05 June - 01 July 2001
by Forrest Rowland
June 5th – June 8th Mazatlan/Durango Highway
Tim Mitzen and Jaymie Arnold arrived at the Mazatlan International Airport just after 2:00pm. I had arrived earlier and rented a VW Pointer from Hertz Rental Cars. We headed out from the airport at approx. 2:30pm toward Villa Reunion and Concordia, to pick up the Maz-Dur Highway. We birded our way from Concordia to El Palmito, at km 200 on the Highway itself.
We set up our hotel room at the Hotel y Posada Samantha. This happens to be the only real accommodations on the Highway before El Salto, some 2 hours further into Durango (Palmito is on the Sinaloa/Durango border). Fortunately, El Palmito is less than an hour’s walking time from the Barranca Rancho Liebre, and less then thirty minutes drive from the Mesa Verde turnoff. The hotel is perfectly located, basically. Plus, it is only $150 pesos/noche for a room with two queen size beds. As for food, deseabrada and chicharrone Gorditas are about all that’s on the menu, but they’re surprisingly good, and only $4 pesos a pop. You can fill up for less than $2.50 dollars.
We spent only one full day in the Sierras, as we saw all of our target birds in the first morning. We woke up on June 6th at 7:00am and headed out (a pies) to Barranca Rancho Liebre. We saw all our target birds before we even hit the road up to the mirador. We were lacking good views of Aztec Thrush, Blue-hooded Euphonias, and Spotted Wren, however, so we headed over to the Mesa Verde Road (~km 178) and picked up these spares. All-in-all, we birded from 7:15am–9:00am at and on the way to Barranca Rancho Liebre, and from 10:00am-11:45am on the Mesa Verde Road.
The afternoon and evening were spent birding our way back down to Mazatlan. Howell’s directions are accurate to Panuco Road, Cerro Elefante, and other good Thorn Forest birding areas. The only element missing from the Mazatlan-Durango Hwy was hummingbirds. We saw only White-eared and Blue-throated in the mountains, and Broad-billed, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, Golden-crowned Emeralds and Plain-capped Starthroats down low. The saving grace was one Sparkling-tailed Woodstar, but the views were poor and not counted by some, and a lone Mexican Hermit, which was well out of range and habitat. Documentation on the latter bird will follow.
We hit Mazatlan at around 9:30pm and stayed at a Hotel that I can not recommend…..so I won’t. We did, however, head down the strip to Senor Frog’s, but it was late and not crowded. Fairly uneventful evening.
The morning of the 7th, we birded from 8:30am-9:30am along the La Noria Road to get good views of Elegant Quail and Purplish-backed Jays, both of which are much more numerous here than on the Maz-Dur Highway at this time of year. We got back to Mazatlan and switched hotels. We decided to splurge and spend a little more tonight, since we planned to do a little “exploring” around town. We stayed at the El Quijote Hotel, which I definitely recommend. It has large rooms, beds for three people, a huge pool, nice beach, and is well located. We payed only $780 pesos/noche, which is quite a bit less than other hotels we checked out (ranging from $890-$1020 pesos/noche).
That night we spent at Bora Bora. You can’t help but see it when you drive to the beachfront avenue, and everybody knows where it is. Fun..Fun…Fun!
The 8th was pretty mellow. We recuperated from the previous night’s festivities, and decided to check all the other places that were recommended by friends here in Mexico. This included Joe Oyster Bar and the No Name Café. Both were pretty cool, but we stayed a little more low key tonight. That night was spent at another hole-in-the-wall that I cannot recommend. Overall, Mazatlan is either really cheap (and uncomfortable) or expensive. I recommend a little time doing both. We turned in the car the following day and the bill came to $1943 pesos. About $68 pesos/day. The car had AC, Radio, and was a Standard.
June 9th-June 11th Puerto Vallarta
Not much birding went on these three days. None went on, really. This was the….”non-birding”….part of the trip. The 9th was spent traveling from Mazatlan to P.V. It was ~ 9 hours by bus via Tepic. The cost was $360 pesos/person, give or take, en primera clase. The bus had TVs, a bathroom, AC, and was comfortable enough to convince anyone that the buses are the way to get around Mexico.
We ended up in P.V. around 3:00am. We stayed at the Hotel Rosita. It was $600 pesos/noche for three people. Not a great deal, as we soon learned, but not bad, either. We stayed the nights of the 10th, and 11th, at the Posada Frankfurt. This was only $430 pesos/noche. It didn’t have AC, but didn’t need it. We got our own little bungalow with fans, nice bathroom, and, best of all, porch furniture and a nice porch overlooking a little courtyard and the cozy restaurant they have there. Never crowded and very pleasant, the Frankfurt is a definite recommend.
