Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lake Chapala Birding News - January

Birding News Lake Chapala
Lake Chapala Birders January 2, 2016

171 species seen in December
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Christmas Bird Count Results
Upcoming Trips and Bird Walks
Bird Walk & Trip Reports
December Sightings List

Lake Chapala Birders

Observadores de Aves del Lago de Chapala

Your hosts
John and Rosemary Keeling

John & Rosemary

If you have reports of interesting bird sightings near Lake Chapala, or need information about birding at the lake, email us at:
or phone 376-766-1801


  • 171 species seen in December

  • This is the highest monthly species count since December 2010 when we recorded 167 species. The December count is usually the highest month, helped by the Christmas Bird Count which puts more eyes out in the field looking for birds.

    This month many observations were reported by Nicola Cedron, an excellent bird spotter, who currently lives in Mexico City where he is an active birder. We were pleased to accompany him on a local trip to Lake Cajititlan and the Santa Cruz Dams, when we recorded 86 species in one morning. He contributed Lesser Nighthawks seen at dusk at the upper Santa Cruz Dam, and White-throated Swifts, a new species for the Lake Chapala Area, seen at Chupinaya 3,000 feet above Ajijic.

    The month was notable for the sightings of three uncommon grebes - several Western Grebes at Lake Atotonilco (not in the Lake Chapala area), three Clark's Grebes seen during the Christmas Bird Count at Lake Cajititlan, and five Eared Grebes spotted by John Keeling at the upper Santa Cruz dam.

    Other interesting sightings included five Ring-necked Ducks spotted by Nicola Cedron on the lower Santa Cruz dam, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photographed by university student Carlo Cuevas at the Jocotepec malecon park.

  • Yellow-headed Blackbirds

  • This photo by Paul Hart shows one of the smaller clouds of several clouds of male Yellow-headed Blackbirds that were sighted east of Jamay on the Christmas Bird Count at the far end of the lake. These birds can be seen over the reed beds at Chapala and at lake Cajititlan. They like to roost in reed beds, and move to fields to eat seeds and grubs in the daytime.
    They go north in the summer, breeding in the western U.S. and Canada. A male with a good cattail marsh territory may acquire up to five females to nest in his territory. The female builds the nest and both male and female feed the young. After breeding they form large flocks for mutual protection against hawks.

  • Christmas Bird Count Results

  • We deployed four teams for the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on December 16 (West Ajijic, East Ajijic, East Chapala, and Cajititlan) and one team to the "Cienega" count at the far end of the lake on December 18. The overall species count was 113 for the Ajijic area, which is "normal", and 85 species for the Cienega area.

    Interesting sightings included an Aztec Rail in Riberas, and at Lake Cajititlan three elegant looking Clark's Grebes and a White-throated Flycatcher. At the Cienega we saw a Snow Goose, which is seen here only occasionally, and many vast clouds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds which darkened the sky as they flew over us, estimated to be at least 35 thousand birds (see the photo above).

  • Upcoming Trips and Bird Walks

  • Our bird walks are open to all those interested in birds, both beginners and experienced birders. Just bring binoculars and show up. We always have knowledgeable birders on hand to identify the species. If you are being given a ride, please make a contribution to gas and tolls (perhaps 50-100 pesos for a half day outing, 100-200 for a day trip).

    On Monday January 11 we will meet at 8.00 a.m. at the shore of the lake in Riberas del Pilar. To get there, go the the 7-11 store in Riberas, turn towards the lake, go two blocks to the shore and park. The water level currently provides shallow areas suitable for all kinds of ducks such as Fulvous Whistling Ducks. After exploring the shore and adjacent streets, at about 10.00 am we will head to Mom's Restaurant for breakfast and complete the bird list.

