Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
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March 18 - 22, 1995

by James Norman Paton

What follows is a report of a trip I and another birder took March 18 - 24 to Durango and San Blas, Nay. in Mexico. In was done from El Paso in my car, and may be of particular interest to border residents who have not yet ventured into MX. Only recently have I been online and able to post the report.

COST: All costs were split 50/50. My share was under 250 dollars total! $30 covered my share of the required auto insurance, $40 went to tolls between El Paso and Dur. The toll(cuota) road is well worth the expense vis-a-vis the slow,crowded free(libre) roads. Gas prices were comparable to US rates, hotels averaged $15 for a room for two($7.5 per person), and meals aver. about 4-5 dollars, and were generally excellent. At the time $1 was equal to 6.5 pesos.

ITINERARY: March 18. Left El Paso at 4 am, arrived in Durango at 8 pm. 700 mile drive through bleak Chihuahuan desert with only birding stop at bridge over Rio Conchos. We were able to leave so early by taking care of necessary papers the previous day.

March 19 - Birded Durango highway next morning, then drove down coast to San Blas(SB) in the afternoon. Roads were two-lane , crowded, and stressful. Due to the steepness of the terrain, birding from the Dur. highway was largely confined to roadsides. Traffic and no shoulder made birding along the coast highway difficult.

March 20 - Birded SB area, specifically La Bajada in the a.m. and boat ride through the mangroves in the evening.

March 21 - SB area, esp. Singayta and thorn forest along road to main highway.

March 22 - SB area in a.m., then drove to Potrerillos, a small village on the west slope of the Sierra Madres along the Durango highway. March 23 - Durango highway (DH) in a.m., then headed for home; got back to U.S.of A. on afternoon of the 24th.

BIRDS: The trip list was 248, of which 49 were lifers for me. What follws are notes on "Mex."or southerly species which may be of interest to US birders.

MAG. FRIGATEBIRD - Always overhead in SB
B-T TIGER-HERON - 3 on boat ride
REDDISH EGRET - 1 on boat ride
B-BILLED HERON - 15 roosting in mangroves from boat ride.
R. SPOONBILL - Several seen daily in SB
W. STORK - Several daily at SB
C. BLACK-HAWK - a few around SB
GRAY HAWK - Common along coast lowlands
SHORT-TAILED HAWK - Several daily in SB area; both morphs.
C. FOREST-FALCON - 1 seen at Singayta
WAGLER'S CHACHALACA - pair seen on boat ride
R-BILLED PIGEON - uncommon at SB
R. G-DOVE - fairly common to common at SB
O-FRONTED PARAKEET - fc at SB, seen daily.
MIL. MACAW - 8-10 at Mirador de Aquila overlook S of SB
B-R PARROTLET - Seen daily at SB in groups of 2 to 25.
W-f Parrot - seen daily at SB
L-c Parrot - 2 at Singayta
Sq. Cuckoo - One on road out of SB at village of Navarette
L. G-Cuckoo - One near Navarette in thorn scrub.
G-b. Ani - a few seen at SB
F. P-Owl - freq. heard around SB
C. Potoo - 2 seen in spotlight on boat trip, one at only 15 feet!
W-naped Swift - 6 feding over fields just S of Mazatlan
Cr. Woodnymph - 1 at La Bajada
W-eared Hummingbird - common in roadside flowers on DH
Berylline Humm. - fc around SB
Cinn. Humm. - """"" """
Citreoline Trogon - several around SB
Mountain Trogon - fc and vocal along DH
Elegant Trogon - fc at SB
Green Kingfisher - fc at SB
Golden - cheeked Woodpecker - can't be missed at SB
Gray-crowned Woodpecker - one at La Bajada
Lineated Woodpecker - several each day at SB
Pale-billed Woodpecker - " " "
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper - fc at SB
White-striped Woodcreeper - two seen in high elevation, moist decid. groves on DH
N.B-Tyrannulet - a few at Singayta
Greenish Elaenia - one at La Bajada
Pine Flycatcher - one atop DH
Great Kiskadee - c at SB
B-billed Flycather - SB
Social Flycatcher - fc at SB
Trop. Kingbird - can't miss in lowlands
Masked Tityra - fc around SB, 6-10 seen daily
R-t Becard a few at SB
Mangrove Swallow - fc around SB
B-thr. Magpie-Jay - a dozen or more seen daily in lowlands
SB Jay - a small group at La Bajada
P-backed Jay - 2 in thorn scrub about 20 miles E of Mazatlan
Sinaloa Crow - abundant in lowlands, often in large flocks
Mex. Chickadee - a few along DH
Spotted Wren - one singing bird found in pine-oak woods on DH
Sinaloa Wren - fc on lower DH and in SB; more heard than seen
Happy Wren - " " "
B-backed Solitaire - vocal and common on DH
O-billed Night.-Thrush - several at Singayta
Russet N-Thrush - one in underbrush along DH
R-b Robin - fc at SB
W-throated Robin - fc at SB and DH
Blue Mockingbird - 1-3 seen daily at DH and SB
G. Silky-Flycatcher - a small flock on DH
Golden Vireo - one at La Bajada
Tropical Parula - fc, esp. at SB
Crescent-chested Warbler - several on DH
Red Warbler - two at moist , decid. canyons high on DH
S-thr. Redstart - common on DH
Golden-browed Warbler - several in thickets on DH
Scrub Euphonia - two at Singayta
R-c Ant-Tanager - one at Singayta
F-colored Tanager - a pair along DH
Grayish Saltator - fc around SB
Yellow Grosbeak - two females, one at La Bajada, one on DH
Blue Bunting - a few at SB
Rufous-capped Brushfinch - common on DH, but a bit of a skulker
R-crowned Ground-Sparrow - skulking - on at Singayta, one on DH
Blue-black Grassquit - fc at SB
W-c Seedeater - several at SB
Rusty Sparrow - several on a powerline clearcut on the DH
Striped Sparrow - fc in bunch grass(where the cows haven't eaten it) on the east slope of the DH
B-vented Oriole - one in thorn scrub near Navarette
S-backed Oriole - fc on DH, common at SB
Yellow-winged Cacique - common at SB
Black-headed Siskin - fc on DH

COMMENTS: We saw no other birders on the trip. Although our car was searched for narcotics at several checkpoints, I never felt the least bit ill at ease on the trip. Narcotics agents are apparently not used to seeing birders. At one checkpoint, the agent asked us ( 2 twenty-something, unshaven, Amer. males driving a then very dirty car , leaving an area known for growing drugs) why we were in SB. Wishing to be honest, we replied that we had driven all that way to look for birds. At this statement, his face registered a look of utter disbelief, coupled with a look that said " yeh, right, and I was born yesterday". We were immediately directed to the road shoulder and the car was thoroughly searched. Minutes later we were on our way, having determined at the next checkpoint we would merely say that we were just vacationing!

James Norman Paton