And So It Begins – 10,000 Birds

I can’t resist loving my first week of birding every year. Whereas I can’t persuade myself to be enthusiastic about my First-Of-Yr Home Sparrows, nearly the rest is thrilling. Simply right this moment (Saturday) I received to have fun a Cooper’s Hawk, Berylline Hummingbird, and Lesser Goldfinch — widespread birds all, however nonetheless nice when they’re FOY.

This yr, I had the additional satisfaction of going to Lake Cuitzeo for my first outing. In most years, that wouldn’t be all that particular — the lake is generally the place I can see probably the most species in a single day, so I often go there first. However final yr, I didn’t go to the lake first, as a result of there was no lake. Lake Cuitzeo had dried up due to excessive drought. However the rains have been good final summer season, so again to my lake I’m going.

I additionally had the privilege of taking my buddy Nacho with me. Though he’s a biologist, he’s somewhat new to birding, and had by no means executed so in an space full of waterfowl and shorebirds. So, whereas Nacho recurrently teaches me about our space’s vegetation, I received to share with him the delights of distinguishing between Least and Western Sandpipers.

Yellow legs, a relatively skinny invoice: Least Sandpiper

Black legs, a thicker invoice with a somewhat bulbous base: Western Sandpiper. (These photographs exaggerate the scale distinction between the 2 species, which is definitely so minimal as to be nearly ineffective for ID functions.)

I wish to assume he additionally benefitted from the years that it took for me to be taught that lots of the Lengthy-billed Dowitchers I had seen on the lake through the years have been truly Stilt Sandpipers.

The beefier birds with frivolously striped flanks and heavy straight payments are Dowitchers, whereas the Stilt Sandpipers on this photograph have been sort sufficient to present us a full view of their thinner, barely curved payments.

I additionally believed, for years, that the white-breasted swallows widespread on the lake every winter have been all Violet-green Swallows. Some, certainly, are. However a few years in the past I found that many are Tree Swallows. I used to be capable of get sufficient photographs in flight of today’s swallows to substantiate that they have been all of this second species.

Photographing swallows on the wing is a thankless job. However this photograph is simply ok to indicate a complete lack of white on the chook’s rump, confirming that it, and all its companions, have been Tree Swallows somewhat than Violet-green Swallows.

We had a pleasant assortment of birds of prey for the day. There weren’t any Crimson-tailed Hawks. (I can’t imagine I’ve made it by means of the primary twelve days of the yr with out seeing any Crimson-tailed Hawks.) However I’ll commerce Crimson-taileds any day for a Northern Harrier, a stunning pair of Peregrine Falcons, and the shocking presence of a pair of Crested Caracaras, usually seen at a lot decrease elevations.

A really distant Harrier

A splendidly shut Peregrine Falcon

An equally shut Crested Caracara. Consider it or not, Caracaras (despite their 4-foot wingspan) are falcons, not hawks.

Despite their many species (migratory Blue-winged, Inexperienced-winged, and Cinnamon Teals, Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails, American Wigeons and Gadwalls; in addition to resident Mexican and Ruddy Geese), the winter geese of Lake Cuitzeo don’t current nice identification challenges. This Inexperienced-winged Teal spoke for himself — fairly actually.

We additionally encountered a pleasant endemic Aztec Rail, too distant for first rate photographs, and a shocking variety of Soras. I’d would like to know if any of our readers have perception into the conduct of 1 Sora. Despite being a winter migrant, which solely reproduces within the U.S. and Canada, it had apparently found an deserted nest, on which it was clearly exhibiting nesting conduct. Despite our proximity, it spent a superb whereas positioned as if it had eggs there. Was it practising?

Nacho was significantly smitten by his first sighting of Cactus Wrens. He has a number of expertise with its shut relative in Morelia, the endemic Noticed Wren. However you drive a half hour north and throughout the lake, and out of the blue you’re within the territory of the Cactus Wren, a traditional chook of the Sonoran desert. One significantly daring couple gave us fairly a present.

He was additionally fairly taken with the Clark’s Grebes, one among which gave us an unusually shut view of that fantastic crimson eye.

We actually couldn’t complain in regards to the day’s whole of 81 species. That quantity was a bit higher than my first-day whole from 2019, although a bit worse than 2020’s whole. However it positive beat the 41 species I noticed final yr, when the lake was dry. And the Aztec Rail and Peregrine Falcons have been birds I may not see in a given yr, as have been, arguably, the Tree Swallows. So, as they are saying right here in Mexico, we received off the bed on the precise aspect!


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