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-- NAYARIT & SINALOA
San Blas (Nayarit), Durango Road (Sinaloa)
16 - 25 January 2006
Barry Cooper and Gail Mackiernan
Along with our friend Sally Wechsler we visited San Blas, Nayarit, and
vicinity and sites along the Durango Road, Sinaloa. During our time at
San Blas we stayed at the Hotel Garza Canela and while birding the
Durango Road we stayed at the cabins at Daniel’s Restaurant and Hotel
in Copala. We will only make the following limited comments on the
accommodations, as both hotels have been discussed at some length in
several earlier trip reports.
Hotel Garza Canela: [phone number - 011 52 323 285 0112]
Very comfortable and well-run hotel that specifically caters to
birders. The food and service were both excellent. Two birding groups
and several other birders were staying at the hotel while we were
there, making it is a great place to exchange information. The only
negatives are it is on the expensive side and the late time they open
for breakfast (8.00 a.m.). However, they will provide a packed
breakfast/lunch in lieu of breakfast.
Daniel’s Restaurant and Hotel. [phone number - 011 52-669-928-1932]
We stayed at the self-catering cabins, at the very reasonable rate of
300 pesos per cabin per night. There is also the option to rent a room
in the main hotel, which is slightly less expensive. Again the
restaurant opens at poor hours for birders [between 9.00 am and 5.00
p.m.] However the cabinas have stove, fridge, cookware etc. and
food can be purchased in town or in Concordia. There are also a number
of 24-hour small truck stops between Copala and the Barranca Rancho
Liebre [BRL]. We had dinner a couple of times at these and found that
they were inexpensive and had decent food. We had a late breakfast at
Daniel’s on a couple of occasions. The restaurant overlooks thorn
forest and some low ridges. We saw quite a few birds while eating
breakfast. These included a couple of parties of Military Macaws, a
flock of the large and impressive White-naped Swifts, as well as
Orange-fronted Parakeets and Mexican Parrotlets.
The drive from Daniel’s to the BRL is about 1 1/4 hours and the very
birdy Panuco Road is only a five minutes’ drive.
We rented a Nissan Sentra from National, picking up at the Puerto
Vallarta airport and returning at the Mazatlán airport. Although
this entailed a substantial drop-off fee, it nevertheless saved us a
very long drive back to Jalisco and of course, the time saved was spent
birding! The Mazatlán AP is actually closer to Villa Union, and
very close to the intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 40 (Durango Hwy.) thus
We found driving conditions in Mexico not bad at all, although we did
not experience any driving in large urban areas. The standard of
driving was generally good and this was particularly so along the
Durango Road which has a lot of heavy truck traffic.
One caveat – there is no gasoline to be purchased east of Concordia, so
you should fill up your tank at the Pemex station there before
We used two field guides: Howell and Webb’s “A Guide to the Birds of
Mexico and Northern Central America” and Peterson’s “Field Guide to the
Birds of Mexico.” The Howell book is far superior for both plates and
text, but the Peterson guide is a more convenient size and could be
carried everywhere for quick “ID checks.” We also used a number of
recent trip reports from Blake Maybank’s web site
www3.ns.sympatico.ca/maybank/main.htm and an UK trip report site www.
birdtours.co.uk, as well as posts from the Mexico-Birding chat line.
Finally, many thanks to the individuals who gave us recent “gen” (as
the Brits say) on sites or who shared recordings of birds: Dick Heller,
James Hully, David Matson, Ellen Paul, Martin Reid and Mark Stackhouse.
Calls of Tufted and San Blas Jay were downloaded from the Xeno Canto
web site (www.xeno-canto.org).
The following are the sites visited, together with our impressions on
how good they were for birds. Virtually all of these are described in
Howell’s “A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico”.
This site is still showing lot of signs of tree damage from the 2002
hurricane. Despite this we found area quite birdy. The best area for
the Elegant Quail was right after the ‘official’ parking area [right at
the end of the village] – calling and running through the brushy
vegetation and grass (we had a tape which helped). Best to be there at
first light for this species. Also another good area was the first
quarter mile along the main trail [to just past a barn on the left].
Just before the barn was a small field that had been burnt, adjacent to
a small pond. The pasture that the barn was in had been spread with cow
manure. A combination of these proved very attractive to birds. The
small orchard opposite was also very active. Birds seen in this general
area included a male Siskin [rare at this altitude] and our only
White-throated Flycatcher and Striped-headed Sparrows of the
trip. We hiked along the road for about a mile. The brushy/wood
edge/pasture habitat and the trail continued well beyond where we
turned back. We visited this site twice in the early morning and once
in the late afternoon. In the afternoon no-see-ums were annoying. You
should pay 20 pesos (per person) to the community as this is an
ecological reserve. There may be someone in the office on left (as you
enter the village), at the parking area, or a warden will locate you.
