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San Blas (Nayarit), Durango Road (Sinaloa)

16 - 25 January 2006

Barry Cooper and Gail Mackiernan


Along with our friend Sally Wechsler we visited San Blas, Nayarit, and vicinity and sites along the Durango Road, Sinaloa. During our time at San Blas we stayed at the Hotel Garza Canela and while birding the Durango Road we stayed at the cabins at Daniel’s Restaurant and Hotel in Copala. We will only make the following limited comments on the accommodations, as both hotels have been discussed at some length in several earlier trip reports.


Hotel Garza Canela: [phone number - 011 52 323 285 0112]

Very comfortable and well-run hotel that specifically caters to birders. The food and service were both excellent. Two birding groups and several other birders were staying at the hotel while we were there, making it is a great place to exchange information. The only negatives are it is on the expensive side and the late time they open for breakfast (8.00 a.m.). However, they will provide a packed breakfast/lunch in lieu of breakfast.  

Daniel’s Restaurant and Hotel. [phone number - 011 52-669-928-1932]

We stayed at the self-catering cabins, at the very reasonable rate of 300 pesos per cabin per night. There is also the option to rent a room in the main hotel, which is slightly less expensive. Again the restaurant opens at poor hours for birders [between 9.00 am and 5.00 p.m.]  However the cabinas have stove, fridge, cookware etc. and food can be purchased in town or in Concordia. There are also a number of 24-hour small truck stops between Copala and the Barranca Rancho Liebre [BRL]. We had dinner a couple of times at these and found that they were inexpensive and had decent food. We had a late breakfast at Daniel’s on a couple of occasions. The restaurant overlooks thorn forest and some low ridges. We saw quite a few birds while eating breakfast. These included a couple of parties of Military Macaws, a flock of the large and impressive White-naped Swifts, as well as Orange-fronted Parakeets and Mexican Parrotlets.

The drive from Daniel’s to the BRL is about 1 1/4 hours and the very birdy Panuco Road is only a five minutes’ drive.

Car Rental:

We rented a Nissan Sentra from National, picking up at the Puerto Vallarta airport and returning at the Mazatlán airport. Although this entailed a substantial drop-off fee, it nevertheless saved us a very long drive back to Jalisco and of course, the time saved was spent birding! The Mazatlán AP is actually closer to Villa Union, and very close to the intersection of Rt. 15 and Rt. 40 (Durango Hwy.) thus quite convenient.

We found driving conditions in Mexico not bad at all, although we did not experience any driving in large urban areas. The standard of driving was generally good and this was particularly so along the Durango Road which has a lot of heavy truck traffic.

One caveat – there is no gasoline to be purchased east of Concordia, so you should fill up your tank at the Pemex station there before continuing east.


We used two field guides: Howell and Webb’s “A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America” and Peterson’s “Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico.” The Howell book is far superior for both plates and text, but the Peterson guide is a more convenient size and could be carried everywhere for quick “ID checks.” We also used a number of recent trip reports from Blake Maybank’s web site and an UK trip report site www., as well as posts from the Mexico-Birding chat line. Finally, many thanks to the individuals who gave us recent “gen” (as the Brits say) on sites or who shared recordings of birds: Dick Heller, James Hully, David Matson, Ellen Paul, Martin Reid and Mark Stackhouse. Calls of Tufted and San Blas Jay were downloaded from the Xeno Canto web site (

Birding Sites Visited:

The following are the sites visited, together with our impressions on how good they were for birds. Virtually all of these are described in Howell’s “A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico”.

San Blas area:

Lower Singayta:

This site is still showing lot of signs of tree damage from the 2002 hurricane. Despite this we found area quite birdy. The best area for the Elegant Quail was right after the ‘official’ parking area [right at the end of the village] – calling and running through the brushy vegetation and grass (we had a tape which helped). Best to be there at first light for this species. Also another good area was the first quarter mile along the main trail [to just past a barn on the left]. Just before the barn was a small field that had been burnt, adjacent to a small pond. The pasture that the barn was in had been spread with cow manure. A combination of these proved very attractive to birds. The small orchard opposite was also very active. Birds seen in this general area included a male Siskin [rare at this altitude] and our only White-throated Flycatcher and Striped-headed Sparrows of the trip.  We hiked along the road for about a mile. The brushy/wood edge/pasture habitat and the trail continued well beyond where we turned back. We visited this site twice in the early morning and once in the late afternoon. In the afternoon no-see-ums were annoying. You should pay 20 pesos (per person) to the community as this is an ecological reserve. There may be someone in the office on left (as you enter the village), at the parking area, or a warden will locate you.

The more interesting birds recorded were as follows: Elegant Quail, Striped-headed Sparrow, 1White-throated Flycatcher, Black-faced Siskin, Bare-throated Tiger Herons, calling [but not seen] Collared Forest Falcons, Northern Potoo – one watched hunting at dusk- quite a surprise, Citreoline Trogan, Golden Vireo, Rufous-backed Robin, Scrub (Godman’s) Euphonia. Other birders who walked further than we did saw a Laughing Falcon.

Upper Singayta:

This area sustained very heavy hurricane damage. We did spend a couple of hours one afternoon birding the Mecatan Road. Given the time of day, unsuprisingly slow but some good remaining habitat so worth more exploration. Mark Stackhouse said this area can be good for Rosy Thrush-Tanager although none were heard this time. The best birds were a calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and two Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters.

Shrimp and Junction Ponds.

These ponds were loaded with shorebirds and waterfowl, which had migrated down from the north. We spent very limited time here as we were concentrating on the land birds. If you have the time, a close look at the ponds may well be worthwhile as several good birds have been reported over the years [i.e. Garganey].

Sewage Ponds Trail:

The start of the trail had good numbers of Painted and smaller numbers of Varied Buntings. The best bird by far was the Russet-crowned Motmot. We saw this in a fallen-down dead tree immediately before the wire gate entrance to the sewage ponds. As you walk up to the wire gate the tree is on the right hand side of the trail. However other birders had the bird right at the start of the trail, in a large tree on the left. Abundant flowers attracted good numbers of lowland hummingbirds.

Crocodile Farm:

We spent only a short time here early one morning. It is by far the easiest place to see up close Rufous-bellied Chacalachas as they put food out for them. Very much an artificial setting, but the birds are wild and much easier to see than in the forests.

The Fort:

We went up here one evening to look for a reported Mottled Owl (not seen or heard) and also, to check for a green flash sunset (also not seen, due to low haze over the sea). However great views and fairly birdy -- we did see a number of perched Gray-breasted Martins and also, good looks down on flying Lesser Nighthawks at dusk.

Mangrove (La Tovara) Boat Trip:

A very entertaining and enjoyable trip despite missing the Rufous-necked Wood Rail [2 people in the boat did see it very briefly—alas, not us!]. Josefina at the Hotel Garza arranged the trip and you should go with Chencho as he knows the birds and has a tape of the rail. The best birds were about 7 Northern Potoos. Unlike our normal experience of Potoos sleeping at a daytime roost these birds were wide awake, some flying around. Also seen were Mottled and Barn Owls, White-fronted Parrot, Paraque, Common Black Hawk, and Mangrove Yellow Warbler (as well as impressively large Fishing Bats).

La Bajada:

The banana plantations are spreading into the shade grown coffee habitat making this area less productive. Despite that, above the plantations we still saw lots of birds. We were lucky in finding a large fruiting tree which was alive with birds including 5 trogons of two species, Brown-backed Solitaire, and our only Grey-crowned Woodpecker of the trip. Other good birds seen included Mexican Hermit, Fan-tailed Warbler, and five Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrows.

Cerro de San Juan:

This reserve has easily the best forest habitat and birds of the San Blas area [about a 1 1/2 hour drive from San Blas]. We spent the whole day there and it was worth it. We went to this site with Mark Stackhouse of WestWings Tours and his two clients (thanks, Mark!) which really saved us a great deal of effort finding “the” specific sites for certain birds. We had eight species of hummingbird including four Bumblebee Hummingbirds. Many of the hummingbirds and other species were concentrated in and around a flowering gully about 1-2 kilometers beyond La Noria Ranch [which is situated at the highest point on the ridge]. Other birds included Pine and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Black-capped and Golden Vireos, both Sinaloa and Happy Wrens, Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, Red-headed Tanager, and 16 species of Warbler including Red-faced and Fan-tailed. At dusk we taped in a Mexican Whip-poor-will.

Sites not visited: We did not do the upriver boat trip (to several lagoons with abundant waterfowl) nor the open-ocean whale-watching trip. Birders there at same time as us who did these trips reported large numbers of Whistling Ducks and some Muscovies up-river, and at sea, good looks at Black Storm-petrel and Red-billed Tropicbird.

Durango Road area:

Barranca Rancho Liebre:

We visited this site twice. Unfortunately the stream was dry while we were there [except for the occasional isolated pool]. One of the most productive areas is right at the start where you park. The man who lives in the caseta on the left has set up a little “descansa ecologia” here with benches and tables, and a bin for trash. There is some water here and it attracted our only pair of Golden-crowned Warblers. Also Red, Red-faced, and Crescent-chested Warblers were seen in a mixed flock right at the parking area as was Russet Nightingale Thrush. Other good birds seen at the BRL were Mountain Trogan, Grey-collared Becard, White-throated Robin, Red-headed Tanager and of course the star bird, Tufted Jay. We did not see or hear any Quetzals or Thick-billed Parrots, although we did go one day in late afternoon (when parrots might be coming to roost) and did some judicious trolling with tapes for both species.

The other good BRL spots were the small “orchard” at the top, and the trail beyond the barranca overlook, into the canyon. While we saw a lot of our target species here, we were a little disappointed with this prime site mainly because we did not run into any large bird flocks and the walk up to the barranca was very quiet.

Panuco Road

We visited this site on four occasions and found it to be excellent for birds. We were lucky in discovering a small water seep that with the very dry conditions was a magnet for birds. We found the two best areas were the first quarter of a mile of the road, and then farther up beyond the house on the left, where the road passes a forested canyon on the right. This latter area was good for hummingbirds including Golden-crowned Emerald, Plain-capped Starthroat and Bumblebee Hummingbird. We also taped in a Colima Pygmy Owl and had a flock of 15 Silky Flycatchers. We tallied over thirty species at the seep with mind-blowing views of Brown-backed Solitaire, Five-striped and Black-chinned Sparrows, Blue Mockingbird, Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow, Yellow Grosbeak, and Golden and Black-capped Vireos.

Kilometer 285 (Dirt Road which is signed to Pantitlan).

This is on the second low ridge coming from Concordia. We birded this late one afternoon and were pleasantly surprised how active it was. About 1/4 mile down the road there is a large pull-off on the right. We taped out a very obliging Red-breasted Chat here. Also on the walk we had excellent views of a party of Purplish-backed Jays and about a half-dozen chacalacas. There were lots of Blue Grosbeaks and our only Blue Buntings of the trip. We never did find “Pantitlan” despite walking further than the 1 km signed to the village. Instead we reached the new Rt. 40 (a “road to nowhere” as it is not yet connected all the way through to Rt. 15). Later we thought driving through to the new road, and then up and down it for a while might have been worthwhile as it goes through good habitat, has no traffic and bypasses the roadside development near Concordia. Oh well, another time…

La Petaca Road.

This road has been enlarged and paved and much of the roadside vegetation has been destroyed. Consequently we saw very little of note, and would not recommend spending much time there.


January 16 – Travel from Baltimore to Puerto Vallarta via Houston and then via rental car drove to San Blas. The only notable bird seen on the drive was a trogan sp.

January 17 – Lower Singayta in a.m. and shrimp and junction ponds in p.m.

January 18 – Cerro de San Juan all day.

January 19  – Sewage Ponds in a.m. Upper Singayta p.m. and mangrove boat trip late p.m.

January 20 – La Bajada in a.m. and Lower Singayta in p.m.

January 21 – a.m. Crocodile Farm and Lower Singayta. p.m. drive to Copala with late p.m. birding along the Panuco Road.

January 22 – 7.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Barranca Rancho Liebre. p.m. Road stops both during a short drive into Durango State and on the return to Daniel’s. Late p.m. La Petaca Road.

January 23 -  a.m. Panuco Road, late p.m. Pantitlan (Km 285) Road.

January 24 – a.m. Panuco Road and 1.00 p.m. to dusk, Barranca Rancho Liebre.

January 25 – a.m. Panuco Road. Around noon drive to Mazatlán A.P. to catch flights back to U.S.A.

Birds Recorded:

In eight and a half days’ birding, we recorded 267 species seen and a further 3 heard.

The following species were common and/or widespread and you will have no trouble seeing them:
Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle.

We significantly underreported many wetland species due to our focus on Mexican land birds.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck.
A party of at least twenty seen landing in a flooded pasture adjacent to the Sewage Ponds at San Blas [SB].

Fulvous Whistling Duck
A party of twenty birds in a pond near beginning of the Sewage Ponds trail at SB.

Five birds recorded at sewage pond in SB.

Blue-winged Teal
Eleven birds seen over two dates at the Shrimp Ponds at SB.

Green-winged Teal
A party of ten birds seen at the Shrimp Ponds at SB.

Lesser Scaup
A flock of about 200 birds seen on the Tovara River boat trip at SB.

Ruddy Duck
Recorded in small numbers on three dates.

Rufous-bellied Chachalaca
Without doubt the easiest place to see this Mexican endemic is at the Crocodile Farm a short drive from SB.  The birds are fed there and are very tame. Very artificial surroundings with animal cages and crocodile ponds, but we got much better views of about ten birds there than in their forested/scrub natural habitat.. Altogether recorded on four dates with other sightings of about eight birds  along the Pantitlan Road, a single bird at La Bajada and heard calling at Lower Singayta.

Elegant Quail
Another limited-range endemic. We had nice views of three birds and heard about three others in a scrubby field just beyond the parking area and last house at Lower Singayta.

Pied-billed Grebe
A single bird at the Junction Ponds was our sole record.

Least Grebe
Just a single bird at a pond en route to the sewage ponds trail from our hotel.

American White Pelican
Four birds recorded on two dates at SB.

Brown Pelican
Common in the mangrove/lagoon areas at SB.

Neotropical Cormorant
Fairly common in the coastal mangroves and lagoons at SB.

Double-crested Cormorant
Probably more numerous than the previous species in the wetland around SB.

About twenty-five seen on our mangrove boat ride.

Magnificent Frigatebird
Common at SB – frequently seen soaring above town.

Bare-throated Tiger Heron
We were a little surprised to see two birds perched in a tree at Lower Singayta. Also four birds seen on the mangrove boat trip, including two displaying to one-another.

Great Blue Heron
Recorded in small numbers on three days at SB.

Great Egret
Fairly common at SB.

Snowy Egret
Again, fairly common in wetland habitat at SB.

Little Blue Heron
Eight birds seen on the mangrove boat trip.

Tricolored Heron
Eight birds seen on the mangrove boat trip.

Reddish Egret
A total of three birds seen in mangrove/wetland habitat at SB.

Cattle Egret
A widespread species being recorded virtually every day.

Green Heron
Fairly common in the mangroves at SB.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Fairly common in the mangroves at SB.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Four birds seen on the mangrove boat trip. Otherwise just a single bird seen.

Boat-billed Heron
We got great views of this species on our boat trip when at dusk they started to leave their roost and sit on top of the mangroves. We estimated at least 25 birds.

White Ibis
Fairly common at SB.

White-faced Ibis
Fairly common at SB.

Roseate Spoonbill
Quite common at SB particularly at the Shrimp and Junction ponds.

Wood Stork
Seen regularly at SB with a daily maximum of twenty birds.

Recorded in small numbers on four dates with daily maximum of six birds.

White-tailed Kite
A single bird seen on the drive from SB to Mazatlán. We were amazed that this was our only sighting.

Cooper’s Hawk
Singles recorded on four dates.

Gray Hawk
Recorded on four dates (primarily in lowlands) with a daily maximum of ten birds counted on the drive from SB to Mazatlán.

Common Black Hawk
Recorded in small numbers in the mangrove habitat at San Blas.

Great Black Hawk
Just a single bird seen in the mangroves at SB, probably overlooked.

Harris’s Hawk
Single birds seen from the car on two driving trips to Mazatlán.

Broad-winged Hawk
Two birds recorded at Cerro de San Juan.

Short-tailed Hawk
Two birds at Lower Singayta and a single at Cerro de San Juan.

Red-tailed Hawk
Recorded on six dates with the daily maximum of six birds. Quite variable with a number of dark morphs and at least one bird closely resembling the race harlani.

Collared Forest-Falcon
Two birds heard calling at Lower Singayta. Unfortunately they would not respond to the tape.

Single bird at Lower Singayta and one seen from the car while driving from SB to Mazatlán.

Peregrine Falcon
Single bird at Lower Singayta.

Rufous-necked Wood-Rail
On the mangrove boat trip, two birds called in response to the tape but unfortunately we were unable to see them.

Purple Gallinule
Two birds well seen at the Crocodile Park.

Common Moorhen
Two birds seen from the mangrove boat trip.

Common Coot
Fairly common at the various ponds around SB.

Black-bellied Plover
We saw just a single bird, which again doubtlessly reflects the lack of time spent birding the shrimp and junction ponds at SB.

Just two birds seen at SB.

Black-necked Stilt
Common in suitable habitat at SB.

American Avocet
Recorded on two dates at SB with daily maximum of fifteen birds.

Northern Jacana
Six birds seen along the sewage ponds trail at SB.

Greater Yellowlegs
Fairly common in suitable wetland habitat at SB.

Two birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.

Spotted Sandpiper
Three birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.

Four birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.

Long-billed Curlew
Two birds seen at the shrimp ponds at SB.

Marbled Godwit
A total of six birds seen in wetlands and on Tovara R. trip at SB.

Western Sandpiper
A party of thirty birds at the shrimp ponds at SB.

Least Sandpiper
Just a single bird recorded at the extensive wetland habitat at SB.

Long-billed Dowitcher
A total of 100 birds seen at various ponds at SB.

Laughing Gull
Six birds seen at SB.

Ring-billed Gull
Recorded in small numbers at SB.

Gull-billed Tern
Seen regularly while driving past the shrimp and junction ponds.

Caspian Tern
A total of five birds seen at SB.

Black Skimmer
A party of about thirty birds on mud flats during Tovara R. boat trip at SB.

Red-billed Pigeon
Abundant on our first morning at Lower Singayta where we saw flocks of hundreds shortly after dawn, presumably leaving a roost. Curiously, we subsequently recorded very few birds.

Mourning Dove
Suprisingly scarce with only seven birds seen over two dates.

Ruddy Ground Dove
Only seen on two dates with a total of three birds. Probably overlooked amongst the hordes of Common Ground Doves.

White-tipped Dove
A fairly common and widespread forest bird. In all recorded on seven dates with a daily maximum of ten birds.

Orange-fronted Parakeet
Recorded on three dates as follows: A party of ten birds at La Bajada, five birds at Lower Singayta and fifteen birds feeding in the vicinity of Daniel’s Restaurant. This latter group provided excellent eye-level views as they fed on low vegetation along road into Copala.

Military Macaw
Regular morning flights over the lower portion of the Panuco Road between 8.30 and 9.30 a.m.. Birds were also observed on a couple of occasions flying by Daniel’s Restaurant while we had breakfast. Altogether recorded on four dates with an aggregate total of 27 birds. A great connection with a superb species.

Mexican Parrotlet
These engaging birds were quite common. Recorded on five dates with daily maximum of fifty birds at Lower Singayta. Daniel’s was a good spot for this species and we obtained close eye-level views from the restaurant balcony of the birds feeding in tops of the adjacent trees.

White-fronted Parrot
Just a single bird seen from the mangrove boat trip.

Lilac-crowned Parrot
We were disappointed not to see this Mexican endemic as earlier trip reports had recorded this species from SB and we had found Amazona  parrots quite common in the Yucatán. Unfortunately it appears that most of these parrots have been trapped-out or otherwise eliminated from the areas we visited.

Squirrel Cuckoo
Six birds recorded over three dates.

Barn Owl
Single seen at dusk while on the mangrove boat trip.

Colima Pygmy Owl
A single bird heard twice along the upper end of Panuco Road. On the final date it responded to the tape and provided very close views.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Bird calling but not seen at Upper  Singayta

Mottled Owl
One briefly seen on the mangrove boat trip and others heard calling at Cerro de San Juan and Lower Singayta.

Lesser Nighthawk
About fifteen birds seen hunting at dusk from the SB fort and a similar number seen on the mangrove boat trip.

Common Paraque
Two birds seen at dusk from the mangrove boat trip.

Mexican Whip-poor–will
A single bird attracted by the tape and well seen at Cerro de San Juan.

Northern Potoo
We really enjoyed getting great views about seven of these birds at dusk on the mangrove boat trip. We usually see these birds asleep at a daytime roost. These appeared very different being wide-awake and flying around. Also a single bird flying at dusk at Lower Singayta. It was hunting quite high and initially had us very confused as to what species it was, appearing in flight like a combination of nightjar and owl.

White-naped Swift
The world’s largest swift was one of our top target birds. While having breakfast at Daniel’s we noticed a party of twenty-five swifts quite high over some low ridges. Even at some height they appeared large and powerful. The give-away was that they were constantly gliding and never flapping [like smaller swifts]. Putting the scope on them clearly revealed the distinctive white nape patch. Another party of about fifty birds was seen later that day circling over the town of Copala. – Superb

Vaux’s Swift
Suprisingly scarce and we only found one flock of twenty birds.

White-throated Swift
Two birds mixed in with a flock of White-naped Swifts over Copala.

Mexican Hermit
This Mexican endemic was seen briefly by BEC in the forest at La Bajada as it came in to investigate a pygmy-owl tape.

Golden-crowned Emerald
We spent quite a long time sorting out the various hummingbirds at the top end of the Panuco Road. This endemic was seen quite frequently but generally did not stay around long enough for prolonged views. In the end we saw at least two males and three females, one adult male seen well by GBM and SW.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Fairly common in low to mid-elevations, being recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of ten birds.

Mexican Woodnymph
The only site we recorded this endemic was Cerro de San Juan. The best place for this & other humming birds was at the flowering gully 1-2 km beyond the ranch. In all we saw about six birds.

White-eared Hummingbird
A very attractive high elevation hummingbird. Quite common at Cerro de San Juan [four birds seen] and especially at the Barranca Rancho Liebre [daily maximum of sixteen birds].

Berylline Hummingbird
Fairly common upland species, being recorded on six dates with daily maximum of eight birds at Cerro de San Juan.

Cinnamon Hummingbird
A common lowland hummingbird seen on six dates with daily maximum of four birds, including birds in the garden at Hotel Garza Canela.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird
A female seen feeding at a flowering tree along the road into Copala, below Daniel’s Restaurant.

Blue-throated Hummingbird
Four seen over three dates including two at Cerro de San Juan.

Magnificent Hummingbird
Common at high elevation at Barranca Rancho Liebre with up to twelve on a day. The birds were feeding high up in the pines on flowering mistletoe.

Plain-capped Starthroat
A single female well-seen at the “hummer spot” along the Panuco Road.

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Our only sighting was a single female, considered to be this species, along the sewage pond trail at SB

Calliope Hummingbird
Two birds, including an adult male, were seen along the sewage pond's trail at SB.

Bumblebee Hummingbird
Another highly desired endemic that did not disappoint. Four birds were seen at Cerro de San Juan. This included one male and two females at the gully about 1-2 km  beyond La Noria Ranch (a bit beyond the little shrine building on right side of road)]. The male was displaying and put on a nice show. Finally, an immature male was seen along the Panuco Road, cooperatively perched for close examination of ID features.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Our sole sighting was a single bird at Cerro de San Juan.

Rufous Hummingbird
Fairly widespread, being recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of four birds along the Panuco Road.

Citreoline Trogan
We only managed to find one bird in the immediate vicinity of SB [at Lower Singayta] which probably reflects the destruction of many of the fruiting trees from the 2002 hurricane. Fortunately, at least four birds seen at La Bajada including a pair in the fruiting tree.

Mountain Trogan
Fairly easy to see along the Durango Road with four birds seen over our 3+ days. Pairs were seen at both BRL and at a stop on the Durango Road between Copala and the Barranca which had a nice stand of pines, as well as a close male along the Panuco Rd, seen feeding on fruit.

Elegant Trogan
A more lowland species than the preceding, with three birds seen at La Bajada in and around the large fruiting tree, and a single bird along the Km 285 road west of Concordia.

Russet-crowned Motmot
One seen at probably its most reliable spot along the sewage ponds road at SB. The bird was in a large fallen-down dead tree on the right of the path as you approach the wire gate half-way down the road to the sewage ponds. It was seen flying out into the adjacent pasture after large insects.

Belted Kingfisher
A total of eight birds seen over three dates at SB.

Green Kingfisher
Four birds seen on the mangrove boat ride and a single at the Crocodile Farm at SB.

Acorn Woodpecker
A party of six birds at the entrance to the ranch at Cerro de San Juan.

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker
A very common (and noisy) woodpecker around SB.

Gila Woodpecker
This woodpecker largely replaced the previous species along the Durango Road although in much smaller numbers. Also two seen at La Bajada.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Suprisingly scarce with only two birds seen during the trip [one each at Cerro de San Juan and BRL.)

Arizona Woodpecker
Another very uncommon woodpecker being seen on just three occasions including two birds at Cerro de San Juan and one at BRL.

Gray-crowned Woodpecker
Our only sighting of this endemic woodpecker was of a single bird in the fruiting tree at La Bajada.

Lineated Woodpecker
Our sole record was of a single bird well seen at La Bajada.

Pale-billed Woodpecker
Common at La Bajada with at least five seen, and also recorded from both Upper and Lower Singayta.

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
This woodcreeper was much scarcer than on our trip to the Yucatán, where we saw many. In fact we only recorded two birds with singles at Cerro de San Juan and La Bajada.

White-striped Woodcreeper
Only slightly more numerous than the previous species with a single bird at Cerro de San Juan and a combined four birds recorded on our two visits to  BRL.

Tufted Flycatcher
A fairly common forest flycatcher being recorded at Cerro de San Juan, La Bajada and BRL. The daily maximum was six birds at La Bajada. This species is often encountered in pairs.

Greater Pewee
Another mainly forest flycatcher being recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of four birds at Cerro de San Juan.

Empidonax flycatchers were quite widespread and common. Our log totals under-record this group as we did not attempt to try and identify every bird.
Willow Flycatcher
A single bird seen at Lower Singayta, by range (Alder not being found on Pacific slope).

White-throated Flycatcher
We had excellent, prolonged views of a single bird at Lower Singayta allowing us to observe closely the relevant identification criteria. The bird was present for several days near the burnt-over area near the beginning of the road, and seen by several birding groups.

Hammond’s Flycatcher
Single birds seen at Cerro de San Juan, at the parking area at BRL and on the Panuco Road.

Dusky Flycatcher
Superb views of a single bird at the seep on the Panuco Road.

Pine Flycatcher
We had excellent prolonged views of one on a side trail at Cerro de San Juan and another bird in the orchard at BRL. Several other possibles were seen but not confirmed.

“Western” Flycatcher
As no vocalizations were heard, we did not attempt to split the birds between Pacific Slope and Cordilleran although according to Howell and Webb both species may be present in the SB/Durango Road areas. Supposedly Pacific-slope is more confined to lowlands and Cordilleran to uplands but the area of overlap in winter is uncertain (fide Howell) so we grouped them as Western in our daily log. Overall, this was by far the most numerous empid, being recorded daily with a daily maximum of eight birds. Readily separated from the others in this group by obvious yellow tones to plumage and overall larger size, longer and wider bill than Hammond’s or Dusky, as well as details of primary projection, head shape, eye-ring and other identification features.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher
Just a single bird of this very attractive empid was watched closely at the seep on the Panuco Road.

Black Phoebe
Fairly widespread in small numbers being recorded on seven dates with a daily maximum of three birds.

Say’s Phoebe
Single birds recorded at Cerro de San Juan , La Bajada and the Panuco Road.

Vermilion Flycatcher
Fairly common species, being recorded virtually daily with a daily maximum count of six birds at Lower Singayta.

Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Six birds seen and/or heard at Cerro de San Juan and a single bird heard at La Bajada.

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Three birds at Lower Singayta and a single on the Panuco Road were believed to be this species by plumage [and not Nutting’s Flycatcher]

Nutting’s Flycatcher
Our sole definite record was of a single bird seen along the sewage pond trail at SB, close enough so that the underside of the tail could be examined.

Social Flycatcher
Recorded at both Lower Singayta [fairly common] and the sewage ponds trail [two birds], and surprisingly, one at plaza in Copala

Tropical Kingbird
The common Tyrannus flycatcher around SB,  being recorded daily.

Cassin’s Kingbird
A single bird perched on wires around the playing fields at the ranch at Cerro de San Juan and another seen on three consecutive days just outside Daniel’s Restaurant.

Thick-billed Kingbird
This attractive flycatcher was quite common at SB, being recorded daily with the maximum daily count of four birds. Also recorded along the Durango Road but in smaller numbers.

Gray-collared Becard
Another sought-after endemic recorded when a male was finally seen in a mixed bird flock at BRL.

Rose-throated Becard
One to three birds recorded virtually daily at SB with Lower Singayta being the most productive site.

Masked Tityra
Fairly numerous upland species with ten birds at La Bajada being the peak count.

Loggerhead Shrike
Just a single bird seen on the drive from SB to Mazatlán.

Black-capped Vireo
We were delighted to see this attractive vireo having missed it in Texas. In all seen on four dates with two birds at Cerro de San Juan and single birds on three different trips along the Panuco Road. These included very close views of both male and female birds at the seep. Much nicer that expected.

Plumbeous Vireo
Single birds seen at Cerro de San Juan, at La Bajada and along the Panuco Road.

Cassin’s Vireo
Our sole sighting was a single bird at Cerro de San Juan.

Golden Vireo
Single bird at Lower Singayta, four seen at Cerro de San Juan, and two at the seep along the Panuco Road. A highly attractive bird- better than expected.

Warbling Vireo
Fairly common and widespread, being recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of four birds.

We were very pleased to catch-up with all four tropical jays, which were new species for us.

Black-throated Magpie-Jay
These extremely striking birds were quite common, usually in small groups of five-ten birds. In all seen on six dates with the daily maximum of twenty birds.  We actually saw a party of birds just as we were leaving the Hotel Garza Canela.

Tufted Jay
On our morning visit to BRL we left Daniel’s in the dark so as to arrive at BRL at dawn. Therefore, we did not see any Tufted Jays along the Durango Road in the early a.m. as many birders do. However, we had brilliant views of two parties of eight birds right at the barranca and four birds near the orchard.  This highly charismatic limited-range endemic was superb and the top bird of the trip. (Interestingly, we never saw nor heard any Steller’s Jays, which are supposed to commonly flock with this species.)

Green Jay
Several birds heard calling at Cerro de San Juan but unfortunately not seen.

San Blas Jay
We arrived at La Bajada at dawn, parking next to the old bull ring above the village (Howell’s “curved stone wall on the left”). After about thirty minutes and many false alarms from Caciques leaving their roost, we finally caught up with one jay, which provided close views. The bird was feeding on fruit in the garden of the last house on left before the bull ring. This species makes an un-jay like chattering call which initially led us to the first bird. Later in the morning we saw two additional birds in flight. Despite its name, San Blas Jay is not an easy species near SB, and is supposedly more easily seen near Pto Vallarta.

Purplish-backed Jay
We had a great connection with a party of seven birds [with both adult and immature birds] with close views for several minutes. The birds were seen in the late afternoon along the dirt road signed to Pantitlan [see under sites visited for directions]. Superb, much better (and brighter-colored) than expected.

Sinaloa Crow
A common and widespread species. At SB appeared to roost in the mangroves and at dawn a thousand or more seen leaving.  In flight quite chough-like.

Northern Raven
Single birds recorded on three dates.

Gray-breasted Martin
Five birds perched on the radar tower at the fort at SB and another party of four birds on the mangrove boat trip

Violet-green Swallow
Fairly common over the ponds and wetlands at SB.

Cliff Swallow
Just a single bird recorded although likely overlooked as we did not spent a lot of time sorting through swallow flocks.

Barn Swallow
Suprisingly just a single sighting of two birds.

Mexican Chickadee
Recorded on both trips to  BRL with birds usually seen in a mixed bird flock. In all a total of seven birds seen.

Brown Creeper
Fairly common at BRL with a total of seven birds seen during our two visits.

Sinaloa Wren
We had a difficult time with this species. We heard wrens singing on a number of days but only limited luck in seeing them. We finally caught up with this bird on our last morning with great views of one nest-building along the Panuco Road.

Happy Wren
Again we actually saw very few birds (more were heard). These included two at Cerro de San Juan and one along Panuco Road.

Brown-throated (House) Wren
Thinly but widely distributed being recorded on six dates with daily maximum of three birds.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Recorded on three dates with daily maximum of six birds.

Eastern Bluebird
Two birds in the fields at the ranch at Cerro de San Juan.

Brown-backed Solitaire
Based on singing and calling birds fairly common at Cerro De San Juan,  BRL and La Bajada where a bird was watched high up in the fruiting tree. Rather surprisingly our best connection with this species was along the Panuco Road. Birds were heard calling and two seen quite low down on our first visit. Subsequently we had brilliant views of an adult as it came down to drink at the seep. Superb

Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush
Single bird watched for several minutes as it fed on the ground at Cerro de San Juan.

Russet Nightingale-Thrush
Fairly common at BRL with a total of eight birds seen over our two visits. The birds preferred the stream bed particularly where there was water. In fact a good site was right at the parking area at BRL.

Swainson’s Thrush
Two birds seen at BRL.

Hermit Thrush
Three birds seen at BRL.

White-throated Robin
A single bird at Cerro de San Juan and three well seen at BRL. These latter birds were considerably duller with browner upperparts and less striking white throats than the bird seen in Texas last winter.  Per Howell these would be of the group assimmilis [by both range and plumage].

Rufous-backed Robin
This very attractive endemic thrush was quite common at Lower Singayta but scarce elsewhere on our trip. The daily maximum at Lower Singayta was twenty birds whereas elsewhere only the occasional bird was seen.

American Robin
Single birds seen on two occasions while driving on the Durango Road; both were the northern migratory race.

Blue Mockingbird
This endemic was quite widespread although getting a good view was challenging. In the end we all got repeated great looks, especially at the Panuco Rd. water seep. Seen and/or heard on most days with the daily maximum of four birds at Cerro de San Juan.

Gray Silky-Flycatcher
This elegant species was recorded twice along the Panuco Road including a couple of parties totaling fourteen birds. One group was at  eye-level right beside the road -- great views!

We managed to see twenty-eight species of warbler consisting of a nice mix of eastern and western North American winter visitors as well as a good selection of Mexican specialties. Orange-crowned, Wilson’s and Nashville were found in number every day and at almost all sites. The majority of male birds were in full breeding plumage.

Olive Warbler
A female seen in a warbler flock at a pull-off just over the border in Durango State.

Lucy’s Warbler
A single bird recorded twice at Lower Singayta.

Crescent-chested Warbler
Single birds recorded on just three dates being seen at Cerro de San Juan and on both visits to BRL. Superb species.

Tropical Parula
Three birds seen at Lower Singayta and singles at La Bajada and the Panuco Road.

Yellow Warbler
A total of five birds seen around SB, including two handsome Mangrove Yellows from, not surprisingly, the mangrove boat trip.

Yellow-rumped [Audubon’s Warbler]
Common and widespread.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
The most  numerous of the “western” warblers being recorded virtually daily with a daily maximum of eight birds at BRL and stops along the Durango Road.

Townsend’s Warbler
Four birds seen at La Bajada and a total of ten birds over two visits to the BRL and stops along the Durango Road. These included many brilliant spring males.

Hermit Warbler
Less numerous than the previous species with a total of five birds seen, again concentrated at stops along the Durango Road and at BRL. Also a single bird at Cerro de San Juan. Again most birds in splendid full breeding plumage.

Grace’s Warbler
Three birds at La Bajada and a single at BRL.

Black-and-white Warbler
A total of six birds seen over four days with sightings at both SB and BRL.

American Redstart
Fairly common around SB. The daily maximum was five birds at La Bajada.

Northern Waterthrush
Five birds recorded over three days at various sites around SB.

MacGillivray’s Warbler
Fairly common around SB with a total of fifteen birds seen and a daily maximum of six  birds. Single birds on three occasions also along the Panuco Road including brilliant views of a bird drinking at the seep.

Kentucky Warbler
We were extremely surprised to see this species as it is not shown to winter in Western Mexico by Howell. The bird was seen at La Bajada a short distance beyond the cleared area at the top of the ridge. It was feeding on the path and was photographed by another birder present.

Common Yellowthroat
Three birds only and all seen at Lower Singayta.

Red-faced Warbler
This extremely attractive warbler was recorded on three dates with a single bird at Cerro de San Juan and two birds at BRL.

Red Warbler
Another much anticipated endemic. A total of four birds seen all at BRL. Interesting to note this species did not mix-in with warbler flocks. In all cases solitary birds were seen foraging in low secondary growth trees or shrubs. Amazing bird.

Painted Redstart
This extremely tame and handsome bird was seen just once around SB with two birds at La Bajada, Recorded daily at sites along the Durango Road with a daily maximum of four birds at BRL.

Slate-throated Redstart
Two birds seen at both La Bajada,, and Cerro de San Juan  and a total of five birds at various sites along the Durango Road/BRL/Panuco Road.

Fan-tailed Warbler
This colorful and highly charismatic endemic was recorded on three occasions with two  at Cerro de San Juan and a single bird at La Bajada. In all three sightings the birds were hopping along the ground of a dry gully or path and constantly fanning and flicking its tail and showing-off the white tip. Brilliant and without doubt one of the top three birds of the trip.  

Golden-browed Warbler
Yet  another superb endemic. With the stream at the BRL virtually dry, the only place we saw this species was right at the parking area where the stream actually had some water. A single bird seen on the first visit and a pair on our second trip. This beautiful species ran a close second to the previous species for top warbler of the trip.

Rufous-capped Warbler
A pair seen on our walk partway down into the canyon from the overlook at BRL. Also, brilliant views of a single bird washing at the seep on the Panuco Road.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Fairly widespread, being recorded on five dates with a daily maximum of three birds at Lower Singayta.

Red-breasted Chat
We had luck with this endemic. GBM was scrolling through the CD to locate the bird’s call. When she hit on the right sequence, it drew an immediate response from a stunning male that flew in and provided excellent views as it displayed and sang in response to the CD. The site was on the dirt road marked to Pantitlan .

Hepatic Tanager
Fairly common forest species being recorded on four dates with a daily maximum of eight birds at BRL.

Summer Tanager
Three birds recorded over two dates at Cerro de San Juan and La Bajada.

Western Tanager
Recorded mainly from SB being seen on four dates with the maximum  being eight birds seen at La Bajada.

Flame-colored Tanager
This very attractive tanager was quite scarce and our sightings were limited to two days with four birds at Cerro de San Juan and a single at BRL.

Red-headed Tanager
Another brilliantly colored endemic. We were fortunate enough in seeing quite a few of these birds with at least four at Cerro de San Juan and a total of ten birds seen over our two trips to BRL. This included great eye-level views of several birds in the orchard.

Blue-black Grassquit
Recorded on five dates with the daily maximum of five birds. This species was a frequent visitor to the seep on the Panuco Road and was also found along the Crocodile Farm Rd.

White-collard Seedeater
Recorded on three dates with the largest party by far being twenty-five birds in a weedy field about a mile from the Crocodile Farm.

Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Our sole record was a pair seen in a weedy field along the Mecatan Road.

Green-striped Brush-Finch
We had nice views of two pairs of this Mexican endemic at BRL. The birds fed on or close to the ground and initially our attention was drawn to them by the noise made as they scratched in the leaf-litter looking for food.

Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow
We had a number of great views of this extremely handsome endemic. In all we recorded it on five dates with four birds at La Bajada being the most seen at SB. The Panuco Road was a particularly good site with up to five birds on three  visits. This included repeated mind-blowing close views at the seep. Superb.

Striped-headed Sparrow
A party of about six  birds of this striking sparrow were well seen on our first visit to Lower Singayta.

Five-striped Sparrow
We had brilliant views of at least two birds, which regularly visited the seep on the Panuco Road.  

Black-chinned Sparrow.
Two birds seen very well at the seep on the Panuco Road. They were slightly out of range based on Howell’s distribution map for this species.

Botteri’s Sparrow
A single bird in the vicinity of the seep on the Panuco Road.

Spotted Towhee
Three birds seen in the orchard at BRL including a splendid adult male.

Green-tailed Towhee
Recorded on four dates mainly along the Panuco Road with a daily maximum of four birds, which included a very tame bird at the seep.

Canyon Towhee
A single bird seen along the Panuco Road by GBM and SW was our sole record.

Olive Sparrow
A single bird coming in to drink at the seep on the Panuco Road was our only sighting.

Chipping Sparrow
Recorded only once in the vicinity of SB, at La Noria Ranch. Common along the Panuco Road with up to a dozen birds at one time drinking at the seep.

Lark Sparrow
A party of twenty-five birds in the orchard at the start of the Lower Singayta trail. Otherwise only five birds seen over two dates.

Yellow-eyed Junco
Easy to see at the orchard at BRL with a daily maximum total of twenty  birds.

Grayish Saltator
A  fairly common and widespread species being seen on seven dates with a daily maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road.

Northern Cardinal
A single somewhat out of range female bird [per Howell] at Cerro de San Juan.

Surprisingly the only place we saw this species was at the seep along the Panuco Road with up to eight birds visiting at any one time.

Yellow Grosbeak
Two birds seen at Cerro de San Juan was the only sighting for the SB area. More numerous at the Durango Road sites, being recorded on three dates with a maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road. This included splendid views of an adult male drinking at the seep.

Black-headed Grosbeak
Fairly common and widespread. In all recorded on six dates with a daily maximum of eight birds along the Panuco Road.

Blue Bunting
Our only sighting was of a pair seen by GBM and SW along the dirt road to Pantitlan.

Blue Grosbeak
We were surprised to find this species in flocks on the road to Pantitlan where we estimated at least thirty birds. Otherwise quite scarce with just four birds recorded.

Varied Bunting
Recorded on three dates at SB with the best place being the start of the sewage pond's trail where we had three birds mixed-in with a party of Painted Buntings. Fairly common along the Pantitlan Road where we estimated eight birds. Also, up to four birds seen at one time at the seep on the Panuco Road.

Painted Bunting
Recorded on two dates at SB with four birds at Lower Singayta and a party of at least eight birds seen on the sewage pond trail. This species also visited the seep on the Panuco Road with up to four birds sighted at one time.

Lazuli Bunting
The third of the passerina  buntings to be attracted to the seep with up to eight birds seen at any one time. In fact, this was the only place we saw this species.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
On several occasions we saw flocks of blackbirds flying high in the early morning from an assumed roost. These may well have included cowbirds and Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, but the only species we identified was Yellow-headed Blackbird with thirty seen in flight on our trip to the sewage ponds at SB.

Bronzed Cowbird
Amazingly only a single bird seen on the trip.

We did not spend a lot of time sorting out the various orioles, therefore, the following counts are understated.

Hooded Oriole
Recorded on four dates with maximum daily totals of four birds each at Lower Singayta and the Panuco Road.

Streaked-backed Oriole
This very beautiful oriole was also the commonest, being seen daily with the maximum daily count of eight birds at Panuco Road.

Audubon’s Oriole
Single bird at Cerro de San Juan, in pines at La Noria Ranch – of the Dickey’s subspecies.

Scott’s Oriole
At least six well-seen and watched for several minutes at BRL. The birds were feeding high up in pine trees on flowering mistletoe.

Bullock’s Oriole
Our sole record was of two birds at Cerro de San Juan.

Yellow-winged Cacique
This colorful and charismatic species was common and widespread.

Scrub Euphonia
A male seen at Lower Singayta and another in the garden at Daniel’s (in both cases feeding at mistletoe) were our only sightings.

Elegant Euphonia
Heard calling but unfortunately uncountable flight views of one at Cerro de San Juan.

Black-headed Siskin
We did very well with this species. Starting on our first morning with a fine male at Lower Singayta where the species is quite rare. We also had five birds at Cerro de San Juan and at least eight at BRL.

Lesser Goldfinch
Unrecorded from the SB area but seen regularly at sites along the Durango Road. Probably the best spot was at the seep along the Panuco Road where small parties would come in to drink. Daily maximum was twelve birds.

House Sparrow
Thankfully seen on only three days, in towns.

Gail B. Mackiernan