Birding Without Borders

Day 128: Two Awesome Birds

Noah spots some species he's chased for years.

May 8, 2015, Valle Nacional, Mexico — Today was bookended by two freakin’ radical birds: In the morning I laid eyes on a Sumichrast’s Wren, and in the evening these same two eyes focused on a Tody Motmot! The wren is a superendemic species, found only in a few scattered areas of karst rock outcroppings in southern Mexico; it’s an ancient, unevolved bird, taxonomically prehistoric compared to more familiar wrens, with a huge eye and a long bill for probing in rocky cracks. And the Tody Motmot—maybe my favorite bird of the week—is a charismatic creature of deep, dark thickets and ravines in wet forests; it’s found from here to Colombia but is rare everywhere, and I’ve wanted to see one for years. Today was the day!

In between the wren and the motmot, Eric, Jilly, and I spent hours looking for a tiny ball of feathers called the Bumblebee Hummingbird. The Bumblebee is endemic to Mexico and, in Oaxaca, is found on the higher, humid reaches of the Atlantic slope. When it flies, it goes bbzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, just like a big bee. The three of us drove around on various dirt roads with the windows down, cruising slowly to listen for that distinctive buzz, which is surprisingly loud from such a small bird. When we finally heard it, after lunch, the game still wasn’t over: This particular Bumblebee Hummingbird was up in the canopy somewhere, and we spent more than an hour standing with our necks craned to get a glimpse. Finally, I saw a little silhouette buzz from one treetop to another. Good enough for the list, but I hope we get a better view of one tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, by the way, is eBird’s Global Big Day, when thousands of birders around the world will be birding simultaneously and pooling their sightings, and I’ll be joining this massive effort from Oaxaca! Not sure what I’m talking about? Check it out

New birds today: 11

Year list: 2459

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