The more interesting birds recorded were as follows: Elegant Quail,
Striped-headed Sparrow, 1White-throated Flycatcher, Black-faced Siskin,
Bare-throated Tiger Herons, calling [but not seen] Collared Forest
Falcons, Northern Potoo – one watched hunting at dusk- quite a
surprise, Citreoline Trogan, Golden Vireo, Rufous-backed Robin, Scrub
(Godman’s) Euphonia. Other birders who walked further than we did saw a
This area sustained very heavy hurricane damage. We did spend a couple
of hours one afternoon birding the Mecatan Road. Given the time of day,
unsuprisingly slow but some good remaining habitat so worth more
exploration. Mark Stackhouse said this area can be good for Rosy
Thrush-Tanager although none were heard this time. The best birds were
a calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and two Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters.
Shrimp and Junction Ponds.
These ponds were loaded with shorebirds and waterfowl, which had
migrated down from the north. We spent very limited time here as we
were concentrating on the land birds. If you have the time, a close
look at the ponds may well be worthwhile as several good birds have
been reported over the years [i.e. Garganey].
Sewage Ponds Trail:
The start of the trail had good numbers of Painted and smaller numbers
of Varied Buntings. The best bird by far was the Russet-crowned Motmot.
We saw this in a fallen-down dead tree immediately before the wire gate
entrance to the sewage ponds. As you walk up to the wire gate the tree
is on the right hand side of the trail. However other birders had the
bird right at the start of the trail, in a large tree on the left.
Abundant flowers attracted good numbers of lowland hummingbirds.
We spent only a short time here early one morning. It is by far the
easiest place to see up close Rufous-bellied Chacalachas as they put
food out for them. Very much an artificial setting, but the birds are
wild and much easier to see than in the forests.
We went up here one evening to look for a reported Mottled Owl (not
seen or heard) and also, to check for a green flash sunset (also not
seen, due to low haze over the sea). However great views and fairly
birdy -- we did see a number of perched Gray-breasted Martins and also,
good looks down on flying Lesser Nighthawks at dusk.
Mangrove (La Tovara) Boat Trip:
A very entertaining and enjoyable trip despite missing the
Rufous-necked Wood Rail [2 people in the boat did see it very
briefly—alas, not us!]. Josefina at the Hotel Garza arranged the trip
and you should go with Chencho as he knows the birds and has a tape of
the rail. The best birds were about 7 Northern Potoos. Unlike our
normal experience of Potoos sleeping at a daytime roost these birds
were wide awake, some flying around. Also seen were Mottled and Barn
Owls, White-fronted Parrot, Paraque, Common Black Hawk, and Mangrove
Yellow Warbler (as well as impressively large Fishing Bats).
The banana plantations are spreading into the shade grown coffee
habitat making this area less productive. Despite that, above the
plantations we still saw lots of birds. We were lucky in finding a
large fruiting tree which was alive with birds including 5 trogons of
two species, Brown-backed Solitaire, and our only Grey-crowned
Woodpecker of the trip. Other good birds seen included Mexican Hermit,
Fan-tailed Warbler, and five Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrows.
Cerro de San Juan:
This reserve has easily the best forest habitat and birds of the San
Blas area [about a 1 1/2 hour drive from San Blas]. We spent the whole
day there and it was worth it. We went to this site with Mark
Stackhouse of WestWings Tours and his two clients (thanks, Mark!) which
really saved us a great deal of effort finding “the” specific sites for
certain birds. We had eight species of hummingbird including four
Bumblebee Hummingbirds. Many of the hummingbirds and other species were
concentrated in and around a flowering gully about 1-2 kilometers
beyond La Noria Ranch [which is situated at the highest point on the
ridge]. Other birds included Pine and Dusky-capped Flycatchers,
Black-capped and Golden Vireos, both Sinaloa and Happy Wrens,
Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Red-headed Tanager, and 16 species of
Warbler including Red-faced and Fan-tailed. At dusk we taped in a
Sites not visited: We did not
do the upriver boat trip (to several lagoons with abundant waterfowl)
nor the open-ocean whale-watching trip. Birders there at same time as
us who did these trips reported large numbers of Whistling Ducks and
some Muscovies up-river, and at sea, good looks at Black Storm-petrel
and Red-billed Tropicbird.
Barranca Rancho Liebre:
We visited this site twice. Unfortunately the stream was dry while we
were there [except for the occasional isolated pool]. One of the most
productive areas is right at the start where you park. The man who
lives in the caseta on the left has set up a little “descansa ecologia”
here with benches and tables, and a bin for trash. There is some water
here and it attracted our only pair of Golden-crowned Warblers. Also
Red, Red-faced, and Crescent-chested Warblers were seen in a mixed
flock right at the parking area as was Russet Nightingale Thrush. Other
good birds seen at the BRL were Mountain Trogan, Grey-collared Becard,
White-throated Robin, Red-headed Tanager and of course the star bird,
Tufted Jay. We did not see or hear any Quetzals or Thick-billed
Parrots, although we did go one day in late afternoon (when parrots
might be coming to roost) and did some judicious trolling with tapes
for both species.
The other good BRL spots were the small “orchard” at the top, and the
trail beyond the barranca overlook, into the canyon. While we saw a lot
of our target species here, we were a little disappointed with this
prime site mainly because we did not run into any large bird flocks and
the walk up to the barranca was very quiet.
