West Mexico 2017 - San Blas, Colima and Jalisco

Friday 24th February – Thursday 9th March 2017

 

This specialised itinerary is designed to concentrate our efforts in finding as many of the 40+ endemic bird species ofRed Warbler copyright Kim and Cindy Risen 001 Western Mexico as possible. Many of these spectacular birds are concentrated in a number of 'endemic regions', and it is our goal to visit three of these over a two week period. While we will visit areas in Sinaloa, along the Durango Highway and San Blas, the majority of our time will be spent in the bird rich areas of Colima and Jalisco and the twin volcanoes of Volcan de Fuego & Volcan de Nieve that hold a staggering array of bird diversity. So our journey begins in Mazatlan, which shortens our route along Mexico's Pacific Coast allowing us more time in the field and we begin our first morning's birding amongst some nearby scrubby foothills, before travelling uphill via the Durango Highway. Turning inland toward Durango the habitat changes from brushy, secondary thorn forest margins separated by fields and houses to hillsides covered with beautiful thorn forest filled with birds. Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Mexican Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl, White-naped Swift, Golden-crowned Emerald, Berylline and Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds, Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Blue Mockingbird, Fan-tailed and Rufous-capped Warblers, Blue Bunting and Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow top the list of specialties. As spectacular as this list may appear, the real objects of our search are found in the pine woodlands at higher elevations - Tufted Jay and Eared Quetzal, two of Mexico's most impressive and interesting birds. Although the jay can be conspicuous at times, the quetzal is quite the opposite! Other endemics we hope to find here include Mountain Trogon, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Mountain Pygmy-Owl, White-striped Woodcreeper, Pine Flycatcher, Grey-collared Becard, Spotted Wren, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Aztec Thrush, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Crescent-chested and Red Warblers (here the 'grey eared' form), Red-headed Tanager, Rufous-capped and Green-striped Brush-Finches, Hooded Grosbeak and Black-headed Siskin. We have two days to fully explore this beautiful area, with vistas from a perch overlooking Barranca Rancho Liebre sure to take your breath away and there's at least one evening here looking for owls. We then move on to the superb birding sites around San Blas and during our first afternoon we will look for Military Macaw, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Hermit, San Blas Jay, Sinaloa Crow, and there is also an evening outing to find our first Buff-collared Nightjars. The following morning will be spent aboard small boats gliding quietly through coastal mangroves and after exploring the estuary and its waterbirds, looking especially for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Boat-billed Heron and a huge variety of other herons, egrets and raptors, we'll circle a pair of offshore rocks where Blue-footed & Brown Boobies are often present, and perhaps a pelagic species cruising close to shore. We'll also be birding areas that hold a number of new birds for our list such as Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Lesser Roadrunner, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Woodnymph and Bumblebee Hummingbird (as well as a host of wintering northern hummers for our Mexican lists), White-striped Woodcreeper, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens and Red-headed Tanager. One night along the Pacific coast en-route to Colima gives us a chance to explore some lesser-known locales that hold impressive wetlands, thick thorn forest and vast agricultural areas that provide further opportunities to find Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, along with Mexican Parrotlet, San Blas Jay and Yellow-winged Caçique.

However, the bulk of our time during this birding adventure will be spent in the well known birding states ofOrange-breasted Bunting copyright Kim and Cindy Risen Colima and Jalisco and these areas possess some of the finest birding to be found in tropical America. The quality and number of birds to be found in this habitat rich area is just amazing. And as the birding is so spectacular, we are allowing three whole days to fully explore this one site! Home to a wide variety of endemics, Volcan de Fuego is an experience that needs to be savored slowly and after visiting a number of other memorable birding spots that is exactly what we will do. We begin along the Jalisco coast in thorn forest, move inland to fields, ponds & wetlands, visit more dry forest and then climb through changing habitats on the volcano that include scattered oaks, dry oak/pine forest, humid oak/pine forest and finishing with pine/fir forest just below the timberline. This diversity of habitats in such a small geographical area is the reason the birding here is so spectacular.

