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Oly – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

Author: Oly

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!!!


What a great Baja birding day!

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Drove down to La Ribera today.  The weather was so nice, just a breeze, warm and kosey.  Ran into some other people on a guided birding trip and the leader asked me if “I’d seen anything special today”.  Told him I was just getting started and wished them good luck.  They headed off this way and I that-a-way.  Never saw them again.  After gazing at a passing Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

I realized my reading glasses were missing from their normal perch (hanging on my neck).  I hadn’t walked very far so to avoid getting THAT look from Debbie I get when I lose something, I retraced my steps.  Well, I found them and as I stood up after retrieving my little friends I noticed what looked like a piece of black plastic trash bag hanging in a leafless bush 50 feet away.  No big deal, accept that my mind told me it wasn’t there a moment ago.  Up comes the 100X400 Canon camera lens and to my delightful surprise, I see a Groove-billed Ani.  A rare sighting in Baja Sur.  I shoot a few frames for proof and get to work figuring the best way to get closer without scaring off the birds and get a better photograph.  I like to get as close as I can to my subjects without causing harm.  For whatever reason, maybe a raptor nearby, all the birds were anxious today and this Ani was watching me closely.  To better my chances, I played an Ani love call on my phone and right away 2 more Groovies popped up out of the brush to the left.  Without delay, I scoot closer and get a few pics before they fly off.  Okay, okay, there are a few sticks in the way but all considered, not a bad shot.  Groove-billed Ani-

Groove-billed Ani

Now I’m happy as a spring lamb.  I wanted to share my discovery with the group of birders I ran into but they were out of sight, so I mosey along.  There was a large flock of gulls warming the sand up ahead of me.  All but one looked like they had hatched out of the same nest.  These are 1st winter California Gulls.

California Gull, 1st winter

The one bird that didn’t fit in was a 1st winter Glaucous-winged Gull.  That’s cool because it is a first for me.  Gulls are especially hard to I.D. in the winter because their plumage is so bland.

Glaucous-winged Gull, 1st winter

I’m still excited thinking about the Ani when I look towards the lapping surf to see two different seabirds.   A Royal Tern tip-toeing away while keeping an eye on me like I’m some sort of threat, oh come-on!

Elegant Tern

And a Black-bellied Plover.  It’ll get a black tummy closer to breeding time-

Black-bellied plover

Now I see why the birds are so nervous.  Speeding by like a feathered rocket, there goes a Merlin.  I know, not a great shot but I wanted to show off this raptor’s colors.  This is a small but fearless member of the falcon family.


Speaking of color, check out this Lesser Goldfinch.  These tiny seedeaters (mostly) cling together in noisy little flocks.  You may have seen them at your bird feeder.

Lesser Goldfinch

Getting back to the water, off in the distance are a few shorebirds.  I see a Black-necked Stilt (you can see where it gets it’s name).

Black-necked Stilt

And a Greater Yellowlegs.  A bird named for it’s legs, of course.

Greater Yellowlegs

I can’t say goodbye today without showing off a nice photo of a family of Long-billed Dowitchers.

Long-billed Dowitchers

Debbie and I hope you all have a chance to get out and do some birding, where ever you are.  Have a great day, Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie

Please don’t forget to “like us” if you do.


Baja birders are back!

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We’re getting emails from all over the world asking “where are the blogs”.  Well, to put it simply Debbie and I were in a car that was struck from behind on a highway while in the states.  Injuries have kept me quiet for a while but all will be good.  We’ve been hanging close to the casa so I decided to shoot some birds and make a post.  Here goes…

This morning, not having to move more than 12 feet to find subjects, I photographed some locals starting with a noisy Verdin.  This is an adult bird, the juvies are mostly all brown in color.               


Baja Spring is already starting for the birds.  Days are getting longer and our birds are starting to  get nesty.  Birds are molting and coloring up fast.  Check out this House Finch.  I watch as Mr. and Mrs. Finch check out possible nest sites.  Sometimes I need to cover the house lamps so they won’t try to build a nest inside.  These Finches come in all sorts of different colors depending on their diets.

