Short West Mexico 2 Jan 25—31, 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 and evergreen forest residing in just a small drainage above Provincia. Finding 251 species in six days was a lot of work, but we still had time to enjoy breaded oysters, grilled dorado, guacamole, limonadas, 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 weren't too shabby either. Beyond the feeders, the Blue Mockingbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Russet-crowned Motmots, and the ever-elusive Collared Forest-Falcon kept us entertained during our time on the ranch.

Bioto Road is always a great way to start birding in western Mexico, and our morning was excellent. Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Shirley's Elegant Trogon, a Bat Falcon chasing Military Macaws, three Crane Hawks, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Blue Bunting, Golden Vireo, and Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers were all accounted for, just to name a few.

Our second day of birding was the long drive to Tehua through lots of great thorn forest. Our first stop at dawn revealed a calling Colima Pygmy-Owl. The cacophony of chachalacas nearly drowned out the little owl, but we finally found him and got great scope views. In the thorn forest we found many specialties. Orange-breasted Bunting, Red-breasted Chat, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Citreoline Trogons were some of our colorful sightings. During the heat of the day the cold limonadas and great ostiones empanazados made for a welcome break. The lulling surf nearly put us to sleep, but we still had birds to chase for the afternoon. Aquiles Serdan was the place for Collared Plover. Late in the evening we had a wonderful parrot show. The Lilac-crowns were feasting on the Arrayan fruits. We watched nearly one hundred birds clambering around the treetops, squawking as they ate their final meal of the day.

In the flat agricultural lands Shirley came through again with a through-the-reeds sighting of a juvenile Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. This followed our predawn Mottled Owl and a cooperative Limpkin. From their summer U.S. homes we found overwintering Painted Buntings and Orchard Orioles. White-throated Flycatcher was a good find.

The pine oak forest provided a challenge, and, as is always the case, it took two great birding mornings to get all our targets. The supreme highlight was the male Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird displaying to (read chasing and annoying) a female. Mexican Woodnymph, Red-headed Tanagers, late-showing Spotted Wrens, Rusty Sparrows, and the wonderful serenade of the Brown-backed Solitaire were other goodies. For some color, familiar North American warblers were well-represented. Black-throated Green, Townsend's, Hermit, Grace's, Yellow-throated, and Black-and-white warblers were all seen along the Provincia road. Adding some southern flavor were Painted and Slate-throated redstarts and Rufous-capped Warblers. Two male Gray-collared Becards in a flock were rare, and the timely appearance of the Long-billed Hermit sent us on to lunch.

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 on our second try, and the Boat-billed Herons were roosting right in the mangroves, despite the destruction of their previous roost tree. On the way to Puerto Vallarta we had Gray-breasted Martins roosting in the tile roofs. The Bat Falcon pair seemed to have changed locations to Mismaloya, where we got great scope views.

Our wonderful list of 251 species included 23 Mexican endemics and 12 regional endemics. Twenty-six species of warblers brightened our list, as 13 species of hummingbirds made it shine. We also saw some non-avian animals, not the least of which was a humpback whale off Tehua. The opalescent white morpho was a crowd-pleaser, as was the lime-green and brown malachite. Red-bellied squirrel and gray fox rounded out the mammal list, and two iguanas, green and spiny-tailed, were our only identified lizards. The army ant swarm right behind the barn was crucial to our finding the Fan-tailed Warbler. We also got to see two Russet-crowned Motmots snatching the arthropods that were fleeing the ants. For oddity, the daddy longlegs aggregation was tops, commonly known as bear-fur (to me).

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

Short West Mexico 2010 Photo Gallery