A weblog about birding, birdwatching, wild birds, raptors, hawk watch, raptor migrations and bird conservation from a birder, nature photographer and naturalist who resides in Veracuz Mexico.





I keep casting glances at the satellite communications tower hoping that I will see the peregrine falcon, the tower has been empty for almost two months.
As is the case with the Peregrine falcon most of our winter neotropic migrants have gone north, the cycle continues..........

I pick up my bicycle from the repair shop (the valve had broken off of the inner tube so they replaced the tube) I don't have a car here in Mexico. I bird by foot or with my trusty bicycle. It keeps me closer to nature. One thing I have noticed about some of birders in the States is that they bird from their cars.
I don't get it.
Birding from a car is like having sex with all your clothes on. I like to sense my surroundings while birding, sights, smells, feel the heat or the breeze and listen for the sounds.

So I head out for a bit of birding in the afternoon, I want to see whats left after the migration. The birds are focused on reproduction, building nests and rearing nestlings. I must have seen 50 or more nests in three hours. Common Tody Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Altimira Oriole, Great Kiskadee, Great-tailed grackle.

A particular nest caught my eye, that of the Lineated Woodpecker. I spotted the nest high in the dead palm from the persistent calls of two nestlings making it know that they were hungry. I got them in the spotting scope, they both had their heads, necks extended out of the nest hole. Note: I was standing some 50 meters from the tree and my presence was minimal. I am very reluctant to photograph nestlings, in this case the young had nearly attained juvenile plumage and are close to fledging, I made an exception.




Shortly the male Lineated Woodpecker, with red moustache mark, (females have a black moustache) flew directly to the dead palm, made a quick hop around the palm trunk, keeping an eye out for predators and proceeded to the nest hole where the two nestlings were eagerly awaiting their meal. The male placed its bill deep into the gaping mouth of the nestling and in a rapid "jackhammer" fashion regurgitated food from its crop directly into the throat of the nestling (5-8 second feeding).The process was repeated with the other nestling. I observed three feedings from the male on one visit, so one of the nestlings got seconds. After the feeding the male Lineated Woodpecker flew to a live tree immediately behind the the nest hole, preened for about 10 minutes and resumed the task of foraging. Thanks to the spotting scope I was able to observe this remarkable feeding behavior.

Here are some additional images of the male Lineated Woodpecker:

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Views of nestling Lineated Woodpeckers:

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Not a bad birding afternoon. I observed a total of 60 species, among observations of note, Mangrove Cuckoo, Bare-throated throated Tiger Heron, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Red-billed Pigeon, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow-headed parrot (unusual)



Excerpt on abinism and other plumage abnormalities. www.birdwatchireland.ie



A number of other plumage abnormalities occur, but much less
commonly than albinism. These are:
• Melanism Melanistic birds have an abnormal amount of dark
pigmentation. Several species have very rare dark phases, e.g. Buzzard
and Woodcock and others occasionally show signs of melanism (though
beware of oil-stained seabirds!). Pheasants seem to be the most
susceptible to melanism.
Erythrism Birds with erythrism have an excess of red pigmentation,
the best known example probably being the rare ‘hepatic’ phase of the
female Cuckoo.
Xanthochroism involves the loss of darker pigments and abnormal
retention of yellow pigment, and it has been recorded in
Wood Warbler and Yellow Wagtail.

Leucism Leucistic or ‘dilute’ birds are abnormally pale or ‘washed out’
looking. This plumage aberration is perhaps more frequent than any
except albinism, though still very unusual.



RARITY: Vermilion flycatcher (male) leucistic.


Normal plumage for vermilion flycatcher.

