firstname.lastname@example.org Add to Subject: Reservation West Central Mexico January 5-19, 2020.
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Other good species:
Wintering shorebirds and wood warblers, Wandering Tattler, Surfbird, Red-billed Tropicbird, Heermann’s Gull, Military Macaw, Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Lesser Roadrunner, Rosy Thrush-Tanager.
Birding is the main purpose of this trip, why all days and activities are focused on spending our time in nature, when not occupied by practical needs like sleeping, resting, shopping or eating. Beside birds we will also look out for other wildlife as it appears. Especially butterflies, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. With this itinerary it is possible to find 350 or more species of which around 50 will be true endemics, and we will intend to achieve this goal.
The tour runs with 4 or 5 participants. If less than 4, the tour could still be executed, but the price per person would be adjusted accordingly (cancellation details in the Tour Conditions under Relevant Links).
The price includes
The price includes all transport from we meet in Mazatlán until we split up in Guadalajara. Also included is all accommodation and tips to boat trip and, if needed, extra guide in the Tufted Jay Reserve. A tour report plus my service as guide, interpreter and driver are of course also included, and it is not expected that you pay any tips on my part!
The price does not include
Transport to the meeting point (Mazatlán) and from departure point (Guadalajara) is not included in the price, neither is travel insurance or any expenses of a personal nature that has not been mentioned specifically as being included in the tour price.
Food and drinks are not included either (allowing you to only pay for what you are really consuming). Tips to room maids, porters, restaurants etc will be at your own courtesy too.
A moderate pace throughout the day, with a siesta at midday whenever it is needed. We'll never rush, and always take our time to find and study the birds of interest. When owling, it will be moderate too, around dusk or dawn, allowing you to get a good night's sleep every night.
We will often be birding close to the car, but at times you should be prepared to walk a few kilometers to get to the birds we are looking for. However, there are no strenuous hikes on this trip, despite of Mexico being mountainous for the largest part.
We will for the most part be birding below or around 1500 masl, but at the Tufted Jay Reserve we will be at around 2300 masl and on the volcano Nevado de Colima we can reach an altitude around 3000 masl. Some walking is required in the Tufted Jay reserve, but on the volcano we normally stay close to the car birding our way up in suitable steps.
It will be hot and humid when we travel in the lowland and by the coast. In the mountains it will be dry air with moderate to high temperatures in the day and pretty cold in the night, why you should bring warm clothes for sleeping and the mornings.
We can expect sunny weather all days, perhaps with a cloud here and there, but rain would be very unusual at this time of year.
We will be staying in good mid range hotels during the entire trip, except in the Tufted Jay reserve. Here we will be staying in simple cabins either in double or single rooms. Sheets, blankets and towels are provided and there is electricity for light (solar based), flushing toilet and hot water, but no refrigerator.
Some of the hotel deals I've chosen include breakfast in the price, why we will try to fit it in with our morning birding, or try to have it converted to a take-away breakfast box. Otherwise we will very likely have our breakfasts in the field, because most hotels in Mexico don't serve breakfast until 730 am, why we will often have to rely on the OXXO breakfast version, to allow us the flexibility we need as birders. OXXO is the Mexican 7-Eleven equivalent and serves you all you need to start the day in a solid manner.
Dinner we will most certainly have in restaurants after the day's birding, while how to intake our lunch will be a matter of decision as we go along.
A reasonable estimate for a daily consumption per person is around 500 pesos (mxn) (26 usd). Count less for the three days where breakfast is included.
On this tour we normally don't expect large numbers of wildlife apart from birds. Different squirrels, White-nosed Coati, White-tailed Deer, Collared Peccary, Common Opossum, American Crocodile, turtles, butterflies, lizards and iguanas are the most likely. Scanning the ocean from shore, we might also spot a few dolphins or a blowing Humpback in the distance...