As for the nightlife, P.V. is definitely my favorite place in the world, followed closely by Guadalajara. I recommend Senor Frogs on Fri. and Sat., early. The Zoo for late night. Christine’s is a must on Sun. night because of the Barra Liebre and the overabundance of beautiful Mexican girls. We did meet a lot of gringas, too, but, “When in Rome……” The No Name Café in P.V. was where we watched the Championship Hockey game between the Avalanche and the Devils. The pizza is great there , and they have good prices on drinks. Hooters was cool, too. We met the Budweiser models, that live and work in Puerto Vallarta, there. They were a definite plus over the course of our stay.
We hated to leave, but felt the birds pulling us towards Manzanillo on the 12th. The bus ride was just over 6 hours to reach Barra de Navidad at $345 pesos/person.
June 12th-June 15th Barra de Navidad/Manzanillo
The first morning in Barra de Navidad had us heading out to the airport to get our rent car. It was a Nissan Tsuru that we ended up putting through hell, but it was a great little car. $630 pesos/dia con todo incluido (ins., kms, etc.). It had AC, radio, 4 doors, and was a stick. We birded the Manzanillo Aiport area from about 10:30am-11:00am on 6/13 and again from 8:30am-10:15am on 6/16, as well. Highlights included three pairs of Limpkins, which are not projected to be in the area in Howell’s Field Guide. Over the next two-and-a-half days we birded the Playa de Oro Road two afternoons for a total of 5 hours birding time there, the El Toro Microondas (1 mile up the road to Manzanillo from the Playa de Oro road) one morning and one evening for a total of 3.5 hours birding time, and the Barranca el Choncho (good directions by Howell) two mornings and one evening for a total 8 hours birding time here.
The best area, by far, was the Barranca el Choncho. This is due, mostly, to the fact that we managed to find two Flammulated Flycatchers here. These guys are really tough customers. The puddle water from the creek in the canyon allowed for killer views of Orange-breasted Bunting, Bright-rumped Attila, Golden Vireos, and Fan-tailed Warbies, too. Rosy Thrush-Tanagers were calling but did not come out or respond to our tape, which was used very conservatively. The birds might have been more apt to check us out if the taping was more extensive, but since the bird wouldn’t have been new for anyone, we did not want to be a bother. Red-breasted Chats were found on the El Toro Microondas, as was a crippling look at an eye-level adult, calling, Collared Forest-Falcon not twenty feet from us.
The nights of the 12th, and 13th were spent at the Hotel Caribe in Barra de Navidad. This was definitely a budget choice, as our checkbooks were just cooling off from our stint in Puerto Vallarta. The cost was $160 pesos/noche for three beds, no AC, and a working, but VERY small bathroom. Overall, we did not like staying in Barra de Navidad and would recommend staying in Manzanillo. It wasn’t “Bad”, per se, but Manzanillo is much nicer for the money. We stayed in Manzanillo the night of the 14th, at the Hotel Colonia, cerce de Plaza Principal, right across from the shipyards and the Centro Zocalo. It was only $300 pesos/noche for three people, we had to split two beds, but that was fairly common on this trip, as three IS an odd number to deal with. The Hotel was clean, historic, well located, and very convenient for the next day’s events.
The morning of the 16th was spent visiting Piedra Blanca via Captain Fabian Michel of the Lory 5. A definite improvement over Rafael Rosas, whom I will now proceed to blatantly dog, which is something I rarely (never) do. I’m actually going to exemplify a common happenstance in resort towns using Mr. Rosas as an example: Basically, he tried to pull a little highway robbery on us. Luckily, I knew enough Spanish to pull out of his con. Apparently, due to gringo tourist inflation, Rafael decided to jack his prices up through the roof. This is OBVIOUSLY because he was mentioned in Howell’s bird-finding guide. When I talked to Rafael, he first quoted an approximation of $1800 pesos for 5 hours in the boat, heading out to Piedra Blanca.
I then talked to Fabian Michel, who quoted the outstanding price of $1300 pesos for the same service, with an extra hour, plus fishing. I then returned to Rafael Rosas, who, by now, had figured out that we had heard of him via Howell’s guide. He now quoted me a price of $2250 pesos, without drinks or food, or anything resembling service. Just him and his boat. No fishing. Nada. So I told him where he could put his $2250 pesos, just before I called him a dirty name and told him that no other birder would ever come to him again. I was, needless to say, infuriated at his pompous attempt to take advantage of us, and take advantage of Mr. Howell’s generosity in providing free advertising. I hope Fabian does not do the same. He seems much more straight forward of a guy. There are also, at least, 40 other boats for rent. Take the extra hour to talk to at least 5 different capitans and look at their lanchas, to see what your money’s getting. Don’t pay more than $1300 pesos for a solid morning.