House Finch

All I have to do is turn around to see another bird.  Just below where I’m standing is our endemic (lives only here) Gray Thrasher.  These melodic singers are opportunistic feeders, eating fruit, berries, seeds, insects, whatever.  

Gray Thrasher

We have several Costa’s Hummingbirds that visit our feeders.  Following is a pic of a male that is molting.  

Costa’s Hummingbird

Soon, the molting bird will look more like this…

Costa’s Hummingbird

                                                                                       Looking over by the thistle feeder I see a little flock of Lesser Goldfinches.  There is a male on a high perch watching me from over his shoulder.  This guy is almost in full color.

Lesser Goldfinch

Maybe the wind will lay down in a day or two so I can do some desert quading or laguning. Have a great day from Chris and Debbie!

This Baja birder says “he’s back!”


Yes, maybe some of you remember from a post a few years ago when my darling Debbie was stalked by a big cat out at the LaGoons?  Well, the cat is still there (or back if he ever left).  We were birding the La Ribera Lagoons the other day.  As usual, Debbie went this way and I went that way.  I was checking out some Common Gallinules when I got this strong feeling something/someone was watching me.  I hoisted my binos up from the neck harness and scanned the shores of the brackish waters.  Lookie there!  There’s that bobcat, or whatever cat it is, staring at me from across  the pond.  No doubt, the same cat.  Same deformed eye.  I took a photo and looked again and it was gone.  A little creepy but nice looking animal.

LaRibera Lagoon cat
LaRibera Lagoon cat

The creeks, moans and wales of the Common Moorhen or Gallinule as “they” now call them, to me, give marshy waters the mysterious moods they inspire.  Not really a duck as they have no webbed feet.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule

The American Coot, a waterbird of lakes and ponds most everywhere, act as watch-dogs of the marsh.  Always on the lookout, Coots purr and then squeal loudly when perceived danger approaches.

American Coot
American Coot

Birders are always looking up, often rewarded by sites few will ever witness.  Like this silent, gliding Great blue Heron.

Great blue Heron
Great blue Heron

Or the breath-taking moment one can experience catching a glimpse of a Reddish Egret floating by in a silent moment.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

Scattering away from my forward motion, an early-migrant speeds away suspiciously as I move along the shore-line.  Such a delicate-looking sandpiper that may have flown here from the far reaches of Alaska.  This is a Semi-palmated Plover.

Semi-palmated Sandpiper
Semi-palmated Plover

As we get ready to leave for the day, once again looking up at the sky we see, a Snowy Egret cruising by as if to show off it’s golden slippers.

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

Just a reminder that our book, “Birds We See” in Baja is now available for purchase at Chao Pescao Tackle shop, just down the block from Freddie’s repair on the East drag for Los Barriles.  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!









Rare birds we have seen in Baja.


Over the years, Debbie and I have had the pleasure of photographing a number of birds that are considered rare to see in Baja Sur.  Following are shots of a few of these-

Cackling Goose-Aleutian
Cackling Goose-Aleutian

This bird was with a flock of 6 that flew over me while I walked along the lagoons in La Ribera.  Way out of their normal range, they landed and quickly drank water and rested.  I didn’t want to hassle  them so I took a few photos and left them alone.  Ebird flagged these geese as very rare and seemed very pleased to get my report.

We belong to the American Birding Society.  A few years ago I was unsure of a hummingbird that hung around our feeders for a few days.  It was molting and pretty worn so it was hard for me to I.D.  After submitting the photo to Cornel University, someone there identified the hummer as a Ruby-throated.  They said it was the FIRST documented R.T. Hummingbird for Baja Sur.  Here’s one of the shots I took-

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Last year, again walking the shores near the La Ribera Lagoons I spotted a bird I new didn’t belong there.  This is a Pacific Loon.  Maybe common up north, like Santa Cruz, California but ebird says rare for here.

