Birding Tips - posted 1997/98
We were just there a couple months ago and had some good birding. We stayed at La Jolla de Mismaloya which is about 10 miles south of PV itself. There is a good walk up to Chino's Paradise that starts across the street from Mismaloya and follows the stream up. We did it in the heat of the day and saw very little. I then took a short walk up it one morning and had much better luck.
The other places we went were not within walking distance. We rented a jeep. About 15-20 miles south of Mismaloya, is a small town called Tuito. If you are headed south on the main highway, it will be on your right. Take the little road to the right that leads through "town" and it will take you to a town square. The exit from town is to the back, right of that square (NW corner). That quickly becomes a dirt road that looks nasty, but is actually quite good as soon as you get past the last house. We followed that road for many miles and birded all along it. Nice combo of fields, streams, jungle. Good variety of birds. Supposedly, this area is one of the best places to see Military Macaws, but we saw no sign of them. FYI: while in and around Tuito, pay close attention to one-way street signs. There is a cop in the middle of the square who loves to catch you.
We also spent 2.5 days in San Blas which is about 3 hours north of PV. This was by far the best birding of the trip. If you have the time, I would highly recommend it. Let me know if you have a couple extra days to get up there, and I will give you more details.
How fun! I was down there last February, but really didn't get to do much birding. If I had it to do over, I'd take a sea kayak tour into the estuary to see birds.
Once I got back I discoverd a Puerto Vallarta eco tour company on the web. I can't find it this morning, but there is such a thing. They do birding/kayak tours. Try searching on Eco tour and Puerto Vallarta. You'll probably have to sift through a lot of chaff, but the eco-tour people looked quite reasonable.
If you haven't looked, you'll be surprised at how much is online about PV--there are even cybercafes there now. (Actually, the development is sort of disappointing--it was just a cute little place when I met my husband there 13 years ago.)
Several places do what they call "adventure" tours, but be careful! Prices vary widely and I'd ask to see the equipment before booking the trip.
You can also get tours on horseback up into the jungle. There's a resort at San Francisco (N of PV) called Costa Azul Adventure Resort. I haven't been on one of their jungle tours, but the sea kayaking was fun. a friend says the naturalist that leads the horseback jungle tours is really good. It's a safe place and features a vendor-free beach! They had a web site at one time, but it seems to be gone now.
I don't want to discourge anyone from visiting San Blas, but Watch Out. Don't go there solo. Americans have been known to have been killed and robbed there. On the other hand, many people have visited the town without difficulty. Just be aware!!
I was in PV from January 10 thru 24 this year and stayed at La Jolla de Mismaloya. Even though this was a nonbirding trip (according to my wife and our traveling companions), I still managed to spend nearly 50 hours in the field, tally 119 species, and pick up 29 lifers. This was done in PV, in and around the village of Mismaloya, and in the village of Yalapa which lies on the coast south of Mismaloya and can only be accessed by boat. We had no rental vehicle so all transportation was by bus, boat, or on foot.
You can catch buses directly outside the main entrance to La Jolla and the fare had just increased to about $.25 (2 pesos) going either north or south. These are "local" buses, so don't expect too much from them but realize that they will get you to town and back. The road across from La Jolla on the east side of the highway splits almost immediately with the left hand side going uphill into a newish housing development with some branching dead-end streets. This is dry jungle habitat with some stone outcropings.
The road to the right drops downhill thru the village of Mismaloya and runs parallel to the river of the same name. You can walk this road past "Chino's Paradise" and after about two miles reach "El Jardin de Eden" restuarant. This road is best walked early or late to avoid the heat and the dust raised by frequent taxis and tour buses.
Where the Rio Mismaloya crosses the highway, just by the bus stop area, the bridge offers a good vantage point for checking the vegetation in the river bed and along the banks. If you continue south across the bridge you will soon see on your left a large, white archway which spans the entry to still another residential development - Lomas del Pacifico. The good news is that this road loops back to the highway affording you more access to uphill jungle habitat, and the other good news is that there are (were in January) very few houses built. The grassy/brushy flatland at the entryway is about the only habitat of its kind in the neighborhood.
If you have the time and inclination, a trip to Yalapa can be very rewarding. The choices I'm aware of for getting there are basically two - big boat or little boat. The Serape sails from the Terminal Maratima in north PV about 9:30 am for a day cruise. It offers breakfast, lunch and free drinks and stops at some off shore rocks (Los Arcos) for snorkling. You're offloaded at Yalapa for about 2 hours ashore. I don't recall the price, but it wasn't cheap. The alternative is to take a bus south to Boca (end of the bus line) and hire a water taxi for a round trip. This cost us 50 pesos/person or a little under $7.00. It's basically a big row boat with a large outboard engine that will get the boat airborne occasionaly. Leaving the water is not so bad, but the landings make you want to get out and walk.
The small boat advantage to birders is more time in Yalapa. It gives you time to bird the area behind the food stands on the beach, the lagoon at the river mouth, the trails on both sides of the river, and to walk in the wide shallow river itself. If you plan to do this you'll want to take appropriate foot gear. I got great looks at a highly agitated Bat Falcon while standing in the riverbed and heard, but did not see, calling Military Macaws which were seen by other birders.
I took my binoculars everytime I went into PV and birded the beach area, the riparian corrider of the Rio Cuales which runs thru town, the grounds of a couple of resorts - actually any place that looked like it might offer up a bird.