Many endemics, beautiful scenery and comfortable lodging provide an unbeatable combination. While these sites are our primary areas for Flammulated Flycatcher, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Red-breasted Chat, the complete list of endemics we expect to see around the volcanoes is full of many other spectacular birds. Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, Singing Quail, West Mexican Chachalaca, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Thick-billed Parrot (found in the winter season only), Bumblebee Hummingbird, White-striped Woodcreeper, Lesser Roadrunner, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Golden-crowned Emerald, Citreoline Trogon, San Blas Jay, White-bellied Wren, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Fan-tailed Warbler, Grey-collared Becard, Spotted Wren, Aztec Thrush (present here in wintertime flocks), Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Dwarf Vireo, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Green-striped Brush-Finch, Collared Towhee, Black-backed (Abeille's) Oriole. Blue and Orange-breasted Buntings, Black-vented Oriole and Yellow-winged Caçique are the primary members of this list. Similar habitat inland offers back-up support in case any species are missed while providing our most reliable areas in Colima & Jalisco for Banded Quail, Balsas Screech-Owl,Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mountain and Colima Pygmy-Owls, Stygian Owl, Spotted Owl, Eared Poorwill, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Buff-collared Nightjar. Our return home will be from the international airport at Puerto Vallarta giving folks the largest selection of departing flights possible.

 

Targets:

  
  • Boat-billed Heron
  • Elegant Quail
  • Banded Quail
  • Long-tailed Wood Partridge
  • Rufous-necked Wood Rail
  • Rufous-bellied Chachalaca
  • Military Macaw
  • Mexican Parrotlet
  • Lesser Roadrunner
  • Colima Pygmy Owl
  • Eared Poorwill
  • Buff-collared Nightjar
  • Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
  • Grey-crowned Woodpecker
  • White-naped Swift
  • Mountain Trogon
  • Citreoline Trogon
  • Eared Quetzal
  • Russet-crowned Motmot
  • Mexican Woodnymph
  • Golden-crowned Emerald
  • Green-fronted Hummingbird
  • Bumblebee Hummingbird
  • Amethyst-throated Hummingbird     
  • Black-throated Magpie-Jay
  • White-striped Woodcreeper
  • Rosy Thrush-Tanager
  • Blue Mockingbird
  • San Blas Jay
  • Tufted Jay
  • Purplish-backed Jay
  • Flammulated Flycatcher
  • Grey-collared Becard
  • Spotted Wren
  • Aztec Thrush
  • Rufous-backed Thrush 
  • Grey Silky-Flycatcher
  • Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo     
  • Golden Vireo
  • Collared Towhee
  • Red Warbler
  • Colima Warbler
  • Golden-browed Warbler
  • Fan-tailed Warbler
  • Crescent-chested Warbler
  • Black-chested Sparrow
  • Red-headed Tanager
  • Orange-breasted Bunting
  • Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow     
  • Rufous-capped Brush-Finch
  • Green-striped Brush-Finch
  • Yellow-winged Cacique        
 
 
 Tufted Jay by Kim and Cindy Risen
Day 1   Arrival Day in Mazatlan - 24th February 
This is purely an arrival day in Mazatlan, which may necessitate departing the day before if travelling from UK or Europe. 

Day 2   Mazatlan - Barranca - Sierra Madre  
We'll visit nearby thorn forest habitats in the cooler early morning hours and hoped for species include Flammulated Flycatcher, Red-breasted Chat and Orange-breasted Bunting. Other commoner species could include Ruddy Ground-Dove, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Gila Woodpecker, Streak-backed Oriole, Curve-billed Thrasher, Long-billed Starthroat, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Lucy’s Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Green-tailed Towhee and Pyrrhuloxia. After lunch we will drive during the heat of the day along the scenic Durango HIghway to our lodging in the mountains at Copala. Birding along the way in tropical deciduous habitat could produce Sinaloa Crow, Harris’s Hawk, Yellow-winged Cacique, Black-throated Magpie Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Red-breasted Chat, Fan-tailed Warbler, Rufous-backed Robin, Blue Mockingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush and maybe even a Black-capped Vireo. Once at Copala, and with some luck, we may even find a superb Tufted Jay or even Military Macaw this afternoon! Then we take to the trails near the barranca followed by an after dark owling expedition. Woodland species we hope to find include White-striped Woodcreeper, Eared Quetzal, Aztec Thrush and Green-striped Brush-Finch. Owling targets for this area include Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mountain Pygmy Owl, Saw-whet (for us Mexican listers!) and Stygian Owls. Night in Copala.

