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October 1996

by Roy Jones

On October 20th, 1996, Roy Jones and I drove from Phoenix, Arizona to Alamos, Sonora Mexico. Alamos is close to both the Sinaloa and Chihuahua borders. We left Phoenix, AZ. at 4:00 A.M. and drove to Nogales, Arizona. We crossed the border there at 7:30 A.M. We arrived in Alamos at 4:30 P.M. with a few stops along the way and 406 miles [ 653 K ] of driving in Mexico.

About 13 miles [ 21 K ] into Sonora on Sonora 15, there is the checkpoint for entry into the interior. We obtained a 'Sonora Only' Permit. There was no cost. It takes about thirty minutes to get through the process. We changed money here and they gave a 7.3 pesos to 1 dollar exchange.

The road was a four lane divided highway all the way to Navojoa. It is also a toll road. You have a choice to get off the Cuota [ Toll ] for the Libre {free] way before each toll booth. As a non-resident, it costs 28 pesos [ $3.83 ] at each stop. There are five toll booths between Nogales and Navojoa, totaling 140 pesos or about $20. Probably worth it if you are not birding your way down. Part of the toll road is a by-pass of Guaymas. This also saves time but there are good water birds at Guaymas and you should stop there either on the way down or the way back.

Besides the 5 toll stops, there were two more checkpoints for the Federales to stop and look through your car. On the way down we were not stopped for long. On the way back we were well searched both times.

We arrived at Hermosillo at 10:45 a.m.. We took a road to the left before we got downtown. This road went near a very large lake and a park with a few marshy canals. This area might be worth some time birding and this road keeps you from driving through downtown.

The first stop for birding was at the Rio Yaqui, 311 miles south. This was the Bacum area. The only birding information we had was Peter Alden's book on Finding the Birds in Western Mexico. The area was probably not as lush as Peter Alden saw it in 1968. We did have our first Non U.S. birds here. There were several Social Flycatchers and a Happy Wren. A few migrant warblers were here such as Black- throated Gray, Wilson's, MacGillivrays and Orange-crowned.

We continued through CD. Obregon on towards Navojoa. About 2 miles outside Navojoa, on the right side of the road , was a large pond next to a pig farm. It is hard to see from the road but there is a dirt path to pull off the highway here. On the pond there were hundreds of birds. 50+ Black Vultures, 50 Wood Storks, many Snowy and Great Egrets, both Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, two Caspian Terns and one immature White Ibis.

We then crossed the Rio Mayo and entered Navojoa. We had seen Sinaloa Crows twice as fly overs. In town, there will be a left turn for Sonora 19 and Alamos. It is 35 miles [ 56 K ] to Alamos and the drive is very interesting. In no time at all you will see the habitat start to change. You will then get into thorn forest. Nine miles [ 14.5 K ] outside of Alamos is a campground called El Caracol. [ The Snail ] This is a good place to camp as it is quiet and has good birds. The cost was 60 pesos [ $8.25 ] but it had showers and power at the sites. This is a good place to see Black-throated Magpie-Jays, at dusk White-fronted Parrots came in to roost and we had Ferruginous-Pygmy Owl in the campground.

As we drove the last nine miles into town, we saw many Sinaloa Crows on the poles and telephone wires. There is a RV campground on the left as you get into town that is called Dolisa. Here you can park your car inside the grounds. It was very birdy in the grounds with Streak-backed Orioles, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, Thick-billed Kingbird and several warbler species. The cost was 40 pesos [ $5.50 ] for tent camping. However, it was quite noisy on a Sunday night. The music and barking dogs went well into the night and the roosters started long before sunrise.

Birding in Alamos was a trial and error process. Mostly error. We were not able to follow Alden's directions as the streets have few if any names on them. Many of the streets are one-way [ circulation ] Also, things have changed some in almost thirty years since the guide book was written.. By takeing a wrong turn, we found a good area that was full of Mexican Parrotlets and also had Ruddy Ground-Doves, Streak-backed Orioles, Sinaloa Crows, lots of Lark Sparrows and many of the common birds of the area.

If you have Alden's book and are able to find the road out to the cemetary, you can continue on past it and you will cross a wash. After about 1/4 mile more you will come to another wash [ or river ? ] This one had water in it and was quite good for birding. Here we are able to see more Social Flycatchers, Kiskadee, Blue Mockingbirds, Rufous-backed Robins, Groove-billed Ani, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Elegant Quail, Green Kingfisher, Varied and Painted Bunting and a Plain-capped Starthroat.

We tried several dirt roads out of town but were not able to find the one that goes to the higher elevation of oaks and pines. It seems that we were a little early for some of the wintering birds that come down to the lower elevation in December. Something for the next trip.

A stop on the way home at Guaymas was well worth it. We saw many waterbirds here that do not show up very often to the north in Arizona. The best area was along the causeway that connects Empalme to Guaymas. Here there is room to pull over and scope the bay. We were lucky as it was a low tide and the mud flats were full of birds. Some of the best sightings were both adult and immature Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret, Laughing Gull, Elegant Tern, American Oystercatchers and the Frigatebirds overhead.

Our daily totals of species were 66 [ driving all day ], 77 birding in Alamos and 81 on the drive home with the total number of species for the trip was around 135.

For a full species list contact either:

Roy Jones Steve Ganley
Steve Ganley Mesa, Arizona 602 830-5538