Pacific Loon
Pacific Loon

I was out in the brush trying to call a Cape Pygmy Owl in hopes of getting a photograph to post when I hear a musical call I didn’t recognize.  I look up into a palm to see a bird that I had seen before back east but never photographed.  After submitting the shot to eBird, they replied that this was also a rare bird for Baja Sur., with no photographs of one taken here before. (that they knew of).  This is a Yellow-throated Warbler-

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler

The San Lucan Robin is seen in the higher elevations of Baja Sur.  This photo was taken near the beach and made this a rare bird sighting for the area.  At the time I thought it may have come down out of the mountains because of the drought we were experiencing.

San Lucan Robin
San Lucan Robin

Black Brant are another bird that is rarely seen in Baja Sur.  Last year I was able to get this distant photograph of one flying off the lagoons.  Beautiful bird.

Black Brant
Black Brant

There are a few more rare birds we’ve photographed here in Baja Sur but I’m going to end today’s post with this unusual bird I shot north of La Ribera.  Check it out!  A Groove-billed Ani.  I’m deeply sorry but I forget the name of the man that saw this bird and emailed me so I could go for a look.  You know who you are, THANK YOU.

Groove-billed Ani
Groove-billed Ani

That’s all for today, Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie and don’t forget to like us.



Chris and Debbie are here for more Baja birds!

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These Baja birders just got back from a 3 month, 8,000 mile RV trip birding the Western U.S.  That was great fun, adding 59 new birds to our photo-list, but now it’s that time of year to focus on our birding adventures in Baja Sur.

As soon as we arrived at our casa, I started cleaning and setting out our bird feeders.  From what I can see in our yard, birds are everywhere!  It really pleases me to see that the population is looking so healthy.  A Ladder-backed Woodpecker squeaks as he watches me set out the hummer-feeders.

After the poor numbers of birds we were seeing the past 3 or 4 years, it’s great to see all the birds that we used to see in our yard are back.  Even before the hummers show up, a Verdin comes by for a drink.  This bird has not molted to adult plumage yet.

The orioles are here as well, both Scott’s and Hooded.

Another one of my little buddies (my son thinks I’m weird to call birds “little buddies”) comes flitting around the Tuli-pan tree looking for a treat.  Busy-as-a-bee, an Orange-crowned Warbler checks things out.

There’s even a Gila Woodpecker at the feeder already!  Gilas are expert at cracking open sun flower seeds all the time squawking with pleasure.

Ah-ha, the hummers are showing up.  Wow!  4 or 5 Costa’s and 3 or 4 Xantus’s (at least).

Okay, sorry but thats all for now.  Gotta’ go put out all the little “fires” that start when we are away.  Bye for not,  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!  Don’t forget to “like” us.


Birds we see in Mission, Texas.


My darling Debbie and I spent some time in the Mission, Texas area birding the World Birding Centers.  We have 704 birds in our Western Hemisphere collection and we’re looking for more to add.  Most of our days used searching for new birds were cloudy, some thunderstorms, hot and humid. Just the way I like it, but not so much Debbie.  One of the new birds we found by cruising an abandoned subdivision that was mostly a field.  I saw something small move away from being run over by our jeeps tire.  Of course I stop and when I see a bird I’m going “oh my ***!, Oh my ***! there’s a Chuck Will’s Widow!   Grab the camera out of the back seat and I fire away.  Turns out, the bird is a Common Nighthawk and not a Chucky, but still a great bird and nice shots-

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

We “high five” for a job well done and move on.  On our way back to the R.V., Debbie spots a beauty near the side of the road in front of a grassy field.  We already have the Western Meadowlark in our portfolio so this is a bird new to us, the Eastern Meadowlark.  These birds are being shy but, from a distance, Debbie collects this nice photo.

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark

The next day, we make for the Butterfly Farm.  Debbie checked out bird reports on-line for the area and found we may get lucky hunting some new guys.  We were very pleased to find Northern Bobwhite-

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

And even found, all on our own, an Eastern Screech Owl.  This bird looks like it’s eyes are closed but actually, it’s squinting.   Moving left to right, it followed my every move.