The tour is not prepared for photography as such, but with our moderately paced itinerary there will be plenty of opportunities to try to capture the birds, wildlife and landscapes on pixels. I do it continuously on these tours, mainly with the purpose of documentation and identification.
Restricted access to electricity outlets in the Tufted Jay reserve means we will have to organize ourselves when we need to recharge batteries. It is normally not a problem!
Day 1 (January 8).
Night in Mazatlán, Sinaloa.
This day we meet in Mazatlán. If there is time to go birding after we have hooked up and synchronized we’ll do so.
Birds we’ll look for in Mazatlán is a mix of thorn forest species and waterbirds. In the dry forests we will, among others, look for Purplish-backed Jay, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Black-capped Gnatcatcher and if we are lucky a Phyrrhuloxia shows up too.
Mazatlán is also a good place to look for North American ducks. Both dabbling and diving ducks (seaducks no so much) winter in a protected estuary, including American Wigeon, Redhead, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck. Along the coast we will look for the common gulls, Heermann´s and Laughing Gull plus hoping for some of the rarer species being present too. To hope for a distant Red-billed Tropicbird or a wintering Wandering Tattler or Surfbird, is not unrealistic.
Day 2 (January 9).
Night in Copala, Sinaloa.
If needed we will bird in the morning around Mazatlán, but otherwise we will drive up the famous Durango Highway to our destination this day, the small village of Copala. Both Copala and later the Tufted Jay reserve are located off the commercial route, why we will buy needed supplies in Mazatlán before leaving.
We will bird along the road on our way to Copala, and this stretch is normally good for White-naped and other swifts, why we should have an eye out toward the sky. Hummingbirds like Broad-billed, Cinnamon or Plain-capped Starthroat can be found here along with the rare Lucifer’s Hummingbird, and many wintering New World Warblers and vireos, like Black-capped, Bell’s and Warbling can be found along the road also.
Copala is a picturesque little village in the dry highland, where we will stay one night. After check-in and lunch (including a piece of the famous Daniel’s Banana-Coco pie), we’ll visit a nearby road running through a good dry forested slope for our afternoon birding. But before going there we have hopefully had good looks of the local Bat Falcons that resides over the church on the main square. Species to look for in afternoon could be Happy Wren, Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Red-breasted Chat and Military Macaw and Colima Pygmy-Owl to name a few. If we are lucky we’ll also find a Five-striped Sparrow!
Day 3 (January 10).
Night in the Tufted Jay reserve near El Palmito, Sinaloa.
We’ll start pre-dawn, visiting the same road as the day before, and try for owls like Mottled and Middle-American Screech-Owl. When it gets light we’ll continue birding for species we didn’t see yesterday, and these could be Golden-crowned Emerald, Golden-cheeked or Gila Woodpeckers, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Bright-rumped Attila, Greater Pewee, Golden Vireo, Sinaloa Wren, Rufous-backed Robin, Scrub Euphonia or Grayish Saltator to mention some.
Around noon we’ll have lunch in the same, and only, restaurant in Copala, before heading further up the Durango Highway. As we get higher up we enter the pine-oak zone, and we will now be looking for a different selection of species, especially New World Warblers of which we can now expect both Red-faced, Hermit, Townsend’s, Rufous-capped or Slate-throated Redstart among others. Other good species include Gray-crowned Woodpecker and Red-headed Tanager and not to forget the most important species along this road: The emblematic Tufted Jay! The reserve itself is actually not an easy place to find this bird, why we should have eyes and ears out for the sound or a flash of black and white as we move closer.
We arrive at the camp in the jay reserve in the afternoon, and after being installed in the cabins, we bird the clearing around these which always holds a fine selection of species like American Robin, Russet Nightingale-thrush, Green-striped Brushfinch, Rufous-capped Brushfinch, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-eye Junco, Blue Mockingbird and more Red-headed Tanagers.
