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MEXICO -- Mazatlan, Durango Highway, Southern Sinaloa, and Nayarit

18 February - 27 February, 1999

by Dick Palmer


Getting there:

Flew from Tucson via AeroLitoral to Hermosillo and then via AeroMexico from Hermosillo to Mazatlan.  Round trip was $328.56 USD.


Rented two 4 door conventional Dodge Stratus cars for the trip for a total of $1,614.00.  A very high rental rate from the so called Budget Rental Company, but the best we could do at the time.  This included $13 per car per day insurance, $65 per day per car, and a 15% value added tax on the entire rental amount for the 9 days.  This rental was during the Mazatlan Carnival time and cars were at a premium.

A high clearance vehicle was not needed at any time for this particular trip but a larger vehicle would have been better.  We were a little cramped when we had 4 people in each car and then tried to get all the associated luggage in the trunks, but we made it.

We drove 1470 kilometers (per car) or about 913 miles during the 10 days.  Gasoline was fairly easy to get but expensive.  Currently the lowest grade (Magna) was going for 4.34 pesos per liter or about $1.65 in USD per gallon.  Fill up your car before leaving the intersection of highway 15 and highway 40 at the kilometer 294 Pemex or you will pay much more per liter in the mountains when available.  No Pemex in the mountains, gas comes out of 20 liter plastic jugs from some of the residents in the small towns.  Our total gas bill came to $155.00 for both cars.


February 17 and February 27, Azteca Inn, Mazatlan $41.65 USD per night.

Good lodging for one night, somewhat noisy due to Carnival.  The restaurant opens at 7:30 not 6:00 AM as advertised in their literature or as stated on a sign on the restaurant door.

February 18, 19, 20, and 21st, Villa Blanca Hotel, La Capilla de Taxte, Kilometer 233, on the Durango Highway 40.

This hotel is an excellent base for birding the Durango Highway.  It is a little rustic but certainly adequate for a birders needs.  The management took care of all our needs, all we had to do was ask.  He was up and had breakfast ready for us by 6:00 AM each morning and never complained.  If we wished he would have the evening meal ready whenever we asked and always on time.

Cost for 2 in a room $12.00 USD, one in a room $8.00 USD.  Meals were also very reasonable.  They do not have a telephone but at least some of the twelve rooms should almost always be available if you just show up.  (A backup place to stay would be Daniel's in Copala at kilometer 249 some 10 miles back toward Mazatlan.)

February 22, 23, 24, and 25th, Hotel La Garza Canela, San Blas, Nayarit

I don't need to say much about this world famous base for birders.  It still remains the best hotel in San Blas, Nayarit and the restaurant is unbeatable, much better than any we have in Green Valley, AZ.  Cost for the hotel per night per room $59.00 USD which includes either a full breakfast or a large box lunch for each person.

Other expenses:

Boat trips were our other big expense for the trip.  For three boat trips, one upriver on the San Cristobal, one down river on La Tovara, and a pelagic trip to Roca Elefante cost $39.00 USD per person including tips.  Really not bad considering we were in the boats a total of 11 hours.  Our guide for the river trips was Jose Luis Lopez and for the pelagic trip Antonio Palmas (Little Tony).  They were both good.  I had used both of them before and knew that they were reliable and had good equipment.  Both speak fairly good English.

Areas Birded along Durango Highway 40:

  KM 294 Junction of highway 15 from Mazatlan and highway 40 going to Durango.
  KM 285.1 Road to Pantitlan, good for thorn forest birds, lower elevation birds.
  KM 249 Village of Copala, stop in at Daniel's for lunch; excellent.  (Not open in the evenings.)
  KM 248.3 Panuco Road, bird to the Minos de las Parjaros sign and walk downhill on the mine road.
  KM233 Villa Blanca Hotel, good birding around the hotel.
  KM222.5 Potrerillos Road, bird south all the way to La Petaca.
  KM204 Along highway 40 good for Tufted Jay early in the morning when the sun hits the trees.
  KM200.5 Barranca Rancho Libre, spend an entire day here, see the birding guides.
  KM198 town of El Palmito for lunch, gas
  KM185.7 side road, not good this trip due to a forest fire, good for Aztec Thrush in past.

Areas Birded around San Blas, Nayarit:

  San Blas sewage pond area.
  Upriver trip on the San Cristobal Estuary
  River trip to La Tovara.
  Ocean trip to Roca Elefante.
  Matanchen beach side drive.
  Lower forest road out of Singayta.
  Road to La Bajada through La Palma to the coffee fincas.
  Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve.
  Shrimp ponds road to Chacalilla.
  Fuerte San Basilio and the old cemetery.

Recommended references:

  A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico (1st edition), Steve N.G. Howell
  Finding the Birds in Western Mexico (currently out of print),  Peter Alden
  Where to Find Birds in San Blas, Nayarit (3rd edition),  Rosalind Novick and Lan Sing Wu
  A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, 1st edition, Howell and Webb

Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus 26 -
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps 3 -
Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus 6 -Roca Elefante
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens 242 -
Blue-footed Booby Sula nebouxii 150 -
Red-footed Booby Sula sula 5 -San Blas, Roca Elefante
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster 75 -
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus 82 -
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga 42 -
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos 39 -
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis 343 -
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis 1000 -
Green-winged Teal (Common) Anas crecca 4 -
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos diazi 2 -
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors 11 -
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 4 -
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens 2 -Matanchen, Nayarit
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor 13 -
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea 11 -
Snowy Egret Egretta thula 76 -
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias 21 -
Great Egret Ardea alba 180 -
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis 41 -
Green Heron Butorides virescens 128 -
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Nyctanassa violacea 77 -
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 21 -
Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius 10 -
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma mexicanum 5 -Rio San Cristobal, San Blas, Nay.
White Ibis Eudocimus albus 70 -
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi 145 -
Roseate Spoonbill Ajaia ajaja 25 -
Wood Stork Mycteria americana 63 -
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus 336 -
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura 196 -
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 6 -
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus 5 -
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus 2 -
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii 5 -
Common Black-Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus 10 -
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus 12 -
Gray Hawk Asturina nitida 42 -
Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus 3 -Singayta Forest
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus 1 -Singayta Forest
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 16 -
Crested Caracara Caracara plancus 8 -
Laughing Falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans 2 -Lower Singayta forest
Collared Forest-Falcon Micrastur semitorquatus 1 -Matanchen-Miramar road
American Kestrel Falco sparverius 77 -
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1 -Roca Elefante, San Blas
Rufous-bellied Chachalaca Ortalis wagleri 9 -
Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens 1 H -Barranca Km201, Durango hw
Elegant Quail Callipepla douglasii 5 H -Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus 3 -Rio San Cristobal, San Blas
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 51 -
American Coot Fulica americana 245 -
Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa 14 -
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 9 -
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus 52 -
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 11 -
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes 2 -
Spotted Sandpiper Tringa macularia 2 -
Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus 13 -
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus 52 -
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus 171 -
American Avocet Recurvirostra americana 75 -
Black-bellied (Grey) Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1 -Shrimp ponds road to Chacalilla
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus 1 -
Heermann's Gull Larus heermanni 105 -
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 153 -
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1 -
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla 159 -
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia 4 -
Royal Tern Sterna maxima 4 -
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri 8 -
Rock Dove Columba livia 1082 -
Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata 15 -
Red-billed Pigeon Columba flavirostris 5 -Singayta forest
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura 11 -
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica 74 -
Inca Dove Columbina inca 34 -
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina 4 -
Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti 70 -
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi 16 -
Military Macaw Ara militaris 4 -Seen three different times. Take Km 248.3 Panuco road to Mios los Pajaros road.
Orange-fronted Parakeet Aratinga canicularis 40 -San Blas
Mexican Parrotlet Forpus cyanopygius 41 -wide spread
White-fronted Parrot Amazona albifrons 16 -San Blas area
Lilac-crowned Parrot Amazona finschi 4 -San Blas
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana 3 -Fuerte San Basilio, San Blas
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris 195 -
Lesser Roadrunner Geococcyx velox 1 -Km 285 Pantitlan road off Durango Highway 40
Mountain Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma 1 H -Km 222.5 Potrerillos road off Durango hw
Colima Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium palmarum 1 -KM 222.5 Potrerillos road
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium brasilianum 3 -El Tovara boat trip, San Blas
Northern Potoo Nyctibius jamaicensis 15 -all El Tovara boat trip
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis 21 -Matanchen and the El tovara boat trip.
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis 5 -El tovara boat trip and San Blas
White-naped Swift Streptoprocne semicollaris 55 -Km 233 Durango Highway 40
Vaux's Swift Chaetura vauxi 20 -
White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis 10 -
Golden-crowned Emerald Chlorostibon auriceps 1 -Km 248.3 Panuco road
Broad-billed Hummingbird Cynanthus latirostris 3 -
Mexican Woodnymph Thalurania ridgwayi 2 -Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve
White-eared Hummingbird Hylocharis leucotis 37 -
Berylline Hummingbird Amazilia beryllina 14 -
Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila 8 -
*Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis 1 -adult male, Km 285 Pantitlan road
Violet-crowned Hummingbird Amazilia violiceps 1 -
Blue-throated Hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae 5 -
Plain-capped Starthroat Heliomaster constantii 1 -
Bumblebee Hummingbird Atthis heloisa 2 -Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve
*Allen's Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin 1 -adult male, Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Citreoline Trogon Trogon citreolus 3 -Lower Singayta forest, San Blas
Mountain Trogon Trogon mexicanus 24 -Km201area Durango Highway 40
Elegant Trogon Trogon elegans 4 -Km285 Pantitlan Road
Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon 40 -
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana 15 -
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus 1 -
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes chrysogenys 24 -
Gila Woodpecker Melanerpes uropygialis 6 -
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius 2 -
Red-naped Sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis 1 -
Strickland's Woodpecker Picoides stricklandi 2 -
Gray-crowned Woodpecker Piculus auricularis 1 H -
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker Colaptes auratus 1 -
Pale-billed Woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis 6 -Lower Singayta Forest
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigastera 5 -
White-striped Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes leucogaster 11 -
N. Beardless-Tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe 1 H -
Tufted Flycatcher Mitrephanes phaeocercus 9 -
Greater Pewee Contopus pertinax 9 -
Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus 2 -
Pine Flycatcher Empidonax affinis 4 -KM201 near Durango highway.
Pacific-slope Flycatcher Empidonax difficilis 20 -
Buff-breasted Flycatcher Empidonax fulvifrons 1 -
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus 3 -
Bright-rumped Attila Attila spadiceus 1 -Lower Singayta Forest
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer 25 -
Nutting's Flycatcher Myiarchus nuttingi 2 -
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus 2 -
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus 21 -
Cassin's Kingbird Tyrannus vociferans 22 -
Thick-billed Kingbird Tyrannus crassirostris 23 -
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis 2 -
*Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus 3 -
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua 1 -Nayarit-Sinaloa border area from hw 15
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis 9 -
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus 46 -
Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae 6 -
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata 24 -
Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri 24 -
San Blas Jay Cyanocorax sanblasianus 1 -Lower Singayta Forest, hard to find this year
Tufted Jay Cyanocorax dickeyi 12 -Km204 along the Durango Highway 40
Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas 4 -Cerro de San Juan Ecological Reserve
Black-throated Magpie-Jay Calocitta colliei 47 -
Sinaloa Crow Corvus sinaloae 3675 -
Common Raven Corvus corax 11 -
Hutton's Vireo Vireo huttoni 4 -
Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens 1 -up-river boat ride Rio San Cristobal, San Blas
Golden Vireo Vireo hypochryseus 1 -
Cassin's Vireo Vireo cassinii 1 -
Plumbeous Vireo Vireo plumbeus 4 -
Yellow-green Vireo Vireo flavoviridis 1 -
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus 6 -
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus 5 -
Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinereus 20 -Km 248.3 Panuco Road
Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis 5 -
Brown-backed Solitaire Myadestes occidentalis 13 -
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus aurantiirostris 1 -Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Russet Nightingale-Thrush Catharus occidentalis 1 -Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus 8 -
White-throated Thrush Turdus assimilis 5 -Km 201
Rufous-backed Robin Turdus rufopalliatus 1 -Km 248.3
American Robin Turdus migratorius 8 -
Blue Mockingbird Melanotis caerulescens 3 -Km 201
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos 11 -
Happy Wren Thryothorus felix 6 -
Sinaloa Wren Thryothorus sinaloa 2 -
House Wren Troglodytes aedon 4 -
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea 30 -
Black-capped Gnatcatcher Polioptila nigriceps 1 -Km 285
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor 2 -
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea 21 -
Gray-breasted Martin Progne chalybea 6 -Virgin Rock, San Blas, first migrants coming back
N. Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis 71 -
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 17 -
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula 21 -
Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri 2 -
Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi 1 H -
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 20 -
Black-headed Siskin Carduelis notata 30 -
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria 22 -
Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus 1 -
*Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina 5 -
Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata 35 -
Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla 44 -
Virginia's Warbler Vermivora virginiae 1 -
Colima Warbler Vermivora crissalis 1 -Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Lucy's Warbler Vermivora luciae 1 -
*Northern Parula Parula americana 1 -
Crescent-chested Warbler Parula superciliosa 4 -
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia aestiva 6 -
MangroveYellow Warbler Dendroica petechia bryanti 3 -up-river boat trip San Cristobal
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata auduboni 33 -
Black-throated Gray Warbler Dendroica nigrescens 10 -
Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi 38 -
Hermit Warbler Dendroica occidentalis 3 -
Grace's Warbler Dendroica graciae 2 -
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia 7 -
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla 9 -
*Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorus 1 -up-river boat trip San Cristobal
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus 1 H -
MacGillivray's Warbler Oporornis tolmiei 5 -
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas 8 -
Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla 55 -
Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons 6 -
Red Warbler Ergaticus ruber melanauris 7 -Km 201
Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus 3 -
Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus 42 -
Rufous-capped Warbler Basileuterus rufifrons 5 -
Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli 2 -Km 201
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens 3 -
Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii 25 -
Yellow-eyed Junco Junco phaeonotus 11 -
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina 44 -
Stripe-headed Sparrow Aimophila ruficauda 6 -Lower Singayta forest road near Singayta.
Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus 1 -
Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus 2 -
Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow Melozone kieneri 4 -Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Rufous-capped Brush-Finch Atlapetes pileatus 1 -Km 222.5
Flame-colored Tanager Piranga bidentata 2 -Cerro de San Juan Eco. Res.
Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava 7 -
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra 12 -
Red-headed Tanager Piranga erythrocephala 2 -Km 201
White-collared Seedeater Sporophila torqueola 24 -Chacalilla Road near San Blas
Yellow Grosbeak Pheucticus chrysopeplus 6 -
*Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus 2 -
Black-headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus 44 -
Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens 11 -
Blue Bunting Cyanocompsa parellina 3 -Km 248.3
Blue Grosbeak Guiraca caerulea 1 -
Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena 13 -
Varied Bunting Passerina versicolor 26 -
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris 11 -
Yellow-winged Cacique Cacicus melanicterus 90 -
Streak-backed Oriole Icterus pustulatus 19 -
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus 2 -
Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii 2 -
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius 4 -
Black-vented Oriole Icterus wagleri 7 -Km 222.5
Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum 1 -
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus 150 -
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus 415 -

12,378 birds, 252 species:

*The following accidental/vagrant sightings have been documented and copies of them are available from me upon request:

1. Allen's Hummingbird
2. Buff-bellied Hummingbird
3. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
4. Tennessee Warbler
5. Northern Parula
6. Worm-eating Warbler
7. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The list of my fellow participants is available from me upon request.

Dick Palmer
370 South Avenida de las Sabinas
Green Valley, Arizona  85614-4701