Birding Without Borders

Day 130: In Ruins

Birding in an ancient Mesoamerican city.

May 10, 2015, Mazatlan, Mexico — Eric and I hit a road outside Oaxaca for a few hours this morning and found one new bird, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. My list of possible additions in south-central Mexico had bottomed out after five productive days, so I knew it would be difficult to add much today. But one bird is infinitely better than zero! The streak stays alive: I’ve seen at least one new bird each day since the third of January.

When the day’s heat kicked in, activity died and we went for tamales and black mole. After lunch, with no reasonable birds to search for within a four-hour radius, Eric suggested we spend my last couple of hours in Oaxaca at the Monte Alban ruins, the area’s most famous archeological site. Monte Alban is a Zapotec city dating from 500 B.C. which sits on a flattened mountaintop above Oaxaca; it has been partially excavated and cleaned up for visitors, and it’s a spectacular spot with a grand plaza, pyramids, a ball court, and various tombs. Birding around the ruins is pretty good, too—I photographed a Slaty Vireo across from the ball court, and Rock and Canyon wrens sang from the pyramids. Did wrens used to sing during the human sacrifices that occurred here, or did these birds move in to occupy the ruins later? Seriously, the carved stone statues were cool, but I’d love to see some 2,000-year-old records from a Zapotec birder!

I’ve had a great week with Eric (and, for a few days, his wife Jilly) in Oaxaca: In eight days, we found 374 species of birds and cleaned up the endemics. If you ever go birding in southern Mexico, look him up and say hi for me (Eric can be reached through www.mexico-birding.com). This evening he dropped me at the Oaxaca airport with well wishes. My plane flew north through a thunderstorm and things got a bit dark and lively—at one point a lightning bolt streaked past the starboard windows—before touching down near midnight in Mazatlan. One more week in northern Mexico before I leave Latin America behind.

New birds today: 1

Year list: 2463

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