Day 3   Barranca - Sierra Madre
Russet-crowned Motmot by Kim and Cindy RisenSunrise will find us driving slowly through the region's spectacular pine forests of the Sierra Madre foothills, followed by some walking on trails near the barranca and high elevation pine-oak forest. This is one of Mexico's famous birding localities and apart from the stunning scenery it also holds a wealth of localised and sought-after species. Although scenery will compete with the birds for our attention throughout the day, the birds are pretty amazing by themselves and primary species of interest remain Tufted Jay and Eared Quetzal, so the bulk of our efforts are to be spent locating these very local species. Other possibilties include many stunning species and most of them endemic or near-endemic such as the stunning Red Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Pine Flycatcher, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Grey-collared Becard, White-striped Woodcreeper, Green-striped and Rufous-capped Brush-Finches and Mountain Trogon. With luck we may come across a mixed feeding flock that could be ablaze with colour and hold such species as Eastern Bluebird, Hepatic Tanager, Painted and Slate-throated Redstarts, Crescent-chested Warbler, Red-faced, Olive, Grace’s, Townsend, Hermit, Audubon's, Nashville, Rufous-capped and Black-and-white Warblers. At lower altitudes and back down the slope to some drier oak and transitional tropical forest habitat we will search for Military Macaw and a host of other spectacular birds such as Colima Pygmy-Owl, Arizona Woodpecker, Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Grey Silky-Flycatcher, Hammond’s and Cordilleran Flycatchers, Golden, Black-capped, Bell’s, Hutton’s, Cassin’s and Plumbeous Vireos, White-throated Robin, Brown-backed Solitaire, Mexican Chickadee, Pine Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wren, Black-vented Oriole, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Bunting, Yellow-eyed Junco, Black-headed Siskin and hummingbirds such as Violet-crowned, Berylline, Rufous, White-eared and Blue-throated. We even have our first chance at finding Bumblebee Hummingbird, Aztec Thrush, and the gorgeous Red-headed Tanager. We also have another outing to look for nightbirds after dinner, with a chance to find Vermiculated Screech-Owl and Colima Pygmy-Owl amongst others. Night Copala. 

Day 4   Sierra Madre – San Blas 
We have a last morning birding the areas near our hotel. Dawn along the nearby Panuco Road can be fantastic and the bird-richElegant Quail by Kim and Cindy Risen habitats along the road may produce Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Mexican Parrotlet, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Pale-billed and Lineated Woodpeckers, Golden-crowned Emerald, Berylline and Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds, Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Blue Mockingbird, Bridled Titmouse, Fan-tailed and Rufous-capped Warblers, Varied and Blue Buntings, Evening Grosbeak, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow and Five-striped Sparrow being just a few possibilities. This will be treated as a 'clean-up' morning and if we have no holes in our 'wish-list' we may have a predawn departure allowing us to bird some of the thorn forest areas closer to Mazatlan just after sunrise. Our afternoon will be spent driving some 4 hours to the seaside town of San Blas in the state of Nayarit and along this route we have more chances to see Purplish-backed Jay, Crane Hawk and possibly White-naped Swift. We plan to visit a scenic overlook to scan for Military Macaws and a late afternoon bird walk near town after checking into our hotel. Common birds we may encounter include Short-tailed and Zone-tailed Hawks, Calliope Hummingbird, Canyon Wren, Sinaloa Crow, Common and Chihuahuan Ravens, Steller's and San Blas Jays, Summer Tanager, Black-throated Grey and Golden-crowned Warblers, Tropical Parula, Greyish Saltator, Black-vented, Streak-backed and Scott's Orioles, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow Grosbeak and Yellow-winged Caçique. If it's not cloudy we can visit the fort overlooking the city before dinner where we can anticipate a green flash sunset over the ocean and Buff-collared Nightjars afterward. Night in San Blas.

