Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three goldencheeks!

Today we redid a flock at the Moxviquil site that we did more than three weeks ago. (“Doing a flock”, for those of you who just tuned in, is shop talk for describing a mixed species flock at selected sites here in Chiapas, Mexico, in hopes of finding the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler as a flock member.) When we first did this flock I was feeling sick and because of that, basically put in a minimal effort. Birds were going up and down a steep mountainside, and I wasn’t always able to keep up with them, as I tried to follow while panting, coughing and spitting, and nursing a splitting headache. After we were done, I went straight to bed and missed out on a Pronatura raffle, in which field assistant Hector incidentally won a microwave. We didn’t find any goldencheeks that time, but last week our colleagues from Pronatura Chiapas showed us two goldencheeks in that flock.

So we had to go back and try again.

Yesterday we finished our work at the Granada site, and tomorrow we will travel to Coapilla, our last field site here. The weather forecast for today was rain, but I thought “hey – if we’re lucky and the rain holds off until 11 AM, we can redo that flock”.

Well, I guess we were lucky, because it didn’t rain, and we found not two but three goldencheeks in that flock!

We started a little before 7 AM. Within the first 20 minutes of observation, I found an immature female type goldencheek – a bird with a largely white throat. Five minutes later, another goldencheek. This one with a black throat, but a white chin - possibly an adult female or immature male. Then six minutes after that, an adult male goldencheek (throat and chin all black).

Here’s that ‘white-throated’ goldencheek.

Incidentally, this flock also had two Black-throated Green Warblers, and adult male and a lightly marked immature type bird. Around these parts, BT green is not a common species. These two individuals I had seen before though, on an afternoon walk around the house. I had mentioned them to our Pronatura colleagues, who had nodded while squinting their eyes ever so slightly, as if thinking "sure John, if you say so". Perhaps they thought I was misidentifying goldencheeks for BT greens. One of the Pronatura people in passing had seen two goldencheeks but no BT greens in that flock, and here was that foreigner claiming there were two BT greens but no goldencheeks there. Something clearly did not compute.

But, as we found today, I hadn't hallucinated my earlier Black-throated Green Warblers, and they hadn't fabricated their earlier Golden-cheeked Warblers either. Odd though that I never saw these goldencheeks that all this time were so near the house!

While sorting through the flock, we also found a Blue-throated Motmot (pictured at top) just quietly sitting there in a tree. Not a flock member, but an onlooker.

The same motmot from a different angle.

As I said, we will be traveling to another part of the state tomorrow, and stay at a hotel there. At this point, I don’t know what the internet access situation is like there, so I can’t say how often I will be able to post.

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