The afternoon was spent (after a quick stop at the outflow in Manzanillo) driving to Colima. This convenience was made possible by a very helpful young lady at National Rental Car who said we could drop off our rental car in Colima for no extra charge. We appreciated this greatly. The drive to Colima was two hours and very scenic.
June 15th- 19th Colima/Volcanes de Colima
We meandered into Colima after an evening of birding El Cumbre Microondas, which we returned to bird two evenings later, for a total of 5 hours birding the area. Highlights of the road included a Balsas Screech-Owl that flew right in to my whistles. I must admit that I was pretty hauty and proud of that one. We heard three others while on the road.
We stayed the nights of the 15th, 16th, 18th, and 19th, at the Hotel Flamingo located just Southeast of the Plaza Nunez in Colima. The room was only $200 pesos/noche for three people splitting two beds. No AC, but fans, a TV, good service, roomy bathroom, and well placed balcony made up for any short-comings. I recommend this hotel for sure.
Good places to eat in town include Hotel Ceballo and La Plaucita on the zocalo (Plaza Principal). I liked these not only for their good food, but also for the scenery and all the friendly people we met there. The Olympus disco is a must on Friday for “youths” and Bellisario is the place to be on Saturday for anyone and everyone looking to dance. Colima was extremely friendly, easy to navigate, clean, historic, and all around a wonderfully pleasant place. It was the nicest town we stayed in, in my opinion.
As for the birding…it was intense and fantastic. We spent the 16th and 19th birding the La Maria Road. A total of 16 hours birding the road was logged. The San Antonio Finca was closed, but just shy of the Finca is a great spot with a small trail down through another Finca. Yerbuena, further up the road you turn on to in order to reach Laguna La Maria, was also very beautiful and had a Zocala with lots of flowers and hummers. We spent the 17th birding Volcan de Fuego, which was easily accessed at this time of year. It would be, obviously, much more difficult during or after the rainy season. We camped the night of the 17th at the “upper” campsite, as described by Howell. We birded the morning of the 18th on the Volcano, and proceeded to Volcan de Nieve for Flowerpiercers/Hummers in late morning/early afternoon. We also birded the lakes just North of Ciudad Guzman for about 30 minutes, but it started raining, so we went home wet.
I’ll go ahead and pitch-in on the “How to reach Volcan Fuego” front. Since nobody gave directions from Colima, here goes: Take the main cuota heading North through Ciudad Guzman. Get off of the cuota at the Tuxpan exit just PAST Atenquique. Once you reach the glorieta after you go up the “off-ramp”, bear a hard right back down the hill into Atenquique. Follow the road straight down past a park in town until you reach a glorieta which is little more than a “T”. Go left. Simply follow this road until you see a sign to RMO Cerro Alto (Telmex sign) and a dirt road heading off at a 30% angle to your right. This is the road.
The birding at all sites in the area was great. We saw lots of Vireos, had a close, but not well-visible, encounter with a Long-tailed Wood-Partridge, and had lots of other good birds, including Yellow-headed Parrot and Double-toothed Kite. It was a great time in every aspect.
June 20th-21st Guadalajara
6/20 was used as a traveling and relaxing day. We headed up to Guadalajara around 2:00pm, and checked-in to the Hotel y Posada Guadalajara in Zapopan (one of the many suburbs). Jaymie Arnold had to leave the day following, so we had a proper send-off, similar to the one we gave Tim on his 21st birthday the night of the June 19th. The Hotel was awesome. We paid only $800 pesos/noche for top-notch food and accommodations and a perfect location for hitting up the Ruta Vallarta (a strip of discos and restaurants a few blocks away on Avenida Vallarta).
We ate the farewell dinner at La Trattoria, a nearby Italian Restaurant. The food was fantastic, as was the service and the bill. For about $45 pesos you can get all the salad, bread, and Lasagna you can handle. It is also very popular with the locals, so the company is good, too. We decided to get a little dressy and head over to the disco La Marcha. I HAVE to recommend La Marcha!!! It has the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, and the dance floor was always packed. $140 pesos gets you all you can handle (drink-wise) until 2am, though the club is open until 4am, and it is all you’ll need to have to have a great night with lots of friendly, gorgeous people! La Marcha definitely rivals Christine’s in P.V.!!!! That’s a tall order. Anyone from age 18 to 30 would love it. They have flame twirling shows, dance shows, and all sorts of cool stuff before everybody starts dancing. A must when in Guadalajara.