Day 5   San Blas 
Rufous-necked Wood-Rail by Kim and Cindy RisenWe'll thoroughly explore this charming part of Mexico that is still, surprisingly, untouched by 'Tourist Zones'. The many wetlands, rivers and estuaries in the region beg to be explored and we'll do so from the comfort of our small launch boat as the first rays of morning sun reach the treetops and we will glide quietly through bird-laden mangroves. Photography is at a premium on these boat trips as many of the birds allow close approach and we'll hope for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in the mangroves, along with virtually all of the herons & egrets that visit Mexico including the odd-looking and even more bizarre sounding Boat-billed Heron. We'll also thoroughly explore the estuary searching for its many waterbirds, especially Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Swallow, Green Kingfisher, Mangrove Yellow Warbler and a huge variety of other herons, egrets and raptors such as Crane Hawk and Snail Kite. When the tide is favourable we'll exit the river into the open ocean and circle a pair of offshore rocks for Blue-footed and Brown Boobies, possibly Red-billed Tropicbird and we've always a chance to see pelagic birds and it's likely we'll encounter whales and/or dolphins which are surprisingly numerous in these waters. 

Open roads and forest trails should lead us to a variety of sought-after species, amongst the many goodies we might find are Elegant Quail, Mexican Parrotlet, Russet-crowned Motmot, Elegant Trogon, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Scrub (Godman’s) Euphonia, Fan-tailed Warbler, Painted Bunting, Pacific-slope and Vermilion Flycatchers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Rose-throated Becard, Black-chinned and Broad-billed Hummingbirds, MacGillivray’s Warbler and the local race of White-collared Seedeater. Night in San Blas. 

Day 6   San Blas
Early this morning we'll visit a low range of hills inland that are covered by a more humid forest. The impressive dawn chorus hereMottled Owl by Kim and Cindy Risen may be led by the hollow chants of a Collared Forest-Falcon, while Lilac-crowned Parrots fly overhead. We'll also be birding a few inland locations that hold a number of new birds for our group. Species that we hope to see include Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Lesser Roadrunner, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Hermit, Costa's, White-eared and Bumblebee Hummingbirds (as well as a host of other wintering northern hummers for our Mexican lists), White-striped Woodcreeper, Spotted, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Rusty Sparrow and Red-headed Tanager. This can also be a good area for Eared Poorwill and we will make a special effort to try and see this superb bird. Other exciting species we could come across include Grey-crowned and Acorn Woodpeckers, Grey-collared Becard, Blue Mockingbird, Green Jay, Golden Vireo, Buff-breasted and Tufted Flycatchers, Flame-coloured Tanager, Olivaceous, Ivory-billed and White-striped Woodcreepers, Elegant Euphonia, and more chances for Military Macaw. The higher forest can hold Grey Silky-Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird and Golden-crowned Warbler and much more. Later in the day we will have an evening boat trip searching for Mottled Owl and the truly unique Northern Potoo, and we should also see plenty of Lesser NIghthawks & Common Pauraques. On past trips we've recorded as many as 18 potoos! Night in San Blas.

Day 7   San Blas – Cerro San Juan - Puerto Vallarta 
After breakfast at the hotel we depart for one of the more interesting birding areas of the San Blas area, Cerro de San Juan. Of primary interest to us are the few birds which seem to be more easily found here than any other location we visit on this itinerary. Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Woodnymph and Bumblebee Hummingbird are in this group. Birding this area is a pleasant way to spend a morning and the variety of habitats we visit insure a productive birding outing, with some ponds hopefully giving us Ridgway’s Rail (a split from Clapper Rail), and a few shorebirds such as American Avocet and Solitary Sandpiper, and Grey-crowned Yellowthroat skulking around the margins. We will have a picnic lunch during a break in the birding activity and the afternoon will be spent travelling south to Barra de Navidad. There are a few birding areas we would like to visit as time and conditions allow and a favorite thorn forest spot has always been productive for us on previous visits and some of the wetlands north of Puerto Vallarta can hold absolutely amazing numbers of birds with which we can pad our list totals. Night in Barra de Navidad.
 
