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E-mail: font@focusonnature.com
Phone: Toll-free in USA 1-888-721-3555
 or 302/529-1876

 


Highlights
FROM some PREVIOUS
FOCUS ON NATURE TOURS


in
MEXICO



Blue-crowned Motmot
(photo by Marie Grenouillet)


The tour summaries here are with the most-recent tours first. 
For some tours there are links below for longer narratives. Also there are links to UPCOMING TOUR ITINERARIES, and lists (some with photos) of BIRDS, BUTTERFLIES, MAMMALS, and OTHER NATURE.


Some Previous tours: 

August 2010     March 2009     January 2009     November 2008     September 2008     June 2008   

In all, there have been 12 FONT birding & nature tours in Mexico.

 



No, we didn't feed any Jaguars
during our March 2009 Mexico Tour,
but we did see one - as we did
during our previous tour in November 2008.
(photo during a FONT tour by Irene Goverts)


Links:

A List & Photo Gallery of Mexican Birds, in 3 parts: 

Part #1: Tinamous to Shorebirds    Part #2: Jaegers to Woodpeckers    Part #3: Manakins to Buntings

Mexican Mammals  (with some photos)     Mexican Butterflies  (with some photos)

Mexican Amphibians & Reptiles  (with some photos)    Marine Life of the Yucatan  (with some photos)

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Mexico & Central America


Mexico, in the northern state of Sonora
August 2010


During the last week of August 2010, this tours was mostly in two areas in the northern Mexican state of Sonora

One area was inland, in remote hills just west of the mountains known as the Sierra Madre, at a ranch where we've stayed in the past. 
Many Ocotillos were among the plants covered those hills, and in which of course there were birds of various kinds. In canyons, birds included Rufous-capped Warblers (we saw 3 at once) and Elegant Trogon.    
Mammals included the big  Antelope Jackrabbits that we saw, and the Coyotes that we heard. There were more butterflies than imaginable. And after the sun set, as we were no where near any populated area, the stars in the sky above seemed to jump out at us.

The other particular area that we visited during this tour in Sonora was a place along the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). That place, a great place for birds, was Kino Bay (also called, in Spanish, Bahia de Kino).
It's a great place for birds as there are so many, with a large number of species, and some of them were in large numbers. Notable among the birds, for us, were both Blue-footed and Brown Boobies, Yellow-footed and Heermann's Gulls, and Black Storm Petrels.

During one boat-ride, offshore, we circled and then visited an island where there were only birds, thousands of them. And shells, and other remnants of life washed up from the sea such as a whalebone, a head of a shark, and the skull of a parrotfish. Swarms of Magnificent Frigatebirds were in the air (at least a couple thousand). Around the periphery of the rocky island, there were thousands of gulls, pelicans, and cormorants, and some shorebirds. On the cliffs, and on the water and in the air nearby, there were the boobies.

The other boat-ride was on the large estuary, where again birds were in the thousands. Among them, there were many godwits and curlews, sandpipers, and long-legged waders of various sorts. In that area of Kino Bay, during one afternoon, we saw as many as 7 species of terns. It was so nice to see so much during our time by the sea.      


Links:

Birds & Other Wildlife during our tours in Arizona, USA & Sonora, Mexico in Aug/Sep 2010

Photos from the FONT Arizona & Sonora, Mexico Tours in Aug/Sep 2010

Birds of Sonora, Mexico 

Above: The island called Alcatraz (or "Pelican") 
that we visited when we went to the Sea of Cortez
during our August 2010 tour in Sonora, Mexico. 
At the island, in addition to the many pelicans,
we saw both Blue-footed and Brown Boobies,
and swarms of Magnificent Frigatebirds,
Double-crested Cormorants, and Yellow-footed Gulls. 
(photo by Abram Fleishman)


