Wednesday 21 November 2012

Desierto de Los Leones, Mexico City, November 2012

My colleague JP joined me today for a trip to the pine/oak forests of Desierto de Los Leones in the mountains above Mexico City. It was a quiet day in the forest, but I cannot say whether an exciting earthquake early that morning had dampened the birds’ appetites, or J’s hi-vis shorts had scared them off. Red warblers still proved to be reliable and were seen in each party along with Mexican Chickadee and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The number of parties was much reduced from my previous visits and each feeding flock was smaller with fewer species.

It was cold when the taxi dropped us at a mountain hut approximately 2.5kms along the road (Google Earth ref; 19°18'18.83"N 99°18'29.80"W), but less than a kilometre southeast across the valley from the Carmelite convent. The sun was just touching the tops of the trees across the valley, but the road remained shaded and gloomy. Our priorities were set by being chilly and underdressed.

The first party, with the Red Warbler, Mexican Chickadee and Ruby-crowned Warbler stalwarts, was augmented by a Hairy Woodpecker and a Brown Creeper. The distinctive call of the Brown-backed Solitaire jangled back and forth across the valley, but the birds could not be seen. I had assured J that they were fairly common and we would probably find one later, but despite hearing it numerous times, we never managed to pin one down.

A stream passes under the road and we were surprised to find the area quite devoid of bird life. We had reached a section of road blessed by the weak morning sun and we were able to stop for a while as J’s flip-flopped toes came back to life. We reached the convent as one of the cafés opened for business and we stopped to warm up for a while. I should have learned my lesson from last time when a large breakfast reduced my capacity for lung expansion in the thin atmosphere at 3000m, but having Sherpa J along to carry the brick-like field guide was a big help.

A path leads uphill from the convent, past the hermitages, for about 1km before meeting an unmade road. The sun had a chance to light some of the birds here which were feeding in lower branches. Even so, they remained aloof and photos had to be taken through the leaves and branches. A Slaty-throated Redstart proved to be the most accommodating of them all.

We returned to the convent and continued downhill via a path to the left of the building as we approached it. This area often gives up a Green-striped Brush-finch as it did today. Further down a small party included a Crescent-chested Parula and a Golden-browed Warbler.

The path eventually leads down to a village and a junction with a road on which a taxi can be readily found. Keep to the right at the first junction and go straight across onto the cobbled road at the stream crossing. The village and neighbourhood at the bottom of the hill did not give us cause to fear for our safety, but the descent is remote and lonely. It took approximately 3 hours from the convent by the time we stopped for a bowl of soup at a café on the lower slopes (Google Earth ref; 19°19'51.20"N 99°18'6.24"W).

If a visitor elects not to follow the path down from the convent, then they will have to arrange an alternative way home. Taxis pass through during the day, but not regularly and it would be as well not to have to depend on one chancing by. 

Birds seen; 13

 Acorn Woodpecker 2, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Mexican Chickadee 12, Brown Creeper 3, Golden-crowned Kinglet 1, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 12, American Robin 6, Crescent-chested Warbler 1, Golden-browed Warbler 3, Red Warbler 10, Slate-throated Redstart 4, Green-striped Brush-finch 1, Yellow-eyed Junco 8

For a previous post from Desierto deLos Leones, follow the link below;

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