Day 8   Cerro de San Juan - Colima 
Heermans Gulls by Kim and Cindy RisenToday we visit one of the better thorn forest areas to be found during our trip. The habitat found along the Playa del Oro road is an unbroken expanse of thorn forest that holds a great number of our desired species. Topping this list are Flammulated Flycatcher, West Mexican Chachalaca, Mexican Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Golden-crowned Emerald, White-bellied Wren, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Chat, Orange-breasted Bunting and Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater. This has proven to be one of the most reliable location for Flammulated Flycatcher found along our tour route and we will make a concerted effort for this retiring endemic. Commoner species in the area include Say’s Phoebe, Savanna Sparrow, Audubon’s (Dickey’s) Oriole and Grey-collared Becard amongst others. We plan to have a picnic lunch near the beach as we search for Brown Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Heermann's Gull, and perhaps a pelagic species or two, or maybe a Surfbird nearby. Following lunch we leave the coast behind us as we turn inland on our drive to Ciudad Colima. After getting checked into our hotel we plan to visit some of the nearby birding areas, staying out until after dark. Of particular interest is a small patch of remnant thorn forest on the flanks of a hillside near town. Our guide has never missed Colima Pygmy-Owl here and it will serve as our best back-up location for this species. At this point all of the birds we are seeing should be old friends to us. At least until the sun sets. After dark this area is haunted by the presence of two of our highly desired nightbirds - Balsas Screech-Owl and Buff-collared Nightjar. We hope to find both of them before we return to the city for dinner. Night at Ciudad Colima.
 
Day 9   Colima
An early morning departure for a series of canyons and valleys that hold Military Macaw. This relatively small area is always a fun one to visit. In addition to the macaws, we'll search for Lilac-crowned Parrot, Rufous-capped Warbler and Black-headed Siskin. On our guides' last visit here he had one of the more interesting sights he has ever experienced in Mexico with a male Grace's Warbler in the same binocular view as a male Yellow-throated Warbler! Not an everyday occurrence to be sure, but it does demonstrate the potential of this locale. We hope to arrive in time for some late afternoon birding at an inland site that holds a great variety of birds such as West Mexican Chachalaca, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl (again), Mexican Hermit, Flammulated Flycatcher, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Red-breasted Chat, Sclater's Wren, Black-chested Sparrow, "Godman's" Euphonia and Blue Bunting amongst a wide range of possibilities. Night in Colima.
 
Day 10   Volcan de Nieve and Volcan de Fuego 
Colima Pygmy-Owl by Kim and Cindy RisenThe twin volcanos of Volcan de Fuego & Volcan de Nieve (literally Volcanoes of Fire and Ice) that dominate the skyline above Colima are, in our opinion, the single best birding area in Mexico.The exact daily itinerary for today and the following three depend entirely upon weather conditions and which bird species we hope to find. That caveat in mind, we expect our days to follow the basic agenda described here beginning with an early morning departure for areas on the north and northwest slopes of Volcan de Fuego. We first pass through agricultural areas with an opportunity to find Banded Quail and Lesser Roadrunner, then roadside flower banks with a variety of wintering hummingbird species and finish in a variety of more tropical-type habitats. One area with bamboo covered slopes held Slate-blue Seedeater on a previous visit and we will check any seeding bamboo areas for this bamboo specialist. We should be birding all day with lunch in the field. Goal birds would include West Mexican Chachalaca, Mexican Parrotlet, Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Grey-barred Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Spotted, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Fan-tailed Warbler, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow and Abeille's (Black-backed) Oriole. Staying in the area until dusk for Eared Poorwill, Colima Pygmy-Owl and Mottled Owl is planned. Night in Ciudad Guzman.
  
Days 11 - 12   Nevado and Fuego Volcanos
Volcan de Fuego by Kim and Cindy RisenFor these two days expect pre-dawn departures for the southern and southwestern slopes of Volcan de Fuego. These may well prove to be the most amazing birding days of the entire trip. Starting out on the field and scrub covered lower slopes, we will work our way up in altitude covering a staggering array of habitats through fir forest and a complete list of the day's possible birds would be far too long to include here. A partial list of the specialties include West Mexican Chachalaca, Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, Singing and Banded Quails, Bumblebee Hummingbird, White-striped Woodcreeper, Grey-barred, Spotted, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Aztec Thrush, several nightingale-thrushes, Dwarf and Golden Vireos, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Crescent-chested, Red, Rufous-capped and Golden-browed Warblers, Rufous-capped and Green-striped Brush-Finches and Black-vented, "Dickey's" and Abeille's or Black-backed Orioles. Another night outing will be offered for Eared Poorwill, Buff-collared Nightjar, Mexican Whip-poor-will and Whiskered Screech, Mountain Pygmy, Mottled and Stygian Owls. Our efforts to be concentrated once more on those species we still have not encountered. 