We visited this site on four occasions and found it to be excellent for
birds. We were lucky in discovering a small water seep that with the
very dry conditions was a magnet for birds. We found the two best areas
were the first quarter of a mile of the road, and then farther up
beyond the house on the left, where the road passes a forested canyon
on the right. This latter area was good for hummingbirds including
Golden-crowned Emerald, Plain-capped Starthroat and Bumblebee
Hummingbird. We also taped in a Colima Pygmy Owl and had a flock of 15
Silky Flycatchers. We tallied over thirty species at the seep with
mind-blowing views of Brown-backed Solitaire, Five-striped and
Black-chinned Sparrows, Blue Mockingbird, Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow,
Yellow Grosbeak, and Golden and Black-capped Vireos.
Kilometer 285 (Dirt Road which is
signed to Pantitlan).
This is on the second low ridge coming from Concordia. We birded this
late one afternoon and were pleasantly surprised how active it was.
About 1/4 mile down the road there is a large pull-off on the right. We
taped out a very obliging Red-breasted Chat here. Also on the walk we
had excellent views of a party of Purplish-backed Jays and about a
half-dozen chacalacas. There were lots of Blue Grosbeaks and our only
Blue Buntings of the trip. We never did find “Pantitlan” despite
walking further than the 1 km signed to the village. Instead we reached
the new Rt. 40 (a “road to nowhere” as it is not yet connected all the
way through to Rt. 15). Later we thought driving through to the new
road, and then up and down it for a while might have been worthwhile as
it goes through good habitat, has no traffic and bypasses the roadside
development near Concordia. Oh well, another time…
La Petaca Road.
This road has been enlarged and paved and much of the roadside
vegetation has been destroyed. Consequently we saw very little of note,
and would not recommend spending much time there.
January 16 – Travel from Baltimore to Puerto Vallarta via Houston and
then via rental car drove to San Blas. The only notable bird seen on
the drive was a trogan sp.
January 17 – Lower Singayta in a.m. and shrimp and junction ponds in
January 18 – Cerro de San Juan all day.
January 19 – Sewage Ponds in a.m. Upper Singayta p.m. and
mangrove boat trip late p.m.
January 20 – La Bajada in a.m. and Lower Singayta in p.m.
January 21 – a.m. Crocodile Farm and Lower Singayta. p.m. drive to
Copala with late p.m. birding along the Panuco Road.
January 22 – 7.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Barranca Rancho Liebre. p.m. Road
stops both during a short drive into Durango State and on the return to
Daniel’s. Late p.m. La Petaca Road.
January 23 - a.m. Panuco Road, late p.m. Pantitlan (Km 285) Road.
January 24 – a.m. Panuco Road and 1.00 p.m. to dusk, Barranca Rancho
January 25 – a.m. Panuco Road. Around noon drive to Mazatlán
A.P. to catch flights back to U.S.A.
In eight and a half days’ birding, we recorded 267 species seen and a
further 3 heard.
following species were common and/or widespread and you will have no
trouble seeing them:
Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Rock
Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Groove-billed
Ani, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow,
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler,
Nashville Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Great-tailed
We significantly underreported many wetland species due to our focus on
Mexican land birds.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck.
A party of at least twenty seen landing in a flooded pasture adjacent
to the Sewage Ponds at San Blas [SB].
Fulvous Whistling Duck
A party of twenty birds in a pond near beginning of the Sewage Ponds
trail at SB.
Five birds recorded at sewage pond in SB.
Eleven birds seen over two dates at the Shrimp Ponds at SB.
A party of ten birds seen at the Shrimp Ponds at SB.
A flock of about 200 birds seen on the Tovara River boat trip at SB.
Recorded in small numbers on three dates.
Without doubt the easiest place to see this Mexican endemic is at the
Crocodile Farm a short drive from SB. The birds are fed there and
very tame. Very artificial surroundings with animal cages and crocodile
ponds, but we got much better views of about ten birds there than in
their forested/scrub natural habitat.. Altogether recorded on four
dates with other sightings of about eight birds along the
Road, a single bird at La Bajada and heard calling at Lower Singayta.
Another limited-range endemic. We had nice views of three birds and
heard about three others in a scrubby field just beyond the parking
area and last house at Lower Singayta.
A single bird at the Junction Ponds was our sole record.
Just a single bird at a pond en route to the sewage ponds trail from
American White Pelican
Four birds recorded on two dates at SB.
Common in the mangrove/lagoon areas at SB.
Fairly common in the coastal mangroves and lagoons at SB.
Probably more numerous than the previous species in the wetland around
About twenty-five seen on our mangrove boat ride.
Common at SB – frequently seen soaring above town.
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
We were a little surprised to see two birds perched in a tree at Lower
Singayta. Also four birds seen on the mangrove boat trip, including two
displaying to one-another.
Great Blue Heron
Recorded in small numbers on three days at SB.
Fairly common at SB.
Again, fairly common in wetland habitat at SB.
Little Blue Heron
Eight birds seen on the mangrove boat trip.
Eight birds seen on the mangrove boat trip.
A total of three birds seen in mangrove/wetland habitat at SB.
A widespread species being recorded virtually every day.
Fairly common in the mangroves at SB.
Fairly common in the mangroves at SB.
Four birds seen on the mangrove boat trip. Otherwise just a single bird
We got great views of this species on our boat trip when at dusk they
started to leave their roost and sit on top of the mangroves. We
estimated at least 25 birds.
