02 Feb 04 Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico
We were up at 6:00 AM to meet Roque Antonio Santiago, our guide for the next few days. We picked up our friend, Ramiro, as well and birded north and west up into the Sierra Madre Occidental, on the dry, southerly slopes. The vegetation changed as we gained altitude: scrub oak and shrubs on the valley floor and lower slopes, scrub oak mixed with a variety of pines higher up, and just pines on the upper slopes and summits.
Roque knows the area very well, and led us to some selected spots. In developed areas, there are large numbers of Cattle Egrets and Great-tailed Grackles, but not far out of town the variety picked up. It was hard to get used to the numbers of Vermillion Flycatchers and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers; those are exceptional birds in the U.S.
We gradually worked our way up to Guajimoloyas, near the summit of the Sierra Madre Occidental, at 3,042 meters. We found Brown Creeper, Pine Warbler and Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, but missed the Mexican Chickadee.
In the afternoon, we explored and birded Monte Alban, the monumental Zapotecan ruins south of Oaxaca City. The gruesome friezes and sheer size remind you that the mountain was leveled and the pyramids built by slaves, and that thousands of Indians were sacrificed.
Nancy and Roque
Mixed pine forest
|Oaxaca isn't as badly trashed as the areas of northern Mexico and Baja California I've seen. But close in to the cities and towns, there is still a discouraging amount of trash and garbage.
The steepness of the mountains makes for twisting, steep roads. Roque drives a Jeep Wrangler, and is less aggressive than some of the other drivers. But the drivers and the roads combine to make me leery of driving the mountain roads myself.
Roque lives in Teotitlan, a village east of Oaxaca City that we'll visit tomorrow. He is mostly Zapotec; English is his third language.
Looking down from the South Pyramid to the northwest
Monte Alban, Oaxaca
|At Monte Alban, we saw our only Rock Wrens of the entire trip, as well as White-tailed kite, Black-vented Oriole and Vaux Swift. After much work, we decided there was a Loggerhead Shrike, and once again the Vermillion Flycatchers were everywhere.
|HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS
NEW WORLD VULTURES
HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES
FALCONS AND CARACARAS
PIGEONS AND DOVES
CROWS AND JAYS
VIREOS AND ALLIES
WAXWINGS AND SILKY-FLYCATCHERS
|MOCKINGBIRDS AND THRASHERS
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
SISKINS, CROSSBILLS AND ALLIES
NEW WORLD WARBLERS
Black-throated Gray Warbler
BUNTINGS, SPARROWS, TANAGERS, ALLIES
BLACKBIRDS, GRACKLES, ORIOLES