Mexico, mostly the Yucatan Peninsula, & Cozumel Island
March 2009

This was the third FONT tour in the Yucatan region of Mexico in less than a year. The previous two were in June & November of 2008.
Each of these tours were actually quite different, in terms of the seasons and the birds & other nature found. March was much drier than either June or November. There was less song, by the resident birds, in March than there had been in June. And, of course, both in November & March, the bird population was augmented by migrants that breed in North America. Those in our group, who wouldn't normally see many warblers in the summer where they live, were certainly treated to many of those colorful birds during the tour. One person tallied 50 during a very short roadside walk in mangrove and scrub habitat, with all at his eye-level or lower. Many were Northern Parulas, with not one of them giving the "warbler neck" a birder can often get when observing that small species high in a tree!
                
Some birds were seen during the March 2009 tour that were not found previously in June & November '08. Especially notable among them were Pinnated Bittern and King Vulture. Both were seen well, in a scope, by everyone in the group.
Two notable hummingbirds were seen during the tour: the beautiful Cozumel Emerald (endemic to the offshore island of Cozumel) and the Mexican Sheartail (a rare bird also with a limited range, in the Yucatan along the coast). During the month of March, as to the Sheartail, we were able to see not only the distinctive male, but also a female on the nest - as well as another nest in which there were some very tiny eggs.
In all, 245 species of birds, of a fine mix, were found during our March 2009 Mexico Tour. (Click the link above for the complete list.)
And the mammals & other wildlife, during the tour, were good too - actually more than good because once again, as during our November 2008 tour, A JAGUAR WAS SEEN - as it was on a road at night, in a forested area of southern Mexico!  

This odd creature was seen in the water of a coastal bay 
from the shoreline in the northern Yucatan,
after dark, during the FONT Mexico tour in March 2009.
In English, it's called the Atlantic Black Sea Hare. 
Its scientific name is Aplysia morio.
In Spanish, it's a "Tinta", so called because it ejects ink when disturbed.
The word "tinta" in Spanish means "ink".
The creature, 16 inches long, and 14 inches across, 
is in the Phylum Mollusca (the Molluscs),
and in the Class Bivalva (Bivalves) as are other things such as 
the Common Periwinkle, the Slipper Limpet, and the Green Ormer.   
The Sea Hare swims in the direction of its "two-pronged head",
in other words, toward the upper left of the photo.
(photo by Marie Gardner)  


Links:

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Mexico Tour in March 2009

Birds of the Yucatan Region of Mexico   

Photos of Nature & Culture from the FONT March 2009 Tour in the Yucatan of Mexico

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Mexico & Central America




An adult King Vulture was one of the highlights of our March 2009 tour in southern Mexico.
When it was perched on a large tree branch, everyone observed it through a scope.
Later, at the end of the tour, when the 10 participants voted for their "top birds", it was Number #1.

At the end of this 10-day tour, the participants voted for their "top 10 birds", and following below is the composite-list of that vote. 10 people voted, and 43 birds received votes, out of the 245 species found during the tour.

  1 - KING VULTURE 
  2 - Mexican Sheartail
  3 - Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  4 - Pinnated Bittern
  5 - American Pygmy Kingfisher
  6 - Yucatan Jay
  7 - Bat Falcon
  8 - American Flamingo
  9 - Red-crowned Ant Tanager
10 - Ocellated Turkey
11 - Yucatan (or Black-throated) Bobwhite
12 - Gartered (or "Violaceous") Trogon  
13 - Lesser Roadrunner 
14 - Black-headed Trogon
15 - Keel-billed Toucan
16 - Cozumel Vireo
17 - Squirrel Cuckoo
18 - Pale-billed Woodpecker
19 - Blue Bunting
20 - Painted Bunting
21 - Crane Hawk
22 - Laughing Falcon
23 - Gray-throated Chat
24 - White-tailed Kite
25 - Bare-throated Tiger Heron
26 - Wilson's Plover
27 - Cozumel Emerald
28 - Rufous-browed Peppershrike
29 - Red-throated Ant Tanager
30 - Eye-ringed Flatbill
31 - "Golden" Yellow Warbler
32 - Hooded Warbler
33 - American Redstart
34 - Black Catbird
35 - Crimson-collared Tanager
36 - Barred Antshrike
37 - Dusky Antbird
38 - Yucatan Wren
39 - Black-bellied Whistling Duck
40 - Black-cowled Oriole
41 - Orchard Oriole
42 - Great Black Hawk
43 - Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow

The last of these was actually the last of the birds to be found during the tour. A pair, that appeared to be quite territorial, was found on a projecting ornament up near the ceiling INSIDE a shopping mall at Tulum, as we stopped for a snack and some gift and souvenir shopping on the way to the hotel by the airport!     

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Mexico, in the northern state of Sonora
January 2009

The Mexican portion of this Mexico/Arizona Tour, January 15-24, 2009, was in the state of Sonora, where we saw hundreds (actually thousands) of birds of various sorts along the coast of the Sea of Cortez (also called the Gulf of California), and where in the rugged hilly interior of the state, some of the "good birds" were 2 with the same adjective, the Elegant Quail and the Elegant Trogon, in addition to the Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bendire's Thrasher, Streak-backed Oriole, and the largest of the subspecies of the Wild Turkey, known as the "Gould's Turkey".
It was a great tour for January (the weather was superb!), and a first for us at that time of year. 



Above: The island called Alcatraz (or "Pelican") 
that we visited when we went to the Sea of Cortez
during our January 2009 tour in Sonora, Mexico.
Below: The race of the Brown Pelican that occurs
at that island is Pelecanus occidentalis californicus,
which has a bright red gular pouch in breeding plumage. 
(photos by Abram Fleishman)


Links:  

Birds & Other Wildlife during our tours in Arizona, USA & Sonora, Mexico in January 2009


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Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula
November 2008

This was a tour in Mexico with two "J"s - and with both of them during the same day: a Jabiru & a Jaguar
That morning, we saw closely a single Jabiru (it's a rare bird in Mexico). 
Later that day, at dusk, we saw a Jaguar. It too was close, during our 5 minutes of observing it ahead of us on the road in the forest, becoming even more so, as the big cat walked, with its steady pace, to be immediately in front of our vehicle. There it was seen at every angle as it turned to cross the road, and then walked away a short bit before disappearing into the trees. 
Another highlight of the tour was a beautiful Rufescent (or Thicket) Tinamou that walked, with its determined pace, right by us, as we were on the lower steps of a Mayan temple. 
And yet another highlight was by yet another remote Mayan temple in the forest - an Orange-breasted Falcon
At the opposite (or northern) end of the Yucatan Peninsula, during one day we saw thousands of birds. Over  20,000 of them were American Flamingos. Others, in the multitude that day included thousands more of other kinds, with the assortment consisting of waterbirds, shorebirds, and some landbirds too. Notable among the last of these groups was a single hummingbird, known as the Mexican Sheartail - a rare bird with a very restricted range that's actually only about a kilometer wide.
Among the waterbirds, there were hundreds of American White Pelicans, with many feeding in unison on the water of the bay. The number of shorebirds were more than imaginable. In swarms, all around us, most were Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, other peeps, and Sanderlings. But there were others too, including a variety of Plovers: Snowy, Piping, Wilson's, Semipalmated, and Black-bellied
In the central Yucatan, a fascinating experience for us was in the "other nature" category. Underground, in a pool of clear water in a cave, we saw, with our flashlights, some Yucatanian endemic creatures that could never see us. In that dark world, there were these, all-white: a fish, an eel, and a shrimp, that do not have eyes!    

Links:

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Mexico Tour - November 2008                          

Birds of the Yucatan Region of Mexico

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Mexico, in the northern state of Sonora
September 2008 

"The FONT Birding & Nature Tour in southern Arizona & northern Mexico in Aug/Sep '08"

During the first part of this tour, in ARIZONA, a bird, normally of Mexico, was seen and heard. That bird, a first for the United States, was the Sinola Wren (formerly known as the Bar-vented Wren). Its new name is that of a Mexican state, located south of the more-northerly Mexican state of Sonora, which borders on Arizona.
During the second part of this tour, we were, during 3 days, in SONORA, MEXICO, where, at a remote ranch, we birded and explored in some of the most pristine countryside imaginable. Among our "Mexican" bird species there, in addition to another Sinola Wren, there was, in the riparian plants at the base of a magnificent canyon, the Rufous-capped Warbler
During the ARIZONA portion of the tour, as usual as during our previous tours, we enjoyed a wonderful assortment of Hummingbirds, including a couple species that are more common in Mexico, the White-eared, the Violet-crowned, and the Lucifer.
In addition to birds, during this tour, there was a fine assortment of butterflies, mammals, and reptiles.   


White-eared Hummingbird





It was in the building on the hill with the red roof
where we stayed during our days & nights 
in remote eastern Sonora in northern Mexico
during our tour in September 2008.
Birds in the area included:
Montezuma and Elegant Quails, 
Zone-tailed Hawk, Rose-throated Becard, 
Sinaloa Wren, Rufous-capped Warbler, 
Mexican Yellow Grosbeak, Five-striped Sparrow, 

and both
Rufous-winged & Rufous-crowned Sparrows.
Pumas are said to be common in the area as are
White-nosed Coatis & Collared Peccaries.
We saw a number of
Coue's White-tailed Deer,
Antelope Jackrabbits, and various bats.
Early in the mornings,
Coyotes howled close to where we stayed,
actually just outside our windows.
At dusk,
Common Poorwills called, even though it was early September. 
After dark, in the completely-clear sky, there was a superb show 
of
stars & planets, with a brilliant Milky Way 
that stretched from nearly horizon to horizon.
A couple very bright
"falling stars" were also in the cast of celestial characters.
This was as some
Elf Owls called, even though, again,
it was September.

 

Following the Arizona tour, in September '08, we crossed the border from the United States to Mexico, into Sonora.
We headed toward a place that was to be special to us, for the birds and the other nature that we would experience there. It's the property of a large ranch, about 30,000 acres, in the High Sonoran Desert, where elevations range from about 3,300 to 7,200 feet above sea level, and including a number of habitats, from riparian woodland to desert. Additionally, there would be some spectacular canyons to be explored, and in which some notable wildlife would be found. The scenery, we were told, was to be marvelous, and it was. We arrived at the place well after dark, but the following morning we found the property of the vast ranch to be as good as we were told it would be.
 
Wildlife does abound in the area. Pumas are said to be common. Deer and Coyote are as well. Many birds occur. During our tour, both Montezuma and Elegant Quail were found. In one of the canyons, we found Rufous-capped Warblers. A Mexican Yellow Grosbeak was seen, as were Five-striped and Rufous-winged Sparrows. The last of these species can be seen locally in southern Arizona, but not as readily as it has been in the past. Overall, the global range of the Rufous-winged Sparrow is nearly restricted to the Mexican state of Sonora.

In all, we saw a good number of birds, of about 70 species, on and near the property of the ranch.

What probably is best about where we were in the remote hills of Sonora is that it IS NOW, as places such as Arizona WERE in the past - before the "development" brought highways, agriculture, and many people. On the property in Sonora , such things are missing. The place is "natural".
Oh, there are some cattle on the ranch, but not many. As one traveled about on the property on tracks in a four-wheel drive vehicle, one had the opportunity to sense, during our visit, what a "natural place" could really be like - and how it was before the highways, agriculture, and many people.
I thought, more than once, as I was in those Sonoran hills, that a place in the United States very similar to where we were is the Big Bend National Park in Texas. Yes, the place had enough to it to be a national park.
           
There are a lot of birds and other nature in those
Sonoran hills. One of the more notable of the birds is the Mexican subspecies of the Wild Turkey, known as the "Gould's Turkey". It has white in its plumage where other wild turkeys are buffy.