Fairly common at SB.
Fairly common at SB.
Quite common at SB particularly at the Shrimp and Junction ponds.
Seen regularly at SB with a daily maximum of twenty birds.
Recorded in small numbers on four dates with daily maximum of six birds.
A single bird seen on the drive from SB to Mazatlán. We were
amazed that this was our only sighting.
Singles recorded on four dates.
Recorded on four dates (primarily in lowlands) with a daily maximum of
ten birds counted on the drive from SB to Mazatlán.
Common Black Hawk
Recorded in small numbers in the mangrove habitat at San Blas.
Great Black Hawk
Just a single bird seen in the mangroves at SB, probably overlooked.
Single birds seen from the car on two driving trips to Mazatlán.
Two birds recorded at Cerro de San Juan.
Two birds at Lower Singayta and a single at Cerro de San Juan.
Recorded on six dates with the daily maximum of six birds. Quite
variable with a number of dark morphs and at least one bird closely
resembling the race harlani.
Two birds heard calling at Lower Singayta. Unfortunately they would not
respond to the tape.
Single bird at Lower Singayta and one seen from the car while driving
from SB to Mazatlán.
Single bird at Lower Singayta.
On the mangrove boat trip, two birds called in response to the tape but
unfortunately we were unable to see them.
Two birds well seen at the Crocodile Park.
Two birds seen from the mangrove boat trip.
Fairly common at the various ponds around SB.
We saw just a single bird, which again doubtlessly reflects the lack of
time spent birding the shrimp and junction ponds at SB.
Just two birds seen at SB.
Common in suitable habitat at SB.
Recorded on two dates at SB with daily maximum of fifteen birds.
Six birds seen along the sewage ponds trail at SB.
Fairly common in suitable wetland habitat at SB.
Two birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.
Three birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.
Four birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.
Two birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.
A total of six birds seen in wetlands and on Tovara R. trip at SB.
A party of thirty birds at the shrimp ponds at SB.
Just a single bird recorded at the extensive wetland habitat at SB.
A total of 100 birds seen at various ponds at SB.
Six birds seen at SB.
Recorded in small numbers at SB.
Seen regularly while driving past the shrimp and junction ponds.
A total of five birds seen at SB.
A party of about thirty birds on mud flats during Tovara R. boat trip
Abundant on our first morning at Lower Singayta where we saw flocks of
hundreds shortly after dawn, presumably leaving a roost. Curiously, we
subsequently recorded very few birds.
Suprisingly scarce with only seven birds seen over two dates.
Ruddy Ground Dove
Only seen on two dates with a total of three birds. Probably overlooked
amongst the hordes of Common Ground Doves.
A fairly common and widespread forest bird. In all recorded on seven
dates with a daily maximum of ten birds.
Recorded on three dates as follows: A party of ten birds at La Bajada,
five birds at Lower Singayta and fifteen birds feeding in the vicinity
of Daniel’s Restaurant. This latter group provided excellent eye-level
views as they fed on low vegetation along road into Copala.
Regular morning flights over the lower portion of the Panuco Road
between 8.30 and 9.30 a.m.. Birds were also observed on a couple of
occasions flying by Daniel’s Restaurant while we had breakfast.
Altogether recorded on four dates with an aggregate total of 27 birds.
A great connection with a superb species.
These engaging birds were quite common. Recorded on five dates with
daily maximum of fifty birds at Lower Singayta. Daniel’s was a good
spot for this species and we obtained close eye-level views from the
restaurant balcony of the birds feeding in tops of the adjacent trees.
Just a single bird seen from the mangrove boat trip.
We were disappointed not to see this Mexican endemic as earlier trip
reports had recorded this species from SB and we had found
parrots quite common in the Yucatán. Unfortunately it appears
of these parrots have been trapped-out or otherwise eliminated from the
areas we visited.
Six birds recorded over three dates.
Single seen at dusk while on the mangrove boat trip.
Colima Pygmy Owl
A single bird heard twice along the upper end of Panuco Road. On the
final date it responded to the tape and provided very close views.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Bird calling but not seen at Upper Singayta
One briefly seen on the mangrove boat trip and others heard calling at
Cerro de San Juan and Lower Singayta.
About fifteen birds seen hunting at dusk from the SB fort and a similar
number seen on the mangrove boat trip.
Two birds seen at dusk from the mangrove boat trip.
A single bird attracted by the tape and well seen at Cerro de San Juan.
We really enjoyed getting great views about seven of these birds at
dusk on the mangrove boat trip. We usually see these birds asleep at a
daytime roost. These appeared very different being wide-awake and
flying around. Also a single bird flying at dusk at Lower Singayta. It
was hunting quite high and initially had us very confused as to what
species it was, appearing in flight like a combination of nightjar and
The world’s largest swift was one of our top target birds. While having
breakfast at Daniel’s we noticed a party of twenty-five swifts quite
high over some low ridges. Even at some height they appeared large and
powerful. The give-away was that they were constantly gliding and never
flapping [like smaller swifts]. Putting the scope on them clearly
revealed the distinctive white nape patch. Another party of about fifty
birds was seen later that day circling over the town of Copala. –
Suprisingly scarce and we only found one flock of twenty birds.
