie and I are to be able to walk or even drive a short distance to see birds like the colorful  Green Heron.

Green Heron


And Little Blue Herons.

Little Blue Heron

Plus Tri-colored Herons that, like Reddish Egrets, put on quit a show running around, chasing little fishes to feed on.

Tri-colored Heron

We’ve even seen a Yellow-crowned Night Heron once in a while.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Probably considered the king of Herons most people see, The Great Blue Heron is a magnificent bird.  Sooo graceful!

Great Blue Heron

Over on the mainland they are a few herons that don’t seem to be too big on Baja.  Like the Bare-throated tiger Heron, an out-standing bird we shot on one of our birding trips.

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Just looked up and out the window to see a whale breaching.  Gotta go watch so, catch you later!  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie………like us if you do. 


Sharing a few Baja birds with you today.

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Birded some of the west-side of the lagoons today.  Very quiet.  Judging from the amount of the trash left on the beach, there were a lot of people out here over the week-end (errrrh!!!).  How can people be like this.  I could hear some Yellowthroats in the brush ahead. The Common or the critically endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat (I hope).  I can’t tell them apart when they are just making their contact “buzzing” sound.  I see it!  Yes, a Belding’s.

Belding’s Yellowthroat

I’m walking along the edge of the brackish water watching a Reddish Egret chasing fish around.  It stops when it sees me and poses for a photograph.

Reddish Egret

I hear a splash and swing my camera to the right just in time to catch this Blue-winged Teal taking off making a bunch of noisy squawks.

Blue-winged Teal



 I lower the camera but up it comes again (this is work!) when I see a beautiful Cinnamon Teal.

Cinnamon Teal

Keeping an eye out for that sneaky bobcat that lives around here somewhere I follow a cattle trail into the brush.  Right away I get smacked in the face by a thorn bush and now I’m bleeding (can bobcats smell blood).  Ignoring the wound, I move in the direction of a raucous being create in the bushes ahead.  I see little birds so I pissssh a few times.  (remember? put your lips together and say pish–pisssh quietly)  Here comes a Gray Vireo to challenge me.   Its looking me all over to see where the bird that’s pisshing is, ignoring me all together.  The Vireo stays in the shadows but I take a pic and it turns out okay.

Gray Vireo

A ways behind but acting just as curious as the vireo is another bird that responds to pisshing.  An Orange-crowned Warbler.

Orange-crowned Warbler

The last bird for today is a Cassin’s Kingbird.  There are 4 or 6 of these birds hawking insects.  The weather is kind of hazy so the lighting isn’t real good today but it’s great being out and about.

Cassin’s Kingbird

Have a great day from Chris and Debbie and HAPPY BIRDING!!!