So, Jaymie had to bounce out to the states the following morning around 11:00am. Tim and I saw him off, ate some breakfast, and then hopped on our 13-hour bus trek to Acapulco. You have to go through Mexico City first, which is about a 7 hour ride for just under $400 pesos. In many cases you must take a taxi to another bus station in Mexico City, to catch the ride to Acapulco. There are four bus terminals in Mex City, and all buses from Guad arrive in the Terminal Norte. Luckily, we were able to catch a bus to Acapulco from this terminal, when most leave out of the Sur. The ride to Acapulco is 5 hours or so, and is around $290 pesos/person.
June 22nd-29th Acapulco/Paraiso/Chilpancingo
We arrived very late (2:30am) on the 21st. We stayed at the Hotel Doria just off La Costera (the strip) the nights of 6/21, 6/22, and 6/23. The room cost $350 pesos/noche and was roomy, had AC, cable, had a pool, and was conveniently located and quite clean.
The 22nd was spent sleeping, renting our car for a day, and birding around Pie de la Cuesta, about 15km West of Acapulco on route 200. We got a pretty good deal on the car: $750 pesos/dia con todo incluido at Alamo for a Chevy tracker. A decent deal considering we got what we wanted: a CD player!!! I had brought my CDs, but hadn’t had the chance to use them. It was worth it. After heading back from Pie de la Cuesta at about nine, we got a bite to eat at Mother Hubbard’s and played it low key.
The 23rd was spent getting to and birding on the interior side of the Sierras de Atoyac. The drive to Chilpancingo from Acapulco is around 1.5 hours and costs $240 pesos each way. Steep!!!! The cuota is the only way to go, but get ready to pay for its convenience. Take the free road out of Chilpancingo, on the far side of town, signed Mexico Liebre and Iguala. Follow this road through a small town (that has a hotel that looked OK) about 15 kms out of Chilpancingo, then another 8 kms or so to a paved road leaving off to your left. This road is signed to Filo de Caballo. THIS is the road you want to take. Howell’s directions indicate a differently signed exit or road. The road is very visible and is also signed to Estacionamiento de Microondas, as well. Take this road up to your left. Follow it through Xochilapa, until you start to scale through some good scrub just shy of the Scrub Oak/Palm Forest area. This is where to find Dusky Hummingbird, Pileated and White-throated Flycatchers, and Slate-blue (Blue) Seedeaters (bamboo is plentiful).
Birding in the Scrub Oak/Palm Forest should produce Boucard’s Wren. You have to go quite a bit farther to get to the Cloud Forest, but it is well worth it. This is because you CAN NOT access good cloud forest from the Coastal Slope without extensive walking and between 3.5 and 4 hours traveling time. The road is barely passible from the Coastal side, whereas from this side the road seems like a boulevard in Beverly Hills in comparison. The Cloud Forest on this side is much prettier, in my eyes, as well. Birds here included White-throated Jays, lots of hummers, Flowerpiercers, Woodcreepers, a few singing Black Thrushes (not seen), and tons of mixed flocks of Tanagers/Warblers. It was great!!!! But, I would allow at least 2 hours to get to Xochilapa and 2.5 – 3 hours to get into cloud forest. We left at 5 am, and got to the cloud forest a little later than we hoped, but it was still fantastic birding. Any side track into the forest should be very productive.
The 24th was another traveling day. We left our big bags at the Hotel, and caught a 2nd-class bus to Atoyac. It was only $24 pesos to get there, and took a little over 1.5 hours. In Atoyac you must catch a Camioneta (truck with a cabin-like structure built over its bed) to Paraiso. For 15 pesos/person we got to Paraiso in 45 minutes. To find the Camioneta “station” in Atoyac, simply walk two blocks up from the bus station, over a bridge, and turn right. Go about 50m and you’ll be standing next to a couple benches with a bunch of people crowded around. A Few veggie bins will be on the porch behind the bench and there will be a couple young people hollering “Paraiso”. This is the place.
Finding accommodations in Paraiso was easy, and, surprisingly, they were nice. Once in Paraiso, to find the “Hotel” head to the East side of the Centro (a small triangular, raised, park in front of the Escuela Primeria) and talk to the ladies living in a three-story purple house that you couldn’t miss with your eyes closed. It is very purple. They have three extra rooms, all equipped with a double bed and bathroom. The water is freezing cold, but proves envigorating when taking a shower. I suggest being fully equipped, taking extra socks and bathroom supplies, as weather is sporadic and moves in quickly, and a lot of walking is required to bird the area.