Two birds mixed in with a flock of White-naped Swifts over Copala.
This Mexican endemic was seen briefly by BEC in the forest at La Bajada
as it came in to investigate a pygmy-owl tape.
We spent quite a long time sorting out the various hummingbirds at the
top end of the Panuco Road. This endemic was seen quite frequently but
generally did not stay around long enough for prolonged views. In the
end we saw at least two males and three females, one adult male seen
well by GBM and SW.
Fairly common in low to mid-elevations, being recorded on six dates
with a daily maximum of ten birds.
The only site we recorded this endemic was Cerro de San Juan. The best
place for this & other humming birds was at the flowering gully 1-2
km beyond the ranch. In all we saw about six birds.
A very attractive high elevation hummingbird. Quite common at Cerro de
San Juan [four birds seen] and especially at the Barranca Rancho Liebre
[daily maximum of sixteen birds].
Fairly common upland species, being recorded on six dates with daily
maximum of eight birds at Cerro de San Juan.
A common lowland hummingbird seen on six dates with daily maximum of
four birds, including birds in the garden at Hotel Garza Canela.
A female seen feeding at a flowering tree along the road into Copala,
below Daniel’s Restaurant.
Four seen over three dates including two at Cerro de San Juan.
Common at high elevation at Barranca Rancho Liebre with up to twelve on
a day. The birds were feeding high up in the pines on flowering
A single female well-seen at the “hummer spot” along the Panuco Road.
Our only sighting was a single female, considered to be this species,
along the sewage pond trail at SB
Two birds, including an adult male, were seen along the sewage pond's
trail at SB.
Another highly desired endemic that did not disappoint. Four birds were
seen at Cerro de San Juan. This included one male and two females at
the gully about 1-2 km beyond La Noria Ranch (a bit beyond the
shrine building on right side of road)]. The male was displaying and
put on a nice show. Finally, an immature male was seen along the Panuco
Road, cooperatively perched for close examination of ID features.
Our sole sighting was a single bird at Cerro de San Juan.
Fairly widespread, being recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of
four birds along the Panuco Road.
We only managed to find one bird in the immediate vicinity of SB [at
Lower Singayta] which probably reflects the destruction of many of the
fruiting trees from the 2002 hurricane. Fortunately, at least four
birds seen at La Bajada including a pair in the fruiting tree.
Fairly easy to see along the Durango Road with four birds seen over our
3+ days. Pairs were seen at both BRL and at a stop on the Durango Road
between Copala and the Barranca which had a nice stand of pines, as
well as a close male along the Panuco Rd, seen feeding on fruit.
A more lowland species than the preceding, with three birds seen at La
Bajada in and around the large fruiting tree, and a single bird along
the Km 285 road west of Concordia.
One seen at probably its most reliable spot along the sewage ponds road
at SB. The bird was in a large fallen-down dead tree on the right of
the path as you approach the wire gate half-way down the road to the
sewage ponds. It was seen flying out into the adjacent pasture after
A total of eight birds seen over three dates at SB.
Four birds seen on the mangrove boat ride and a single at the Crocodile
Farm at SB.
A party of six birds at the entrance to the ranch at Cerro de San Juan.
A very common (and noisy) woodpecker around SB.
This woodpecker largely replaced the previous species along the Durango
Road although in much smaller numbers. Also two seen at La Bajada.
Suprisingly scarce with only two birds seen during the trip [one each
at Cerro de San Juan and BRL.)
Another very uncommon woodpecker being seen on just three occasions
including two birds at Cerro de San Juan and one at BRL.
Our only sighting of this endemic woodpecker was of a single bird in
the fruiting tree at La Bajada.
Our sole record was of a single bird well seen at La Bajada.
Common at La Bajada with at least five seen, and also recorded from
both Upper and Lower Singayta.
This woodcreeper was much scarcer than on our trip to the
where we saw many. In fact we only recorded two birds with singles at
Cerro de San Juan and La Bajada.
Only slightly more numerous than the previous species with a single
bird at Cerro de San Juan and a combined four birds recorded on our two
visits to BRL.
A fairly common forest flycatcher being recorded at Cerro de San Juan,
La Bajada and BRL. The daily maximum was six birds at La Bajada. This
species is often encountered in pairs.
Another mainly forest flycatcher being recorded on six dates with a
daily maximum of four birds at Cerro de San Juan.
Empidonax flycatchers were
quite widespread and common. Our log totals
under-record this group as we did not attempt to try and identify every
A single bird seen at Lower Singayta, by range (Alder not being found
on Pacific slope).
We had excellent, prolonged views of a single bird at Lower Singayta
allowing us to observe closely the relevant identification criteria.
The bird was present for several days near the burnt-over area near the
beginning of the road, and seen by several birding groups.
Single birds seen at Cerro de San Juan, at the parking area at BRL and
on the Panuco Road.
Superb views of a single bird at the seep on the Panuco Road.
We had excellent prolonged views of one on a side trail at Cerro de San
Juan and another bird in the orchard at BRL. Several other possibles
were seen but not confirmed.