Later we’ll drive down to El Palmito, the nearby village, and have a simple dinner at one of the only two available restaurants, road side, and when we come back we’ll try to find either a Whiskered Screech-Owl or a Stygian Owl which are the two most common owls around the camp. Mexican Whip-poor-will is also a possibility.
Day 4 (January 11).
Night in the Tufted Jay reserve near El Palmito, Sinaloa.
After an interimistic breakfast in the cabins, we’ll take a walk through the forest to look for some of the other interesting species that can be found here. Red Warbler is probably the one most people want to see, and though it is not a numerous species, we normally get it. The birds up here have gray cheek, compared to the white-cheeked birds we’ll see later on the trip. Another interesting species that we normally see up here is the only endemic woodcreeper in Mexico, the White-striped. Its long descending trill probably reveals it before we see it, but eventually we’ll get good looks of it. Other good species that we normally see are Mountain Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Tufted Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Mexican Chickadee and the brown-throated form of House Wren. Scott’s Oriole is also up there as is Olive Warbler plus many of the warblers that we had a change to see the day before, including the two very attractive species, Crescent-chested and Golden-browed Warblers. True gems! Grace’s Warbler is also nice, as is the Blue-throated Hummingbird and the Pine Flycatcher, if we can find them.
White-eared Hummingbird, resident, is the most common hummingbird up here, and is easily separated from winter visitors like Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds. Of course the Tufted Jay is also a possibility, but as indicated earlier, it is not always easy to find, and if it plays tricks with us, we might have to walk a little, up and down, to look for it. However, I’ve never been on Durango Highway without seeing the jay, either inside or outside the reserve, why you should not need worry. We’ll get it!
We’ll have lunch in one of the two restaurants in El Palmito, and in the afternoon, we’ll drive 30 kilometers further up along Durango Highway toward a place called El Spinazo del Diablo, The Devil’s Spine. We will look for birds on the way up there, of course, but the trip is also worth it only for some spectacular views overlooking the canyon system along which the road is bending itself, on its journey toward...Durango! You’ll like it!
In general the birding will be the same as around the reserve, including the Tufted Jay, but if we are very lucky, we might find an Eared Quetzal or a flyby Thick-billed Parrot. Hooded Grosbeak is also a possibility.
Simple dinner, again again, in El Palmito, and when we get back to the camp we’ll owl a last time as needed or felt for.
Day 5 (January 12)
Night in San Blas, Nayarit.
Again an interimistic breakfast, and an early morning birding around the camp clearing, before we pack up and return down to the coast. And this we can do quickly by the toll road, or slowly, by the free highway that we came up along. All depending on mood and species still needed to be found.
3-4 hours later we’ll be in famous San Blas where we will spend 3 nights. Only, I might say, because we could easily spend a week or two here, without getting bored with the birding. However, many of the species on the San Blas list can also be seen elsewhere, why we will only concentrate on the ones that are necessary to get here.
After check-in we’ll take advantage of whatever light we have left to bird with, and will probably focus on waterbirds which are abundant.
Day 6 (January 13)
Night in San Blas, Nayarit.
We’ll start the morning with a self-catering Oxxo-breakfast (OXXO is a Mexican equivalent to 7-Eleven), and this because the Mexican hotels in general don’t serve breakfast early enough to accommodate the needs of visiting birders.
From there we’ll head toward a nearby village situated in an area where both ponds, savanna and shrub intermix with fields, and therefore offer a wide and excellent selection of species to hope for. First on the agenda, however, will very likely be the very endemic and very smart Elegant Quail which can be found foraging in the open along the roads before the day gets too active.
As the morning moves on we will find ducks, herons, doves, raptors, woodpeckers, flycatchers, buntings and more. And of the true and likely endemics we’ll probably already have seen several, like the Sinaloa Crow, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Happy Wren and Thick-billed Kingbird, but the Mexican Parrotlet will hopefully be new to us. Indeed a fine species that blends in completely with the green foliage, and normally only reveal itself by the shrill calling as it flies by.
