Thursday, November 3, 2022


Chapala Birders Newsletter, November 2, 2022
Sightings this Month

Nicola Cendron and friends from Guadalajara have discovered two things this month, first, that the Mezcala Mountain is a very good birding spot, and second, that it is also a great location to view hawks on migration (see below).

There were 183 species reported for the lake area in October. The complete list is shown at the end of this newsletter. Interesting sightings included:

  • Great Black Hawk and Hook-billed Kite, both new species for Lake Chapala, observed on migration by Nicola Cendron and his friends.
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen by Jules Evens at the San Antonio malecon.
  • Tufted Flycatcher sighted by Kate and Carl Anderson in Riberas del Pilar.
  • Elegant Trogon reported by Noe Munoz on the Trojes-Chupinaya hill trail.

New Discovery of Hawk Migration Funnel at Chapala

Nicola Cendon, Oscar Vironchi and Fabrice Leroux went to the Mezcala Mountain in the first week of October. They were surprised to find a large number of hawks gliding eastwards along the coastal mountain ridge. They photographed several Hawk species including Common Black Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk. Nicola went back three weeks later and saw more hawks, predominantly Swainson's Hawks.

It is known that hawks on migration like to follow mountain ridges, climbing in rising thermals and then gliding to the next thermal in a generally southerly direction. Most hawks are reluctant to cross bodies of water, because no thermals are formed over water.

In the case of Lake Chapala it now appears the hawks are diverted in their southward passage to follow the mountains along the north coast of the lake. We presume they go round the east end of the lake. This creates a funnel effect causing locally high concentrations of hawks which are good for viewing. The best time to see large numbers of migrating hawks in central Mexico is in the first two weeks of October.
Featured Bird: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker showing the characteristic red cap and red throat with a long white slash on the wing. The female is similar but has a white throat.
  • The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a migratory bird that breeds in Canada and the northern US. The males winter in the southern US while the females tend to winter in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Their food of choice is sap obtained from small sap wells made in neat rows in the bark of living trees. A lot of time is spent maintaining sap wells in many trees and licking the sap with a brush-like tongue. They also eat some berries and fruit. The young are fed sap, ants and beetles.
  • Breeding pairs are monogamous. A nest cavity is drilled by the male, a process taking three weeks. Incubation of the eggs is shared, with the male doing the night shift. Both parents feed the chicks. They raise only one brood per year.
Upcoming Bird-walks and Trips
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 $150 pesos for a half day outing, $300 pesos for a day trip).

On Tuesday November 8, we will meet at 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, (south-east corner), 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. At 1.00 pm we will have lunch at a restaurant on the square in Tapalpa. Expect to be back about 4.00 pm. You must reserve - email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating if you can bring a vehicle and can take others, or you would like to be a passenger. (We don't always have enough cars).

On Monday November 14, we will meet a 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, (south-east corner) near Restaurant Pranzo), leaving immediately for Las Trojes (one hour away), to hike the Horizontal Oak Forest Trail. We hike to the edge of the hidden valley (3-hours hiking uphill, 2-hours back). Don't expect very many birds, but the hike is very pleasant and we may see the Red-faced Warbler. We will be back about 4.00 pm. Bring refreshments and sandwiches for lunch at noon at the top. If you plan on going, please email John at at least 2 days ahead indicating if you can bring a vehicle and can take others or you would like to be a passenger. (We do not always have enough cars.)

 On Friday November 18, we will meet at 8.15 am at the entrance to Cristiania Park in Chapala. We should see an interesting selection of species in the park and on the shore of the lake. At about 10.00 we will go to 'La Palapa de Don Juan' for breakfast and complete the bird list.
How to Get There: From Ajijic go to the traffic light at the main street of Chapala (Av. Madero), cross straight over and keep going straight for five blocks, turn left at the T intersection and park on the right, near the Park entrance.

On Friday November 25, we will meet at 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south-east corner, 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 if you can bring a vehicle and can take others, or you would like to be a passenger. (We do not always have enough cars.)
Birdwalk & Trip Reports
On October 12, we had a small group of five people out at the Puerta Nueva Road under dull skies. We saw Black-crowned Night Heron, Neotropic Cormorant, Killdeer, Blue Mockingbird, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher and Monk Parakeet out of total of 38 species before leaving for breakfast.

On October 18, we had 11 birders out at Lake Cajititlan Marsh. We identified a very good list of 67 species including Crested Caracara, Blue-black Grassquit, Northern Jacana, Wood Stork, Srripe-headed Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle and Tropical Kingbird.

On October 27, we identified fifteen species at our meeting point even before proceeding to our destinaition at the Pumping Station. We had seven participants and saw 64 species, including Black-necked Stilt, Tricolored Heron, White-faced Ibis, Marsh Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Redstart and Tropical Parula.
Monthly Sightings List
Here are the 183 species sighted around Lake Chapala in October:

Ani, groove-billed
Bittern, least (Rp)
Blackbird, yellow-headed
Bluebird, eastern (Mz)
Bobwhite, northern
Bunting, indigo (Ct)
Bunting, painted (Av)
Caracara, crested
Chat, yellow-breasted (Av)
Coot, American
Cormorant, neotropic
Cowbird, bronzed
Cowbird, brown-headed (Ch)
Crossbill, red
Dove, common ground (Ps)
Dove, Eurasian collared
Dove, Inca
Dove, mourning
Dove, white-tipped
Dove, white-winged
Duck, black-bellied whistling
Duck, fulvous whistling (Jo)
Duck, Mexican
Egret, cattle
Egret, great
Egret, snowy
Elaenia, greenish (Tr,Mz)
Euphonia, elegant (Av,Ps)
Finch, house
Flycatcher, ash-throated (Mz)
Flycatcher, brown-crested (Xt)
Flycatcher, buff-breasted (Mz)
Flycatcher, cordilleran (Tr)
Flycatcher, dusky-capped (Mz)
Flycatcher, gray silky (Mz,Tr)
Flycatcher, Hammond's (Tr)
Flycatcher, least (Xt)
Flycatcher, Nutting's (At,Mz)
Flycatcher, olive-sided (Mz)
Flycatcher, pine
Flycatcher, social
Flycatcher, tufted (Tr,Rp)
Flycatcher, vermilion
Gallinule, common
Gnatcatcher, blue-gray
Goldfinch, lesser
Grackle, great-tailed
Grassquit, blue-black (Ca)
Grebe, least
Grebe, pied-billed (Xt)
Grosbeak, black-headed (Ct)
Grosbeak, blue
Gull, laughing
Gull, ring-billed
Hawk, broad-winged (Mz)
Hawk, common black (Mz)
Hawk, Cooper's (Mz)
Hawk, gray (Ps)
Hawk, great black (Mz)
Hawk, red-tailed (Mz)
Hawk, sharp-shinned (Mz)
Hawk, short-tailed (Mz)
Hawk, white-tailed (Mz)
Hawk, zone-tailed (Mz)
Heron, black-crowned night
Heron, great blue
Heron, tri-colored
Hummingbird, berylline
Hummingbird, black-chinned (Tr)
Hummingbird, broad-billed
Hummingbird, broad-tailed (Mz)
Hummingbird, calliope (La,Mz)
Hummingbird, ruby-throated
Hummingbird, rufous
Hummingbird, violet-crowned
Hummingbird, white-eared (Tr)
Ibis, white-faced
Jacana, northern
Kestrel, American
Kingbird, Cassin's
Kingbird, thick-billed
Kingbird, tropical
Kingbird, western
Kingfisher, belted
Kinglet, ruby-crowned (Ps)
Kiskadee, great
Kite, hook-billed (Mz)
Kite, white-tailed (Ps)
Merlin (Mz)
Mockingbird, blue
Mockingbird, northern
Nightjar, buff-collared (Ch)
Oriole, black-backed
Oriole, black-vented
Oriole, Bullock's
Oriole, hooded
Oriole, orchard
Oriole, streak-backed
Owl, barn (Sa)
Owl, ferruginous pygmy (AV,Rp,Ch)
Owl, great horned (At,Rp,Ch)
Owl, mountain pygmy (Mz)
Owl, western screech
Parakeet, monk
Pelican, American white
Pewee, greater
Pewee, western wood (Mz,Ps)
Pigeon, rock
Pintail, northern (Ps)
Raven, common
Redstart, American (Ps)
Redstart, painted (Te)
Roadrunner, greater (Mz)
Roadrunner, lesser (Mz)
Robin, American (Mz)
Robin, rufous-backed
Sandpiper, solitary (Xt)
Sandpiper, spotted
Sapsucker, yellow-bellied
Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped
Shrike, loggerhead
Snipe, Wilson's (Ps)
Solitaire, brown-backed
Sparrow, house
Sparrow, lark
Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground
Sparrow, stripe-headed
Stilt, black-necked
Stork, wood (Ps)
Swallow, barn
Swallow, northern rough-winged
Swallow, tree
Swallow, violet-green (Mz)
Tanager, flame-colored (Tr)
Tanager, hepatic (Mz)
Tanager, summer (Ps)
Tanager, western
Teal, blue-winged
Teal, cinnamon (Jo)
Tern, Caspian
Tern, Forster's (Rp)
Thrasher, curve-billed
Thrush, orange-billed nightingale
Thrush, White-throated (La)
Towhee, canyon
Trogon, elegant (Tr)
Tyrannulet, northern beardless
Vireo, Cassin's (Tr)
Vireo, golden
Vireo, Hutton's (Tr,Mz)
Vireo, plumbeous (Tr)
Vireo, warbling
Vulture, black
Vulture, turkey
Warbler, black and white
Warbler, black-throated gray
Warbler, Grace's (Tr)
Warbler, hermit (Tr,Mz)
Warbler, Lucy's
Warbler, MacGillivray's (Tr,Mz)
Warbler, Nashville
Warbler, orange-crowned
Warbler, rufous-capped (Tr)
Warbler, Townsend's
Warbler, Virginia's Av)
Warbler, Wilson's
Warbler, yellow
Warbler, yellow-rumped
Woodpecker, acorn (Tr,Mz)
Woodpecker, golden-fronted
Woodpecker, ladder-backed
Wren, Bewick's
Wren, canyon
Wren, happy (Tr)
Wren, house
Wren, marsh (Ps)
Wren, Sinaloa (Mz)
Wren, spotted
Yellowthroat, common (Ca,Sa,Ch)
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
Mz - Mezcala
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 - Potrerillos & Las Trojes & Chupinaya
Tu - Tuxcueca & San Luis Soyatlan
Xt - Ixtlahuacan & Las Campanillas

What is the "Lake Chapala Area"?
We define it as the whole area of the lake plus all land within 15km (or 7 miles) of the edge of the lake.
Lake Chapala Birders is an informal group of bird observers led by John and Rosemary Keeling.

Illustrated color folders showing our common birds are once again available for $200 pesos at Diane Pearl's Gallery, 11 am to 4 pm, Santa Margarita #23, at the east end of Riberas del Pilar. Also available from John Keeling.

We like to hear of bird sightings at:

Check our website:
There you will find our newsletters, illustrations of our birds and advice on buying binoculars, books and birding apps.