Eastern Screech-Owl
Eastern Screech-Owl

Also, at the Butterfly farm we found this White-tipped Dove-

White-tipped Dove
White-tipped Dove

I forgot to mention some birds we photo-captured on our way to Mission.  Wherever we stopped for a night or two, Debbie scoped out the place for birds we may be looking for.  She found the Rosy-Faced Lovebirds had been spotted near a pond and we found them.  Lucky birders we are!

Rosy-faced Lovebird
Rosy-faced Lovebird

Other birds we saw were this Couch’s Kingbird.  Pretty much have to come to Southern Texas to see this one-

Couch's Kingbird
Couch’s Kingbird

And this Red-crowned Parrot.

Red-crowned Parot
Red-crowned Parrot

This bird has an attitude, don’t you think?  Curve-billed Thrasher-

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

Last but not least for today is this Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

We’ve birded 4 or 5  of the World Birding Centers in Texas so far, of which there are nine and we have only scratched the surface in 2 weeks, birding nearly every day.  There is so much to see in Texas.  It has to be one of my favorite states, the people, the wildlife, the thunderstorms at night…’til next time, Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie—don’t forget to like us.

These Baja birders visit Chiapas, Mx.


My darling Debbie and I birded Chiapas (the southern-most state in Mexico) for about 10 days in February.  We flew from San Jose, Baja Sur to Mexico City, overnighted and continued on to Pelenque, Chiapas the next day.  We were met there by Brock Huffman and company  (Chiapas Birding Adventures) for a birding adventure we will never forget.  Our highly qualified birding guides always went out of their way to ensure our comfort and safety.  And by-the-way, there was never a question or feeling that we were in any way un-safe.  The people of Chiapas are friendly, shy and curious.  Most of the time, the weather was very cloudy so many photos we took are not as crisp as usual.   In what little time we had, we birded many different habitats from sea-level to 7,000 feet or so.  The artificial goal I set of photographing  50 new birds was achieved and actually surpassed by 2.  Yep, 52 birds new to our cameras.  Today, I’ll show you a few shots we took of Trogons and Kingfishers.

Mountain Trogan
Mountain Trogon

If you have ever tried to photograph Trogons in their natural habitat (not in a zoo), you will probably appreciate these shots even more.  Trogons can be extremely shy and DO NOT like to pose for photos.  Seems like almost every time I think I’m close enough to take a pic of one, its still too far away in the shadows of the trees they like to hide in.

Violaceous Trogon
Violaceous Trogon

In general, Trogons like to land on a branch and slowly scan the area for insects.  One would think they are not paying any attention so sneak up just a little more to take that shot, right?  No, one step too many and flush!!!!!!!they are gone.

Black-headed Trogon
Black-headed Trogon

This Black-headed Trogon was the only one we/I saw the entire trip.  Debbie sat-out the boat ride I was on to capture kingfishers where I spotted this bird about 500 yards away.  That distance and a rocking boat lead to a somewhat fuzzy photograph.  If I only had more time.

Amazon Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher

If you follow our blogs you might remember a photo of an Amazon Kingfisher I shot in Oxaoca.  That shot was taken from 1/4 mile away and not very good but it was the only one we ever saw so this one at fifty feet is certainly an up-grade, even though the day was very cloudy.  Check out the size of it’s bill compared to the head.

Ringed Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher

Our boat captain really knew the birds on the river.  He knew exactly where to find this Ringed Kingfisher, a bird I told him I really wanted to photograph.  What a beauty!