We spent the nights of 6/24, 6/25, 6/26, and 6/27 in Paraiso. We had lots of good food from the Restaurant Paraiso, which is very easy to find, provided you can ask someone. Birding and staying here is when a command of Spanish really comes in handy. Not necessary, but VERY handy. Anyways, Yolanda, the owner of the restaurant, is quite amiable and will hook you up with food to go, as well. Just let her know, ahead of time, what you want. Everyone in Paraiso was either very friendly, or very drunk. The “very drunk” happened to be very friendly, as well. You can ask any of the locals when the camionetas leave in the morning to Nueva Delhi and El Edis. Both go up the road about 30-50kms.
You can take these camionetas as far as half way to good cloud forest. None go all the way up, anymore. Getting to the cloud forest above Nueva Delhi will require about 8 miles of hiking straight up, then 8 miles to get back down, and as far as you want to walk down from there, while waiting for one of the three cars that come down the mountain a day. This makes the effort to get up there almost obsolete, as you can’t get there until mid-day and are almost too tired to enjoy the birding, though the birding is productive.
We birded extensively within 10 kms of Paraiso, leaving only one day to take on the task of birding the coastal cloud forest, wherein we only had about one good hour. This proved to be a costly hour, as our feet suffered greatly. Through the course of that day, we walked somewhere between 15 and 16 miles. An all-day journey for sure. We decided birding around Paraiso was much better. Also, You can take one of the many Camionetas or pasaderos down to San Vicente and bird your way back up, until you get tired and decide to take a camioneta the rest of the way back to Paraiso. It is also possible to take a camioneta, that leaves at 7:00am sharp, from the carretera/town ramp, up the road towards Nueva Delhi. I suggest taking it to the La Pintada turnoff (a road off to your right), then walking/birding your way to an obvious large road turning to your left. This is the road to a town pronounced “Elicia”. I don’t know how it is spelled.
We birded this particular road on three separate occasions for a total of about 15 hours. Everything we saw lower, except for Green-fronted Hummingbird, and everything we saw higher up to Nueva Delhi, we also found on this road, just birding the first mile or two. This, thankfullly, includes Short-crested Coquettes. We recorded 5 adult females, 3 adult males, and 3 young males in various stages of immaturity. All but one were found on this road, all in the same specie of tree.
I, unfortunately, do not know the name of this tree, but can easily describe it. The tree itself has a trunk ~ 1.5 to 2 feet in diameter, that branches heavily and abruptly at about 5 feet above ground. The many, thin, branches are moderately foliated on the outer branches with serrated, yellow-green, ridged, leaves about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the widest point, 1/3 the way to the tip from the base. Among the patches of leaves are small clusters of tiny, tubular, white flowers. The trees’ foliage spans about 15-18 feet at the widest, and the trees were never taller than about 15 feet. The birds were foriaging leisurely among the branches, seeming to start on the right side of the tree and move towards the left, with the birds’ backs facing us. This must be purely coincidental, but it was universal among the individuals we observed. Total observation time of these awesome and beautiful little birds was upwards of 4 solid hours.
Other good birding areas around Paraiso included the La Pintada Road and the road to El Eden, which is about 6 kms outside of town, heading up towards Nueva Delhi. I will suggest NOT attempting to bird the Cloud Forest from this side, unless you have plenty of time to kill and are a bit of a masochist, because you will spend about 7 hours of the day getting to and from the habitat, and your feet will be cashed for sure. This is, of course, if you are are sans a car, which I recommend, for a couple of reasons.
First, putting these kinds of miles on your car is very expensive. It won’t be at first, but this kind of a beating is best left up to someone else’s vehicle. Also, I’m not sure how much attention you would draw to yourself if you came with your car. This especially applies if you have a nice car (i.e. Ford F-150, Expedition, GMC Sierra, Yukon, etc.). Laying low is kind of good sometimes and usually manages to keep the “bad” elements from looking too hard you direction. If you do decide to bring a car up the road, I can say that birding this cloud forest area might be more feasible, but, unless you have a high-clearance vehicle, I can also say that leaving your car on the far side of Nueva Delhi would be wise, due to the ludicrously rocky condition of the road.
We returned to Acapulco on the 28th of June, and stayed another night at Hotel Doria. We ate at Tony Roma’s, which was good, and watched the World Championship Futbol game between Mexico and Argentina with a ton of excited and enthusiastic locals. I also suggest eating at Mother Hubbard’s. They have awesome Buffalo Wings and Homemade Pizza for a very reasonable price. We watched Gladiator on the big screen when we were there and spoke with the owners (gringos) from Chicago. Mother Hubbard’s can be reached from taking the East road to Costa Azul from La Costera ave. (100% natural restaurant on the corner and Hooter’s across the street). Go one full block up and turn left on a mediated, 4-lane, street. Follow this street two blocks, up past a glorieta and the restaurant is on your right. REALLY GOOD eats and atmosphere!!!!