  • On May 17th I went out on the "savannah" here in Tlacotalpan Veracruz to do some bird digiscoping. (digiscoping is a digital camera taking a photograph through a spotting scope)
    As I was walking back home after three hours of photographing, I caught some flight movement that got my attention. I observed something small, white and red flying away from me, it settled into some low growth across a canal some 250 meters from where I was standing. I have spent countless hours birding here on the savannah and and this was something different, I was getting "birders rush" with the anticipation of a new find.
    I started scanning the far side of the canal with the scope to see if I could spot my mystery bird. I stood perfectly still and scanned for a good ten minutes....yellow warbler, great-tailed grackle, white collared seedeater, northern jacana, ringed kingfisher, neotropic cormorant, forked-tailed flycatcher, great egret, bare-throated tiger heron, common tody-flycatcher.....no luck.
    Suddenly I spot it, white wings and red body flying back across the canal toward me, it settled down in some thorn scrub about 75 meters from where I was standing. I move the scope to focus in...a male Vermilion flycatcher with pinkish/white mask,wings and emerging tail feathers, leucistic!
    I slowly raise my digital Sony Mavica 250 CD camera to the eyepiece of my Nikon 80 spotting scope with the hopes that I can get at least one fairly clear picture. Good fortune was with me, over the next twenty minutes I was able to take around 100 photos of this unusal partial albinic vermilion flycatcher. As typical of the vermilion flycatcher, it swooped from its thorny perch to catch an insect in flight looping to return to its original perch.
    In the minutes that followed, time disappeared as the small vermilion flycatcher flew in closer to where I was standing, providing me with ever closer views. The following are images that I was able to capture;
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    Here are two photos that give you a comparison view of plumages of the vermilion flycatchers

    VIEW_9 Compare
    VIEW_10 Compare


    I am quite excited to have been able to experience this observation and happy to share it with you. I have seen many hundreds of Vermilion flycatchers here in Veracruz over the past six years, but this is the first that I have ever seen one displaying these particular traits.

    You may copy any of the images and share them for educational or non-commercial use. Please leave the text intact.

    Good birding,
    David McCauley
    Tlacotalpan Veracruz MEXICO



  • Dusted off the kayak today.
    Heat was the name of the game today 95F (35C) I grew up in Washington state and it would get up into the 90's in the summer, but the tropics heat is a different beast. It's the humidity. 95 F here in Tlacotalpan is a heat that lays siege on your mind, it messes with your head. My way of dealing with the heat is prioritize, I ask myself do I really need to do it? If the answer is no then it goes on the "manaña" shelf.
    I fooled around in the morning with the new layout on the weblogs. (I like what they have done.)
    Around 1:00p.m. I deal with the urge to 'hawkwatch' (Any hawk watch addicts out there know what I am talking about.) Having just spent a month (200+hours) observing migrating raptors,(you can see a photo/journal account of the spring hawk watch at my weblog http://veracruzhawkwatch.blogspot.com you can't just stop 'cold turkey'.
    Seeing the flight profiles of migrating raptors is a pleasantly addictive experience. So I have to "wean" myself gradually, TODAY...two hours of hawk watch. I counted a total of 53 raptors in blue hazy skies...Turkey vulture, Swainson's hawk, Broad-winged hawk, Mississippi Kite, Osprey.
    The afternoon breeze had few cooling properities as it felt more like a blast furnace. I decided that it might be a good idea to dust off the kayak. It has been a year since I last used the kayak. I have a professional style inflateable kayak, the brand is Aire. It is not swift in the water but it is stable (self bailing) and very easy to transport. The Papaloapan river is located a mere block and a half from the house, so after inflating the kayak, donning my binoculars and vest, I balance the kayak and paddle on my head and move out for cooler domains. I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the water. The breeze had created some nice swells on the river. I crossed the river and entered a small tributaries of the river that connects with several lagoons.
    I had a great birding afternoon, in two hours I observed 47 species of birds and 2 brown basilisk "Jesus Christ lizards"





    Neotropic (Olivaceous) cormorant
    Phalacrocorax brasilianus
    The neotropic cormorant is a resident here in Tlacotalpan, inhabitaing the many lagoons and marshes that are found here. The NT cormorant can often be seen perched on fence posts with its wings outspread. I have observed that the neotropic cormorants are colonial nesters and will share the trees of the nesting rookery with great egrets and cattle egrets. Here are some photos taken recently of the Neotropic cormorant.
    VIEW1
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    Photos digiscoped=Sony Mavica 250CD camera hand held to Nikon spotting scope/Slik tripod