As no vocalizations were heard, we did not attempt to split the birds
between Pacific Slope and Cordilleran although according to Howell and
Webb both species may be present in the SB/Durango Road areas.
Supposedly Pacific-slope is more confined to lowlands and Cordilleran
to uplands but the area of overlap in winter is uncertain (fide Howell)
so we grouped them as Western in our daily log. Overall, this was by
far the most numerous empid, being recorded daily with a daily maximum
of eight birds. Readily separated from the others in this group by
obvious yellow tones to plumage and overall larger size, longer and
wider bill than Hammond’s or Dusky, as well as details of primary
projection, head shape, eye-ring and other identification features.
Just a single bird of this very attractive empid was watched closely at
the seep on the Panuco Road.
Fairly widespread in small numbers being recorded on seven dates with a
daily maximum of three birds.
Single birds recorded at Cerro de San Juan , La Bajada and the Panuco
Fairly common species, being recorded virtually daily with a daily
maximum count of six birds at Lower Singayta.
Six birds seen and/or heard at Cerro de San Juan and a single bird
heard at La Bajada.
Three birds at Lower Singayta and a single on the Panuco Road were
believed to be this species by plumage [and not Nutting’s Flycatcher]
Our sole definite record was of a single bird seen along the sewage
pond trail at SB, close enough so that the underside of the tail could
Recorded at both Lower Singayta [fairly common] and the sewage ponds
trail [two birds], and surprisingly, one at plaza in Copala
The common Tyrannus flycatcher around SB, being recorded daily.
A single bird perched on wires around the playing fields at the ranch
at Cerro de San Juan and another seen on three consecutive days just
outside Daniel’s Restaurant.
This attractive flycatcher was quite common at SB, being recorded daily
with the maximum daily count of four birds. Also recorded along the
Durango Road but in smaller numbers.
Another sought-after endemic recorded when a male was finally seen in a
mixed bird flock at BRL.
One to three birds recorded virtually daily at SB with Lower Singayta
being the most productive site.
Fairly numerous upland species with ten birds at La Bajada being the
Just a single bird seen on the drive from SB to Mazatlán.
We were delighted to see this attractive vireo having missed it in
Texas. In all seen on four dates with two birds at Cerro de San Juan
and single birds on three different trips along the Panuco Road. These
included very close views of both male and female birds at the seep.
Much nicer that expected.
Single birds seen at Cerro de San Juan, at La Bajada and along the
Our sole sighting was a single bird at Cerro de San Juan.
Single bird at Lower Singayta, four seen at Cerro de San Juan, and two
at the seep along the Panuco Road. A highly attractive bird- better
Fairly common and widespread, being recorded on six dates with a daily
maximum of four birds.
We were very pleased to catch-up with all four tropical jays, which
were new species for us.
These extremely striking birds were quite common, usually in small
groups of five-ten birds. In all seen on six dates with the daily
maximum of twenty birds. We actually saw a party of birds just as
were leaving the Hotel Garza Canela.
On our morning visit to BRL we left Daniel’s in the dark so as to
arrive at BRL at dawn. Therefore, we did not see any Tufted Jays along
the Durango Road in the early a.m. as many birders do. However, we had
brilliant views of two parties of eight birds right at the barranca and
four birds near the orchard. This highly charismatic
endemic was superb and the top bird of the trip. (Interestingly, we
never saw nor heard any Steller’s Jays, which are supposed to commonly
flock with this species.)
Several birds heard calling at Cerro de San Juan but unfortunately not
San Blas Jay
We arrived at La Bajada at dawn, parking next to the old bull ring
above the village (Howell’s “curved stone wall on the left”). After
about thirty minutes and many false alarms from Caciques leaving their
roost, we finally caught up with one jay, which provided close views.
The bird was feeding on fruit in the garden of the last house on left
before the bull ring. This species makes an un-jay like chattering call
which initially led us to the first bird. Later in the morning we saw
two additional birds in flight. Despite its name, San Blas Jay is not
an easy species near SB, and is supposedly more easily seen near Pto
We had a great connection with a party of seven birds [with both adult
and immature birds] with close views for several minutes. The birds
were seen in the late afternoon along the dirt road signed to Pantitlan
[see under sites visited for directions]. Superb, much better (and
brighter-colored) than expected.
A common and widespread species. At SB appeared to roost in the
mangroves and at dawn a thousand or more seen leaving. In flight
Single birds recorded on three dates.
Five birds perched on the radar tower at the fort at SB and another
party of four birds on the mangrove boat trip
Fairly common over the ponds and wetlands at SB.
Just a single bird recorded although likely overlooked as we did not
spent a lot of time sorting through swallow flocks.
Suprisingly just a single sighting of two birds.
Recorded on both trips to BRL with birds usually seen in a mixed
bird flock. In all a total of seven birds seen.
Fairly common at BRL with a total of seven birds seen during our two
We had a difficult time with this species. We heard wrens singing on a
number of days but only limited luck in seeing them. We finally caught
up with this bird on our last morning with great views of one
nest-building along the Panuco Road.
Again we actually saw very few birds (more were heard). These included
two at Cerro de San Juan and one along Panuco Road.
Brown-throated (House) Wren
Thinly but widely distributed being recorded on six dates with daily
maximum of three birds.
