Wednesday, February 06, 2013

January Birding

For the past few years I have enjoyed counting birds in the month of January with the goal of exceeding my previous totals. There are several interesting winter birding sites within an easy drive of our home in Ontario and last January I also counted birds in Mexico. This January was a busy month and there was not much time for intensive birding on my agenda. Nevertheless, I kept my eyes open for birds and added one life bird in Mexico.

Josh Vandermeulen is a young, enthusiastic local birder. In 2012 he did an Ontario Big Year and counted an impressive 374 bird species in our province. His blog Ontario Birds and Herps chronicles his adventures. On January 1st he wrote,

"Often when out birding, my technique can often be summed up like this. See fluttering movement. Move binoculars up to see bird. Bam! Identify it. Move on to the next bird, and repeat. It is easy for me to get into the trap of only viewing the bird for as long as necessary to ID it and then continue on. This can lead to the dangerous trap of over-confidence with identification, and it can also lead to a lack of appreciation of the bird's behaviour, habitat, and other things apart from identification. I will try to force myself to actually spend time sitting still and watching the birds and their behaviours."

This January I had time to watch bird behaviour while visiting my family in Mexico and here are a few discoveries.

I watched an adult Loggerhead Shrike feeding a fledgling just a few metres from the house. The young bird is on the white post and the adult is on the fence wire. There were two fledglings and their loud calls attracted my attention as they competed for parental attention. Offspring of any species keep their parents very busy and these birds were no exception!

A pair of Altimira Orioles caught my eye from the breakfast table while splashing in the bird bath. Looking more closely, I noticed one of their fledglings perched quietly on a nearby orange cluster. It blended in so well that I did not see it until it moved slightly.

At the side corner of the house, two or three Greyish Saltators could be seen foraging in the fruit trees each afternoon. These seed-eating songbirds are common through tropical areas of Central and South America and Mexico is part of their northern range. This was a life bird for me.

I noticed a large population of Blue-grey Gnatcatchers last year in Mexico and they were abundant again this year. In the evening, just before sunset, they would "gnat-catch" along the fence behind the house. I was able to observe them at close range but they are tiny and fast and hard to capture in evening light with a camera.

It was common to startle a flock of these Inca Doves while walking on the property. They blended in so well with the ground cover that I usually did not notice them until they flew upward. These ground feeders like to huddle close together in groups in the sunshine. 

The Egret in the first picture was perched on a branch in the village less than a kilometer from my parents' home. It was in the vicinity of a small stream which coursed near the town square or zocalo and was spotted by my brother as he was driving.

I did a rough tally of birds seen around home in Ontario and very locally in Mexico and came up with 27 birds in each location for a total of 54 birds. That is a fair total for very leisurely birding.


  1. You are certainly the biggest bird brain that know. :)

  2. Ruth, how wonderful that you were able to get to Mexico again. so many of the birds you saw there I can see right here in AZ, but that Grayish Saltator is a bird I have never heard of! Congrats on your life bird and your total!

  3. This post is like a breath of fresh air on this dreary winter day. I especially loved the egret on the treetop. What a treat!

  4. So neat to be able to travel and see so many different birds!

    I saw "The Flight of the Butterflies" recently and thought of you. Have you ever had the chance while in Mexico to visit any of the mountains where Monarchs spend the winter? I would love to take a trip like that someday.

  5. How fun to be able to bird in a different locale and see things you'd never see up in Canada!

  6. Thanks for the comments...
    @Laura... I really hope to visit the monarchs in Mexico some day. It is a 2 day trip for my family and circumstances don't allow it right now. We tried to see the migrating Monarchs at Pacific Grove CA in 2009 but a storm moved them away just before we arrived


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