June 29th-July 1st Guadalajara
On the 29th we headed back up to Guadalajara. Tim’s flight was out on the
1st of July, and we Promised these girls from Guad that we’d see them again
before we left. Far be it from me to break a promise and let these wonderful
people down. So…..we went a day early to make sure we got to see them. We
spent the night of the 29th and the 30th at the Hotel y Posada Guadalajara
again. It is A+!!!! We ate at La Trattoria again, too, and spent another
night at La Marcha. There are other great discos in Guad, for sure, but I
didn’t really care to check them out. We were totally satisfied with La Marcha,
and I’m sure I’ll go back next time I get down that way. Tim’s flight was
out of Guadalajara International at 12:15pm on July 1st , heading to Houston.
Mine was out at 11:10am to Los Mochis. We said our good-byes and were both
grateful to whoever was responsible for allowing us to have such a wonderful
time. It just shouldn’t be legal to have that much fun. So, that brought
about the end to our month-long adventure through West Mexico.
By trip’s end, we ended up recording 380 species, and over 2,500 miles. It was, by far, the best trip I have taken. The trip was well-rounded, not overly expensive, and basically perfect. We were able to see new birds, meet a lot of new people, spend some fun quality time as a group, and made memories I know I will never lose.
Our individual “success” on this trip, in terms of finding new birds, varied, but only slightly. Some got better views of different birds than others, but no one went home without seeing at least 70 endemics.
The four real problem birds were Long-tailed Wood-Partridge (no surprise here), Singing Quail (which flushed early on most occasions), Bumblebee Hummingbird and Sparkling-tailed Woodstar (which is usually numerous). The reasons for these particular birds being difficult may include time of year. But more so, it seems the habits of the birds contributed. Hummingbirds are often sporadic and, despite the low numbers of individuals, I was extremely pleased with the diversity (21 species) of Hummingbirds we encountered. Improvements with the Trochilidae could only have been made in the poor views we had of the two listed above.
The “ground birds” were more of a mystery in the sense that this time of year is, hypothetically, better for these birds being more gregarious and visible. The post-nesting season usually leaves non-paired and young males more apt to respond and approach, at least with the Quail and Partidges I have had experience with. Perhaps we were a bit early, and the birds were still tending young. But, Wood-Quail are always horrendously difficult to see. Time and luck seem to be the best allies. The Singing Quail can be seen more readily, but are rarely seen well due to their languid habits of poking around on the ground without making themselves overly evident. We flushed quite a few, but I was the only member to see one on the ground (unfortunate b/c I had seen them before, but the others had not).
With regards to the time of year having a bearing on the birds we saw, I would like to comment on a few aspects of Summer here, that we all easily noticed. Flycatchers were much more numerous and easier to find. I had only seen Flammulated Flycatcher on one other occasion, skulking, just about eye-level, some twenty feet away from the forest edge. That was in March. But when we found ours in Barranca El Choncho, one was feeding in the Canopy of large Sycamore, while the other was flying around, catching bugs, over a puddle in the creek. Quite different from earlier in the year. The Pileated Flycatcher we ran into was very active, as well. These, I believe, are not usually very conspicuous. Warblers and Vireos were also very active and in roving bands.
We saw four Slaty Vireos at once, in a little “gang”, on Volcan Fuego, and three together on the La Maria Road. Dwarf Vireo was easily visible and didn’t require taping, which was something I expected to have to do for these birds. Owls were also fairly active, though did not call often. We managed to whistle in quite a few Owls, who flew right up to us, though may have not responded audibly. Motmots and Nightingale-Thrushes were quite numerous, as well, and calling all over the place. If I tried to count how many Orange-billeds we saw/heard, the number would be in the hundreds, quite literally. Overall, all families but the Trochilidae were more visible, or equally so, in comparison with other seasons.
The weather throughout our trip was good, as well. The only location that was “hot” by most people’s standards was Acapulco. In most areas temperatures ranged from 60 degrees at night, to 90 degrees during the day. Easily bearable and often enjoyable, we were very thankful for the little rain we encountered, again, in Acapulco. Other areas saw a few showers, but our birding was rarely impeded by the weather. The rain did break up a basketball game we had going in Paraiso, but, oh well.
