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Nogales to Hermosillo to Yecora

01 - 04  June 1998

by Dick Palmer

The purpose of this trip to Yecora was to try and fine the Grey-crowned Woodpecker which was seen by Kimball Garrett and his wife Kathy last December at km 263 on highway 16.  Highway 16 runs from Hermosillo (km 0) to Yecora (km280) and then on into Chihuahua.

The Grey-crowned Woodpecker had eluded me for years and it was high on my want list.  To make a long story short I did find the woodpecker, not at km 263 but at a new location, a few kilometers from km 263.  Details are in the writeup which follows.

The trip started out not too well with a flat tire at 5:00 AM in the morning before I even got the car out of the garage.  So In Green Valley you wait until 7:30 AM when the gas stations open up to get it fixed.  Three hours late departing I headed 40 miles south to Nogales where I went through customs and headed down highway 15 to Hermosillo.  Customs took about 1 hour 15 minutes to get a new visa and the Sonora only car permit.

Gas in Hermosillo, Mexico is now 3.53 pesos per liter for the green Magna and 3.88 pesos per liter for the red Premium.  It continues to rise monthly a few centavos per liter, I wonder when the price rise will stop?  The toll road between Nogales and Hermosillo has two toll stations, both 36 pesos each.  (Rate of exchange used at the booths was 8 pesos per US Dollar.)

The drive from Nogales to Hermosillo was uneventful with only a couple of Caracaras along the road (km119, highway 15) to peak my interest.  Driving into Hermosillo take a left at the first stop light which puts you on the Periferico Sur bypass on the east side of town.

A few miles down the bypass you will see a large reservoir to the east side of the road.  This can be very good for water type birds and is worth a stop if you brought your scope.  Near the dam is a good spot to look over the area.

Continue south on through town until you see a sign labeled Chihuahua.  Turn left at this point to get on combined highway 20 (to Sahuaripa) and highway 16 (to Yecora).  In less than 200 feet the road you want, highway 16 turns right toward Yecora.  Watch carefully or you will miss this turn, it is not signed very well.

KM72, Rio Matape just before the town of Jose de Pimas.

The Great Kiskadee pair are back again this year and easy to find just south of the bridge.  The best birding is south of the bridge and you can walk quite a distance in and along the river bed.  Birding was also good north of the bridge for a short distance.  This is lower elevation birding and can get quite hot during the peak of the day.  Get here early if you can.

KM168, Rio Yaqui.

This is a large high water volume river even during the dry season.  Since this is a relative new road people have not built around the rivers edge and it is much as it was years ago with only a few ranchers in the area.  It is desert here and the land is overgrazed and vegetation is lacking.  I did find one good spot south of the bridge 1/4 mile.  There are two canyons running east from the river.  Walk the first canyon as far as you can and you will find several species using the canyon to keep cool during the heat of the day.  I was quite surprised to hear not one, but two different Buff-collared Nightjars call during the day when I got too close to their daytime roost.  (Is this normal?  Have others heard them call in the daytime?) They only called once each.  Great Horned Owl, Nuttings flycatcher, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Plain-capped Starthroat were also seen in the canyon.  I camped in the canyon on the way back home and heard a few more Buff-collared Nightjars, an unknown goatsucker calling in the middle of the night, and a Common Nighthawk was seen feeding over the river at dusk.  The second canyon was not good and should be skipped.  An interesting sidenote, a lizard that lives here has adapted an interesting skill in that it mimmicks a scorpian when it runs.  It throws its black and white banded tail up over its body and for all practicle purposes looks like a scorpian when it runs.  Does this deter preditors from grabbing it for food?  I would think so.  Anyone know the scientific name of this lizard?

KM189.5 highway 16 at 2200 foot elevation:

An otherwise uninteresting habitat with mesquite, palo verde and a few cactus provided what was the best bird of the trip.  On the trip back it flew in front of the car showing off its white tipped tail.  I recognized it right away as an Eastern Kingbird having seen hundreds of them when I lived in Decatur, Illinois a few years ago.

Slamming on the brakes, I backed up on the highway until I could see the bird resting in one of the scrub trees a couple of hundred feet off of the highway.  Close study confirmed that the bird had a black cap with a brilliant white throat and breast.  Once again I had not brought my camera, some day I will learn.  This may be a first record for the state of Sonora?

KM243 exit north toward Santa Rosa on a gravel road, go 4.0 miles to a large bridge over a flowing creek.  (A tributary of the Rio Sahuaripa?).

I did most of my birding in this area as the birding was very good.  Returning 1/4 mile toward highway 16 on the gravel road from the bridge is where I found the Grey-crowned Woodpecker.  Seen from the car in a tree less than 30 foot from me I was able to study every feather on the bird.  A male, he gave his territorial call and another call note that he makes.  He remained in the tree with no leaves for 2-3 minutes before flying west a few hundred feet.  I believe the bird was on territory.  This was at an elevation of 2600 foot.