Recorded on three dates with daily maximum of six birds.
Two birds in the fields at the ranch at Cerro de San Juan.
Based on singing and calling birds fairly common at Cerro De San
BRL and La Bajada where a bird was watched high up in the fruiting
tree. Rather surprisingly our best connection with this species was
along the Panuco Road. Birds were heard calling and two seen quite low
down on our first visit. Subsequently we had brilliant views of an
adult as it came down to drink at the seep. Superb
Single bird watched for several minutes as it fed on the ground at
Cerro de San Juan.
Fairly common at BRL with a total of eight birds seen over our two
visits. The birds preferred the stream bed particularly where there was
water. In fact a good site was right at the parking area at BRL.
Two birds seen at BRL.
Three birds seen at BRL.
A single bird at Cerro de San Juan and three well seen at BRL. These
latter birds were considerably duller with browner upperparts and less
striking white throats than the bird seen in Texas last winter.
Howell these would be of the group assimmilis [by both range and
This very attractive endemic thrush was quite common at Lower Singayta
but scarce elsewhere on our trip. The daily maximum at Lower Singayta
was twenty birds whereas elsewhere only the occasional bird was seen.
Single birds seen on two occasions while driving on the Durango Road;
both were the northern migratory race.
This endemic was quite widespread although getting a good view was
challenging. In the end we all got repeated great looks, especially at
the Panuco Rd. water seep. Seen and/or heard on most days with the
daily maximum of four birds at Cerro de San Juan.
This elegant species was recorded twice along the Panuco Road including
a couple of parties totaling fourteen birds. One group was at
eye-level right beside the road -- great views!
We managed to see twenty-eight species of warbler consisting of a nice
mix of eastern and western North American winter visitors as well as a
good selection of Mexican specialties. Orange-crowned, Wilson’s and
Nashville were found in number every day and at almost all sites. The
majority of male birds were in full breeding plumage.
A female seen in a warbler flock at a pull-off just over the border in
A single bird recorded twice at Lower Singayta.
Single birds recorded on just three dates being seen at Cerro de San
Juan and on both visits to BRL. Superb species.
Three birds seen at Lower Singayta and singles at La Bajada and the
A total of five birds seen around SB, including two handsome Mangrove
Yellows from, not surprisingly, the mangrove boat trip.
Yellow-rumped [Audubon’s Warbler]
Common and widespread.
Black-throated Gray Warbler
The most numerous of the “western” warblers being recorded
daily with a daily maximum of eight birds at BRL and stops along the
Four birds seen at La Bajada and a total of ten birds over two visits
to the BRL and stops along the Durango Road. These included many
brilliant spring males.
Less numerous than the previous species with a total of five birds
seen, again concentrated at stops along the Durango Road and at BRL.
Also a single bird at Cerro de San Juan. Again most birds in splendid
full breeding plumage.
Three birds at La Bajada and a single at BRL.
A total of six birds seen over four days with sightings at both SB and
Fairly common around SB. The daily maximum was five birds at La Bajada.
Five birds recorded over three days at various sites around SB.
Fairly common around SB with a total of fifteen birds seen and a daily
maximum of six birds. Single birds on three occasions also along
Panuco Road including brilliant views of a bird drinking at the seep.
We were extremely surprised to see this species as it is not shown to
winter in Western Mexico by Howell. The bird was seen at La Bajada a
short distance beyond the cleared area at the top of the ridge. It was
feeding on the path and was photographed by another birder present.
Three birds only and all seen at Lower Singayta.
This extremely attractive warbler was recorded on three dates with a
single bird at Cerro de San Juan and two birds at BRL.
Another much anticipated endemic. A total of four birds seen all at
BRL. Interesting to note this species did not mix-in with warbler
flocks. In all cases solitary birds were seen foraging in low secondary
growth trees or shrubs. Amazing bird.
This extremely tame and handsome bird was seen just once around SB with
two birds at La Bajada, Recorded daily at sites along the Durango Road
with a daily maximum of four birds at BRL.
Two birds seen at both La Bajada,, and Cerro de San Juan and a
of five birds at various sites along the Durango Road/BRL/Panuco Road.
This colorful and highly charismatic endemic was recorded on three
occasions with two at Cerro de San Juan and a single bird at La
Bajada. In all three sightings the birds were hopping along the ground
of a dry gully or path and constantly fanning and flicking its tail and
showing-off the white tip. Brilliant and without doubt one of the top
three birds of the trip.
Yet another superb endemic. With the stream at the BRL virtually
the only place we saw this species was right at the parking area where
the stream actually had some water. A single bird seen on the first
visit and a pair on our second trip. This beautiful species ran a close
second to the previous species for top warbler of the trip.
A pair seen on our walk partway down into the canyon from the overlook
at BRL. Also, brilliant views of a single bird washing at the seep on
the Panuco Road.
Fairly widespread, being recorded on five dates with a daily maximum of
three birds at Lower Singayta.
We had luck with this endemic. GBM was scrolling through the CD to
locate the bird’s call. When she hit on the right sequence, it drew an
immediate response from a stunning male that flew in and provided
excellent views as it displayed and sang in response to the CD. The
site was on the dirt road marked to Pantitlan .
