To me, warblers are the most colorful and easily disturbed birds out there. In Mexico there are 64 species, and in the state of Veracruz (where I live), there are 55 migratory and resident species of warblers.
By Alberto Lobato
(translated by Jennie Duberstein)
To me, warblers are the most colorful
and easily disturbed birds out there. In Mexico there are 64 species, and in
the state of Veracruz (where I live), there are 55 migratory and resident species
This diversity is due to factors
including migration. Many of the warblers that arrive here in Veracruz come from
all over North America (where you can find about 45 species). Birds from the
eastern U.S. and Canada migrate along the Gulf of Mexico, while birds from the
west come through the mountains. In central Veracruz, along the low elevation
slopes of the mountains, it is possible to see a combination of migratory
eastern and western warblers, as well as our resident species.
Now I will describe the life of a
warbler observer during the fall in two different spots in the city of Xalapa,
one in the cloud forest and the other in thornscrub.
The Cloud Forest
The first location I am going to write
about is a park outside of Xalapa called “Santuario del Bosque de Niebla”
(Cloud Forest Sanctuary), where the forest is well-conserved throughout most of
the sanctuary. I generally arrive at this spot around 7am, when there is still
a fine layer of cloud covering everything and it is very humid. There are many
birds, such as Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, and noisy
White-crowned Parrots flying around. At first it seems like there are not many
warblers around, so I take a trail that extends from the main road. Walking a
little bit I begin to listen to some “cheeps,” and there they are, two resident
species foraging next to a fallen tree trunk: a pair of Golden-browed Warblers
and a small group of Golden-crowned Warblers. The Golden-browed is notable for
its enormous golden eyebrow. Continuing along the trail, I find a very familiar
migrant: Wilson’s Warblers are everywhere! Later another familiar friend
appears, climbing around in the branches: Black-and-White Warbler is also here.
As I go deeper into the cloud forest
the mosquitoes appear. Many, many
mosquitoes. But hunting the mosquitoes between the trees, there are also
birds: Social Flycatchers, different species of Empidonax flycatchers, and warblers. Here are a Black-throated
Green, various Wilson’s, and a Nashville Warbler. On the ground I spot a
Northern Waterthrush and an Ovenbird, and this reminds me that I found my lifer Northern Waterthrush in the sanctuary this past August.
I finally return to the main trail and
spot some movement in the trees. Amongst the more common warblers, I spy another rarer bird, probably a female Black-throated Blue Warbler,
which is not common here.
I head toward the exit of the park
around 12:30pm and by this time there aren’t very many birds. But a Gartered
Trogon (one of the three trogon species I have seen here) is perched quietly in
the crown of a tree. I search the nearby ground carefully for the Fan-tailed
Warblers that you can sometimes see here, but without luck. Maybe next time!
Thorn Forest: Parque Natura
Parque Natura is a reserve in the
extreme east of Xalapa. It has remnants of cloud forst, coffee plantations, and
the start of thornscrub habitat. It is also one of my favorite places to go
birding. I’ve spotted 117 bird species here, and there are many others that I
have yet to spot myself, although other birders have seen them.
This park has various entrances, but I
generally enter by the main one and walk the length of the park to the exit on
the other side. I almost always arrive at 7 or 7:30am and spend some time up in
the observation tower at the park entrance, where you can see large flocks of
White-fronted Parrots and ocassionally a view of the resident Short-tailed Hawk,
perched in the crown of a tree. On this day, in other trees nearby the tower
there are some migratory warblers, a pair of Wilson’s Warblers, and a
Black-throated Green Warber, as well as the gnatchatchers that are always
present during this time of year.
When I climb down from the tower, I
find more warblers: on the ground and in the shrubs I can spot Rufous-capped
Warblers looking for food. This resident species is very noisy. Walking along
the trail, I arrive to an open, shrubby zone. This is the spot where I almost
always find the endemic Hooded Yellowthroat, although today I don’t see
anything. Instead I focus on a nearby dead tree, where a Roadside Hawk is
perched. This is the problem—as long as the hawk is there, no birds are going
to come out. I decide to wait for a few minutes, in hopes that the hawk will
leave, and suddenly a flock of Brown Jays appears and begins to mob the hawk,
who flies off, pursecuted by the jays. As this happens, I begin to hear
agitated calls in the shrubs, and there is a male Hooded Yellowthroat among the
branches. Closer to the forest is a male Common Yellowthroat which arrives for
the Veracruz winter.
After walking a bit, I enter the forest
again, but this part is special for me. It is a place called “el pasillo de los
chipes” (the warbler corridor). During the fall, you can spot 18 species of
warblers just by walking about five meters. Magnolia, Worm-eating,
Golden-crowned, Orange-crowned, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, and Hooded warblers,
Ovenbird, Tropical and Northern parulas, and Common Yellowthroat are all here,
along with others. And at the start of the fall migration, I spotted a
beautiful pair of Prothonatory Warblers.
As I continue to walk, the trail
divides. I normally take the trail that leades to a small lagoon and picnic
area that then leads to the park exit. Following this trail, I can see the first
migratory warblers of the season. This year a Black-and-white Warbler that I
spotted in July led the migration. Canada and Yellow warblers quickly followed,
and later other species began to appear, as well as flycatchers and buntings.
In the lagoon you can find Pie-billed Grebe, but one of my most interesting
sightings was in the trees next to the lagoon: one April I spotted a Blackpoll
Warbler there, a very unusual sighting for thie area, as the species generally
migrates along the Caribbean Sea.
The birding on the road from the lagoon
to the park exit can a bit slow. There aren’t many birds because there are many
people, but you can still spot an Osprey hunting over the water. But this doesn’t
bother me, because I, for my part, am very satisfied with the warblers that
About the author: Alberto Lobato is a 16-year-old birder who was born in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. He has been birding since he was 5 years old and is an active member of the Xalapa Birding Club (Club de Observadores de Aves de Xalapa, or COAX). He has traveled with COAX to various parts of Mexico. In addition to birding, he is a musician, with an interest in traditional music. Alberto’s favorite bird is the Bearded Wood-Partridge.