We will also have a morning visit to Volcan de Nieve, which is slightly different in terrain and habitat and holds a few species that are not easily found elsewhere. The scenery is worth the time and this remains the only spot our guide has found Spotted Owl. An afternoon visit to the marshes outside Ciudad Guzman should provide an incredible number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds that are present here in wintering flocks that can number in the thousands! For those working on Mexico lists, highlights may include Eared and Clark's Grebes, Snow Goose, a variety of ducks including Mexican Duck, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, the "Chapala" Yellowthroat, Bicolored (the local form of Red-winged) Blackbird, American Pipit, and with luck, Sprague's Pipit. Another after dark excursion to look for any needed nightbirds is possible.

During our time in this amazing habitat we can also hope to see Thick-billed Parrot, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Broad-tailed and Magnificent Hummingbirds, Green Violetear, Curve-billed Thrasher, Russet and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrushes, Canyon Towhee, Audubon’s Oriole, Black-eared Bushtit, Grey-breasted Jay, Loggerhead Shrike, the elusive Collared Towhee, White-striped Woodcreeper, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Colima Warbler, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Black-capped, Slaty, Golden and Dwarf Vireos, and both Botteri’s and Clay-colored Sparrows. Nights in Ciudad Guzman. 
     
Day 13   Volcanoes - Puerto VallartaWest Mexico Scenery by Kim and Cindy Risen
Today is scheduled as a 'clean-up day'. By that I mean our itinerary will not be preset and instead is planned to allow maximum flexibility in areas to be visited. Any bird species we may not have yet seen will determine where we bird today. I expect that we may be glad we have the extra time in which to search for those more difficult or nomadic species. I include Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, Singing Quail, Banded Quail, Thick-billed Parrot, Aztec Thrush, Dwarf Vireo and Abeille's (Black-backed) Oriole in this group of birds. A farewell dinner and drinks at a typico seafood restaurant will be a fine way to end our last full day in Mexico. Night Puerto Vallarta.

Day 14   Depart - End of Tour - 9th March 
We'll transfer to the airport in ample time for our departure flights this morning. During your journey home, your mind can focus on memories of colourful birds, people and scenery. Hopefully, enough to last until your next visit to Mexico!
 
 
 

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker by Kim and Cindy Risen
Leaders: Kim Risen and Nick Bray
 
Ground Price: £2850.00 - Mazatlan/Puerto Vallarta


Airfare: currently flights are just under £600.00 from London Heathrow with one-stop in Mexico City (as of 29/6/16)

Zoothera tour prices explained
 
Single supplement: £375.00

Deposit: £500.00

Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 with maximum 10 

Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, ground transport throughout, two boat excursions, one in the morning one in late afternoon/evening at San Blas, all entrance fees, all group taxes, local fees, group admissions, toll fees, park entry and permit fees, bottled water, and services of leaders. 

Not included: International airfare, insurance, meals (see below), drinks, tips, laundry, room service charges, and items of a personal nature.

Meal Costs: Meals ARE NOT included in the cost of this tour. For this tour we eat many meals ‘in the field’ like picnics for breakfast and lunch, although on occasion we may have breakfast in the hotel. Others are at convenient ‘typico’ restaurants while our final meal of the day is usually a sit-down dinner. As a person can eat very well for as little as $35 per day or you can choose to spend three or four times that amount for a single day, depending upon your menu choices. Zoothera Birding has a policy of NOT overcharging one person to cover another’s meal choices—which we would have to do if meals were budgeted expenses. Typical field breakfast is yoghurt, granola, fresh fruit, fruit juice, and fresh baked goods from a local bakery—if they're still open! Lunch has two options depending upon our location each day: 1) Picnic lunch - sandwiches, cheese & crackers, chips/crisps, fresh fruit, beverages, etc. OR 2) lunch at local restaurants if convenient to our birding location. Dinner will be at a restaurant close to our hotel where we can enjoy a drink, do the checklist and eat. In the smaller cities options can be quite limited i.e. Ciudad Guzman. Overall, we can eat very well for the entire tour on a cost of around $35 per day. Or...it could be twice that depending upon how much alcohol you drink with dinner and what your final menu choices are. Typical Mexican food is much less expensive than American/European menu selections. 

