Short West Mexico 2 Jan 19—25, 2009
Posted by Brian Gibbons
We headed south from the hectic Puerto Vallarta traffic into the tropical forest in the mountains of the El Tuito area. Our first birding stop netted a cooperative Bat Falcon that was surveying his landscape from a lofty snag over the clear, rocky river below. From here we continued to Rancho Primavera where we were greeted by Pat and Bonnie, hummingbirds, orioles, and the myriad birds that call their yard home.
On our first morning we went into the pine oak zone where we found several endemics and other good birds. Gray-crowned Woodpecker, White-striped Woodcreeper, Russet-crowned Motmot, Military Macaw, Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, and Black-headed Siskins all showed themselves for us. The Spotted Wren would have to wait for our return trip. On our second evening we visited the Ranch pond where the egrets and herons roost in the evening. American Bittern, Purple Gallinule, and Northern Jacanas were all there to be enjoyed.
Our journey the next day to Tehuamixtle was via an awful road, but was great for birds. By late morning a very responsive pair of Red-breasted Chats had allowed us to see them very well. Along the way to finding them we saw Flammulated Flycatcher, White-bellied Wren, and the spectacular Orange-breasted Bunting. The bunting and the chat tied for "bird of the trip" honors, and for good reason. Citreoline Trogon and West Mexican Chachalacas foraged on fruit in the thorn forest. We also had many hummingbirds, flycatchers, and vireos in the thorn forest. After a great lunch at Cande's in Tehua we made a brief check of the lagoon and found a few Collared Plovers. Then it was time to return home via the washboard highway. We added Black-capped Gnatcatcher to our tally at one stop when he stopped in to check out my Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl call. Closer to El Tuito we had a great experience with a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers. The male was carrying around a massive beetle grub. Also nearby was a pair of Lilac-crowned Parrots sitting quietly in a bare tree (spotted by Nina). We were all getting great views of these birds when an explosion of squawking revealed at least 50 parrots as they flew off to roost.
On the Bioto Road we saw the endemic Golden Vireo and the overwintering Black-capped Vireo. A Rosy Thrush-Tanager finally popped into view—it's always a challenge to see this beautiful skulker. A female Elegant Trogon put in a brief appearance, as did a family group of Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers. All through the morning the Lilac-crowned Parrots were flying out to their foraging areas. When I left to retrieve the van the group had excellent views of a perched Military Macaw. For the afternoon we again enjoyed Rancho Primavera and the hummingbirds.
In the Cruz de Loreto agricultural area we saw many different birds. The highlight of our early morning had to have been the Limpkin walking on the road. Then we had sightings of at least three Bare-throated Tiger-Herons, including adults and an immature. Thousands of White-faced Ibis call the agricultural fields their winter home. The small ponds were also home to many ducks, shorebirds, waders, and Jacanas.
We started predawn at Rancho Primavera where, finally, the Mottled Owl hooting nearby was revealed in the light. The target of our second morning in the pines was the Spotted Wren; just as we were headed to lunch Mick spotted a group around an old shed. We all got great looks. Holley spotted the Common Black-Hawk as it surveyed its surroundings over the fish farm from a tall pine. We again enjoyed great looks at a female Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, but the male never came in. We contented ourselves with great views of a male Flame-colored Tanager. We also saw several species of North American warblers that were down for the winter. Black-throated Green and Townsend's warblers were feeding side by side. South of the border our classical division of eastern and western species is blurred. In the evening at the ponds we had a spectacle of Wood Storks, as nearly 40 descended to roost on the shore and in the trees.
Our last day would be just a morning, but we had several birds to chase down. In Nuevo Vallarta we found our trusty Elegant Quail covey. Nearby we found that the fruiting fig was still hosting a small flock of Mexican Parrotlets. Both of these birds were quality West Mexican endemics. Next we were off to Laguna Quelele to see the roosting Boat-billed Herons; we saw them, but they were buried in the mangroves. Amongst the hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks was a pair of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks.
Over the course of the week we saw and heard 239 species, including 22 Mexican endemics and 12 regional endemics.