27 September - 01 October 2001
by Dick Palmer
I journeyed to Monterrey, Nuevo León, in Mexico and Ciudad de Mante, Tamaulipas, in Mexico on a birding trip.
Dennis Buss of Dallas, Texas and I flew into Monterrey on Sept. 27.
Sept. 27 found us looking for the Holiday Inn Technological in Monterrey after a mostly uneventful flight. I knew enough not to take my pocket knife and was aware the security at the airports was not allowing other items. Thus I was quite shocked when they asked me where the scissors were. I told them I didn't know so they searched my belonging. Turns out a last minute decision to add a first aid kit did me in. It contained a blunt pair of scissors, a pair of tweezers and a nail clipper inside the kit. They took them all. Sure glad we didn't have any first aid problems this trip as there was no way I could cut bandages or cut the tape to hold them on.
Sept. 28th found us heading south to the Cola de Caballo turnoff on highway 85 toward the San Isidro Cliffs south of Monterrey. After an hour of driving from the hotel we arrived at the area just before sunrise. A quick play of the owl tape brought responding Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl and Whiskered Screech-Owl but we did not get a look at either of them. Just before sunrise the target species started calling loudly by the cliffs, some 1/2 mile away from the road. We looked and looked but could not see any birds in this light. Then they quit calling. We waited for 3 hours and no more calls or flights that we saw. In desperation we walked up the hill toward the cliffs, coming within a couple of blocks of the cliffs, but still no birds. Returning to the car I suggested we drive 5 kilometers northwest to another spot and see if we could see any flying. No luck again. Time was running out as we had 300 kilometers to drive to our next hotel in Mante. We stopped once more at the first spot and once again we heard a few calling. This time we decided to head for the noise as fast as we could. After climbing over 1000 foot in elevation in 1/2 mile we arrived at the cliffs to find six pair of Maroon-fronted Parrots calling away. I was totally worn out from the climb but it was worth it. My 800th species for Mexico and lifer number 2,480.
Starting 2 hours late we arrived in Ciudad de Mante around 7:00 PM just in time for a much needed dinner and a good nights sleep.
Sept. 29th found us in the foothills just below Gomez Farias, Tamaulipas playing our owl tape again. This time we had stunning looks at a Mottled Owl and a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl just before sunrise. Continuing on into Gomez Farias we started to park at the West end of town in the Reserva de la Biosfera El Cielo. Our first surprise was the park ranger telling us we could not park there but had to park up by the town plaza. So not wanting to get him all upset we agreed. He followed us to the new parking area some 1 mile away from where we wanted to be. Surprise, surprise, he offered to take us back and drop us off for 50 pesos, some $5.27 US$. Not wanting to waste the best birding time walking through town we agreed. Turned out it was for the best.
We arrived and started birding with many different species at every bend in the road. Dennis got a couple of lifers in the first 100 foot of birding. Continuing on up the mountain using the right fork toward Alta Cima the birding continued excellent and he picked up 11 more lifers during the first 3 hours. Then the day died. Nothing for the next 6 hours of walking. We returned to Mante around 5:00 PM and searched the canal for Hooded Yellowthroat and Altimira Yellowthroat but no luck even where I had had them before on other trips. Very strange I thought. Enough for one day and we headed back to the motel for the evening.
The Hotel Mante has an excellent restaurant and that evening I ordered Pescado Veracruzano which is boiled fish fixed with all the Mexican additions like tomatoes, green peppers and onions and a little picante sauce to spice it up. It was all very good as the sauce kills the fish flavor which I don't like. Alas, there were no side dishes and I as still hungry. I asked the waiter if he had any helado. He said he did and I asked him for one dip of vanilla. He then said he had banana and strawberry and would I like that. So I though I was getting a dip of banana ice-cream and a dip of strawberry but what came was a banana split with a big dip of vanilla and strawberry ice-cream. I was full when I left that meal.
Sept. 30th found us heading to the foothills before Gomez Farias trying for some of the lower elevation scrub birds. We heard Vermiculated Screech-Owl but could not get it to come in to the tape. A disappointment for Dennis as he had never seen this owl before. We tried all morning for other birds but the wind had picked up and there were no birds to speak of. We did hear Thicket Tinamou several times and was able to get it to come close but not close enough to see unfortunately. Another disappointment.
We gave up birding the lower forest and headed back to town to look for the Yellowthroats once again. One spot we tried on the way was not good and produced no Yellowthroats, not even a Common Yellowthroat. Then at 1:00 PM we took a Mexican siesta for a couple of hours, our first break in three days. Going out at 4:00 PM to a different area toward El Nacimiento we had no luck again on the Yellowthroats. I can only guess they are not there this time of year after spending 6-7 hours looking for them where I have found them before. Anyone know if it was just the wind?
Oct. 01 found us leaving at 4:30 AM once again to look for the Vermiculated Screech-Owl on the road to Gomez Farias. This time it came into the tape and we had stunning looks at this fine little owl, some 20 foot from us. His 14th and final lifer of the trip. Then the try for the Tinamou again with no luck, not even heard this time. And then perhaps the highlight of the trip for me, a brown phase Jaguarundi came walking down the farm road some 200 foot in front of us. A new lifer for me and perhaps one of the hardest of all the wild cats to see in the wild, gave us a 10 second look before heading into the forest. Then the long drive back to Monterrey to catch a 3:30 flight and our return to the states. About 30 miles from Monterrey a Tayra crossed the road in front of us. It is a weasel like mammal that is seldom seen. Only my second and Dennis's first.
The flights back to Tucson also went well and I was home by 9:00 PM, tired but elated.
Holiday Inn Express-Tecnologico
Ave. Eugenio Garza Sada #3680 Sur
Col. Villa Los Pinos
Toll free phone number 01 800 710 2139 for reservations
Local Phone (52) 8-329-6000
$98.00 US$ per night for two people, two beds, one room.
Ciudad de Mante, Tamaulipas
FAX phone: (52) 12 320 990
$500 pesos per night ($52.64 US$) plus 17% tax per night for two people,
two beds, one room.
Restaurante at the hotel.
Avis at the Monterrey Airport.
Telephone at the airport (52) 8-369-0834
reservations: 01 800 2-888-888
Nissan Tsuru (comparable to the Sentra) excellent gas mileage (28 mpg)
and good ground clearance but standard shift.
About $50 US$ per day with no insurance. Full insurance is available at
an additional cost.
Cost of magna gas currently was 5.55 pesos per liter or about $2.34 per
Drove about 1,200 kilometers (720 miles) round trip from the Monterrey Airport.
About $60 US$ for gas.
Thicket Tinamou (heard only)
Bat Falcon (right in Gomez Farias)
Crested Guan (heard only)
Green Parakeet (40 plus)
Maroon-fronted Parrot (12 plus)
White-crowned Parrot (80 plus)
Red-crowned Parrot (6 plus)
Eastern Screech-Owl (1 heard)
Whiskered Screech-Owl (1)
Vermiculated Screech-Owl (2)
Great Horned Owl (1)
Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl (1 heard)
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (15 plus)
Mottled Owl (5 plus)
Golden-Olive (Bronze-winged) Woodpecker
Northern flicker (heard only)
Lineated or Pale-billed Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (heard only)
Spotted Wren (heard only)
Canyon Wren (heard only)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Yellow-billed Cacique (heard only)
130 species total.
Ask if you have additional questions, I will try and answer them.