Just listing some of my lifers should give you an idea of what you might be in for:
Yellow-winged Cacique - abundant and noisy
Rufous-backed Thrush - common around the bridge
San Blas Jay - on all my uphill walks
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker - almost daily up the hill
Black-capped Gnatcatcher - uncommon uphill and along river
Brown Booby - while cruising on the Serape - 50-60 birds
Zone-tailed Hawk - 1 soaring over Los Arcos rocks
Russet-crowned Motmot - at Yalapa, sharing a tree with a Squirrel Cuckoo & a Pale-billed Woodpecker
Stripe-headed Sparrow - by the bridge & by entry to "Lomas"
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater - along the El Jardin road
Citreoline Trogon - Male & female uphill road
Grayish Saltator - pair on uphill road
Orange-breasted Bunting - uphill road near the top
Sinaloa Wren - uphill road & Los Lomas
Golden Vireo - uphill raod & road to El Jardin
Flame-colored Tanager - road to El Jardin
Scrub Euphonia - road to El Jardin
You get the idea. For reference I had with me Howell and Webb's "A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America", Peterson & Chalif's "Mexican Birds", and Edward's "Finding Birds in Mexico". A handy travel guide we took along Is Bruce Whipperman's "Puerto Vallarta Handbook" published in October, 1995. If you plan to go to San Blas, which I didn't, a book that was recommended to me is "Where to Find Birds in San Blas, Nayarit" by Rosiland Novick and Lan Sing Wu. Order through the authors at 178 Myrtle Court, Arcata, CA 95521, tel. (707) 882-0790.
Just a few words on La Jolla and I'll bow out. The facility is nice but noisy. The front desk crew is compitent but indifferent. The maid service is responsive to your calls even if they can't figure out that 4 people would like to have 4 towels on a daily basis. The best dining we enjoyed was at the Italian (?) restuarant and the breakfast buffet. Unforunately while there a large group of Heinekin employees from France arrived and the facility and staff focused on serving them to the exclusion of other guests. The chefs from the Italian Restuarant were pressed into service catering that group so the place was closed and the buffet was set up just for the French so other guests wanting breakfast had to order off the menu.
In the condos just north of La Jolla a small restuarant named Maria Bonita served good food at reasonable prices. To reach it walk north from La Jolla to the next large building. Left of the lobby area you'll find an elevator which you'll want to take down to the first floor. Exit the elevator and turn left past the swimming pool. This looks like it may be intended for condo guests only, but it is not posted in any manner and we ate there four times without any difficulty.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Reid C Freeman)
Someone else then mentioned that San Blas, to the south of PV is good, which is true. If you go there it is very worthwhile to take a long day trip to Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve, about 1 1/2 hours from San Blas. It is described in Where To Find Birds in San Blas, Nayarit 3rd edition. I got my copy at the Las Brisas Hotel/Resort in San Blas (a very nice place to stay). Cerro de San Juan gets you up to about 4500 feet and into some very good birding. Birds are often found in foraging flocks and the birding can be quite exciting. I saw Gray-collard Becard, Masked Tityra, Blue-hooded Euphonia, Green Jay, Brown-backed Solitaire, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Tufted Flycatcher, White-throated Robin, Blue Mockingbird to name a few. It is definitely worth while. Also, on the way back to San Blas you can go past the Mirador de Aguila- a truely disgusting place overlooking a nice valley and a very smelly dump- and see Military Macaws. Just hold your nose and they should eventually fly past.
I'll tell you what I know about Puerto Vallarta and birds. It isn't a lot. My background is this: My family bought land and built a summer house there about 1956. I first went in 1959 at the age of 5. We continued to spend 2-4 weeks there most summers through 1976. I went there on my way driving to points farther south in 1979 (to Costa Rica) and 1982 (to Belize). Except for the early years (when there was no passable road to P.V. in the summer!) we usually drove there and thus had a car to get around. To do any serious birding you'll need one. I haven't been to Mexico since 4/84. Los Arcos: To the south of PV (only a few miles) are some small islands/large rocks fairly close to shore. Boobies (Blue-footed and Brown) roost and possibly nest there. I was in a fishing boat in 4/81 and took a roll of photos. I didn't realize until I got them back that there were Blue-footed's there! Lots of M. Frigatebirds flying over, although you'll see them from shore too. In fact, with a scope (or binocs?), you might see the Boobies, nesting Br. Pelicans and Cormorants (were there any?) from the highway on shore. There's lots of what they call jungle around, but I'm not familiar with the best locales.
If you don't get other advice, drive the highway south. It leaves the coast and goes into the mountains. I did glimpse Military Macaws in an area that had lots of pines. There's a village called El Tuito that offers food and perhaps lodging-- it's been too long for me to know. There are interesting areas to the north and northwest that are jungle as well, but they are farther to get to. A less beaten path (or was..) than the highway, would be to take the road to Punta de Mita which is the northern point that forms the entrance to the huge Bay of Banderas that PV is in. I think you turn off the highway to Higueras Blancas. I did see some shorebirds at Higueras Blancas, on the beach. When in jungle habitat, look for Citreoline Trogons and (often noisy) parrots. I don't have more specific info here, although at home I do have mostly complete lists of what I saw when traveling there and could provide more info if desired.
James "Jamie" Simmons
I was there in Nov. 97 and Jan. 1998. Best birding was south of town. Take the highway south past the bay and thru the canyon. Park in the village on the left just after the first major bridge. Hike in and the farther you go the more birds, trogons, parrots, etc. A local eco-tour group leads trips into there. They are worth the price. Don't miss the Jacanas and Purple Gallinules at the restaurant on the road into Nuevo Vallarta, access via cab. Scrub areas near the coast have tons of orioles, Blue Grosbeaks, etc. Also, you can drive/taxi to the end of the road along the river, and hike in early -- green Kingfisher, tufted jays etc. --
Richard C. Carlson
Palo Alto, CA