Sunday, October 3, 2021


Chapala Birders Newsletter, October 2, 2021
Sightings this Month

There were 125 species reported for the lake area in September. The complete list is shown at the end of this newsletter. Interesting sightings included:

  • The participants in the Lake Cajititlan trip saw several Blue-Black Grassquits, and a Purple Martin (see discussion below).
  • Noé Muñoz-Padilla reported Elegant Trogon and Callope Hummingbird on the northern Chupinaya mountain trail and he continues to see Gray-Collared Becard there.
  • Karl and Kate Anderson have seen a pair of Yellow-headed Parrots in Riberas del Pilar. This species is occasionally reported on the lakeshore. They are cage escapes, originating from South America. They are native to coastal regions of Mexico, but are now rare due to hunting. Apparently there is a small feral group breeding in Colomos Park in Guadalajara.

New Species for Lake Chapala - Purple Martin

The Purple Martin is a large blue or gray swallow that occurs here when on migration in the spring and fall. It is usually so high in the sky so that it is not easily identifiable. We saw one resting on a wire on the Birding Trip to the Lake Cajititlan this month. We are at the southern end of its summer breeding range which is Canada to Central Mexico. Also we are at the northern end of its winter range which is from Texas to Brazil, especially the Amazon basin.

October Big Day

Once again eBird is announcing "October Big Day" for Saturday October 9, 2021. This is timed to coincide with World Migratory Bird Day. All birders are encouraged to go birding on Oct. 9 and record their sightings on eBird. Last year there were 32,000 participants world wide, recording the observation of 70% of all the species in the world in one day.
Featured Bird: Barn Swallow
A male Barn Swallow showing the beautiful feather arrangement. The wings have nine outer feathers (primaries), nine inner (secondaries), and the tail has ten feathers (rectrices).
  • Barn Swallows are one of our commonest birds, with nests very visible under the eaves of houses, barns and bridges.
  • They seem to owe much of their success in covering the world to adaptability to nesting on human dwellings instead of caves and cliffs.They generally summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. In Europe, barn swallows migrate up to 7,000 miles (11,000km) from northern Europe to Southern Africa.
  • They catch insects in flight and can drink water while in flight - skimming the surface of water with the bill open.
  • It takes two weeks for a pair to build the nest of mud, lined with hair and feathers.
  • Pairs mate for life, but extra-pair copulation is common.
  • Incubation of the eggs takes 16 days and chicks are 3 weeks old at fledging.
  • Currently populations are declining in Canada and increasing in Argentina.
How High do Birds Fly?
In normal life birds have no need to fly high. Most stick to a few hundred feet. Some birds such as vultures gain altitude to get a better view of the territory in the search for food. Many birds reach great heights when migrating, either to take advantage of winds, or to cross mountain ranges.

Aircraft pilots and others have made some interesting reports:

  • Mallards at 21,000 ft (6,000 m)
  • Bar-headed Geese in Asia at 24,000 ft (7,000 m)
  • Whooper Swans migrating over Ireland at 29,000 ft (9,000 m)
  • Ruppel's Griffon in Africa at 37,000 ft (11,000 m)

For reference Mount Denali in Alaska is 19,000 ft (6,000 m) while Mount Everest is 29,000 ft (9,000 m). (Note that the quoted heights are rounded to the nearest 1,000 feet or meters).

Bird species such as these have specially adapted body features permitting rapid oxygen transfer to the muscles, including:

  • Resistance to alkalinity in the blood, allowing extra rapid breathing (hyperventilation). 
  • A more oxygen-efficient type of hemoglobin in the blood.
  • Blood vessels (capillaries) in the muscles are more finely meshed.
  • Brain cells are more tolerant of low oxygen levels in the blood.
Bird-walks and Trips
We are proposing to gradually get back to normal with larger groups, but masks will be worn in public in compliance with regulations.

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. Note that we will limit car trips to four vehicles because larger convoys are hard to manage 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 pesos for a day trip).

On Monday October 11, we will meet at 8.15 at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south side near Restaurant Pranzo), leaving immediately for the Sierra de Tapalpa (90 minutes away). We will bird from 9.30 till 12.30. 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 and sandwiches for the 12.30 lunch stop. Expect to be back about 4.00 pm. You must reserve - email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating that you can bring a vehicle or you would like to be a passenger.

On Tuesday October 19, we will meet at 8.15 a.m. at La Cristina on the west side of Ajijic. We will see some shore birds and some birds in the tall trees along the street. We will bird for about two hours. At about 10.15 we will head for Fonda Doña Lola for breakfast and complete the bird list.
How to Get There: Drive about 2 mi (4km) west from Colon, look for signs for Hacienda La Cristina (near signs for Las Palmas, a bus stop and a vivero), turn down to the lake, and park close to the lake.

On Wednesday October 27, we will meet at 8.15 at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south side near Restaurant Pranzo), leaving immediately for the Rosa Amarilla Loop (60 minutes drive). Expect to see a variety of grassland birds and possibly a White-tailed Hawk. Bring refreshments for the morning and sandwiches for the 12.30 lunch stop. We will be back about 3.00 pm. You must reserve - email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating that you can bring a vehicle or you would like to be a passenger.
Birdwalk & Trip Reports
On September 8, there were ten birders out to go round Cristianía Park in Chapala. We saw Laughing Gull, Tricolored Heron, Rufous-backed Robin, Yellow Warbler, Monk Parakeet, Black-backed Oriole, and Vaux's Swift out of a total of 36 species for the morning. We enjoyed returning to our old practice of a post-walk breakfast at the Palapa de Don Juan.

