Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
Return to the Main Index

Return to the North America Index
Return to the Mexico Index
Return to the Sonora Index


09 - 13 March 2001

by Jay Taylor

The following is a report of a recent birding trip by Andre Lehovich and Jay Taylor to Alamos, Sonora.


3/9: Left Tucson at 6:00 am and drove down Mx 15 (cuota) to Alamos, with brief stops in the desert and thorn scrub north of Hermosillo and at the R.  Yaqui and adjacent pond immediately north of the toll station outside of Ciudad Obregon.

3/10: From 6:30 am through 2:00 we birded the arroyo that forms the east boundary of the park El Chalaton.  From 3:30 pm - dusk, we parked near the base of the road up Microondas la Luna (km 43 on the road from Navajoa to Alamos) and then birded our way up to the fork where the cobblestone begins.

3/11: Left camp at 5:00 am, with stops southeast of town for owls and nightjars.  We birded the section of the R.  Cuchijaqui downstream of the bridge, going about 3 miles until we reached a large north-facing canyon which we birded into for about one mile.  We then birded some of the forest above the municipal dump (see directions below) from 3:00 pm until dusk.

3/12: Left camp at 5:30 am, arriving at the dump at 6:15 and birding some of the arroyos that run northwest of the dump, towards the mountain.  We then headed to the Mentidero (along the R.  Cuchijaqui), arriving at about 2:30 pm and birding several miles down river until dusk.  Skies were overcast much of the day.

3/13: We birded Aguas Marinas from 6:45 am until 10:00, walking about 1 mile up canyon.  We then made a brief stop back at El Caracol to prepare for our journey back to Tucson and to check out the orioles at the agave stands.  We arrived at a coastal village south of Villa Juarez at 12:30 pm and birded the shore for about 30 minutes.


We camped at El Caracol trailer park all four nights and payed 4$ per person per night.  The showers had hot water (this time).

Location Key:

AM = Aguas Marinas, an arroyo on the south side of the road from Navajoa - Alamos, between km 42 and 43.  If you come to the turnoff to Microondas la Luna (see below), then you've gone too far.  Driving towards Alamos, go past El Caracol and a few km's later look for a curving section of the road with guardrails on both sides.  You can park on either side and descend down into the arroyo, crossing three fences as you go.  We had limited time to explore this area, which I learned about from Dave McKay, and only made it about 1.5 miles up the road; however, there were numerous large fig trees along the way and it appeared to me that the arroyo extends quite aways up towards the mountain.  Ivory-billed Woodcreeper has been found here, although unfortunately not by us (this time!).  I hope to explore this area more thoroughly in future trips.

EC = El Chalaton, a park on the southwest side of town at the base of the Sierra de Alamos.  The park opens at 9:00 am, but you can park in the lot out front and hike for miles up the arroyo on its east side.  There are numerous large trees here, including several species of fig, the Palo Barril tree (which was in flower during this trip), and Pseudobombax palmeri.  I've now found Scrub Euphonia twice here, on both occasions approximately 1.5 miles above the park.

HD = Hermosillo desert, km 33 along Rt.  15, north of Hermosillo.  The tree ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) was in bloom and made a brief stop irresistable.

Me = Mentidero, a section of the river reached by taking the Fuerte road and continuing straight at the intersection and driving for about another 6 miles.  Just past a sign for 'Vado el Mentidero', the road crosses a canyon where you can park and hike to the river (about a 10 minute walk).  Ford the river at the mouth of the canyon, go downriver about 300 meters, then ford again.  From this point, you can hike downriver for several miles, birding the numerous Montezuma baldcypress trees and surrounding thickets along the way.

ML = Microondas La Luna, a microwave tower on the south side of the Navajoa-Alamos highway at km 43.  Park at the base of the road and hike up towards the tower.  The lower portion is mainly dry tropical deciduous forest, but if you make it up to the fork above the two pulverins used by the quarry and take the left branch, there are some large figs set down in a gully on the west side of the road and a somewhat wetter forest that is good for Lineated Woodpecker.  The highlight for me of this trip was having a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in a tree in the foreground and several White-fronted Parrots in some trees in the background, all in the same field-of-view.

RC = Rio Cuchijaqui, down river of the bridge.  To reach this section of the river, take the Fuerte road out of town (you'll have to cross the wash and then go east of El Mirador) until you reach a signed intersection.  Turn left at this intersection and drive about 3 miles to the river (the road forks near the river - take the left branch, cross the bridge, and then park off of the road).  Recross the bridge on foot and take the steep foot path on the northwest side of the river down to the north bank.  There is a trail that can be followed from here, across a fence, and down into a moist canyon with several large fig trees.  Rufous-bellied Chachalacas can often be found here early in the morning.  Bird your way out of the canyon towards the river (there is a huge Montezuma baldcypress tree at the entrance) and then bird down river.  There is one point near the just-exited canyon where you will have to scramble amidst a dense bamboo stand and up a small ledge - you can use the bamboo to get up the ledge - and afterwards there are no major obstacles, although you will have to ford the river at shallow sections a few times.  About three miles down river, there is a large canyon on the north side of the river that is worth exploring.

RY = Rio Yaqui, Rt.  15 crossing just north of the toll station outside of Ciudad Obregon.  Park on the west side of the road and follow a trail down towards the river, crossing one fence as you go, then a dry river bed, until you reach the river.  We had one White-fronted Parrot fly over while we here and were told by the man who lives at the school (?) near the river that there are typically 40 - 50 parrots there every morning.

RYp = pond north of the Rio Yaqui, on the east side of Rt.  15.  You can hop the fence and gain a good vantange point overlooking most of the pond.  This is a reliable site for Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Least Grebe.

SA = arroyos on the east slopes of the Sierra de Alamos above the dump.  Dave McKay recommended this area to me as a good spot for Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Lineated Woodpecker, and Scrub Euphonia.  Park at the end of the dump and then hike up the rough dirt road towards the mountain for 1 km until you reach a fence.  Go through the gate and continue along the increasingly rough road until you reach a large fig tree, where the road veers south and is pinched between a steep hill side and a wash with several large trees.  The site described by Dave is reached by going still further on the road (about 1 km) until you reach the crest of a small hill; to your right there is small path going about 20' to another gate next to a cattle trowell made of brick and concrete.

Go through the gate and then go left, up the hill, keeping next to the fence.  Up top this hill you'll regain a trail, which you can follow along the fence down through a small gully and then a bit further into an arroyo which heads up towards the mountain.  I believe that this is the location described by Dave; unfortunately, the morning that we spent there was overcast and we had little luck finding birds with the exception of a couple of vocalizations that I think came from a Russet-crowned Motmot.  It is possible that we missed the intended destination, but all of the landmarks described to me match those observed so I am inclined to think that we were just unlucky.  Having done so poorly here, but not being willing to concede defeat so readily, we hiked back down to the large fig where we initially turned up the hill, crossed a gate here, and birded a smaller arroyo with a couple of large figs and a Pseudobombax palmeri tree.

This site proved more fruitful in two senses of the word and provided us with our only Plain-capped Starthroat of the trip.  In addition to the possible Motmot call, I also heard a call coming off of the mountain which was unfamiliar: it consisted of a loud, almost strident whining, raptor-like in quality, but upslurred and unlike any of the raptor vocalizations that I know (RTH, GH, CBH, CpH).  Any suggestions?

VJ = coastal village south of Villa Juarez.  I learned about this spot from Michael Bissontz.  To reach it, drive north from Navajoa along Rt.  15 until you come to a sign for Villa Juarez.  Turn west here and follow this road about 30 km, passing the turnoff for Villa Juarez, and continuing until the road ends at a T-junction.  Turn left here and go a few km until the road reaches another T-junction, now turning right onto a dirt road and following the irrigation channel past the small fishing village to the beach.  You can park at the beach and walk down to the shore.  This is a good spot for coastal species and there are even some stunted mnagroves.  The highlight for us here was the appearance of a Large-billed Savannah Sparrow.


Near dusk, we flushed a Gray Fox at the Mentidero, which soon disappeared up one of the steep walls overlooking the bank of the river.  A little later we heard terrible growls coming from where the fox had ascended, ran over, and found two Gray Foxes grappling with each other.  On seeing us, they ran off into the surrounding thorn scrub.


All numbers below are approximate.

Least Grebe: 1 RYp

Pied-billed Grebe: 1 RYp

Neotropic Cormorant: 2 RYp

Little Blue Heron: 1 VJ

Snowy Egret: 8 RYp

Great Blue Heron: 1 RY, 2 RC, 2 Me, 2 VJ

Great Egret: 6 flying over MX 15 north of Navajoa, 1 RC, 10 VJ

Cattle Egret: 15 RY, 100's seen along MX 15 south of Hermosillo

Green Heron: 1 RY

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron: 3 RC, 4 Me (1 imm.)