We had no troubles whatsoever, save for my extensive and deep blisters acquired in the Sierras de Atoyac, and Tim had a slight problem with his left eye. No robberies, kidnappings, fights, gunshot wounds, or anything that Mexico seems famous for. We went all over the country, and, had less problems than someone would trying to get from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and we loved the whole trip. Now that it is over, I realize I must also be very thankful not only for the opportunity, but for the opportunity to do such a trip with the people I did. I extend my thanks to my friends Jaymie Arnold and Tim Mitzen. We’ve been a lot of places, but this was the best.
I recommend a similar itinerary to all who might seek to travel through the Western third of Mexico. Spending 2-3 days on the Mazatlan-Durango Hwy, 2.5-3 full days around Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad, 4 days in Colima birding the Volcanoes, and 5 full days in Guerrero (1 on the interior, 4 on the coastal) would allow enough time to, more than likely, find 90% or so of the endemics in the area. Our itinerary was similar to the one I described, but, as you can tell, we added plenty of time to partake in the non-birding side of life. This I also staunchly recommend to anyone and everyone who may want to visit. If I could make it mandatory, I would have all birders who visit West Mexico stay at least two days in Puerta Vallarta and two in Guadalajara. Hopefully my antics on this narrative trip report will at least tempt you all to indulge in a part of life that most birding trips tend to overlook: people.
Trip List for Summer ’01 (June 5th-July 1st)
This list includes all species positively identified over the duration of our trip. Any bird that was considered a “lifer” for one or more persons in the group was accepted on the following list if, and only if, it could be positively identified by someone who had prior experience with the bird, or was seen well by all members of the group. Heard birds were accepted on this list only if they could be identified by someone with prior experience with the bird.
|American White Pelican^ (2) 6|
|Great Blue Heron|
|Little Blue Heron|
|Rufous-bellied Chachalaca (1,2,3) ~ 80|
|West Mexican Chachalaca (2,3,4) ~ 100|
|Chachalaca, hybrid ? (2; Barranca El Choncho, El Toro Microondas) 11|
|Long-tailed Wood-Partridge (3,4) 19|
|Singing Quail (3,4) ~40|
|Banded Quail (3) 22|
|Elegant Quail (1) 16|
|Willet^ (2) 4|
|Elegant Tern^ (2) 5|
|Orange-fronted Parakeet (1,2,3,4) ~60|
|Military Macaw (1,2) 14|
|Mexican Parrotlet (1,3) 28|
|Lilac-crowned Parrot (1,2,3,4) 27|
|Lesser Roadrunner (1,3) 5|
|Balsas Screech-Owl (3; El Cumbre Microondas) 3|
|Great Horned Owl|
|Colima Pygmy-Owl (1,2) 6|
|Eared Poorwill (3; Volcan de Fuego) 2|
|Buff-collared Nightjar (1,3) 6|
|White-naped Swift (1,4) ~75|
|Greater Swallow-tailed Swift|
|Mexican Hermit (1,3,4; La Maria Road, Elicia Road) 7|
|Short-crested Coquette (4; Elicia Road, El Eden Road) 11|
|Golden-crowned Emerald (1,3,4) 17|
|Dusky Hummingbird (4; Xochilapa) 4|
|Doubleday's (Broad-billed) Hummingbird (4) 3|
|Mexican Woodnymph (3) 5|
|Green-fronted Hummingbird (4; San Vicente) 1|
|White-tailed Hummingbird (4; Elicia Road, El Eden Road) 9|
|Amethyst-throated Hummingbird (3,4) 11|
|Garnet-throated Hummingbird (4; Interior Cloud Forest) 5|
|Sparkling-tailed Woodstar (1,4) 3|
|Bumblebee Hummingbird (3) 5|
|Mountain Trogon (1,3,4) 24|
|Eared Quetzal (1; km 200.7) 1|
|Russet-crowned Motmot (1,2,4) ~60|
|Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (2,3,4) 33|
|Grey-crowned Woodpecker (2,3,4) 9|
|Scaly-throated (Spectacled) Foliage-Gleaner (4; Coastal Cloud Forest) 1|
