Saturday, October 14, 2023


Chapala Birders Newsletter, October 2, 2023

Sightings this Month

There were 174 species reported for the lake area in September. The complete list is shown at the end of this newsletter.

Our birding efforts in the last two weeks have been concentrated on the Mezcala Mountain, the site of our Hawk Watch. We have seen over a hundred species there in this period including hawks, falcons, warblers and hummingbirds.

Interesting sightings:

  • Julio Alvarez spotted a Great Swallow-tailed Swift at Mezcala Mountain, a new species for our area. It's range is from Nayarit to Costa Rica.
  • Chris Lloyd photographed a Double-toothed Kite at Mezcala, a real rarity. We are at the northern end of it's range, which is from Mexico to Brazil. Another new species for our area!
  • Nicola Cendron observed Pectoral Sandpiper at Chapala, This bird is only seen in Mexico when on migration to or from South America. It's another new species for our area!!
  • Our birding friends from Guadalajara also photographed Broad-winged, Short-tailed, Common Black, and Zone-tailed Hawks at Mezcala.
  • Carlo Cuevas reported Sanderling at the Jocotepec malecon. This coastal bird is occasionally seen inland when on migration to points south.

Featured Bird: Brown-backed Solitaire

An adult Brown-backed Solitaire. The sexes are similar. The juveniles are covered with white spots much like the young of other thrush species.

The Brown-backed Solitaire is a slender thrush that can be heard from time to time in our hills. It is most famous for its song, which some think is the most beautiful ever heard, for others it sounds closer to a rusty gate. It is common for it to be sold in markets as a caged bird.

It is resident in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, in hilly and mountainous areas.

It feeds on insects as well as berries and fruit in season.

The nest is made of roots and mosses forming a cup on the ground.The female lays 3 to 7 eggs and does most of the incubation for two weeks. Both parents feed the chicks in the next two weeks until fledging and for a few days after that.

Update on the Lake Chapala Hawk Migration

  • The major flow of hawks is expected to occur in the next two weeks.
  • The best time of day appears to be around 11.00 am and from 12.45 to 2.15 pm
  • The best location for viewing at Mezcala is on the hilltop above the parking area, facing west, under a big pine tree. Alternative viewing areas are the parking area, and at the west end of a flat forested area below the hill on the north side.
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 try to limit most car trips to three vehicles and 14 people 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 Friday October 6, we will meet at 8.00 am at El Bajio on the west side of Ajijic. We will walk down the lane to the lake, expecting to see a good variety of birds in the tall trees and fields. At about 10.00 am we will head to Fonda Dona Lola for breakfast and review the bird list.

How to Get There: From Ajijic go about 2 mi. (3 km) west from the light at Colon, turn downhill for El Bajio (across from the west end of the large un-finished retirement community being redeveloped by Latitude/Margaritaville) and park immediately on the lateral road parallel to the carretera.

On Monday October 16, we will meet at 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south-east corner, opposite Restaurant Pranzo), departing immediately for Villa Corona on Lake Atotonilco (60 minutes drive). We expect to see various shore birds such as White-faced Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill. Bring your own mid-morning refreshments. There will be a break for snacking at 11.00 am. We will be back in Ajijic by about 1.30 pm. You must reserve - email John at least 2 days ahead of time, saying 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 Monday October 23, we will meet a 8.00 am at the "Sculpture" (at the only traffic light in La Floresta, south-east corner, opposite 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.)

Birdwalk & Trip Reports

On September 8, we went the Sierra de Tapalpa with nine keen birders. We managed to spot 41 species including Eastern Bluebird, Slate-throated Redstart, Blue-black Grasquit, Ruddy Duck, Transvolcanic Jay, Acorn Woodpecker and Buff-breasted Flycatcher.

On September 14, we had a group of seven hiking up the Allen Lloyd Trail. We identified 31 species including Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Social Flycatcher, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue Mockingbird and Golden Vireo.

On September 26, we traveled to the Rosa Amarilla Loop, our most popular birding route. We spotted Gray-crowned Yellow-throat, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Groove-billed Ani, Osprey, Northern Harrier, White-tailed Hawk and Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater, out a total of 55 species.

