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Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, Mexico: Oaxaca at Christmastime

February 20: Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, Mexico: Oaxaca at Christmastime

This year’s Oaxaca at Christmastime tour was delightful. One day of blustery winds didn’t deter us from having great views of one of our main targets, the handsome Dwarf Jay. But then the rest of the tour had picture-perfect weather, and even in the Valle Nacional cloud forest, skies were so clear we saw Pico de Orizaba’s 18,491 foot peak from 113 miles away. We tallied a respectable 280 species, 17 of which were heard only, and there were some wonderful highlights. The bird with the most favorite votes was the Sumichrast’s Wren, and this was only the second time this tour has seen this rare, restricted, and elusive endemic. But a surprise Russet-crowned Motmot on our last morning was nearly as popular, as this gorgeous bird has the charisma thing down pat. Fulvous Owl cooperated nicely for those who came along for the picnic dinner at La Cumbre, while the pine-oak forests there were also fantastic for huge numbers of Gray Silky-flycatchers and a Gray-breasted Wood-Wren that hopped out in the open with no playback necessary. Our side trip to Tuxtepec added a huge number of species, and favorites from there included a very confiding Barred Antshrike at our breakfast spot in the foothills, a pair of stunning Crimson-collared Tanagers on the limestone forest trail, and a boldly perched Laughing Falcon that called as we watched it on our afternoon outing to the reservoir. In addition to the birds we saw several interesting lizards and plants, including some lovely orchids, and we were able to take in several ruins, visit markets, and enjoy a wonderful variety of delicious local foods in the ambience of a culture that really knows how to celebrate.


One of the most unusual cultural events we witnessed was the Noche de Rábanos, or the Night of the Radishes, a contest for the most artistic creation made solely from radishes, some of them fanciful and amazingly creative. Image: Rich Hoyer


From our five mornings of birding based out of Oaxaca City, this handsome Russet-crowned Motmot received the most votes for favorite bird; this was only the second time in 16 years that we’ve seen this species. Image: Rich Hoyer


But a close second would have been this Fulvous Owl, a species unknown this side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec until just 9 years ago. Image: Benny Baeton

Another highlight in the higher, drier parts of Oaxaca was an Ocellated Thrasher that perched up close and sang at length. Image: Benny Baeton


In the verdant cloud forests on the way to Tuxtepec we lucked into a pair of White-naped Brushfinches by the roadside. Image: Benny Baeton


Another roadside bird spotted by our driver Rafael was this Laughing Falcon, waiting for a hapless snake to pass by. Image: Rich Hoyer


But the most exciting bird of the tour, was this Sumichrast's Wren, one of the most range-restricted species endemic to Mexico. Image: Benny Baeton

Posted: February 20, 2019