Site Info (posted July 2000)
by Terry Witt
The town of San Miguel in the state of Guanajuato is occupied by 50,000 people of whom about 3000 are norte americanos. It is a popular spot to vacation for persons looking to find a bit of old Mexico and thus others such as myself may be roped into a visit by a non-birding spouse. The city lies at 6000 feet elevation and enjoys a temperate climate. Unfortunately from the ornithologic point of view, the avifauna is an extension of the same species that can be seen in the southwestern US, although a few of the birds there have never made it across the border and some others are seen as vagrants only. I spent a long weekend there this month and wanted to share a few sightings as I'm sure others will follow in my footsteps. My birding time was quite limited and I did not have a rental car so the area covered was basically around the town itself.
1. There is a large reservoir just outside town which we visited briefly one morning. Aside from the usual waterbirds, there were several Mexican Ducks (a lost species lumped into Mallard), and a number of American White Pelicans. One juvenile pelican was present (breeding?).
2. Parque Benito Juarez in the south part of the old city has a large colony of nesting egrets. Most of these are Cattle with a few Great and Black-crowned Night-Herons as well. There are also the ubiquitous Great-tailed Grackles there with Cassin's Kingbirds, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and the very common Vermillion Flycatcher.
3. A very nice area to bird lies at the top of the hill east of town. This can be accessed by walking up Hospicio street, then bearing right on Garrita. At the end of the street are a set of steps up the hill. At the top is a church with a large cross which is a good landmark for relocating the way back down! There is an extensive open field with mostly undisturbed native vegetation and numerous intersecting goat trails. On the other side of the hill is a nice riparian spot with some large trees and a mostly dry stream. This is a very birdy area and some birds seen here included Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Botteri's Sparrow, and several Rufous-backed Robins (sneaky). Canyon Towhees and Curve-billed Thrashers are common as well as Bewick's Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, and Blue Grosbeak. The birds seem quite active even at noon, and at this altitude, the heat is bearable all day long.
4. The town of Guanajuato is about one hour plus from San Miguel amd is also a popular tourist stop. Just 12 kilometers out of town on the road to Dolores Hidalgo is a reserve called La Paloma which lies at an altitude of about 10,000 feet and has a nice undisturbed area of oak/ manzanita woodlands. An entirely different avifauna lives here and if time allows, this would be well worth a half days visit.
Most visitors fly into Leon, Mexico from Dallas (2 hours) and then drive (or taxi) 90 minutes to San Miguel. Further info available by request.
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