6 August 2013
We visited the Chamela Biological Research Station in search of the elusive Flammulated Flycatcher and other tropical dry forest species upon special permission provided by Dr. Jorge Humberto Vega Rivera. Thank you Dr. Vega Rivera for allowing us to visit Chamela! The Chamela Biological Station is a branch of the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). A lot of great research takes place at Chamela. Dr. Vega Rivera and his students are currently examining the interactions between Citreoline Trogon and the termite nests where trogons build their nests. His team is also examining the diversity of avian species on the islands in Bahía Chamela.
The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology generously loaned us recording equipment to capture bird songs throughout our expedition for their library of bird sounds. Chamela was a great place for us to record birds; no barking dogs, no chickens, no cars… a sheer pleasure after recording on the Mázatlan-Durango Highway. Recording bird sounds is actually a bit more difficult that it sounds. Not only do you need to try to get close enough to the bird to capture a clear sound, but even the smallest bit of noise (even from the recorder) can affect the quality of the recording. In San Blas, Josh made a great recording of a Rosy-thrush Tanager, but in the background you could hear ranchero music. Ah well, at least you know you are in Mexico! So with little in our way we headed out down the paths around the research station. Within 10 minutes we heard the song of the Olive Sparrow, a species we spent several hours searching for but not seeing at Rancho Primavera. This little Olive Sparrow was not shy at all and sang whole heartedly within 5 meters of the trail…a perfect set up for a good recording. Now all I needed to do was hold still and try not to breathe too hard. Ten minutes later we heard the song of the Flammulated Flycatcher! Ah finally! We got great looks and what should be a great recording! We also recorded Rosy-Thrush Tanager, White-bellied Wren, and, during a 1 hour stakeout in which we peered vainly into incredibly dense tropical scrub to no avail, we also got a great recording of a Thicket Tinamou with a bit of Kathi’s stomach growling in the recording 🙂 Thicket Tinamous are very shy and reclusive and despite standing silently within about 10-15 meters of the skulker we didn’t even get a glimpse. Hopefully next time, luck will be on our side.
We camped just north of Chamela on the beach at Xametla, a nice campground with showers, restaurant, and a bar. While we were enjoying the last of the evening light we noticed a few bats circling around the truck. Then we started watching the ocean and saw thousands of bats stream by toward the mainland. Wow! What a spectacle to watch. We tried to figure out what bat species they might be but it turns out that several bat species roost out on the islands in Bahía Chamela. The bats were probably Parnell’s Mustached Bats, but they could also have been Davy’s Naked-Backed Bats, Lesser Long-nosed Bats, or Wagner’s Mustached Bats.