    On Monday January 18 we will meet at 8.00 am at Donas Donuts to car pool and proceed immediately to Tapalpa. It's a 90 minute drive to the edge of the plateau where we will bird from 9.30 to 12.30. We will then head to the town of Tapalpa for lunch. Expect to see higher altitude birds such as Painted Redstart, Slate-throated Redstart, and Acorn Woodpecker. Bring jackets for warmth and refreshments for the morning. Do not expect to be back before 5 pm. If you plan to go, please email saying if you can bring a vehicle or not, to help us plan the car pooling.

    On Friday January 29 we will meet at 8.00 am at Donas Donuts to car pool, leaving immediately for the Cajititlan Marsh. This is a 30-minute drive. We expect to see Common Yellowthroat, Northern Jacana, Marsh Wren and Least Grebe. At about 10.15 we will head back to Chapala to have breakfast at Las Delicias. If you plan to go please email saying whether or not you will bring a car.

  • Bird Walk & Trip Reports

  • On December 11 we had three full vehicles of birders out at Villa Corona and Lake Atotonilco. The lake level is still far from full, but we did see our target birds - Western Grebe and Roseate Spoonbill. We saw 64 species in total including Aztec Rail, Wood Stork, White-tailed Hawk, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Little Blue Heron.

    On December 28 seven birders attended the Bird Walk in Cristiania Park in Chapala, including two visitors, Nicola Cedron from 'DF', and Carlo Cuevas from Jocotepec. We saw 56 species, including two impressive male painted buntings, Rose-throated Becard, American Redstart, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Greater Pewee and Cordilleran Flycatcher.

  • December Sightings List

  • Here are the 171 species observed in December around Lake Chapala:

