VIVA EL NARANJO! by Jim Morgan
On December 27, 1979, David Matson, Walter Piper and I departed Houston at 5:00 a.m.
with the destination of Ciudad Mante In southern Tamaullpas, Mexico. About 14 hours
later, Including a lunch break and almost 2 hours getting through red tape at the
border, we arrived at our motel In Mante where we met fellow 00 members Ron and
Marcia Braun. After dinner It was off to bed so we could get an early start birding
the next day.
In the early morning darkness, we CG'ers headed out to the El Naranjo Christmas
Count circle, which was to occupy our entire birding activities for the next four
days. The EI Naranjo circle Is mainly located In the Mexican state of San Luis
Po+osi and we chose to begin birding on the far western edge of the circle and work
our way back to the east. As this was the first day of Mexican birding for all our
group but David Matson, lifers were coming "fast and furious" through the day.
Spending most of the day in the higher forest after a couple of hours on the drier
western slope, the four of us new to Mexico picked up about 25-30 lifers each. Some
of the more Interesting birds of the day which we alI saw were Muscovy Duck, Bat
Falcon, Military Macaw, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue-crowned Motmo+, Barred An+shrlke,
Brown-backed Soll+aire, Rufous-browed Peppershrlke, 5 "Mexican" warblers, 2 species
of Euphonla, and Blue BuntIng.
Heading back +o Man+e af+er our first day of birding none of us were aware that we
were yet to see our best bird of the day. This circumstance was brought about by
the fact that a truck/car accident on the return road to Mante completely blocked
all traffic and we were left with the choices of trying to wait until the road was
cleared, take an alternate route of 180 miles, or go back +o the count circle to
find a place to stay the night. We opted for the latter, and after locating a spot
for the night we decided to go out Into the darkness and do some owllng. We had not
gone a half mile when our light located two orange eyes on top of a pole along the
side of the road. These eyes belonged to one of the strangest but most fascinating
birds I have ever seen....a Common Potoo! All 5 of us watched this bird for at
least 20 minutes while Ron took several pictures, guessing at exposures needed for
the odd light situatton we had. This bird more than made up for the Inconvenience
of our blocked return path to Mante.
We spent our second day birding along the river and in the lowlands of theicount
circle. The most memorable moment of this second day came for me as we rounded a
bend in a dirt road and spotted a raptor in a bare-limbed tree across a sugar cane
field but in our direct view. This bird was buffy white with a black mask and distinctly barred tail. After only a few seconds of viewing, the bird took flight
and correct shouts of the identification were heard....Laughing Falcon! What a
gorgeous raptor! It alighted once again to allow careful viewing with our scopes.
Shortly after this sighting we were to view a Great Black Hawk just down the road.
Other good birds this second day included Collared Forest-Fa Icon, Ruddy Ground-dove,
Green Parakeet and Red-crowned Parrots In full view while perched, and White-collared
Swift. .vr'vi +r»„.
At the end of our second day of birding we met El Naranjo Count co-compilers and
fellow 00 members, Ben Feltner and Mary Ann Chapman, along with several other birders, back in Mante to swap birding stories of our two delightful days of birding
and their exuberant experiences at Tezultlan. We also made plans to go out together
the next day within the count circle once again.
Some of our third day was spent scouting the count circle for marshes, but many good
birds were also seen. These Included Short-tailed Hawk, Immature Peregrine Falcon
(always good to see). Fork-tailed Emerald, and Masked Tityra. During the day we
also met up with former UTC birder Holly Hobart, who was down to help out on the
Our fourth and final day of birding was Count Day for the El Naranjo Count. Even
after 3 days of birding entirely within the count circle I still picked up ten
lifers on Count day, including a Rufescent Tlnamou which crossed right in front of
our car on a dirt road. Mottled Owl, Yellow-billed Cacique, Dusky-tailed Ant-tanager,
Black-headed Sal+a+or and Crimson-collared Grosbeak. How well did the count turn
out? Would you believe 245 species with only 14 observers? That's right! And It
was done on a day when the higher forest had fog and/or low clouds all day! With
30 or more good observers, and good weather, Ben feels this count can approach 275
species! And this is an Inland count, far from sal+wa+er. What po+en+ial!
In four days of birding our par+y of 3 saw 214 species wl+hln the El Naranjo count
circle, and we could only cover maybe 15)8 of the circle which fs 90? blrdable habi-