Some species in Mexico look very similar, and two of them, Great and Common Black Hawks, can both be seen in this area why we’ll strive to make sure we get them identified correctly. And the same goes for the wonderfully challenging empidonax flycatchers of which Least, Willow, White-throated or Pacific-slope are the likely ones to encounter here. With experience they are not as impossible as their reputation has them to be. Hopefully you’ll agree when you see them for your self.
On the way back to San Blas we’ll stop at different ponds to look for shorebirds of all shapes and sizes. Willet, both yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Northern Jacana, Least, Western and Stilt Sandpipers, both dowitchers, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew and the beautiful Marbled Godwit are normally there, and Spotted Sandpiper is practically unavoidable. And when we reach the town, it is almost guaranteed that we have also enjoyed good views of the impressive but rather ugly-looking Wood Stork, the eye-catching Roseate Spoonbill and both of the two pelicans, one larger and whiter than the other. And Magnificent Frigatebirds too will have pleased us by their super elegant and effortless movements high or low above us. Magnificent they are indeed.
We’ll rest around noon and later have lunch before we embark on the famous La Tovara boat trip, which will take us on a magically journey through pristine mangrove. This very pleasant and often bird rich excursion is where we are guaranteed to see the Northern Potoo, and normally we also have the more secretive Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, which we will certainly look for. Along the open river we will also enjoy Mangrove Swallows, Anhingas and a range of herons intermixed with a plover and a jacana here and there. When we enter the mangrove kingfishers will likely follow us, Belted, Ringed or Green, and if we are lucky a Mangrove Cuckoo will start cackling from within the tangles. Boat-billed Heron and the magnificent Bare-throated Tiger-Heron are also to be expected, and when we reach the open meadow above the mangrove a wealth of kingbirds, woodpeckers, grackles, orioles, doves and perhaps a Snail Kite will salute us.
But even without the birds, you are guaranteed to love this trip, constantly ranking as a top nature experience by most visitors. Crocodiles are almost unavoidable as are large tree-dwelling Green Iguanas. Spectacular!
Day 7 (January 14)
Night in San Blas, Nayarit.
After another OXXO-breakfast we will dedicate this day to birding around the capital of Nayarit, Tepic. We’ll start out on the San Juan mountain, 40 minutes from San Blas, where we will look for a range of species that we haven’t seen earlier on the trip. Most important are the two small endemic hummingbirds, Bumblebee Hummingbird and Mexican Woodnymph, which are normally reliable to get here as are also winter species like Rufous, Calliope, Broad-tailed plus another local hummer, the Berylline.
Other interesting species we will look for in the evergreen forests and meadows are Spotted Wren, Gray-crowned and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Olivaceous and Ivory-billed Woodcreepers, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Vireo and Green Jay, Rusty Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, White-throated Thrush, Black-headed Siskin, Golden-crowned Warbler or the beautiful Painted Redstart. We might even hear or see a Singing Quail, or have a Double-toothed Kite overhead!
Satisfied with the morning’s birding, we will leave the mountain round noon and drive to nearby Tepic where we will first have lunch, and later visit the city park, where we will try find an Aztec or a Spotted Rail. Both are regular in the park. We’ll spend a few hours here, birding and relaxing, and when it starts to get dark, we’ll return to the mountain, hoping we will be able to find the Mexican subspecies of the magnificent Barred Owl, also known as Cinerous Owl. This incredible creature will be our main target for this evenings effort, but should we be able to find an Eared Poorwill or a Mexican Whip-poor-will or even better some of the rarer owls like Flammulated or Northern Saw-whet Owl we shall indeed receive them with much appreciation.
Day 8 (January 15)
Night at Rancho Primavera, Jalisco.
Oxxo-breakfast again?! Well, perhaps, or we order a lunch box to bring with us when we leave San Blas after this mornings birding.