Fairly common forest species being recorded on four dates with a daily
maximum of eight birds at BRL.
Three birds recorded over two dates at Cerro de San Juan and La Bajada.
Recorded mainly from SB being seen on four dates with the maximum
being eight birds seen at La Bajada.
This very attractive tanager was quite scarce and our sightings were
limited to two days with four birds at Cerro de San Juan and a single
Another brilliantly colored endemic. We were fortunate enough in seeing
quite a few of these birds with at least four at Cerro de San Juan and
a total of ten birds seen over our two trips to BRL. This included
great eye-level views of several birds in the orchard.
Recorded on five dates with the daily maximum of five birds. This
species was a frequent visitor to the seep on the Panuco Road and was
also found along the Crocodile Farm Rd.
Recorded on three dates with the largest party by far being twenty-five
birds in a weedy field about a mile from the Crocodile Farm.
Our sole record was a pair seen in a weedy field along the Mecatan Road.
We had nice views of two pairs of this Mexican endemic at BRL. The
birds fed on or close to the ground and initially our attention was
drawn to them by the noise made as they scratched in the leaf-litter
looking for food.
Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow
We had a number of great views of this extremely handsome endemic. In
all we recorded it on five dates with four birds at La Bajada being the
most seen at SB. The Panuco Road was a particularly good site with up
to five birds on three visits. This included repeated
close views at the seep. Superb.
A party of about six birds of this striking sparrow were well
seen on our first visit to Lower Singayta.
We had brilliant views of at least two birds, which regularly visited
the seep on the Panuco Road.
Two birds seen very well at the seep on the Panuco Road. They were
slightly out of range based on Howell’s distribution map for this
A single bird in the vicinity of the seep on the Panuco Road.
Three birds seen in the orchard at BRL including a splendid adult male.
Recorded on four dates mainly along the Panuco Road with a daily
maximum of four birds, which included a very tame bird at the seep.
A single bird seen along the Panuco Road by GBM and SW was our sole
A single bird coming in to drink at the seep on the Panuco Road was our
Recorded only once in the vicinity of SB, at La Noria Ranch. Common
along the Panuco Road with up to a dozen birds at one time drinking at
A party of twenty-five birds in the orchard at the start of the Lower
Singayta trail. Otherwise only five birds seen over two dates.
Easy to see at the orchard at BRL with a daily maximum total of
A fairly common and widespread species being seen on seven dates
with a daily maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road.
A single somewhat out of range female bird [per Howell] at Cerro de San
Surprisingly the only place we saw this species was at the seep along
the Panuco Road with up to eight birds visiting at any one time.
Two birds seen at Cerro de San Juan was the only sighting for the SB
area. More numerous at the Durango Road sites, being recorded on three
dates with a maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road. This
included splendid views of an adult male drinking at the seep.
Fairly common and widespread. In all recorded on six dates with a daily
maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road.
Our only sighting was of a pair seen by GBM and SW along the dirt road
We were surprised to find this species in flocks on the road to
Pantitlan where we estimated at least thirty birds. Otherwise quite
scarce with just four birds recorded.
Recorded on three dates at SB with the best place being the start of
the sewage pond's trail where we had three birds mixed-in with a party
of Painted Buntings. Fairly common along the Pantitlan Road where we
estimated eight birds. Also, up to four birds seen at one time at the
seep on the Panuco Road.
Recorded on two dates at SB with four birds at Lower Singayta and a
party of at least eight birds seen on the sewage pond trail. This
species also visited the seep on the Panuco Road with up to four birds
sighted at one time.
The third of the passerina buntings to be attracted to the seep
up to eight birds seen at any one time. In fact, this was the only
place we saw this species.
On several occasions we saw flocks of blackbirds flying high in the
early morning from an assumed roost. These may well have included
cowbirds and Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, but the only species
we identified was Yellow-headed Blackbird with thirty seen in flight on
our trip to the sewage ponds at SB.
Amazingly only a single bird seen on the trip.
We did not spend a lot of time sorting out the various orioles,
therefore, the following counts are understated.
Recorded on four dates with maximum daily totals of four birds each at
Lower Singayta and the Panuco Road.
This very beautiful oriole was also the commonest, being seen daily
with the maximum daily count of eight birds at Panuco Road.
Single bird at Cerro de San Juan, in pines at La Noria Ranch – of the
At least six well-seen and watched for several minutes at BRL. The
birds were feeding high up in pine trees on flowering mistletoe.
Our sole record was of two birds at Cerro de San Juan.
This colorful and charismatic species was common and widespread.
A male seen at Lower Singayta and another in the garden at Daniel’s (in
both cases feeding at mistletoe) were our only sightings.
Heard calling but unfortunately uncountable flight views of one at
Cerro de San Juan.
We did very well with this species. Starting on our first morning with
a fine male at Lower Singayta where the species is quite rare. We also
had five birds at Cerro de San Juan and at least eight at BRL.
Unrecorded from the SB area but seen regularly at sites along the
Durango Road. Probably the best spot was at the seep along the Panuco
Road where small parties would come in to drink. Daily maximum was
Thankfully seen on only three days, in towns.
Gail B. Mackiernan