Monthly Sightings List

Here are the 174 species sighted around Lake Chapala in September:

Ani, groove-billed

Avocet, American

Blackbird, red-winged (Ja)

Blackbird, yellow-headed

Bobwhite, northern

Bunting, varied


Caracara, crested

Chat, yellow-breasted

Coot, American

Cormorant, neotropic

Cowbird, bronzed

Cowbird, brown-headed

Cuckoo, squirrel (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

Elaenia, greenish

Euphonia, elegant

Falcon, peregrine (Mz)

Finch, house

Flycatcher, buff-breasted (Mz)

Flycatcher, dusky (Mz)

Flycatcher, dusky-capped

Flycatcher, gray silky

Flycatcher, Hammond's (Mz)

Flycatcher, least (Mz)

Flycatcher, olive-sided (Mz)

Flycatcher, social

Flycatcher, tufted (Mz)

Flycatcher, vermilion

Flycatcher, western

Gallinule, common

Gnatcatcher, blue-gray

Goldfinch, lesser

Grackle, great-tailed

Grassquit, blue-black

Grebe, least

Grebe, pied-billed

Grosbeak, black-headed

Grosbeak, blue

Gull, laughing

Gull, ring-billed

Harrier, northern

Hawk, broad-winged (Mz)

Hawk, common black (Mz)

Hawk, Cooper's

Hawk, gray (Mz)

Hawk, red-tailed

Hawk, sharp-shinned

Hawk, short-tailed

Hawk, white-tailed (Ra)

Hawk, zone-tailed (Mz)

Heron, black-crowned night

Heron, great blue

Heron, green

Heron, little blue

Heron, tri-colored

Hummingbird, berylline

Hummingbird, black-chinned (Mz)

Hummingbird, broad-billed

Hummingbird, ruby-throated

Hummingbird, rufous

Hummingbird, violet-crowned

Ibis, white-faced

Jacana, northern

Kestrel, American


Kingbird, Cassin's

Kingbird, thick-billed

Kingbird, tropical

Kingbird, western

Kiskadee, great

Kite, double-toothed

Kite, white-tailed


Mockingbird, blue

Mockingbird, northern

Motmot, russet-crowned

Nighthawk, lesser

Nightjar, buff-collared (Av)

Oriole, black-backed

Oriole, black-vented

Oriole, Bullock's

Oriole, hooded

Oriole, orchard

Oriole, streak-backed


Owl, ferruginous pygmy (Rp,Sa)

Owl, great horned (Av)

Owl, western screech (Rp)

Parakeet, monk

Pelican, American white

Pewee, greater

Pewee, western wood

Phalarope, Wilson's

Phoebe, black

Pigeon, rock

Pintail, northern

Plover, semipalmated

Raven, common

Redstart, American (Dm)

Redstart, painted (Mz)

Roadrunner, lesser

Robin, rufous-backed

Sanderling (Jo,Ch)

Sandpiper, least

Sandpiper, pectoral

Sandpiper, spotted

Sandpiper, stilt

Sandpiper, western

Seedeater, cinnamon-rumped

Shoveler, northern

Shrike, loggerhead

Siskin, pine (Mz)


Sparrow, chipping

Sparrow, house

Sparrow, lark

Sparrow, rufous-crowned

Sparrow, rusty-crowned ground

Sparrow, stripe-headed

Stilt, black-necked

Stork, wood (Ra)

Swallow, barn

Swallow, northern rough-winged

Swallow, violet-green

Swift, great swallow-tailed (Mz)

Swift, Vaux's (Mz)

Tanager, hepatic

Tanager, western

Teal, blue-winged

Teal, cinnamon

Tern, Forster's

Thrasher, curve-billed

Towhee, canyon

Tyrannulet, northern beardless

Vireo, golden

Vireo, warbling

Vulture, black

Vulture, turkey

Warbler, black and white

Warbler, black-throated gray

Warbler, Grace's (Mz)

Warbler, MacGillivray's (Mz)

Warbler, orange-crowned

Warbler, red-faced (Mz)

Warbler, rufous-capped

Warbler, Townsend's (Mz)

Warbler, Wilson's

Warbler, yellow

Waterthrush, northern


Woodpecker, acorn (Mz)

Woodpecker, golden-fronted

Woodpecker, ladder-backed

Wren, Bewick's

Wren, canyon

Wren, happy

Wren, house

Wren, Sinaloa (Mz)

Wren, spotted

Yellowlegs, lesser

Yellowthroat, common

Yellowthroat, gray-crowned

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

Cu - Chapala Haciendas & UofG

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

Pz - San Pedro Itzican/Poncitlan

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

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.