Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 15, 2007 Newsletter issued from Yerba Buena Clinic just outside Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 17° 11' 27"N, LONG. -92° 53' 35"W

Last Wednesday I walked to Pueblo Nuevo. It was a dark, drizzly, chilly day not at all good for birding and I didn't really make much of an effort, but I listed them so you can have a feeling for what kind of birds you can hardly miss here. They're listed in the order spotted:

1) Brown-backed Solitaire, a thrushlike bird whose song, an "accelerating, squeaky, metallic, jangling series beginning hesitantly before running into a jumbled crescendo," as Howell describes it in his Mexican-bird masterpiece, heard the moment I step outside; maybe the prettiest birdsong in Mexico.

2) Wilson's Warbler silently foraging in a Sweetgum tree; has just arrived from a summer someplace in Canada, Alaska or the northwestern US, a male in summer plumage with a distinct black cap.

3) Great-tailed Grackles loudly shrieking, clacking, whistling and chattering around the old clinic buildings.

4) Townsend's Warbler silently foraging in a pine after spending the summer in Alaska, western Canada or extreme northwestern US.

5) Slate-throated Redstart flitting nervously among several trees, a slender, slate-gray bird with a red belly, long tail with white spots, and dark red crown.

6) Rufous-capped Warbler flitting among several trees calling excitedly with rapid chips, a yellow warbler with a rusty cap, white eyebrow, and rusty cheek patch

7) House Sparrows in Pueblo Nuevo.

8) Turkey Vulture circling over valley.

The star of the above list is the Slate-throated Redstart, distributed from Mexico to northern Bolivia and Venezuela.

I'm always amazed at the sheer numbers of Wilson's and Townsend's Warblers overwintering here. In many places if you see a small bird flitting among weedy bushes chances are better than 50:50 that it's a Wilson's. The same is true about the Townsend's if you spot something among a pine's or oak's lower branches. I just wonder if they are similarly ubiquitous in their summer haunts?

The University of East Anglica's 1987 Expedition Report fails to list the first bird I hear every morning, the Brown-backed Solitaire. In recent years it's seemed that this species has been turning up in more disturbed places than it used to, like North America's Pileated Woodpeckers. If that's so, I'm glad, for anyone hearing the Brown-backed's bubbling, ebullient song can't keep from cheering up.