    Ani, groove-billed
    Avocet, American
    Becard, rose-throated (Ch)
    Bittern, American (Dm)
    Blackbird, Brewer's
    Blackbird, red-winged
    Blackbird, yellow-headed
    Bunting, indigo
    Bunting, painted (Ch)
    Bunting, varied
    Canvasback (Ra)
    Caracara, crested
    Chat, yellow-breasted
    Coot, American
    Cormorant, neotropic
    Cowbird, bronzed
    Cowbird, brown-headed
    Dove, common ground (Ps)
    Dove, Eurasian collared
    Dove, Inca
    Dove, mourning (Ca)
    Dove, white-winged
    Dowitcher, long-billed
    Duck, fulvous whistling (Rp,Ps)
    Duck, Mexican
    Duck, ring-necked (Ps)
    Duck, ruddy
    Egret, cattle
    Egret, great
    Egret, snowy
    Euphonia, elegant (At)
    Finch, house
    Flycatcher, ash-throated
    Flycatcher, cordilleran
    Flycatcher, dusky-capped
    Flycatcher, gray silky
    Flycatcher, Nuttings
    Flycatcher, social
    Flycatcher, vermilion
    Flycatcher, white-throated (Ca)
    Gadwall (Rp,Ca)
    Gallinule, common
    Gnatcatcher, blue-gray
    Goldfinch, lesser
    Goose, snow (Dm)
    Grackle, great-tailed
    Grebe, Clark's (Ca)
    Grebe, eared (Ps)
    Grebe, least
    Grebe, pied-billed
    Grosbeak, black-headed
    Grosbeak, blue
    Gull, laughing
    Gull, ring-billed
    Hawk, Cooper's (Dm)
    Hawk, gray (Ps,Ca)
    Hawk, red-tailed
    Hawk, sharp-shinned
    Heron, black-crowned night
    Heron, great blue
    Heron, green
    Heron, little blue (Ps,Ca)
    Heron, tri-colored
    Hummingbird, beryline (Sc)
    Hummingbird, broad-billed
    Hummingbird, ruby-throated (Ch)
    Hummingbird, rufous (At)
    Hummingbird, violet-crowned
    Ibis, white-faced
    Jacana, northern
    Kestrel, American
    Kingbird, Cassin's
    Kingbird, thick-billed
    Kingbird, tropical
    Kingbird, western
    Kingfisher, belted (Xt,Ra)
    Kiskadee, great
    Kite, white-tailed
    Meadowlark, eastern (Dm,Ra)
    Mockingbird, blue
    Mockingbird, northern
    Nighthawk, lesser (Ps)
    Oriole, black-backed (Dm,Ps)
    Oriole, black-vented
    Oriole, Bullock's
    Oriole, hooded
    Oriole, orchard
    Oriole, streak-backed
    Osprey (Sc,Ra,Dm)
    Owl, barn (Ch)
    Owl, great horned (Aj)
    Parakeet, monk
    Pelican, American white
    Pelican, brown (Ca)
    Pewee, greater
    Pewee, western wood
    Phoebe, black
    Phoebe, Say's
    Pigeon, rock
    Pintail, northern
    Rail, Aztec (Rp,Jo)
    Raven, common
    Redstart, American (Ch)
    Robin, rufous-backed
    Sandpiper, least
    Sandpiper, spotted
    Sapsucker, yellow-bellied (Jo)
    Seedeater, white-collared
    Shoveler, northern
    Shrike, loggerhead
    Snipe, Wilson's (Dm)
    Solitaire, brown-backed (At)
    Sparrow, chipping
    Sparrow, house
    Sparrow, lark
    Sparrow, Lincoln's
    Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground (At)
    Sparrow, Savannah
    Sparrow, song
    Sparrow, stripe-headed
    Sparrow, white-crowned
    Stilt, black-necked
    Stork, wood (Ra)
    Swallow, barn
    Swallow, northern rough-winged
    Swallow, tree
    Swallow, violet-green
    Swift, white-throated (At)
    Tanager, western
    Teal, blue-winged
    Teal, cinnamon
    Teal, green-winged
    Tern, Caspian
    Tern, Forster's (Sc)
    Thrasher, curve-billed
    Thrush, orange-billed nightingale (At)
    Towhee, canyon
    Towhee, green-tailed (Ca)
    Vireo, Bell's (Dm)
    Vireo, black-capped (At)
    Vireo, Cassin's
    Vireo, golden (Aj)
    Vireo, plumbeous (Ca)
    Vireo, warbling (Ac)
    Vulture, black
    Vulture, turkey
    Warbler, black and white
    Warbler, black-throated gray
    Warbler, Lucy's (At)
    Warbler, MacGillivray's (At)
    Warbler, Nashville
    Warbler, orange-crowned
    Warbler, rufous-capped (At)
    Warbler, Virginia's
    Warbler, Wilson's
    Warbler, yellow
    Warbler, yellow-rumped
    Wigeon, American
    Woodpecker, golden-fronted
    Woodpecker, ladder-backed
    Wren, Bewick's
    Wren, canyon
    Wren, house (Rp,Dm)
    Wren, marsh (Ca,Rp,Ch)
    Wren, spotted
    Yellowlegs, greater (Sc,Rp,Ch)
    Yellowthroat, common (Rp,Ch,Ca)

    Location codes:
    Ac - Ajijic: La Cristina/El Bajio
    At - Trails above Ajijic
    Av - Ajijic village
    Ca - Lake Cajititlan
    Ch - Chapala
    Cu - Cuitzeo/Ocotlan
    Dm - Dike near MalteraƱa
    Dp - Dike near La Palma
    Hv - Hidden Valley oak forest
    Ja - Jamay
    Jo - Jocotepec
    Ld - Lerma & Duero rivers
    Pe - Petatan area
    Ps - Pumping Station/Santa Cruz
    Pt - San Pedro Tesistan area
    Pz - San Pedro Itzican area
    Ra - Rosa Amarilla loop
    Rc - Santa Rosa/Carnero dam
    Rp - Riberas del Pilar & canyon
    Sa - San Antonio/Chula Vista
    Sc - San Juan Cosala
    Sn - San Nicholas/Golf Club
    Tz - Tizapan canyon
    Te - San Juan Tecomatlan/Mezcala
    Tr - Las Trojes/oak forest
    Tu - Tuxcueca/South Shore area
    Xt - Ixtlahuacan/Las Campanillas