Known for its great birds, authentic food, and amazing human history, Oaxaca is the complete package! We enjoyed aspects of all of those and all from the comfort of just one hotel nestled in the city of Oaxaca. Our day trips visited vastly different habitats, from the dry washes downslope to the pristine pine forests at 10,000 feet. It was a great trip complete with nice weather, cooperative birds, a fun bunch of birders!
Our first day took us to the dry agricultural fields below Teotitlán where we got our first taste of Boucard's Wren, Gray-breasted Woodpecker, and a variety of kingbirds and sparrows. Presa Piedra Azul had some water and thus attracted a variety of swallows, herons, shorebirds, and even some special goodies like Say's Phoebe, Painted Bunting, and MacGillivray's Warbler. Farther up the slope, we connected with Collared Towhee, a variety of brushfinches, Brown-backed Solitaires, warblers, and much more!
The next morning found us at Pollo Niño as the sun rose. The sounds of Greater Pewees cascaded down the slopes as we added to our list with Blue Mockingbird, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Red-headed Tanager, and many others. Up at La Cumbre, we saw our first Red Crossbill, Black-headed Siskin, and Steller's Jay before we ventured farther up into the pine forests. The Cabeza de Vaca trail was bustling with activity and we had a fun encounter with Gray-barred Wren, Red Warbler, Dwarf Jay, Crescent-chested Warbler, and Russet Nightingale-Thrush. After our picnic lunch, we encountered more specialties like Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Elegant Euphonia, and Slate-throated Redstarts. What a fun second day!
Instead of driving up into the mountains the next morning, we actually drove downhill out of the valley down to the KM 77 wash where we spent the morning. Here we found a very different array of species and highlights were numerous; White-throated Magpie-Jay, Orange-breasted Bunting, Varied Bunting, Green-fronted Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Rufous-naped Wren, and even a day-singing Buff-collared Nightjar! Whew! Later that morning we had a wonderful encounter with a tame Lesser Roadrunner! Lunch at Rancho Zapata and the mezcal tour was relaxed and informative. That afternoon, we had a great tour of Mitla with our local guide and driver Jorge, and we capped things off with some birding along the entrance road to Yagul. We added the tiny and uncommon Beautiful Hummingbird which was an excellent way to finish out the day.
The following day took us to the famed Monte Albán which was a treat in so many ways. We started by birding the trail along the entrance area which was really productive in the cooler hours of the morning. It was there that we somehow connected with one of the most uncommon and skulky residents, the Ocellated Thrasher! Wow! We also added goodies like Pileated Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Rufous-capped Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, and others. Jorge gave us a great tour of Monte Albán although it was hard to pay attention with a Zone-tailed Hawk wafting overhead, Rock Wrens poking around at our feet, White-tailed Hawks, and a Yellow Grosbeak that showed up! That evening, we ascended the slopes to La Cumbre where we switched things up a bit. We had a picnic dinner at 9990 feet as the sun set. It wasn't long until we started hearing Mexican Whip-poor-will's calling off through the dusk. On our way down the mountain, we successfully found a fun pair of Fulvous Owls and even a cute little Whiskered Screech-Owl as well.
We birded our way up towards La Cumbre the next morning stopping at Pollo Niño and the Oaxaca Sparrow spot. Thankfully, as the light started hitting the slopes and it started warming up, the sparrows started coming out of the woodwork and we ended up with great looks at this rare and local Mexican endemic. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays, Lincoln's Sparrows, and a Hepatic Tanager also kept us company. Higher up by the ridge, we birded the Yuvilla Road which took us east from the rest area. It was great birding the higher elevations again because we finally netted Northern Pygmy-Owl and of course a couple of Mountain Trogons! The Gray-barred Wrens, Gray Silky-flycatchers, and Golden-browed Warblers all kept us company as Slate-throated Redstarts flitted below us. Lunch at the beautiful Colibri Restaurant was punctuated by a close Blue-throated Hummingbird and some fantastic authentic food!
Our final morning took us back to the Teotitlán area. We added Belted Kingfisher and Blue-winged Teal at the reservoir, West Mexican Chachalaca and Dwarf Vireo at a switchback uphill from there, and a high flock of Chestnut-collared Swifts. Calling from the slopes was a Thick-billed Kingbird, Nutting's Flycatcher, and Western Wood-Pewee. Farther uphill we had more encounters with White-eared Hummingbird, Blue Mockingbird, and a sneaky White-striped Woodcreeper before we turned and headed down to town for lunch. The Mendoza sisters put on a great authentic meal and weaving demonstration which really was a perfect ending to our trip.
I'd like to thank Doug Hitchcox for all his help and together with Maine Audubon for making this trip possible. Of course, our local guide Yuca was indispensable for his logistical support and wealth of knowledge! Sharon with our home office in Austin did an amazing job with getting all this prepped and a major shout-out goes to her for her help. Our drivers, Alex and Jorge, were reliable, helpful, and a big thanks goes to them as well. And of course, thanks to you all for coming along on this Maine Audubon Field Guides trip to Oaxaca! I know I enjoyed myself along with Doug and Yuca and we hope you did too!
With fond memories of the moles, beautiful birds, and a fun bunch of people, good birding to owl of you. :-)
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Totals for the tour: 185 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa