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20 - 23 April 2002

by Steve Charleton

Fellow Montreal birdwatcher, Pete Mitchell (and president of Aves Borealis Birding Inc) and myself flew for a week of R&R with our wives to Puerto Vallarta. This was NOT a birdwatching trip, and although we brought binoculars, we did not bring our scopes. However, we had planned to get a day or so of  good birdwatching in while we were there.

Our accommodations were at the Mayan Palace complex in Nuevo Vallarta, where we lucked out. We were at the far end of the “red building”, on the 4th floor, closest to and overlooking the adjacent property to the south which was still undeveloped, and covered with scrub forest. The 2 properties were separated by a yet-untouched estuary, so we saw many local birds from the comfort of our balcony, called “Day 1” in the listing below.

Prior to leaving Montreal, we had arranged for a 2-day “private” bird trip, up to San Blas and back, through a local tour operator. Although OpenAir Tours ( specializes in marine & whale-watching trips, it also does nature hikes and 3 different day-long birding trips (coastal, Marietas Islands, & forest), at $50US per participant. Pete and I arranged a 2-day trip through the owner, Isabel Cardenas, as follows: Monday am do most of the “forest birding” trip, then drive to San Blas (3 hours); sleep overnight at our expense; Tues am take the San Cristobal mangrove boat trip, do some additional birding afterwards (time permitting), then drive back to PVR.

Our guide and driver was excellent. Jorge was a young and enthusiastic birder from Tepic and knew the San Blas area as a boy. Now doing the bird tours for OpenAir, he also knew various hot spots around PVR, and took us to one of his favourites on the first morning, where new birds kept coming in as we stood and watched! Then we walked and had to dig a bit for the skulkers (trogons, motmots, etc.). On the way we made a seaside stop for boobies.

The trip to San Blas seems long and dull, although according to Peter Alden’s book Finding Birds in Western Mexico, we passed through prime birding territory, and obviously another day in and around San Blas would have been extremely productive if we had had the time. We chose a cheap grungy hotel to sleep, but as compensation chose to eat well at the Hotel Garza Canela, whose restaurant (and probably the rooms too) is highly-recommended. The San Cristobal boat trip was wonderful. We were just the 3 plus pilot, and we passed just one other boat during the entire morning. The boat was quiet (electric motor), and we saw just about everything we wanted, including 4 separate individuals of that most-wanted bird, the Boat-Billed Heron, all of which were wary but did not fly. We also saw 2 Potoos well, at oars-length.

All-in-all, it was an excellent 2 days. We certainly highly recommend both Jorge and OpenAir!

Birds seen: (list extracted after-the-fact from updated records in Birdbase software)

Day 1 “Nuevo Vallarta” (view from window & grounds of Mayan Palace hotel) Apr 20,21/2002

Brown Pelican                                   Pelecanus occidentalis
Brown Booby                                     Sula leucogaster
Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant     Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Magnificent Frigatebird                    Fregata magnificens
Little Blue Heron                              Egretta caerulea
Great(Common,American)Egret       Ardea alba
Green Heron                                     Butorides virescens
Snowy Egret                                     Egretta thula
Tricolored (Louisiana) Heron            Egretta tricolor
White Ibis                                         Eudocimus albus
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis
Turkey Vulture                                 Cathartes aura
American Coot                                 Fulica americana
Northern Jacana                               Jacana spinosa
Killdeer                                            Charadrius vociferus
Black-bellied(Gray)Plover               Pluvialis squatarola
Whimbrel                                        Numenius phaeopus
Willet                                             Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
Marbled Godwit                             Limosa fedoa
Black-necked Stilt                          Himantopus mexicanus
Heermann's Gull                            Larus heermanni
Laughing Gull                               Larus atricilla
Royal Tern                                     Sterna maxima
Common Tern                                Sterna hirundo
Least Tern                                      Sterna antillarum
Black Skimmer                               Rynchops niger
Mexican(Blue-rumped)Parrotlet     Forpus cyanopygius
Green Kingfisher                            Chloroceryle americana
Barn Swallow                                 Hirundo rustica
Northern Rough-winged Swallow    Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Yellow Warbler                              Dendroica petechia
Yellow-winged Cacique                 Cacicus melanicterus
Great-tailed Grackle                       Quiscalus mexicanus

Day 2 - “Mismaloya”  (south of PVR, with Jorge) Apr 22/2002 am only

Black-crowned Night-Heron              Nycticorax nycticorax
Brown Pelican                                   Pelecanus occidentalis
Blue-footed Booby                             Sula nebouxii
Brown Booby                                     Sula leucogaster
Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant     Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Magnificent Frigatebird                     Fregata magnificens
Black Vulture                                    Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture                                  Cathartes aura
Red-billed Pigeon                               Columba flavirostris
Mourning Dove                                  Zenaida macroura
White-winged Dove                           Zenaida asiatica
Inca Dove                                          Columbina inca
Ruddy Ground-Dove                         Columbina talpacoti
White-tipped Dove                           Leptotila verreauxi
Orange-fronted Parakeet                  Aratinga canicularis
Lilac-crowned Parrot                        Amazona finschi
Broad-billed Hummingbird              Cynanthus latirostris
Elegant(Coppery-tailed)Trogon        Trogon elegans
Russet-crowned Motmot                  Momotus mexicanus
Gray-crowned Woodpecker             Piculus auricularis
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker          Melanerpes chrysogenys
Pale-billed Woodpecker                 Campephilus guatemalensis
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper               Xiphorhynchus flavigaster
Bright-rumped Attila                     Attila spadiceus
Rose-throated Becard                    Pachyramphus aglaiae
Masked Tityra                               Tityra semifasciata
Tropical Kingbird                         Tyrannus melancholicus
Thick-billed Kingbird                    Tyrannus crassirostris
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher             Myiodynastes luteiventris
Social Flycatcher                           Myiozetetes similis
Great Kiskadee                              Pitangus sulphuratus
Brown-crested(Wied's)Flycatcher   Myiarchus tyrannulus
Dusky-capped Flycatcher               Myiarchus tuberculifer
San Blas Jay                                  Cyanocorax sanblasianus
Sinaloa Wren                                Thryothorus sinaloa
Happy Wren                                  Thryothorus felix
White-throated Thrush                 Turdus assimilis
Swainson's Thrush                       Catharus ustulatus
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush   Catharus aurantiirostris
Warbling Vireo                            Vireo gilvus
Nashville Warbler                        Vermivora ruficapilla
Tropical Parula                            Parula pitiayumi
Streak-backed Oriole                   Icterus pustulatus
Yellow-winged Cacique               Cacicus melanicterus
Bronzed(Red-eyed)Cowbird         Molothrus aeneus
Western Tanager                         Piranga ludoviciana
Grayish Saltator                          Saltator coerulescens
Yellow Grosbeak                         Pheucticus chrysopeplus
Stripe-headed Sparrow                Aimophila ruficauda

Day 3 - “San Blas” (early am Tues Apr 23 until noon)

Least Grebe                                   Tachybaptus dominicus
Brown Pelican                               Pelecanus occidentalis
Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant    Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Anhinga                                       Anhinga anhinga
Magnificent Frigatebird                Fregata magnificens
Great Blue Heron                         Ardea herodias
Little Blue Heron                         Egretta caerulea
Green Heron                                Butorides virescens
Great(Common,American)Egret   Ardea alba
Snowy Egret                                Egretta thula
Cattle Egret                                 Bubulcus ibis
Black-crowned Night-Heron        Nycticorax nycticorax
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     Nyctanassa violacea
Boat-billed Heron                         Cochlearius cochlearius
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron          Tigrisoma mexicanum
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck    Dendrocygna autumnalis
Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata
Black Vulture                            Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture                         Cathartes aura
Gray Hawk                               Asturina nitida
Great Black-Hawk                     Buteogallus urubitinga
Common(Lesser)Black-Hawk   Buteogallus anthracinus
Rufous-bellied Chachalaca       Ortalis wagleri
Limpkin                                   Aramus guarauna
Common Moorhen                   Gallinula chloropus
Semipalmated Plover               Charadrius semipalmatus
Black-bellied(Gray)Plover        Pluvialis squatarola
Whimbrel                                Numenius phaeopus
Greater Yellowlegs                 Tringa melanoleuca
Short-billed Dowitcher            Limnodromus griseus
Long-billed Dowitcher            Limnodromus scolopaceus
Caspian Tern                         Sterna caspia
Rock Dove                             Columba livia
Red-billed Pigeon                 Columba flavirostris
Mourning Dove                    Zenaida macroura
White-winged Dove             Zenaida asiatica
White-tipped Dove               Leptotila verreauxi
Groove-billed Ani                Crotophaga sulcirostris
Common(Gray)Potoo           Nyctibius griseus
Black Swift                          Cypseloides niger
Broad-billed Hummingbird   Cynanthus latirostris
Cinnamon Hummingbird     Amazilia rutila
Citreoline Trogon                Trogon citreolus
Green Kingfisher                Chloroceryle americana
Lineated Woodpecker         Dryocopus lineatus
Masked Tityra                   Tityra semifasciata
Tropical Kingbird              Tyrannus melancholicus
Social Flycatcher               Myiozetetes similis
Great Kiskadee                  Pitangus sulphuratus
Mangrove Swallow            Tachycineta albilinea
Green Jay                          Cyanocorax yncas
Black-throated Magpie-Jay   Calocitta colliei
Sinaloa Crow                    Corvus sinaloae
Swainson's Thrush            Catharus ustulatus
Nashville Warbler              Vermivora ruficapilla
Yellow Warbler                 Dendroica petechia
Common Yellowthroat      Geothlypis trichas
Wilson's Warbler               Wilsonia pusilla
Red-winged Blackbird       Agelaius phoeniceus

Steve Charlton