At one point, as we were driving, we noted a huge flock of birds kettling in the sky, hundreds of them, maybe a thousand. A look in the binoculars showed them to be Ravens.

Also in the region, numerous birds occur at
Lake Angostura and along the Bavispe River. And, again, not only are birds there, but other wildlife too.

To give again an idea of how remote and wild the area we visited in Sonora, Mexico really is:
As we stood on a hill overlooking
Lake Angostura, we could see across the way a ridge clad on its upper parts with pines. It was there, we were told, that Geronimo had his last hangout. It was in such places that the Imperial Woodpecker once lived, and where today the Eared Quetzal still does.
In a nearby canyon, with steep walls, a couple years ago, a pair of Military Macaws were seen - the most northern sighting of that species, and the closest to the US.
 
Referring back to Geronimo for a second, one of the reasons why this part of Mexico has been so unpopulated is that it was, for over 150 years, the haunt of the aggressive, even ferocious, Apaches.

During our tour on the Sonoran ranch, our early-morning wake-up call, just outside our windows, was the howling of Coyotes. Throughout the day, there were, as noted, many birds, and also, butterflies in numbers of fine variety, and animals such as the Antelope Jackrabbit and the Coue's White-tailed Deer. Following dusk, owls called. After dark, the stars shone brightly, including a Milky Way that nearly jumped out at us.

As wonderful as the area and the nature were, it was without a doubt, all the more so, due to the kind hospitality of our hosts, Manuel and his family, and David. We learned so much from them, and our excellent Mexican meals on the ranch, reminded us, even though we didnít need reminding, of where we were. All of the time, during our visit, we were, simply put, so very glad to be there.   

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Mexico, mostly the Yucatan Peninsula, & Cozumel Island
June 2008

This tour, as noted, was mostly on the Yucatan Peninsula, and also on Cozumel Island, 12 miles offshore. We say "mostly on the Yucatan Peninsula" as we also went further south, into remote areas, quite wild, close to the Mexican borders with Guatemala and Belize. Most notable of those areas was Calakmul. Not only a remote, not often visited, site of Mayan ruins, comparable to Tikal in Guatemala, Calakmul is vast reserve known as a biosphere. Standing atop the highest temple there one sees as far as the horizon in all directions only a sea of green foliage of forest. Calakmul was one of 4 biospheres that we visited during our tour, during which we found over 200 species of birds.
And there could have been more as the Yucatan is a bird-rich area. Not only is it with many different birds (about 540 species cumulatively recorded in 75 families - that's about half of the 100 or species that occur in Mexico), but the Yucatan has a number of interesting species and subspecies as the isolated region has evolved, due to a number of factors, to have its own distinctive flora and fauna. Thus, it has 14 endemic species of birds, and almost 100 endemic subspecies.
And the bird-life on Cozumel Island is interesting too, as it has 3 endemic species and about 15 endemic subspecies.
To read about these interesting birds of the Yucatan and Cozumel, click the link above.
Among our favorite birds of this tour were the endemic Yucatan Wren (the last of the Yucatan species to be described, in 1934), and the nearly-endemic Mexican Sheartail. That hummingbird has a very interesting range. Like the Yucatan, or Black-throated, Bobwhite, it is restricted to the Yucatan all but for a small isolated population elsewhere. But on the Yucatan, it only occurs in the north, near the coast, where its range has only the width of just over a kilometer!  
All of the endemics & those nearly-endemics notwithstanding, the bird that we liked the most during our tour was one with an extensive range in Central & South America. But we saw it so well! And it stayed - just a few feet from us. It was the little and brightly-colored American Pygmy Kingfisher, by a small marsh in the forest in that wild area of Calakmul.                        




The Mayans called it "TOH".
We know it as the 
TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT.
We saw many during our June '08 Mexico Tour.  

Links:

More about the FONT Mexico Tour in June 2008

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Mexico Tour - June 2008

Birds of the Yucatan Region of Mexico

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Mexico & Central America

 

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