Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 9, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO
(at Jalpan, Querétaro)

Last Sunday I walked around Jalpan's reservoir, taking about five hours, listing the birds so you can get a fix on what species are commonly seen here.

It wasn't a good birding day. It'd rained all night, unusual for the heart of the dry season, and all morning it was so dark, misty and drizzly that I missed several species just because I couldn't see their colors. When I started out at 8 AM it was 60°, dropped to 55° when I climbed upslope into the cloud-fog, and was 60° again when I returned five hours later.

Usually I list birds as I see them, so you can enjoy watching how the bird-species mix changes as I walk through one habitat after another. However, this time all the birds came from the lake's edge where scrub and disturbed areas met the water. When I climbed the slope to get to the road on the lake's other side it was so foggy and drizzly that birds weren't too evident and I saw nothing different. Therefore, the following list is "phylogenetic" -- theoretically ancient bird-types coming first, newly evolved species coming last -- the way most field guides represent them. This way, if you want to fill your head with pretty colors, interesting designs and miscellaneous bird-thoughts, you can look up the following species in your own guide to North American birds, starting at the front of your field guide and working toward the end.

  1. Neotropic Cormorant, 2 on a snag in shallow water
  2. Great Blue Heron, like a statue at water's edge
  3. Snowy Egret, 2 atop tree at water's edge
  4. Cattle Egret, 2, each riding a cow's back
  5. Wood Stork, stalking along water's edge
  6. Blue-winged Teal, ±15 noodling weeds at water's edge
  7. American Kestrel, atop a maguey's dead flower stalk
  8. American Coot, 14 scattered, paddling independently
  9. Spotted Sandpiper, wagging tail on mud bar
  10. White-winged Dove, many flocks of 10-20 flying by
  11. Inca Dove, on ground in fallow cornfield
  12. Elegant Trogon, female snatching cherry-like fruits
  13. Golden-fronted Woodpecker, atop cement power pole
  14. Tufted Flycatcher, snatching bugs along shore
  15. Eastern Phoebe, snatching bugs along shore
  16. Social Flycatcher, 3 in different trees, one calling
  17. Violet-green Swallow, several swooping low over water
  18. Green Jay, complaining JEHRRR JEHRRR JEHRRR in scrub
  19. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, snatching gnats in scrub
  20. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, abundant in scrub everywhere
  21. Brown-backed Solitaire, beautiful crescendo call
  22. Blue Mockingbird, lustily singing from hidden perch
  23. Cedar Waxwing, ±15 high-pitched ZEEEEEing in treetops
  24. Nashville Warbler, brightly yellow, showing rusty cap
  25. Yellow-rumped Warbler, several debugging acacia fls
  26. Black-and-white Warbler, foraging on tree-trunks
  27. Wilson's Warbler, very common in scrub along shore
  28. Northern Cardinal, bright male in scrub along road
  29. Black-headed Grosbeak, nibbling cherry-like fruit
  30. Indigo Bunting, ±10 in scrub, males mottled blue
  31. Melodious Blackbird, singing in tip-top of tree
  32. Great-tailed Grackle, several loudly calling
  33. Brown-headed Cowbird, 2 in tree next to pasture

Every species in the above list is also found somewhere in the US -- though sometimes the distribution extends only a few miles north across the border. Species not found in North America do occur here, but I didn't see any. I'm not too surprised by this, since the Eastern Sierra Madres can be followed all the way north into western Texas and beyond, where they become the Rocky Mountains. In other words, no major ecological barriers block birds from flying between here and Texas.

The "star" of the above list is certainly the Elegant Trogon, sometimes known as the Coppery-tailed Trogon, its distribution extending into the US only in southeastern Arizona and extreme western Texas. The female I saw was feeding in the typical trogon manner: After quietly perching, she'd suddenly fly up to a fruit, take it into her beak as she fluttered in mid air, then let herself drop, so that her weight helped snap the fruit off the tree.

When you make any such list often you miss a few very common species and see others that are rare. It's hard to believe I saw no Pied-billed Grebes on the lake or Vermillion Flycatchers in the scrub. However, my first sighting of the Elegant Trogon at this location made up for that.