|White-striped Woodcreeper (1,3) 8|
|Pileated Flycatcher (4; Xochilapa) 1|
|White-throated Flycatcher (1,4; Xochilapa) 8|
|Pine Flycatcher (1,3) 21|
|Nutting's Flycatcher (1,2,3) ~30|
|Flammulated Flycatcher (2; Barranca El Choncho) 2|
|Grey-collared Becard (2,3,4) 6|
|Sinaloa Martin (1,3) 14|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow|
|Black-throated Magpie-Jay (1,2) ~100|
|Tufted Jay (1; km 200.4) 8|
|Purplish-backed Jay (1) 7|
|San Blas Jay (2,4) 15|
|White-throated Jay (4; Interior Cloud Forest) 11|
|Unicolored Jay (4; Coastal Cloud Forest) 3|
|Sinaloa Crow (1) ~140|
|Grey-barred Wren (3) 37|
|Spotted Wren (1,3) 18|
|Boucard's Wren (4; Xochilapa) 2|
|Happy Wren (1,2,3,4) 23|
|Sinaloa Wren (1,2,3,4) ~70|
|White-bellied Wren (3) 16|
|Black-capped Gnatcatcher (1,2,3) ~40|
|Brown-backed Solitaire (1,3,4) ~60|
|Russet Nightingale-Thrush (1,3,4) 18|
|Black Thrush (4; Interior Cloud Forest) 3|
|Rufous-backed Thrush (1,2,3,4) ~50|
|Aztec Thrush (1,3) 17|
|Blue Mockingbird (1,2,3,4) ~35|
|Grey Silky (1,3,4) ~45|
|Slaty Vireo (3; La Maria Road, Volcan de Fuego) 7|
|Dwarf Vireo (3; Volcan de Fuego) 5|
|Golden Vireo (1,2,3,4) ~40|
|Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo (3,4; Volcan de Fuego, Coastal Cloud Forest) 17|
|Crescent-chested Warbler (1,3,4) ~100|
|Fan-tailed Warbler (2,3,4) 11|
|Golden-browed Warbler (1,3,4) 29|
|Red-breasted Chat (2; Playa de Oro Road, El Toro Microondas) 5|
|Godman's Euphonia (1,2,3,4) 31|
|Summer Tanager^ (3; La Maria Road) 2|
|Red-headed Tanager (1,3,4) ~35|
|Blue Bunting (1,2,3) 23|
|Orange-breasted Bunting (2,3,4) ~30|
|Rufous-capped Brushfinch (1,3,4) 9|
|Green-striped Brushfinch (1,3) 17|
|Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow (1,2,3,4) 22|
|Collared Towhee (3,4) 14|
|Cinnamon-rumped (White-collared) Seedeater (1,2,3,4) 20|
|Slate-blue (Blue) Seedeater (3,4; La Maria Road, Xochilapa) 7|
|Black-chested Sparrow (3,4) 17|
|Black-vented Oriole (2,3,4) ~30|
|Yellow-winged Cacique (1,2,3,4) ~100|
|Black-headed Siskin (1,3,4) 18|
|Hooded Grosbeak (1; km 200.4) 6|
Total number of species recorded: 380
Total number of endemics recorded: 82
Trip Checklist for ’01 Pacific Slope Trip (June 5 – July 1)
“R” indicates scarcity in numbers
“V” indicates vagrancy recordings in the area(s)
“*” preceding indicates endemism
“?” indicates status undetermined
Laysan Albatross V
Northern Fulmar V
Juan Fernandez Petrel
Dark-rumped Petrel ?
Kermadec Petrel R
Flesh-footed Shearwater V
Buller’s Shearwater R
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Cinnamon Teal R
Double-toothed Kite ?
Crane Hawk D
Black-collared Hawk R
Mangrove Black-Hawk R
Solitary Eagle R
Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle ?
*West Mexican Chachalaca
Ruddy Crake R
Spotted Rail R
Long-tailed Jaeger V
South Polar Skua
Brown Noddy R
Plain-breasted Ground-Dove ?
*Thick-billed Parrot R
*Balsas Screech-Owl R
Great Horned Owl
Stygian Owl R
Northern Saw-Whet Owl R
*Eared Poorwill R
White-collared Swift V
White-chinned Swift R
Greater Swallow-tailed Swift
Costa’s Hummingbird R
Golden-Fronted Woodpecker R
Gilded Flicker R
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper V
Western Kingbird R
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallow R
*Tufted Jay R
*San Blas Jay
White-lored Gnatcatcher V
*Grey-barred Wren R
Rufous-naped Wren R
Banded Wren V
Golden-crowned Kinglet R
*Grayson’s Thrush V
Crissal Thrasher R
Plumbeous Vireo R
Mangrove (Yellow?) Warbler R
Hooded Yellowthroat ?
White-winged Tanager V
Slate-blue Seedeater R
Grasshopper Sparrow ?
Large-billed (Savannah) Sparrow ?
*Sierra Madre Sparrow R
Bullock’s Oriole R
Red Crossbill R
Evening Grosbeak R
Hasta luego y bien viaje de Forrest Dustin Rowland. Adios!!!!