Days 1 - 2 PUERTO VALLARTA
Following an overnight flight via Mexico City we eventually arrived in the charming resort of Puerto Vallarta shortly after 8am. Everyone had decided to fly out two days early and get fully recharged before the tour officially commenced and so, of course, we began our birding immediately. Driving south out of the town we followed the coast road and made our first stop opposite a couple of large offshore islands where lots of Brown Pelicans were nesting. Several Magnificent Frigatebirds soared against the clear blue sky and we also saw loads of Royal Terns fishing offshore. All of a sudden a Citreoline Trogon flew past us and landed in a nearby large tree. How bizarre! As we followed this beauty a pair of Greyish Saltators were found, followed by Nashville Warbler, San Blas Jay, and an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper.
A short drive further along the coast road took us to the Botanical Gardens and this turned into a very productive session. Just below the car park we saw a large feeding flock containing Hooded Orioles, maybe 10+ stonking Varied Buntings (a bird I really wanted to see after missing it in west Texas & Arizona), several Nashville Warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler, a close Black-throated Grey Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and the first of many Yellow-winged Caciques. We headed down to the restaurant, where we were due to have lunch and spent a very enjoyable time watching the feeding station below us. Once some fruit was placed on the large ‘bird table’ a group of Yellow-winged Caciques flew in and provided us with much entertainment, although the presence of several superb Golden-cheeked Woodpeckers proved something of a distraction, as did a pair of Godman’s (Scrub) Euphonias. A MacGillivray’s Warbler decided to ponce around out in the open below the feeding station, a few Green Jays also put in an all-too brief appearance, and both Plain-capped Starthroat and Cinnamon Hummingbird were drawn to the hummer feeders here. Lunch was very nice and during this time we could observe the feeders, as well as a fruiting “Gumbo Limbo” tree which drew in Orange-fronted Parakeets, Plumbeous Vireo, Social Flycatcher, several Rose-throated Becards, 5+ Masked Tityras, and a Lineated Woodpecker. Phew! But for me the best sighting was the obliging pair of Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrows that appeared below the feeders.
Leaving here we walked along some of the trails and found a Golden-crowned Emerald and a cracking Grey-crowned Woodpecker. But by now it was well after 2pm so we decided to drive the 10 minutes to our wonderful lodge and just chill out for the remainder of the day. Needless to say the draw of new birds had us watching the surrounding forest and gardens from the veranda immediately upon arrival…! This was another cracking location and we had a fantastic view of the area and from the comfort of our chairs could observe our first Grey-crowned Becard, Bright-rumped Attila, Streak-backed Oriole, Thick-billed Kingbird, Golden Vireo and also get closer views of the Orange-fronted Parakeets. Things got even better once we began walking around the garden with the major highlights being an uncharacteristically showy Blue Mockingbird and a Russet-crowned Motmot perched on a large boulder in the middle of the stream. Other goodies along the river included several female Blue Buntings, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Sinaloa Wren, several Audubon’s Warblers and a close Wilson’s Warbler. In the garden an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper showed well, several Stripe-headed Sparrows gave their jangling song, and our first Rufous-backed Thrushes were much appreciated. There was also a Clay-coloured Robin, Yellow-breasted Chat, Greater Pewee, several Berylline Hummingbirds and a Black-throated Grey Warbler. We spent quite a while watching the buntings and warblers coming to drink in the middle of the stream and were also entranced by the motmot, but time passed all too quickly and tiredness began to creep in so we retired to the veranda for the checklist. This was continually interrupted by the ridiculously obvious Blue Mockingbird, some flyover Lilac-crowned Amazons, and a Rufous-backed Thrush. Oh and I forgot to mention the Green Kingfisher seen along the stream. Boy, we were loving the birding here in West Mexico and it’s great to share this with such an enthusiastic group and an equally enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Cant wait for tomorrow…