Short West Mexico 1 Jan 16—22, 2010

Posted by Brian Gibbons

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Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough t...

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From the cool pines and oaks above Provincia to the sun-baked beach in the hidden bay of Tehuamixtle, we birded a multitude of habitats ranging from beach and saltwater lagoons along the coast to thorn, broadleaf, pine oak forests with evergreen forest residing in just a small drainage above Provincia. Finding 250 species in six days was a lot of work, but we still had time to enjoy breaded oysters, grilled Dorado, guacamole, limonadas, dozens of shrimp, and tons of Bonnie's wonderful breads and Pat's savory soups. Rancho Primavera provided an amazing base for our explorations of western Mexico. We and the birds found the food irresistible. The Black-throated Magpie-Jays were the stars of the feeders. Berylline, Broad-billed, and Cinnamon hummers, as well as three species of orioles, weren't too shabby either. Beyond the feeders, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, and the ever-elusive Collared Forest-Falcon kept us entertained during our time on the ranch.

Our first morning on Bioto Road was amazing. We got off to a slow start, but as the sun bathed the hillside, the birds shook off their drowsiness and came alive in a spectacular mixed-species flock. Many of the flock constituents were feeding on the Burcera fruits. Masked Tityras, Rose-throated Becards, Golden Vireos, and Blue and Varied buntings added some more color. Many familiar faces greeted us as well. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Nashville Warblers were the most common birds; the Black-capped Vireo was a hidden gem in the mix. Elegant Trogon was the stealthy beauty in the woods, and a cooperative female Golden-crowned Emerald allowed for great study.

The long drive to Tehua started in the dark. We heard a distant Crested Guan at dawn, but seeing these treetop behemoths is always tough outside of protected areas. Soon we were in the thorn forest and seeing some of the great birds that call it home. More male Orange-breasted Buntings than I ever remember seeing delighted us in the scope time and again. The male Red-breasted Chat performed beautifully. Citreoline Trogons feeding on fruit over the road made them pretty easy. A wonderful seaside lunch passed the heat of the day. Ron and Leonie spotted a handsome male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, always a rare treat on this side of Mexico. Aquiles Serdan produced a Collared Plover, a Roseate Spoonbill, and a Peregrine Falcon. In the evening, while we were being enchanted by a raucous feasting flock of Lilac-crowned Parrots, a pair of Military Macaws flew over, heading to their roost. The late day sun beautifully illuminated their yellow flight feathers. We couldn't have scripted a better ending to a wonderful day of birding.

Next we were off to the pines and oaks near Provincia. The Colima Pygmy-Owl tooted for us, but he wouldn't come out. We didn't see the Brown-backed Solitaire, but we did hear the amazing concert-in-the-throat of that bird. Black-headed Siskins, Mexican Woodnymph, Long-billed Hermit, Rusty Sparrow, Spotted Wren (on our second day), Red-headed Tanager (found by Ron), and Rufous-capped Warbler were all found in the habitats around Provincia. Between our days in the mountains we went out to Cruz de Loreto. Bare-throated Tiger-Heron was the prize in the agricultural lands to the south. Thousands of our North American birds winter in this area, with Dickcissel and Blue Grosbeak being very numerous. Ducks, waders, and raptors were common and well-represented in these open areas. The star of the day for me was the pair of Snail Kites on roadside fence posts, staring into the marsh for a mid-morning snack.

On our last morning we made haste with some great birds. The Elegant Quail were still in their little patch of scrub, the Mexican Parrotlets were gorging on figs, and the Boat-billed Herons were roosting right where they were supposed to, in the mangroves. On the way to Puerto Vallarta we had Gray-breasted Martins roosting in the tile roofs, and Leonie picked a great Bat Falcon on a power pole in town!

For the tour we had 250 species of birds, not bad considering we had just six full days of birding. Twenty-two were Mexican endemics, while 10 were regional endemics. Our mammals included tropical rabbit, a predawn gray fox, and red-bellied squirrels; the stars were the white-nosed coatis which scampered up a hillside for us.  Spiny-tailed and green iguanas were the only identified lizards. The army ant swarm on the Pedro Moreno road was crucial to our finding the Fan-tailed Warbler, Boat-billed Flycatchers, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and the White-throated Robin. I always enjoy watching the birds take advantage of a resource like the fleeing bugs of an ant swarm.

Spectacular weather, wonderful hosts, scrumptious food, and great company made this year's first Short West Mexico tour a great success.