Short West Mexico 1 Jan 12—18, 2008
Posted by Brian Gibbons
We were greeted at Rancho Primavera by Pat and Bonnie, our fantastic hosts, and the buzz of hummingbirds. We were soon indoctrinated to the great food, birds, and kindness of Rancho Primavera.
Our first morning was a wonderful introduction to the birds of western Mexico. The highlight of the morning had to be the Black-throated Magpie-Jays. A couple of flocks screamed at us as they passed through. The Russet-crowned Motmot was more reserved and simply came out to see us after a little prompting. Blue and Varied buntings foraged along the roadside, sometimes popping out to give us a view.
After great looks at some new birds, we headed to Hacienda el Divisadero for a filling lunch. The Ivory-billed Woodcreeper was the highlight, as it hitched up the giant fig in the middle of the courtyard. The Hacienda is a new establishment, but built with great care and workmanship to evoke the elegant haciendas of earlier centuries. We spent this afternoon on the ranch where most folks got great looks at the Rosy Thrush-Tanager.
During our stay at Rancho Primavera we made several trips to other habitats. We visited the thorn forest and its endemic-rich avifauna, the pines and oaks of La Bascula, the rich agricultural and marshy areas of Cruz de Loreto, the mangroves and estuaries of the coast and, of course, the forest, pasture, and ponds of Rancho Primavera. The fruiting fig trees are one of the highlights of any Rancho Primavera visit. This year, one tree along the entrance road was in fruit. On our first afternoon this tree hosted a pile of Rufous-backed Robins and a few White-throated Robins, as well as tanagers, orioles, flycatchers, and kingbirds. Dodie found our Red-breasted Chat, a prize of the thorn forest. Not to be outdone, the Orange-breasted Buntings put on a show too. Flammulated Flycatcher was another endemic that popped out for us during a stop which was intended for Nutting’s Flycatcher. Our first Citreoline Trogon was in a fruiting fig at a little side road.
After our thorn forest birding we enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch at Tehua. Then we were off to Aquiles Serdan and a small estuary there. The Collared Plovers were running around on the sand as expected. In the town, just past the soccer fields, there was a color-banded Least Sandpiper running around with the other shorebirds. I haven't tracked its origin yet, but I will keep you informed.
In the pines and oaks it took two mornings, but we finally got all the good birds. The highlight had to be on our second morning when a female Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird was gnatting in the early morning sun. Also on day two in the pines was a male Gray-collared Becard. Coming more easily on day one were Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Spotted Wren, Black-headed Siskin, White-striped Woodcreeper, and a Blue Mockingbird. Down in the hot country of Cruz de Loreto we had an amazing encounter with a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, which eventually tolerated our presence to allow for great scope views. Roadside Hawk and Mangrove Swallows made the list down in Cruz de Loreto.
Our final morning's drive was interrupted in southern Puerto Vallarta, a welcome interruption. A Citreoline Trogon, then two, sat on a wire over the road. We zipped in and parked, only to discover a tree full of birds. Our best discovery here was not the trogons, but a couple of West Mexican Chachalacas. Everybody had great scope views of yet another Mexican endemic. After several minutes of "oohs” and “aahs" we had to proceed north.
Our next stop was in the Nuevo Vallarta area. A little patch of scrub and a few trees produced two more endemics. We called in, for excellent views, several Elegant Quail with their amazing headdress of rufous feathers. Next, on cue, as if just released from a stagehand (VENT does not do that or condone it), the Mexican Parrotlets zoomed into the fruiting fig. From there they melted into the fig, and after several minutes we couldn't find one. A little further north we stopped at Laguna Quelele, a great birding lagoon. Here we heard yet another Collared Forest-Falcon, and a Peregrine and a Cooper's Hawk zipped through the sky, no doubt terrorizing the hordes of ducks and shorebirds. There was a tree full of Roseate Spoonbills and a couple of very cooperative, massively billed Boat-billed Herons. Into the mangroves we went on a crab hole riddled trail. Just after I pointed and said, "These small gaps are where you might see Rufous-necked Wood-Rail," a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail obligingly walked through! Most folks enjoyed decent silhouette views of this mangrove skulker.
We had nailed all our quality birds and it was time to return to the frozen north, except for me. I was fortunate to do it all over again the next week!