Walk either direction along the creek from the bridge and you will see birds everywhere this time of year.  The walk upstream has a good trail for about 2 miles and eventually ends up at a ranchers house.  Most of the good birds of the trip were seen along this river in good numbers.  Yellow Grosbeak, Elegant Trogon, Happy Wren, Rose-throated Becard, Blue Mockingbird,and White-tipped Dove were abundant.  If you bird the area for a while you should also come up with Black-throated Magpie Jay, White-throated Robin, Ruous-backed Robin, Sinaloa Wren, and Black-vented Oriole.  A Willow Flycatcher seemed to be on location along he creek, giving its fitz-bew call.  This would be south of their normal nesting area I would think.  The path downstream is equally good birding but harder walking.  The ranch house on the northwest side of the creek seemed deserted.

Continue on the gravel road from the bridge going north for another 3.0 miles until you come to the south edge of the town of Santa Rosa.  Stay right on the gravel road which is on the east side and looking over the town of Santa Rosa.  Proceed until you see a house which is white with a green colored painted strip base and a rock wall in front.  Take the gravel road right going east toward the town of Trinidad, an old mining, almost ghost, town.  Stay left at the red gate or you will end up at the airport.  Yes they have an airport!  Drive until you have to go right or left.  continue left and go downhill to the town of Trinidad.  Here I found the Elegant Quail quite easy to observe as they are used to people.  They call from the old rock houses and walls throughout the town.  Lesser Roadrunner, Streak-backed Oriole, White- throated Robin, and Sinaloa Wren were also noted here.  This area was also very good in winter as it is sheltered with lots of weed seed for food and a small stream flowing through the town which provides a year round water source.

If you had turned right instead of left about 1 mile before you get to Trinidad this road would continue on up the mountain to Mesa Grande and then on into Yecora.  It would be easy to get lost with all of the roads going every which way and it would be best to go with someone who knows the way the first time.  This route provides excellent birding most of the trip of about 25 miles.  The road can be bad in winter.

KM260 Barranca at 5300 foot elevation:

Stopped here for an hour of birding and didn't see much except the pair of Spotted Wrens.  Mountain Trogons were calling in several diferent directions.  The first of many Blue Mockingbirds was seen at this location.  A small flycatcher could have been a Flammulated Flycatcher but it was just too far away to confirm and could have been just another Dusky-capped Flycatcher.  I advise others to keep an eye out for it.  This would be quite north of its normal location.

KM266 across from a truck stop a cobble stone road goes south to El Campanero.

This will allow you to get to a high elevation rather quickly by taking the rough stone road to the top of the mountain and the micro relay towers.  Always follow the stone road as there are many gravel dusty logging roads which turn off from the main road.  High elevation birds will be found in this predominantly pine forest.

KM280 City of Yecora.

Three motels are located in this city if you are not camping.  They are barely acceptable by US standards.  Sometimes no water, sometimes no electricity and always the barking dogs and boomboxes.  The King Motel which has the office at the grocery store goes for $130 pesos.  The Las Briesus (sp?) goes for $120 pesos.  Birding around town was not good this trip but can be very good in the winter when the North American migrants arrive.  Yecora has a new Pemex station and a good grocery store where you can also get ice.  A fair restaurant is close to the grocery store and the King motel.  Most other necessities can be had in Yecora including tire and other minor repairs for the car.

Trip total, 135 species, 1 new lifer (Grey-crowned Woodpecker), 1 new state record (?) (Eastern Kingbird) and 2 other Mexican birds, (Olive-sided Flycatcher and Common Nighthawk).  A very successful trip.

I will be glad to answer additional questions by email or letter.

Dick Palmer
370 South Avenida De Las Sabinas
Green Valley, Arizona 85614-4701

Trip List:

American White Pelican                Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
             200 at Hermosillo
Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus
             150 at Hermosillo
Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias
             6 at Rio Yaqui
Great Egret                           Ardea alba
             2 at Hermosillo
Green Heron                           Butorides virescens
             4 at Rio Matape
Black-crowned Night-Heron             Nycticorax nycticorax
             50 at Hermosillo and Rio Matape
Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula
             20 at Hermosillo
White-faced Ibis                      Plegadis chihi
             1 at Rio Matape
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis
             2 at the Rio Matape
Black Vulture                         Coragyps atratus
             12 around Yecora
Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura
             200 widespread
Gray Hawk                             Asturina nitida
             9 widespread
Red-tailed Hawk                       Buteo jamaicensis
Crested Caracara                      Caracara plancus
American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius
Elegant Quail                         Callipepla douglasii
             19, 15 at Trinidad, 4 at Rio Matape
Gambel's Quail                        Callipepla gambelii
             25 at Rio Matape
American Coot                         Fulica americana
             4 at Hermosillo
Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus
             18, 17 at the Rio Matape, 1 at Yecora
American Avocet                       Recurvirostra americana
             1 at Hermosillo
Rock Dove                             Columba livia
             12 at Hermosillo
Band-tailed Pigeon                    Columba fasciata
             2 on Mesa Grande near Yecora
White-winged Dove                     Zenaida asiatica
             85 widespread
Inca Dove                             Columbina inca
Common Ground-Dove                    Columbina passerina
             120 widespread
Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura
White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi
             24 at the Rio near Santa Rosa
Lesser Roadrunner                     Geococcyx velox
             13 near Yecora
Greater Roadrunner                    Geococcyx californianus
             8 widespread
Great Horned Owl                      Bubo virginianus
             1 at the Rio Yaqui
Mountain Pygmy-Owl                    Glaucidium gnoma
             1 heard on Mesa Grande
Colima Pygmy-Owl                      Glaucidium palmarum
             1 heard on Mesa Grande
Common Nighthawk                      Chordeiles minor
             1 at the Rio Yaqui
Lesser Nighthawk                      Chordeiles acutipennis
             1 at Yecora
Buff-collared Nightjar                Caprimulgus ridgwayi
             5 at the Rio Yaqui
White-throated Swift                  Aeronautes saxatalis
             15 near Yecora
White-eared Hummingbird               Hylocharis leucotis
Berylline Hummingbird                 Amazilia beryllina
             4 near Yecora
Violet-crowned Hummingbird            Amazilia violiceps
             2 near Santa Rosa
Blue-throated Hummingbird             Lampornis clemenciae
             14 near Yecora
Plain-capped Starthroat               Heliomaster constantii
             3 at the Rio Yaqui
Mountain Trogon                       Trogon mexicanus
             12 near Yecora and Mesa Grande
Elegant Trogon                        Trogon elegans
             14 along the Rio near Santa Rosa
Green Kingfisher                      Chloroceryle americana
             2 at Rio Matape
Acorn Woodpecker                      Melanerpes formicivorus
             25 widespread
Gila Woodpecker                       Melanerpes uropygialis
             6 at Rio Matape and Rio Yaqui
Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris
             4 at the Rio near Santa Rosa
Strickland's Woodpecker               Picoides stricklandi
             1 at El Campanero
Gray-crowned Woodpecker               Piculus auricularis
             1 male at the Rio near Santa Rosa
Northern Flicker                      Colaptes auratus
             5 near Yecora (Red-shafted form)
White-striped Woodcreeper             Lepidocolaptes leucogaster
             2 heard on Mesa Grande
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet         Camptostoma imberbe
             1 near Santa Rosa
Olive-sided Flycatcher                Contopus cooperi
             1 heard on El Campanero
Greater Pewee                         Contopus pertinax
             22 mostly heard widespread
Western Wood-Pewee                    Contopus sordidulus
             75 everywhere
Willow Flycatcher                     Empidonax traillii
             1 giving the fitz-bew call at Santa Rosa
Cordilleran Flycatcher                Empidonax occidentalis
Black Phoebe                          Sayornis nigricans
             15 along the rivers
Vermilion Flycatcher                  Pyrocephalus rubinus
             2 at Santa Ana near Yecora
Dusky-capped Flycatcher               Myiarchus tuberculifer
             16 widespread
Nutting's Flycatcher                  Myiarchus nuttingi
             12 mostly along Rio Yaqui
Ash-throated Flycatcher               Myiarchus cinerascens
             4 mostly at Rio Matape area
Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus
             6 widespread
Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus
             2 on territory at the Rio Matape bridge.
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher            Myiodynastes luteiventris
             22 mostly along the Rio near Santa Rosa.
Tropical Kingbird                     Tyrannus melancholicus
             9 mostly along the Rio Matape
Cassin's Kingbird                     Tyrannus vociferans
Thick-billed Kingbird                 Tyrannus crassirostris
             4 mostly along the Rio Matape
Western Kingbird                      Tyrannus verticalis
             15 along the highway near Hermosillo
