|Zapotitlan Salinas from the mirrador.|
|Church in Zapotitlan Salinas - Ana|
|Tall cactus in the Botanical Garden.|
|Lizard in the garden|
|Asiento de suegras - Ana|
|Pato de Elefante - Ana|
After lunch we headed off on our third walking tour just outside of town. We saw Phainopeplas, Social Flycatchers, Vermilion Flycatchers, Inca Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, Curve-billed Thrashers, Rock Wrens, and yes, Grey-breasted Woodpeckers, Boucards Wrens, and Bridled Sparrows. We also got to hear and see a Canyon Wren as it called from atop an unfinished cement wall. (http://www.xeno-canto.org/XCspeciesprofiles.php?species_nr2=2909.00) We finished the walk by stopping by a small fish pond. Barn Swallows - and later as the sun went down bats - dove from the sky plucking insects from the surface of the water. We met a group of student biologists who were setting up mist nets in order to capture those bats, take measurements, and then release them again.
That night we explored the town a little. We walked past the central zocalo that was crowded with families and children playing under street lights. There was a basketball game going on the main court. As our tour group walked by, each of us wearing a pair of binoculars around our neck or carrying a large telescope on our shoulder, the spectators - and even some of the players - turned to watch us and seemed to care little about the score of the game. We ate a small taco stand in someone's backyard before heading back to the hotel for a long nights sleep.
After that long nights sleep, we woke at 2:30 A.M. on Sunday and headed by bus to the Canyon del Sabino in Tecomovaca on the Oaxaca side of the reserve. Reaching the canyon two hours later, we began the hour-long hike up the trail in total darkness. As the sun began coming up, and as we approached the end of the trail above the canyon, we began to hear the deep raspy calls of the Military Macaw. (http://www.xeno-canto.org/XCspeciesprofiles.php?species_nr2=808.00) The canyon walls were almost two-hundred meters tall, but no more than fifty meters apart. We could hear the river that carved the canyon far below, its sound echoing up towards us. We sat at the lookout points and just watched, for about three hours, as the macaws chased each other like fighter jets, back and forth, diving down, flying back up, speeding from one end to the other, disappearing from view, then perching on nearby trees before taking off after each other again. It seemed they were competing for air space, than tree branch space, although there were plenty of both. During spring, these macaws nest in holes in the canyon walls. The canyon is so impenetrable that the colony has survived here for thousands of years while nearly all other colonies of Military Macaws have been trapped-out for the pet trade. This is the largest remaining colony of Military Macaws in Mexico and because of conservation efforts and ecotourism is actually increasing in size. The walk back down the trail towards the bus at the bottom of the canyon wasn't disappointing either. We heard and saw two Russet-crowned Motmots - an endemic species emblematic of the area - perched in trees on the side of the trail.
|Canyon del Sabino|
|Military Macaw at sunrise.|
|Military Macaw in the Canyon del Sabino|
|Russet-crowned Motmot in the Canyon del Sabino|
We ended the day and the weekend with a quick side trip to Santiago Quiotepec on the Rio Grande (not that Rio Grande). The river was broad, muddy, and swollen by recent rains. It had carved out steep walls in the rocks as it snaked its way through the valley. The bus could not cross the bridge to get to Santiago Quiotepec because the bridge was slightly less than structurally sound due to the summer's floods. We saw Black Phoebes, Western Wood Pewees, a Great Blue Heron and another Streak-backed Oriole. I was a little disappointed though because surprisingly there were no Grey-breasted Woodpeckers, Boucards Wrens, or Bridled Sparrows. We did cross the bridge by foot and ate lunch ata newly built community ecotourism project with a hotel and beautiful adobe restaurant and meeting hall. Here was saw a single Varied Bunting at the fountain in the courtyard.
In total we saw close to sixty species of birds, several of which were endemic to the region, and at least one, the Military Macaw, which is critically endangered. Amazingly, I managed not to see a single new species for my birds of Mexico list, even after the nearly twenty hours of hiking with some of Mexico's best and most enthusiastic birdwatchers. Still, I was far from disappointed and will surely be back again soon for the second ever bird tour of the Tehuacan Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve.
|Bridge over the Rio Grande|
|Bridge over the Rio Grande|