26 - 28 February 1998
by Steve Ganley and Roy Jones
Highway 16 is a fairly new road that crosses the Sierra Madre
Mountains. It starts in Hermosillo, Sonora and continues into
Chihuahua. As you enter Sonora at Nogales, you pick up a Sonora Only
pass. There is no charge but you do have to return through the same
port of entry.
The distance between Nogales and Hermosillo is about 280 KM over a four-lane toll road [cuota]. There are two pay stations before Highway 16 and they are 36 pesos each. [$4.50] As you enter Hermosillo, turn left at the first stop light for the Periferico Oriente. This will take you around the east side of town and give you a place to do some birding. There is a reservoir on the left side of the road and if you look carefully, you can find a turnout on the left side next to the railroad tracks where you can scope the water. There are probably some really good birds out there but they are just to far away. Some of the larger ones we saw were American White Pelicans [hundreds], Snow Geese [hundreds], Neotropic Cormorants, Snowy and Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night-Herons and many gulls including 1 Laughing Gull. There were also several Caspian Terns and a few species of ducks. This is worth the time especially if you are not stopping at the coast.
Continue along the east side of town until just before the road starts to make a 90 degree right turn. There will be a sign that reads Chihuahua to the left and you want to go left. Here there is a chance to get on the wrong road as two highways come out of this turn. There is Highway 20, [also called 104],, which goes to Sahuaripa, and to the right of it is Highway 16, which goes to Yecora. We wanted to go to Yecora. Yecora is about the same distance from Hermosillo as is Nogales, but it will take much longer to drive these 280 KM. The first 125 KM are fairly fast, but after that it gets much slower. Driving at night is probably not a good idea as there were numerous rocks on the road as you came around curves. Some were quite large.
Our first stop was just before the bridge over the Rio Matape at San Jose de Pimas. There is a short dirt pull off on the right. Here we found good willows just down stream. It is probably active in migration. We had Green and Belted Kingfisher, Lincoln's Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Gray Flycatcher and regular desert birds. There were a few ducks and a Spotted Sandpiper upstream. There has been Great Kiskadee and Painted Buntings reported from here.
Grassland area.. For about 3 K it looked like a good area for sparrows and we had Brewer's, Chipping, White-crowned, Savannah, Vesper and Botteri's in about five minutes of looking. It might be good for Cassin's Sparrow.
This is where you cross the Rio Yaqui. We did not bird here but there was a nice clump of trees upstream before the bridge. There was quite a lot of water flowing and it seemed to fast for any water birds to use. I am sure the building of this bridge was a major project in getting the highway to Yecora.
As you go up the west side of this ridge, there are a few large fig trees on the left side of the road in some shady canyons. We only had Hepatic Tanager, Bridled Titmouse and Broad-billed Hummingbirds on our brief stop.
Tecopa. Here the river makes a U through town. There is a bridge as you enter town. Walk up the river and look around the fig trees. There is also a bridge as you leave town. Park on the left and walk under the bridge and down stream. Here we had several Rufous-capped Warblers, White-tipped Dove, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Nutting's Flycatcher, Five-striped Sparrow, Lark Sparrows, Happy Wren and Varied Buntings along with more common desert birds.
There was a nice cottonwood wash with water here, but we did not stop. It is probably worth a look if you have time.
This location was all pine trees and looked like a good place to check. We had Mexican Jays, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Warbling Vireo in quick stop.
We turned left and came to a few houses, wound down a narrow road to the stream. We parked here and birded. There was a Greater Pewee, 5 Tufted Flycatchers, 2 Nutting's Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbirds, 2 Rufous-capped Warblers, several empids and Black-throated Magpie Jay.
SANTA ROSA KM 233
We made a left turn for about 2 miles, there were a few houses and after 2 more we came to a river. Birding along the river we had White-eared Hummingbird, Happy Wren and other more common birds. Later we had 2-3 Brown-backed Solitaires [singing], Tufted Flycatcher, Nutting's Flycatcher, Black-throated Magpie Jays, Warbling Vireo, Wilson's and Black-throated Gray Warbler, Gray Flycatcher, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Black-headed Grosbeak, both Berylline and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. On the way back to Highway 16 there were Rufous-capped Warblers, Varied Bunting, Streak-backed Oriole, Bridled Titmouse, Hermit Thrush, more Gray Flycatchers and more Nutting's Flycatchers.
THE BARRANCA KM 260
Here there is a pull out on the right with a shady canyon going up. There was water flowing down some steep cliffs. On the left was a canyon that went down for a ways. Here we had Rusty Sparrow and White-eared Hummingbird, a male Mountain Trogon was calling from the hill above the shady canyon. Down in the barranca, there were Spotted Wrens, Rufous-capped Warbler, Brown Creepers and Canyon Wrens. This is where most of the good birds have been found.
There is a truck stop here on the left side of the road and a very rough road opposite it. That road goes up to a microwave tower and a left fork that goes up to a Mesa of pines. Here I saw my first snow in Mexico. The birds were rather quiet with only Yellow-eyed Junco but Hooded Grosbeak was seen up here on the Christmas Count.
A turnout on the right with a trail up stream. The area looked like South Fork in the Chiricahuas. The birds were quiet and it was quite cool here. Probably a good place for summer birding. A culvert went under the road and you could probably cross under and bird down canyon as well.
After here the road drops down into a valley and the town of Yecora. In the pines just before town we had Bushtits, Olive Warbler, Steller's Jay, Acorn Woodpeckers and a female Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird. There is a PEMEX Station in Yecora and a motel or two. There was only one PEMEX station between Hermosillo and Yecora. The highway continues out of town and on the east side there are a few ponds and a river. The area was quite birdy with lots of sparrows, meadowlarks, Kestrels, Ravens, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Great-tailed Grackles.
We ended up with a total of about 128 species with no nightbirds. We did spend most of our time driving, as this was mainly a scouting trip for next month when we can spend more time and explore a few more locations. If anyone would like to add a few locations and species to the list, I would be more than happy to try them out on the next trip. A complete list of species is available.
Steve Ganley sganley@Primenet.com
Roy Jones Barbet@Primenet.com