Lake Chapala Birders Observadores de Aves del Lago de Chapala Your hosts John and Rosemary Keeling
If you have reports of interesting bird sightings near Lake Chapala, or need information about birding at the lake, email us at: ChapalaBirders@yahoo.com 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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Bushtit 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 Killdeer 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) Sora 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 Willet 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 Malteraña 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