Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Today we stayed close to Coapilla, figuring we’d able to find a Golden-cheeked Warbler at less than 2 hours’ walking distance. And indeed we did, almost immediately, only a few hundred meters outside the village. As the photo clearly shows, this was another ‘white-throated’ individual; in other words, not an adult male. The throat is actually not pure white, but rather yellowish on the chin and white mixed with sparse black lower on the throat. The upperparts were olive. I’d tentatively call it an immature female type, but see earlier postings for a discussion of ageing and sexing GCWA in the field.

The first two goldencheeks that we found here were more or less chance encounters outside the flocks we have described. This bird was a member of today’s flock, in which I identified 32 birds representing 19 species.

Of course there’s a standard cast of characters that make up the majority of the flocks here. Most mixed winter flocks here in Chiapas will have at least one Blue-headed Vireo, a few Townsend’s Warblers, one or more Wilson’s Warblers, a couple of Hutton’s Vireos, a Greater Pewee, a Slate-throated Redstart, maybe a Black-and-white Warbler, and a couple of Olive Warblers. Regularly, there are one or two woodcreepers involved – here it’s nearly always Spot-crowned – and a few woodpeckers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and an Empidonax flycatcher or two.

Birds that aren’t necessarily flock members but are common in pine-oak habitat here include Mountain Trogon, Brown-backed Solitaire, Acorn Woodpecker, White-eared Hummingbird, and Rufous-browed Peppershrike, among others. You cannot walk very far in these woods without encountering these species.

Many birds at our current and final field site, Coapilla, we also found at the four earlier sites. But the bird community here is subtly different from those earlier sites. Barred Antshrike for example we never encountered at the other sites – here it is common, we hear it all the time. Golden-olive Woodpecker, another example. Crescent-chested Warbler is common around San Cristóbal; here I don’t think we’ve even seen any. It’s probably a matter of elevation.

In today’s flock, we had a Magnolia Warbler, generally more common at lower elevations. We also had a beautiful adult male Golden-winged Warbler in the flock, also a bird more commonly found at lower elevations.

And we had no fewer than four Black-throated Green Warblers in today’s flock! That’s a bird that’s certainly more common here than around San Cristóbal. Two birds were adult males, one was a female, and one was an immature female type.

I wonder if that’s also an elevational thing. It might just be location, location, location. This spot is more southerly, along a mountain range that leads into the heart of the pine-oak ecoregion, where the species is common in winter.

Another difference with San Cristóbal: there I was one of many Europeans, here in Coapilla there is practically no tourism, and I stick out more. Kids stare at me, girls giggle, and everywhere we go, people want to know where we are from, and what we are doing here. I’m a curiosity.

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