Pygmy Kingfisher
Pygmy Kingfisher

I had no idea I would be seeing so many different kingfishers types on this tiny river.  Jokingly, I mentioned to the captain while we were launching the boat that “there may be a little something extra for you” if we find a Pygmy Kingfisher.  I didn’t think he understood a word I said because he just smiled.   While we were moving along, suddenly the boat stops near a brush pile.  The captain starts pshishing, pssh, pssh…And suddenly, out of a thicket flys a Pygmy Kingfisher!  Before I can shoot, it flys back in.  I’m whispering no.no.no…he’s gone.  The captain winks at me and psshes some more.  This time I’m ready and take the shot and before he’s gone again.  “Let’s go”, I say, I don’t like stressing birds.  500 pesos for the very happy captain.  I think it made him proud of his expertise.

I’ll leave today with photos of a Sungrebe, (how lucky am I?)


and a Mangrove Swallow, both taken on the river.

Mangrove Swallow
Mangrove Swallow

Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie.  Don’t forget to like us, if you do.

Baja birders visit Rancho Encinalito.


After hearing about our experience with a grumpy (to say the least) rancher up San Antonio Road a few weeks ago, our new friends Scott and Kathleen, invited us up to their paradise, Rancho Encinalito, which is also near San Antonio Rd.  Scott and Kathleen live off-the-grid in a home they built with great attention to detail.   An extreme get-a-way with a pond, garden, orchard and lots of land.  They let us know that the person that was rude to us was NOT the norm for that area.  Enough said, now about the birds—

Have you ever seen one of these Hummingbirds before?  Of course you have.  This is a Costa’s Hummingbird.  How many are you seeing around your feeders this year?  Only a few, at best probably.  We saw a few on our way up to the ranch, none at their feeders, just like at our casa.  Well, we have one or two.  We used to have ten or twenty.  I hope their low numbers is just because there is lots of feed for them out in the countryside due to a few late rains.

Costa's Hummingbird
Costa’s Hummingbird

We saw a Zone-tailed Hawk perched like a guard watching over the entry gate.

Zone-tailed hawk
Zone-tailed hawk












And out on the flats, the low land near the entry to San Antonio, a cardon cactus supports a handsome Harris’s Hawk.  Not many of these boys around this year either.

Harris's Hawk
Harris’s Hawk

On our walk into the ranch, the brush was full of birds like this Black-headed Grosbeak.

Black-headed Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak

And lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Pacific-Slope Flycatchers were a common sight.

Pacific-slpoe Flycatcher
Pacific-slpoe Flycatcher

We even saw a Gilded Flicker.

Gilded Flicker
Gilded Flicker

Again, my darling Debbie and I would like to thank Scott and Kathleen for their honest-hospitality and we wish them good fortunes.  Happy Birding from Chris and Debbie!

What a day can bring for these Baja birders.


My darling Debbie and I took a ride in the car up San Antonio road the other day.  This road turns south off the highway at the bridge “Agua Blanca”, maybe 5 or 10 miles east of San Bartolo.  The road runs through the Sierra de Laguna Biosphere.  Birds are everywhere.  Large flocks of Brewer’s Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Lark Sparrows and Morning Doves were all over the place.  Debbie was taking photos of a Red-tailed Hawk when it landed not far from us.  We could see it had twigs in it’s bill for nest building when all of a sudden—

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

the hawk sees something that freezes it like ice and then w-h-a-m-m-o!  It pounces on a nearby branch.  Watching in quiet amazement, we can see the bird drop the twigs and clutch at something all in one motion.  Check out Debbie’s photos.  The Red-tail caught a snake, looks to me like a gopher snake (Debbie noticed the tail hanging down, bottom right), and starts eating the critter right before our eyes.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

After all that excitement, I need to rest up a bit.  We stop at one of our favorite places, an arroyo at Km 23 or so, (has a large biosphere sign in the middle of it).  Debbie isn’t up for a long hike today so she stays near the rig while off I go.  I do keep close enough to keep an eye, or ears, on her (remember the Bob Cat attack?).  Often, I like to do a little bird calling using my ipod which is loaded with bird calls.  Setting up with the sun to my back, I hang the little wireless speaker on a branch. In a perfect world, the birds will land nearby and pose for a brief photo-op in the sunlight.  I start with a Western screech Owl call and later change to a Black-capped Gnatcatcher.  Other birds like to join gnatcatchers to mob owls.  The idea is to chase the owl away.  I hear a bird in the bushes BEHIND me, in the shadows.  Not great for photography because of the low-light, but it’s close enough to shoot this pretty Lincoln’s Sparrow.  Good bird for Baja Sur (meaning “not seen very often ((by me anyway)).