Spotted Wren by Kim and Cindy RisenLodging:  Our lodging, for the most part, consists of standard hotel rooms close to our birding destinations. These hotels are uniformly clean, comfortable with the standard hotel amenities (two-bedded rooms, private bathroom facilities, hot water, phone, etc..). Our stay in Copala is near the well known canyon or barranca where there is little in the way of accommodation and this is a very rural part of Mexico, but the experiences one encounters here are some of the best we have ever found...Anywhere! Our accommodations in this rural area are much more simple but this is offset by their close proximity to our primary birding locations. While these simple hotels may not be as high a quality as we would normally use, they are perfect for the needs of our group and will go a long way in making our trip an enjoyable one.

Pace of Tour: This is a standard birding tour with regular birding walks along roads and well marked trails, although we can get to around 10,000 feet around the volcanoes. As is typical with birding visits to tropical latitudes, in order to get the most out of the precious early morning hours, most days will consist of early starts with picnic breakfasts in our rooms or in the field. Lunches are often picnic style when we are far from ‘civilization’, such as birding on Cerro San Juan, or at conveniently located restaurants. Dinner will be our most relaxing meal of the day, usually at a better restaurant close to our hotel. Dinners often begin with a ‘cocktail hour’ as we complete a checklist of the days bird sightings.There is decidedly an emphasis placed upon seeing all of the endemic birds found in the areas we visit. We expect there to be at least five optional night outings to look for owls & nightbirds, so those days may be quite long. We have only a few long drives on our route and these are broken up by birding breaks or meals so that they shouldn’t prove to be too difficult - for the driver OR participants! Like most Zoothera tours, there is little time allocated for shopping as a group activity so your best chances of some ‘non-birding time’ are going to be found during our multiple-day stay at San Blas or upon return to Puerto Vallarta on our last morning (depending upon your departure time). As always, I will point out the options for those who wish to experience other facets of life in Western Mexico. And above all, be prepared for all eventualities!

Climate: Generally the climate will be warm and dry, particularly along the Pacific coast. The notable exceptions to this will be our visits to the highlands near Tepic, along the Durango Highway and on the volcanoes of Colima & Jalisco. Examples of average daytime high temperatures & nighttime low temperatures in Fahrenheit - average monthly rainfall for a few cities on our route are: Puerto Vallarta - 80ºF/62ºF  - .70 and San Blas - 82ºF/61ºF - .80. As stated above, the obvious exception to these quite pleasant temperatures is during our time spent birding at higher altitude where daytime temperatures will be in the 50ºF - 60º F range, with night-time temperatures potentially much cooler. Although rain is possible at anytime, our tour takes place during a time of reduced rain activity and is unlikely to occur away from the highlands. A raincoat, warm coat/sweater and hat are required equipment for this tour, particularly considering the amount of night birding that is planned.

 

Reading Material:

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb. Oxford University Press, 1995. The indispensable birding reference for Mexico. No person interested in the birds of Mexico should be without it. The text is authoritative and comprehensive, the plates are generally excellent, and although the size may be a bit cumbersome you should not visit Mexico without a copy in hand.

Mexican Birds, Roger Tory Peterson and Edward L. Chalif. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Although the text is quite outdated, Peterson’s excellent plates and the guide’s compact size make this an attractive option for many birders. I will have a copy along for participants to refer to during the tour so feel free to leave your copy at home.

A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico, Ernest P. Edwards. Self published, 1989. Although some may find this guide useful, in my opinion it is a waste of money. The text is outdated and, compared to that found in Howell & Webb, is horrendous. The plates are quite poor and depending upon them will result in many birds left unidentified.

A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico, Steve N.G. Howell. Cornell University Press, 1999. As authoritative as his field guide, Steve Howell’s birdfinding guide describes in detail many of the birding locations we are to visit. The reference lists at the back of the book are also very helpful.

A Naturalist’s Mexico (Birder’s Mexico), Roland H. Wauer. Texas A & M University Press, 1992. Recently rereleased as “Birder’s Mexico”, this is a very good read for anyone interested in birding or natural history in Mexico. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular region of Mexico and the author’s birding adventures while visiting each of those regions. There are at least three chapters dedicated to areas we are to visit. I am certain you will enjoy reading about the author’s experiences and then comparing them with your own. Highly recommended.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, Louise H. Emmons, Francois Feer. University of Chicago Press, 1999. There is now a second edition of this fine reference in print. The plates remain the same and the format of the book is identical. A compact reference to all of the mammals we are likely to see during our trip.

  

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2013 Tour Report - West Mexico report.


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