    For those of you who have been following my weblog of the spring hawk watch here in Tlacotalpan http://veracruzhawkwatch.blogspot.com
    I will conduct a full day count today (for the past 5 days we have had rain, high winds, thunderstorms, none of these conditions being condusive to raptor migrations) I am expecting to see a faily good 'push' of raptors today.
    Good birding all.
    David McCauley
    Tlacotalpan Veracruz Mexico



    The magnificent Bare-throated Tiger Heron
    Tigrisoma Mexicanum
    (Spanish) Garza-tigre gorjinuda

    Everytime that I see a Bare-throated Tiger Heron I experiece a bit of that "birders rush". The Bare-throated tiger heron is just a "cool" bird. The Bare-throated Tiger Heron is approximately 30 inches tall (78cm)
    Black crown, eyes are yellow, the throat has a naked yellow patch, the bill is long and heavy, the neck vermiculated dark brown and buff, foreneck has a dark narrow stripe with white borders, dark olive brown upperparts vermiculated buff, underparts are cinnamon colored with gray thighs and the legs are short.
    (For a more complete description see)
    A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Central America
    Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb
    Oxford University Press

    The Bare-throated Tiger Heron can be found in fresh water/ mangrove habitats from Mexico to Hounduras. Here are a series of photos that I took recently of of this magnificent bird
    View 1 View 2 View 3 View 4 View 5 View 6 View 7 View 8 View 9 View 10

    PHOTOS by David McCauley. Photos may be copied for non commercial use. (Photo technique-"digiscoping" Sony Mavica 250CD hand held to eyepiece of Nikon 80 Spotting Scope, Slik tripod)
    Photos taken May 2004
    Habitat: Wetland/Savannah
    Tlacotalpan Veracruz Mexico

    For updates on the Spring Hawk Watch here in Tlacotalpan;
    http://veracruzhawkwatch.blogspot.com
    Good Birding All
    David McCauley
    Birding Veracruz
    Tlacotalpan Veracruz Mexico



    Here we are in the midst of spring and birders are out in greater numbers to enjoy the new sights that spring offers. Peolpe want to share their sightings with others> In wandering around the web recently I have come across pictures of nests, chicks and eggs, I must admit that I find these images a bit discomforting.
    When birds are nesting and caring for young it is an especially delicate time for avifauna. Birds in these situations don't need intrusions, even from well meaning birders. Let's exercise caution about what we photograph, especially when it involves nests, chicks and eggs.
    Good birding
    David McCauley
    Tlacotalpan Veracruz


    American Birding Association's
    PRINCIPLES OF BIRDING ETHICS

    Everyone who enjoys birds and birding must always respect wildlife, its environment, and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first.

    CODE OF BIRDING ETHICS
    1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
    1(a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.

    1(b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.

    Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;

    Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.

    Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

    1(c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.

    1(d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

    2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.
    2(a) Do not enter private property without the owner's explicit permission.

    2(b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.

    2(c) Practise common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.

    3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
    3(a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.

    3(b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.

    3(c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.

    4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.
    Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.

    4(a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.

    4(b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

    Group Leader Responsibilities [amateur and professional trips and tours].

    4(c) Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example.

    4(d) Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment, and does not interfere with others using the same area.

    4(e) Ensure everyone in the group knows of and practises this code.

    4(f) Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (e.g. no tape recorders allowed).

    4(g) Acknowledge that professional tour companies bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds and the benefits of public knowledge ahead of the company's commercial interests. Ideally, leaders should keep track of tour sightings, document unusual occurrences, and submit records to appropriate organizations.


    About me

    • I'm David L. McCauley
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    • David L. McCauley a nature photographer, birding guide. I am currently involved with two projects. 1  leading birding tours with a focus on the bird of prey migrations in Veracruz Mexico.  and 2. Working on a 12 acre plot of land using principles of natural farming, Permaculture, gardening with the end goal of sustainability.
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