Sunday, January 5, 2020


Chapala Birders Newsletter January 2, 2020
  177 Species sighted around the Lake in December
This is an unusually high number of species. For comparison, last December we reported only 137 species. The complete list for last month is shown at the end of this newsletter.
Interesting sightings last month:
- John Roynon reported sighting Black-capped Vireo and Lazuli Bunting on the Allen Lloyd trail.
- Nicola Cendron reported Dusky Flycatcher and Happy Wren on the International School road.
- Jules Evens reported White-striped Woodcreeper and Brown-backed Solitaire on the mountain above Las Trojes during the Christmas Bird Count.
- John Keeling saw two Snow Geese at the Dike near La Palma during the Christmas Bird Count.
- Don Bell reported seeing Willow Flycatcher and Painted Bunting on the west side of Ajijic during the Christmas Bird Count.
Christmas Bird Count Report
For the Ajijic area CBC on December 16 we had twenty four participants in five teams. The final count was 135 species and 7,702 individual birds.
For the second time, one team went to Las Trojes to hike the oak forest between 7,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level. That team saw 24 species not seen by the other teams, in particular Mountain Pygmy Owl, Red-faced Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Brown-backed Solitaire, White-striped Woodcreeper and Mexican Violetear.
On the 'Cienega' CBC held December 18 at the east end of the lake we formed one team in two cars. An unusual sighting was of two Snow Geese on the Dike. The total count was 83 species and 64,543 individual birds.
The combined total for both areas was 149 species.
Featured Bird:   Black-capped Vireo
  Black-capped Vireo. Photo by Jalisco birder Julio Álvarez.

The Black-capped Vireo is a very small, shy bird that hides in undergrowth. We find it on the Allen Lloyd trail and Tepalo Waterfall trail. 
-  It breeds in Oklahoma and Texas in the period May to August and  spends the winter along the Pacific coast of central Mexico.
-  The male has a jet-black head; the female a gray head; both having a bold white eye-ring. 
-  They eat caterpillars, spiders, and berries.  
-  The species almost went extinct 30 years ago. When only a few thousand birds remained it was declared an endangered species. It suffers from habitat loss, and cowbird depredation.
-  It needs a particular habitat to survive, which is young-growth shrubs with undergrowth and short grass which is the result of regular prairie fires. Nests are built one to three feet above the ground. Unfortuantely, female cowbirds are very aggressive, killing vireo chicks if necessary before laying an egg. Also, Cowbird eggs hatch 4 days quicker than the vireo eggs, and the cowbird chick is bigger, able to kill the other chicks by smothering. 
-  Over the last 30 years the Black-capped Vireo has been brought back from the brink of extinction, temporarily, by action in selected areas. Actions have included trapping of cowbirds close to cattle and bison; scheduling of regular burns of grassland; and reduciing the grazing areas of cattle and goats. At present this is a great success story for the Endangered Species Act. However, if these actions cease, the species will go extinct. 
Upcoming Trips and Bird Walks
Our bird walks are open to all those interested in birds, both beginners and experienced birders. Just bring binoculars. We always have knowledgeable birders on hand to identify the species. Please note that we will try to limit car trips to four vehicles because larger convoys are less manageable when trying to stop on country roads to look at the birds. If you are being given a ride, we suggest you make a contribution to your driver for gas and tolls (perhaps 50-100 pesos for a half day outing, 150-200 for a day trip).
On Tuesday January 7, we will carpool at Donas Donuts at 8.00 am, leaving immediately for the Sierra de Tapalpa (90 minutes away). We will bird from 9.30 till 12.30, have lunch in the town of Tapalpa and complete the bird list. We expect to see higher altitude birds such as Acorn Woodpecker and Slate-throated Redstart and if we are lucky Trans-volcanic Jay. Bring your own refreshments for the morning. We will be back about 5.00 pm. If you plan on going, please email John at two days ahead of time; also indicate if you can bring a vehicle, to help in carpool planning. (We don't always have enough cars).