Lincoln's Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow

And then a bright patch of yellow catches my eye.  Oooooo… a Wilson’s Warbler, nice—

Wilson's Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

I’m day-dazing a little bit and for a moment, I think I’m back in Oregon.  That’s because there’s a bird calling, this sound like a zipper with a cold that I often hear in our backyard back home and never heard here on the East Cape before.  Take a look at what came to join the gnatcatchers— a Spotted Towhee.  Now how cool is that?—

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee

Next, a fidgeting Cassin’s Vireo is hopping around in the background.  This little bird often goes unnoticed  due to it’s size and ultra-shy manners.

Cassin's Vireo
Cassin’s Vireo

Across from me on my right, back aways from the speaker sits a Yellow-rumped Warbler. You can see why they are called yellow rumped and they seem to be enjoying the abundance of prey the lush habitat affords.  This is the “Audubon’s” variety, I can tell by the very yellow throat, wich would be more white in the “Myrtle”  Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

A seldom seen Warbling Vireo joins the show embarrassing the other birds  with it’s singing-

Warbling Vireo
Warbling Vireo

As we say good-bye, we watch an Acorn Woodpecker thats’ obviously enjoying the day.  The Oak Trees that grow at this altitude provide acorns that many animals depend on.  These nuts are stored in leks to help some birds get through the winters.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

“till next time, buen dia from Chris and Debbie and by all means-like us on facebook.  It helps us alot.

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Off to the lagoons with my sweetheart we go.  I’m thinking there must have been a lot of people out here over the weekend as there are few birds to be seen and tire tracks all over the beach.  I do see a small flock of ducks fly in with a plop (some duck species glide on top of the water to a smooth landing and some just go PLOP!)  I recognize these daphy’s as Lesser Scaups.  I see a few Lessers here every year but there is one duck that stands out in the bunch.  It’s a Greater Scaup!  Actually flagged by eBird as a Rare bird here.  I get so excited that if I had any hair, I’m sure it would be standing straight up!  I’m very lucky to get a comparison shot for the two ducks.  Click on this link for more info on Scaups.

Greater(left) and Lesser Scaups
Greater(left) and Lesser Scaups

I move on so as not to make the birds nervous.  I saw what looked like a piece of trash on one of the islands earlier and now it’s gone.  I take a look with my binoculars and “while I’ll be!”, just off to the right I can see a goose-like bird paddling through some water-weeds.  I guess that was the “trash” I saw.   This is another lucky day for me.  Besides having darling Debbie making it out to bird with me I see another rare bird.  Now, I saw a flock of these guys here a month or two ago but now there’s a single Brant and it flies away as soon as I see it.  I get one or two quick shots.


Moving along through the muck that is the border of the lagoon, I see a white “thing” in a bush across the water.  Binos up…how cool!!  A Black-crowned night Heron.  The bird looks like a little white piece of paper in the brush.  Steady the camera on the mono-pod.  Its got  it’s eyes closed.  Thats not good for a photo-op so I meow like a kitten.  The sound works and it opens it’s eyes, I fire away.  Not a bad photo for about one hundred yards away.

Black-crowned night Heron
Black-crowned night Heron

Back at home Debbie and I are going over a few shots she took.  She always has the eye for composition in her photos.  Here’s a female Lesser Scaup cruising the calms…

Lesser Scaup, female
Lesser Scaup, female

And the shot-of-the-day!!!  A Great-blue Heron watching us watching him.  WOW!!!

Great-blue Heron
Great-blue Heron

Okay, everybody have a great day from Chris and Debbie.