Birding Without Borders

Day 134: Where the Woodnymphs Are

Tracking down an endemic hummer.

May 14, 2015, San Blas, Mexico — I’ve hit the ceiling in Mexico—there just aren’t enough new birds left in this country to keep the pace. I suppose this is a good “problem” to have, because it means I’ve done very well so far this year. But with the halfway mark inching closer, adding just a couple of birds each day feels so lethargic! Things will pick up again soon; meanwhile, I am searching for a few last endemics in northern Mexico.

Rene, Phil and I repositioned this morning from Mazatlan to San Blas, a couple hours to the south and in the state of Nayarit. San Blas is a charming little town on the coast, especially popular with surfers, and it’s one of Mexico’s best-known birding destinations. I have actually visited San Blas twice before, and it’s fun to be back! When we arrived today, we picked up a local birder named Francisco Garcia who will accompany us for the next two days around San Blas, and the four of us immediately headed to the nearby town of Tepic to look for a bird called the Mexican Woodnymph.

Francisco knew a semi-secret spot inside the forest where the woodnymphs gather around a spring to bathe, and we walked in on a cattle path to reach it. Sure enough, several of the iridescent hummingbirds were buzzing around a puddle when we approached. The spring, surrounded on three sides by rock walls and draped with vines, seemed like a perfect setting for such a bird.

I asked Francisco how he’d found this place and he told an interesting story. A pack of vicious feral dogs used to live along the nearby road, he said, and these dogs got so out of control at one point that they killed two people. A friend of Francisco’s was walking here when he heard the dog pack approaching, so he ducked into the forest to avoid an encounter. When he looked around, he realized that he was surrounded by Mexican Woodnymphs, one of northwest Mexico’s hardest-to-find birds! Since then, people from the surrounding village have hunted down and eliminated the dogs, and the woodnymphs have proven reliable at this one place in the hills above Tepic. 

New birds today: 2

Year list: 2491

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