On Friday January 17, we will meet at 8.00 am to walk the one-mile long Allen Lloyd Trail which has lots of underbrush in which birds love to hide. Expect to see Stripe-headed Sparrow and Groove-billed Ani and hear the Happy Wren - if we are lucky. At about 10.15 we will head to Cafe Negro restaurant for breakfast and complete the bird list.
How to get to the trail head: Drive up the Libramiento a half mile from the traffic light at Walmart, and park on the north side of the road across from the El Dorado Condominium tower.

On Wednesday January 29, we will meet at 8.00 am to carpool behind Black Coffee, in the Laguna Mall parking area, leaving immediately for the Cajititlan Marsh (30 minutes drive). We expect to see a variety of marsh and lake birds such as Black-necked Stilt, Snowy Egret, and perhaps American Avocet. At about 10.15 we will go La Palapa de Don Juan restaurant in Chapala for breakfast and complete the bird list. If you plan on going, email John at at least 2 days ahead of time, also indicate whether or not you can bring a car. (We don't always have enough cars).
Bird Walk and Trip Reports
On December 8, we had 20 people out to bird the 'Chapala Lakedshore East' route, centering on the Pumping Station. Interesting sightings included American Wigeon, Virginia's Warbler, Wilson's Snipe, Sora, Black-vented Oriole, Black-backed Oriole, White-crowned Sparrow and 100 Lark Sparrows. The total was sixty species.

On December 27, there were 19 birders viewing a total of 79 species on Lake Atotonilco at Villa Corona. Species seen included Eastern Meadowlark,  Least Bittern, Squirrel Cuckoo, Aztec Rail, Semipalmated Plover, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, 100 American White Pelicans, 340 Snow Geese and 25 Clarke's Grebes.
Monthly Sightings List
Here are the species sighted around Lake Chapala in December:

Ani, groove-billed
Avocet, American
Becard, rose-throated (Tr)
Blackbird, yellow-headed
Bunting, indigo (Ca)
Bunting, lazuli (Sa)
Bunting, painted (Ac)
Bunting, varied
Caracara, crested
Coot, American
Cormorant, neotropic
Cowbird, bronzed
Cowbird, brown-headed
Cuckoo, squirrel (Sc,Sa)
Dove, Eurasian collared
Dove, Inca
Dove, mourning
Dove, white-tipped
Dove, white-winged
Dowitcher, long-billed
Duck, black-bellied whistling
Duck, fulvous whistling
Duck, Mexican
Duck, ruddy
Egret, cattle
Egret, great
Egret, snowy
Euphonia, elegant (Sa)
Finch, house
Flycatcher, ash-throated
Flycatcher, buff-breasted (Tr)
Flycatcher, cordilleran
Flycatcher, dusky (Ch)
Flycatcher, dusky-capped
Flycatcher, gray-silky
Flycatcher, least (Tr)
Flycatcher, Nutting's (Sa)
Flycatcher, olive-sided (Tr)
Flycatcher, social
Flycatcher, vermilion
Flycatcher, white-throated (Dp)
Flycatcher, willow (Ac)
Gallinule, common
Gallinule, purple (Sa,Dp)
Gnatcatcher, blue-gray
Goldfinch, lesser
Goose, snow (Dp)
Grackle, great-tailed
Grebe, eared (Ps,Dp)
Grebe, pied-billed
Grosbeak, black-headed
Grosbeak, blue
Gull, laughing
Gull, ring-billed
Harrier, northern (Dp)
Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, gray
Hawk, red-tailed
Hawk, sharp-shinned
Hawk, white-tailed (Ca)
Hawk, zone-tailed (Ac)
Heron, black-crowned night
Heron, great-blue
Heron, green
Heron, little blue
Heron, tricolored
Hummingbird, beryline
Hummingbird, black-chinned (Sa)
Hummingbird, broad-billed
Hummingbird, rufous (Ch)
Hummingbird, violet-crowned
Ibis, white-faced
Jacana, northern
Kestrel, American
Kingbird, Cassin's
Kingbird, thick-billed
Kingbird, tropical
Kingbird, western (Sa)
Kingfisher, belted
Kingfisher, green
Kinglet, ruby-crowned (Tr)
Kiskadee, great
Kite, white-tailed
Mockingbird, blue
Mockingbird, northern
Oriole, black-backed
Oriole, black-vented
Oriole, Bullock's
Oriole, hooded
Oriole, Scott's (Ch)
Oriole, streak-backed
Owl, ferruginous pygmy (Sa)
Owl, mountain pygmy (Tr)
Parakeet, monk
Parula, tropical (Ac)
Pelican, American white
Pewee, greater
Phoebe, Say's (Tr)
Pigeon, rock
Pintail, northern
Rail, Aztec
Raven, common
Redstart, painted
Robin, rufous-backed
Sandpiper, spotted
Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped
Shoveler, northern
Shrike, loggerhead
Snipe, Wilson's (Ps)
Solitaire, brown-backed
Sparrow, chipping
Sparrow, clay-colored
Sparrow, grasshopper (Ch)
Sparrow, house
Sparrow, lark
Sparrow, Lincoln's
Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground
Sparrow, stripe-headed
Sparrow, white-crowned (Ps)
Stilt, black-necked
Swallow, barn
Swallow, cliff
Swallow, northern rough-winged
Swallow, tree
Swallow, violet-green
Tanager, hepatic
Tanager, western
Teal, blue-winged
Teal, cinnamon
Teal, green-winged
Tern, black
Tern, Caspian
Tern, Forster's
Thrasher, curve-billed
Thrush, orange-billed nightingale
Towhee, canyon
Tyrannulet, northern beardless
Violetear, Mexican
Vireo, Bell's (Ch)
Vireo, Black-capped (Sa)
Vireo, Cassin's (Sa)
Vireo, plumbeous (Tr)
Vireo, warbling (Tr,Sa)
Vulture, black
Vulture, turkey
Warbler, black and white
Warbler, black-throated gray
Warbler, hermit (Tr)
Warbler, Lucy's
warbler, MacGillivray's (Sa)
Warbler, Nashville
Warbler, orange-crowned
Warbler, red-faced (Tr)
Warbler,  rufous-capped (Tr,Sa)
Warbler, Townsend's (Tr)
Warbler, Virginia's
Warbler, Wilson's
Warbler, yellow
Warbler, yellow-rumped
Waterthrush, northern (Sa)
Wigeon, American
Woodcreeper, white-striped (Tr)
Woodpecker, golden-fronted
Woodpecker, ladder-backed
Wren, Bewick's
Wren, canyon
Wren, happy (Sa)
Wren, house
Wren, marsh (Ps)
Wren, spotted
Yellowlegs, lesser
Yellowthroat, common

Location codes:
Ac - Ajijic: La Cristina/El Bajio
At - Trails above Ajijic
Av - Ajijic village
Ca - Lake Cajititlan & marsh
Ch - Chapala
Cu - Cuitzeo/Ocotlan
Dm - Dike: Jamay to Malteraña
Dp - Dike: Maltaraña to La Palma
Hv - Hidden Valley oak forest
Ja - Jamay
La - La Cañada-Hidden Valley
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/Allen Lloyd Trail
Sc - San Juan Cosala
Sn - San Nicholas/Golf Club
Tz - Tizapan canyon
Te - San Juan Tecomatlan/Mezcala
Tr  - Las Trojes/oak forest
Tu - Tuxcueca/San Luis Soyatlan
Xt - Ixtlahuacan/Las Campanillas
Lake Chapala Birders is an informal group of bird observers led by John and Rosemary Keeling. Don't hesitate to contact us if you are seeking information about birding in the area. We also like to hear about sightings of birds or nests at: or 376.766.1801. Check out the website:

A laminated folder "Quick Guide to the Birds of Lake Chapala" illustrating 150 local species can be purchased for $150 pesos at Diane Pearl Collecciones, Colon #1, in the center of Ajijic. This is especially useful to newcomers - it is produced by "Defenders of Wildlife" which works to protect imperiled species throughout North America.