On September 14, we went to the Lake Cajititlan Marsh where we observed Northern Jacana, Northern Bobwhite, Spotted Wren, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, as well as five Blue-black Grassquits on the edge of a corn field and a Purple Martin on migration.

On September 27, we had six people out to hike the Allen Lloyd trail in San Antonio Tlyacapan on a cloudy morning. We observed Western Wood Pewee, Happy Wren, Bewick's Wren, Rufous Hummingbird, and Violet-crowned Hummingbird among a total of 30 species.
Monthly Sightings List
Here are the 125 species sighted around Lake Chapala in September:

Ani, groove-billed
Becard, gray-collared (Tr)
Becard, rose-throated (Tr)
Blackbird, red-winged (Ra)
Blackbird, yellow-headed
Bobwhite, northern (Ca)
Bushtit (Ra)
Caracara, crested (Ac)
Chat, yellow-breasted (Tr)
Coot, American
Cormorant, neotropic
Cowbird, bronzed
Dove, common ground (Sa)
Dove, Eurasian collared
Dove, Inca
Dove, white-tipped
Duck, black-bellied whistling
Duck, fulvous whistling
Duck, Mexican
Egret, cattle
Egret, great
Egret, snowy
Elaenia, greenish (Sa,At)
Finch, house
Flycatcher, cordilleran (Tr)
Flycatcher, dusky-capped (Sa)
Flycatcher, Hammond's (Tr)
Flycatcher, least (Tr)
Flycatcher, social
Flycatcher, vermilion
Gallinule, common
Gnatcatcher, blue-gray (Sa)
Goldfinch, lesser
Grackle, great-tailed
Grassquit, blue-black (Ca)
Grebe, least
Grebe, pied-billed
Grosbeak, blue
Gull, laughing (Ch)
Gull, ring-billed
Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, red-tailed
Hawk, white-tailed (Ra)
Heron, black-crowned night
Heron, great blue
Heron, tri-colored
Hummingbird, berylline
Hummingbird, black-chinned (Av)
Hummingbird, broad-billed
Hummingbird, calliope (Tr)
Hummingbird, ruby-throated
Hummingbird, rufous
Hummingbird, violet-crowned
Ibis, white-faced
Jacana, northern
Kestrel, American
Kingbird, Cassin's
Kingbird, thick-billed
Kingbird, tropical
Kiskadee, great
Martin, Purple (Ca)
Meadowlark, eastern (Ra)
Mockingbird, blue
Mockingbird, northern (Ra)
Motmot, russet-crowned (At)
Nightjar, buff-collared (Av)
Oriole, black-backed
Oriole, black-vented
Oriole, hooded
Oriole, streak-backed
Osprey (Ra)
Owl, great horned
Parakeet, monk
Pelican, American white
Pewee, greater
Pewee, western wood
Pigeon, rock
Raven, common
Redstart, painted (Tr)
Robin, rufous-backed
Sandpiper, least
Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped
Shrike, loggerhead
Solitaire, brown-backed (Tr)
Sparrow, Botteri's (Ra)
Sparrow, house
Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground (At)
Sparrow, stripe-headed
Spoonbill, roseate (Ca)
Stork, wood (Ca,Ra)
Swallow, barn
Swallow, northern rough-winged
Swift, Vaux's (Ch)
Tanager, flame-colored (Tr)
Tanager, hepatic (Tr)
Tanager, western
Teal, blue-winged (Ra)
Thrasher, curve-billed
Thrush, orange-billed nightingale
Thrush, white-throated (Tr)
Towhee, canyon
Trogon, elegant (Tr)
Tyrannulet, northern beardless
Vireo, golden (Sa)
Vulture, black
Vulture, turkey
Warbler, black and white (Tr)
Warbler, black-throated gray
Warbler, MacGillivray's (Tr)
Warbler, Nashville
Warbler, red-faced (Tr)
Warbler, rufous-capped (Sa)
Warbler, Wilson's
Warbler, yellow (Ch)
Woodcreeper, white striped (Tr)
Woodpecker, acorn (Tr)
Woodpecker, golden-fronted
Woodpecker, ladder-backed
Wren, Bewick's
Wren, canyon
Wren, happy (Sa)
Wren, house (Tr)
Wren, Sinaloa (Tr)
Wren, spotted
Sighting Location codes:

Ac - Ajijic: La Cristina / El Bajio
At - Trails above Ajijic
Av - Ajijic village
Ca - Lake Cajititlan & marsh
Ch - Chapala
Ct - Caracol Trail / Int'l School
Cv - Cerro Viejo
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
Oc - Ocotlan
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 / Chupinaya
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.

We like to hear of bird sightings at:

Check our website:
Lake Chapala Birders | Callejon al Tepalo #140, Ajijic, Jalisco 45920 Mexico
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