Eastern Kingbird                      Tyrannus tyrannus
             1 seen well at KM189.5, highway 16
Rose-throated Becard                  Pachyramphus aglaiae
             8 at the Rio near Santa Rosa
Northern Rough-winged Swallow         Stelgidopteryx serripennis
             25 widespread
Barn Swallow                          Hirundo rustica
             20 at Yecora
Cliff Swallow                         Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
             100 under the Rio Yaqui bridge
Steller's Jay                         Cyanocitta stelleri
             6 mostly at El Campanero and Mesa Grande
Mexican Jay                           Aphelocoma ultramarina
             20 widespread
Black-throated Magpie-Jay             Calocitta colliei
             5 mostly at the rio near Santa Rosa
Chihuahuan Raven                      Corvus cryptoleucus
             6 near Nogales
Common Raven                          Corvus corax
             25 widespread
Bridled Titmouse                      Baeolophus wollweberi
             6 at the Rio near Santa Rosa.
Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps
             1 at the Rio Yaqui
White-breasted Nuthatch               Sitta carolinensis
             6 mostly at El Campanero and Mesa Grande
Brown Creeper                         Certhia americana
             15 mostly at El Campanero & Mesa Grande.
Spotted Wren                          Campylorhynchus gularis
             2 at KM260 in the Barranca
Cactus Wren                           Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
             2 at Trinidad
Canyon Wren                           Catherpes mexicanus
             45 widespread
Happy Wren                            Thryothorus felix
             35 mostly at the Rio near Santa Rosa.
Sinaloa Wren                          Thryothorus sinaloa
             4 mostly at the Rio near Santa Rosa.
House Wren                            Troglodytes aedon
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher              Polioptila melanura
             1 at the Rio Yaqui
Black-capped Gnatcatcher              Polioptila nigriceps
             3 at the Rio Yaqui
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher              Polioptila melanura
             1 at the Rio Matape
Eastern Bluebird                      Sialia sialis
             12 mostly at El Campanero & Mesa Grande.
Brown-backed Solitaire                Myadestes occidentalis
             18 all heard widespread.
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush      Catharus aurantiirostris
             1 at the spring on Mesa Grande seen well
White-throated Thrush                 Turdus assimilis
             2 at the Rio near Santa Rosa
Rufous-backed Robin                   Turdus rufopalliatus
             2 at the Rio near Santa Rosa
American Robin                       Turdus migratorius
             10 mostly on El Campanero & Mesa Grande.
Blue Mockingbird                      Melanotis caerulescens
             25 mostly at the Rio near Santa Rosa.
Curve-billed Thrasher                 Toxostoma curvirostre
Phainopepla                           Phainopepla nitens
             6 mostly near the Rio Matape
Bell's Vireo                          Vireo bellii
             2 at the Rio Matape
Plumbeous Vireo                       Vireo plumbeus
             1 at the barranca
Warbling Vireo                        Vireo gilvus
             1 singing
Lucy's Warbler                        Vermivora luciae
             4 at the Rio Matape
Grace's Warbler                       Dendroica graciae
             3 on El Campanero & Mesa Grande.
Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas
             3 with 1 immature at Rio near Santa Rosa
Painted Redstart                      Myioborus pictus
             11 widespread
Slate-throated Redstart               Myioborus miniatus
             6 widespread
Rufous-capped Warbler                 Basileuterus rufifrons
             1 on Mesa Grande
Yellow-breasted Chat                  Icteria virens
             35 widespread
Hepatic Tanager                       Piranga flava
             6 on El Campanero and Mesa Grande
Summer Tanager                        Piranga rubra
             4 Rio Matape
Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis
             8 along Rio Yaqui and Rio Matape
Pyrrhuloxia                           Cardinalis sinuatus
             2 at Rio Matape
Yellow Grosbeak                       Pheucticus chrysopeplus
             8 along the rio near Santa Rosa
Black-headed Grosbeak                 Pheucticus melanocephalus
Blue Grosbeak                         Guiraca caerulea
             10 Hermosillo to Rio Matape
Varied Bunting                        Passerina versicolor
             35 widespread
Canyon Towhee                         Pipilo fuscus
             4 Rio Matape
Five-striped Sparrow                  Aimophila quinquestriata
             1 at the Rio Yaqui area
Rufous-winged Sparrow                 Aimophila carpalis
Rufous-crowned Sparrow                Aimophila ruficeps
Rusty Sparrow                         Aimophila rufescens
             1 at the barranca KM260
Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus
             1 near Hermosillo
Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus
             15 widespread
Bronzed Cowbird                       Molothrus aeneus
             25 widespread
Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater
             6 widespread
Hooded Oriole                         Icterus cucullatus
             10 widespread
Streak-backed Oriole                  Icterus pustulatus
             4 Rio Matape, Rio near Santa Rosa
Black-vented Oriole                   Icterus wagleri
             2 on the Rio near Santa Rosa.
Bullock's Oriole                      Icterus bullockii
Scott's Oriole                        Icterus parisorum
House Finch                           Carpodacus mexicanus
             20 widespread
Lesser Goldfinch                      Carduelis psaltria
             4 on the Rio near Santa Rosa
House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus
             25 widespread around towns