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Rancho Mil Castillos

4-7 June 1998

A cooperative Mountain Pygmy-Owl and Elegant Trogon, spectacular scenery, and delicious home-cooked Mexican food were highlights of the Travis Audubon trip to Rancho Mil Castillos from June 4-7, 1998.  John Gee and Carol Edwards led the trip to Rancho Mil Castillos ("Million Castles"), a family-owned ranch adjacent to Cumbres de Majalca National Park in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, close to Chihuahua City.  The habitat and weather are a cross between the uplands of Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains, but the bird species are typical of northern Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

John and Carol are excellent guides and are well-acquainted with the area.  Our hosts were Mauricio and Marta Sandoval, who speak excellent English and are very tolerant of rusty Spanish.  They are very gracious about explaining Mexican customs (such as the evening tequila ritual) and the wonderful Mexican dishes they served.

Temperatures ranged from jacket-weather in the evenings to the 80s and 90s during the day.  There were very few insects.  Some of us enjoyed Mexican siestas during midafternoon; others watched the many hummingbirds and other bird activity at the water near the buildings.

We hiked in canyons and beautiful mixed pine forests around 7000 feet.  One canyon was named Salsipuedas (Get out if you can) but we encountered not a single sign admonishing us to stay on the trails.  Unlike the Texas-friendly tradition of "shoot first; ask questions later," ownership boundaries were not well-marked and we were free to explore as we pleased.

A volcanic region with many balanced rocks, columns, pinnacles, and canyons carved through stone, the scenery was equal to that of US National Parks but without the hordes of people.  You wouldn't have to be a birder to fall in love with this region -- it should appeal to hikers, geologists, and botanists alike.

Some of the bird highlights included: Mountain (Northern) Pygmy-Owl, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Elegant Trogan, Arizona Woodpecker, Greater Pewee, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Mexican Jay, Mexican Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, "Black-eared" Bushtit, Hutton's Vireo, Grace's Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Varied Bunting, Yellow-eyed Junco.

We also enjoyed watching a Hoary Bat asleep in a tall Apache Pine about a foot from a very angry, and vocal, Pygmy-Owl.  The bat and owl seemed to ignore one another completely.

I'd be happy to answer questions about this trip.  For more information about this area, contact

Carol E. Edwards / John P. Gee
9500 McGregor Lane, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
telephone: (512) 894-9500


Lic. Mauricio Ruiz Sandoval G.
M. Matamoros 2426, Col. Zarco, cd. Chihuahua, Chihuahua CP31020, Mexico.
telephone: (14) 188601

Roxie Rochat
Travis Audubon
Austin, TX