The main target species this morning is the fabulous Mexican Hermit. Endemic to the Pacific region of the country it is not a rare species as such, it is just normally difficult to find. But we’ll try in the tropical hills south of San Blas, where we will ascend up through the beautiful and lush forest intermixed with coffee and banana plantations. Here we might also see other species that we still haven’t found, perhaps a the Boat-billed Flycatcher, a Lilac-crowned Parrot or a Lineated Woodpecker.
After a good and hopefully successful attempt we’ll leave San Blas, and head toward Rancho Primavera south of Puerto Vallarta. If we feel like it we might stop at an estuary on the way, but otherwise head straight to the ranch to take advantage of the last light of the day, looking for species that we still haven’t found.
The ranch is a fabulous and famous birding locality, with ponds, hills and meadows all created by mother and daughter Pat and Bonnie with pure love! This is where for example Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Fan-tailed Warbler, Squirrel Cuckoo, Russet-crowned Motmot, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Gray-collared Becard, Thicket Tinamou and Sinaloa Wren are easier to get than in most places.
The feeders by the main house are maintained daily, and wonderful species like Yellow Grosbeak, Black-throated Magpie-Jays, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Grayish Saltator, Streak-backed, Baltimore and Black-vented Orioles regularly come in to feed, as do White-tipped Doves, Yellow-winged Caciques and Stripe-headed Sparrows. If you like to take photos this is your chance! The ranch and surroundings is also the best place for San Blas Jays, which you do not want to leave Mexico without.
We’ll eat dinner in nearby El Tuito, and when we come back, we’ll hopefully hear and see Common Pauraque and Mottled Owl, both of which are residents on the property. A Western Screech-Owl has been too, but might not be as regular as we would like it to be.
Day 9 (January 16)
Night at Rancho Primavera, Jalisco.
After breakfast we’ll start the day birding around the property depending on which species we are looking for. Some of you might even want to stay by the feeders to photograph. Around noon we’ll make an afternoon trip to the coast passing through good thorn forest, where species like Red-breasted Chat, Flammulated Flycatcher, San Blas Jay, Nutting’s Flycatcher, White-bellied Wren and hopefully Lesser Ground-Cuckoo awaits. We’ll have lunch in a nice restaurant on Mayto beach, and later we will be looking for Surfbird or Wandering Tattlers at the nearby cliffs, or perhaps re-find the hybrid Snowy x Little Blue Heron birds that have frequented this coast for the last couple of years. This is also where we should look for our first Orange-breasted Buntings. You don’t want to leave Mexico without this one either!
Before it gets dark we’ll have to decide if we want to return to Rancho Primavera in time to visit a nearby pine-oak locality where Eared Poorwill and different owls can be waiting. Nesting Barn Owl was there last year. If we haven’t had the poorwill before, we probably will want to try for it, but if not, we might want to stay and enjoy the sunset…
Day 10 (January 17)
Night in Colima City, Colima.
Time to leave Rancho Primavera, but we’ll bird the property again in the morning before we take off, focusing on whatever we still need, or feel compelled to enjoy again.
Todays drive is about 5 hours to Colima City. We’ll be driving south along the coast planning to reach Manzanillo in the early afternoon to have lunch there, but will do a few stops on our way, depending on what we want to look for. Could be close views of both Blue-footed and Brown Boobies at Punta Pérula or look for Black-capped Gnatcatchers, Golden-crowned Emeralds or other thorn forest birds we still miss, on the Playa de Oro road, and while being there we might as well put up our scopes to check the rock Peña Blanca, 1 km offshore, for Red-billed Tropicbirds. Or if we were unlucky with the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in San Blas, we have a chance just outside of Manzanillo at a small estuary where also a good number of gulls and terns are normally roosting. Elegant Tern is normally one of them.
After lunch in Manzanillo, and before driving the last hour toward Colima, we’ll visit the magnificent Laguna Cuyutlán with salt pans, to look or listen for, Ridgway’s Rail, and a wider selection of shore -and waterbirds, including gulls and terns. Also, impressive numbers of American White Pelicans have started to winter here, which is quite a sight.
Day 11 (January 18)
Night in Colima City, Colima
This morning we will drive up the volcanic slope toward the crater lake, Laguna La María, where we will be looking for Banded Quail and some of the more difficult species to be found, Blue Seedeater, Dwarf and Slaty Vireo. Laguna La María is a very bird rich place, and even though we probably have already seen most of the species, it is always a pleasure to bird there. In fact, we might actually find a Smoky-brown Woodpecker which we most likely have not seen yet. On the way down, we’ll have lunch in the small village of Comala, charming as it is with all the white houses (unusual in Mexico).
After this we can decide for a short nap in the hotel, or move directly to our afternoon destination, La Cumbre, on the other side of Colima City. Yet another thorn forest locality, and this time we will be looking for Balsas Screech-Owl, Rufous-naped [Sclater’s] Wren and the beautiful endemic Black-chested Sparrow. Have we still not seen Colima Pygmy-Owl, White-throated Magpie-jay or Orange-breasted Bunting, this is a good, and last, place to change this.
Day 12 (January 19)
Night in Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco.
This morning we will climb one of the two sister volcanoes that lie at the border between Colima and Jalisco, the active Volcán de Fuego or the extinct Nevado de Colima. Here we can expect quite a few new species like the arboreal Gray-barred Wren, the elusive Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, the white-cheeked form of Red Warbler, the discrete Mountain Pygmy-Owl, the pleasant Amethys-throated Hummingbird or the flashy Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo. It is also here we have the best chances of seeing the funny Lesser Roadrunner, and if we are lucky a Greater Swallow-tailed Swift will fly over when we reach the upper levels. Both Russet and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrushes are here too, the latter however, much rarer than the former. Rusty and Rufous-crowned Sparrows are also possible as are Crested Guan, Mountain Trogon or Pine Flycatcher.
In the afternoon we’ll visit the large lake, laguna Zapotlán, north of Cd. Guzmán where we can expect all sorts of waterbirds, but especially will be looking for the enormous and incredible flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds that winter here. Standing below when 100 thousand birds fly over toward their night roost is impressive beyond description. Hopefully we’ll be this fortunate.
Day 13 (January 20)
Night in Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco.
If we still need any of the three nightjars, Buff-collared Nightjar, Eared Poorwill or Mexican Whip-poor-will we will try for them pre-dawn this morning. Otherwise the birding will be mostly like the day before, focusing on species that we still miss. The hills on the other side of Cd. Guzmán can be very productive as well, and might be a better place to look for the Slaty Vireo, Pygmy Nuthatch or Red Crossbill if any of these should be of interest. Laguna Zapotlán is the best place during the whole trip to look for the smart Black-backed Oriole why we should definitely make a visit again this afternoon if we didn’t see it the day before. White-throated Flycatcher, Marsh Wren and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat are also regular here, as is the Mexican form [bi-colored] of the Red-winged Blackbird. Common species of the central plateau that we probably haven’t seen yet like Bewick’s Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Canyon Towhee, House Finch and Loggerhead Shrike we will see while we stay in Ciudad Guzmán.
Day 14 (January 21)
Night in Guadalajara, Jalisco
Last day of birding. We have time to bird the volcanoes in the morning again, if we decide to do so, otherwise we will being heading toward Guadalajara with the intend to look for whatever species we still need. There are good places for Aztec Rail, Canyon Wren, Collared Plover or Elegant Euphonia, or if we feel like studying ducks a last time, there is an excellent small lake where to do so.
In the evening we will dine somewhere nice to celebrate our fantastic trip and say farewell!
Day 15 (January 22)
The trip is over, and we all head in each our direction.