White Ibis: 2 imm. VJ

White-faced Ibis: 12 flying over MX 15, north of Navajoa

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck: 130 RYp

Ruddy Duck: 4 RYp

Brant: 8 VJ (a small flock that flew in and then moved well offshore)

American Wigeon: 6 VJ

Mallard: 5 RY

Green-winged Teal: 4 VJ

Northern Shoveler: 15 Me, 50 VJ

Redhead: 8 RYp

Ring-necked Duck: 40 RYp

Black Vulture: all inland sites

Turkey Vulture: all inland sites

White-tailed Kite: 1 VJ (on an electric line on the way out to the coast)

Cooper's Hawk: 1 along Mx 15, 1 EC

Crane Hawk: 1 RC, in a Montezuma baldcypress tree about 0.5 miles upstream of the large north-facing canyon

Common Black-Hawk: 3 RC (1 imm.), 2 Me

Harris's Hawk: 6 along Mx 15, 1 along the road out to VJ

Gray Hawk: 1 RC, 1 ML, 1 SA, 2 Me

Red-tailed Hawk: 25 along Mx 15, 1 RC, 3 road out to VJ

Crested Caracara: 4 along Mx 15, 2 RC, 5 Me

American Kestrel: 30 along Mx 15, 1 RC, 2 Me, 10 road out to VJ

Rufous-bellied Chachalaca: 3 RC

Elegant Quail: 10 EC, 20 RC, 5 ML

American Coot: 2 RYp, 5 VJ

Black-bellied Plover: 5 VJ

Wilson's Plover: 3 VJ

Killdeer: 1 Me, 5 VJ

Snowy Plover: 3 VJ

Long-billed Curlew: 2 VJ

Greater Yellowlegs: 1 VJ

Spotted Sandpiper: 1 RYp, 3 RC, 2 Me

Willet: 5 VJ

Ruddy Turnstone: 1 VJ

Dowitcher sp.: 30 VJ

Western Sandpiper: 40 VJ

Black-necked Stilt: 6 RYp, 10 VJ

American Avocet: 1 VJ

Ring-billed Gull: 50 VJ

Yellow-footed Gull: 6 VJ

Forster's Tern: 4 VJ

Rock Dove: populated areas

Red-billed Pigeon: 5 EC, 3 ML, 5 RC, 3 SA, 2 AM

Mourning Dove: populated areas

White-winged Dove: 20 RY, 50 RC, 100 ME, 30 SA

Inca Dove: 30 RYp, 10 EC, 20 ML, 15 RC, 20 Me

Common Ground-Dove: 30 RYp, 15 EC, 5 ML, 20 RC, 10 Me, 10 SA

Ruddy Ground-Dove: 2 EC, 3 SA

White-tipped Dove: 10 EC, 15 RC, 5 Me, 10 SA

White-fronted Parrot: 1 RY, 204 ML, 10 RC, 4 Me, 50 AM

Squirrel Cuckoo: 1 EC, 2 ML (these two birds seemed to be a pair)

Western Screech-Owl: 1 rd to RC, 1 El Caracol campground

Great Horned Owl: 1 rd to RC, 1 north of Santa Ana

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl: 1 Caracol, 1 ML, 9 rd to RC, 2 SA

Common Poorwill: 1 rd to RC

Buff-collared Nightjar: 2 ML, 1 rd to RC (calling)

White-throated Swift: 4 Me

Broad-billed Hummingbird: 2 RY, 10 EC, 2 ML, 10 RC, 10 SA, 10 Me, 5 AM

Selasphorus sp. (Rufous or Allen's): 1 female EC

Violet-crowned Hummingbird: 5 EC, 10 RC, 3 SA, 5 Me, 5 El Caracol

Plain-capped Starthroat: 1 feeding from flowers on a Pseudobombax palmeri

Elegant Trogon: 12 EC, 2 ML, 6 RC, 6 SA, 5 Me, 8 AM

Belted Kingfisher: 1 RYp, 1 RC, 2 Me

Green Kingfisher: 1 RY, 1 RC, 3 Me

Russet-crowned Motmot: 1 (?), possibly heard at SA - if someone has a recording of this species that they could lend me, I'd appreciate it. The call that I heard consisted of four low-pitched (almost owl-like) hoooh's, given within a 3 second duration and on a constant pitch. I heard this call three times, but by the time that we reached the area from where it seemed to be originating, the wind picked up and I neither heard nor saw anything.

Gila Woodpecker: 4 RY, 10 EC, 10 ML

Ladder-back Woodpecker: 1 RY, 1 He, 3 RC, 3 SA, 15 SA, 10 RC

Red-shafted Northern Flicker: 1 RC, 1 Me

Rose-throated Becard: 2 ML, 1 RC, 1 AM

Northern-Beardless Tyrannulet: 2 RC, 1 AM

Greater Pewee: 3 EC, 1 ML, 1 SA, 2 Me, 1 AM

Western Wood-Pewee: 2 SA, 2 AM

Hammond's Flycatcher: 1 ML

Dusky Flycatcher: 2 ML

Hammond's/Dusky Flycatcher: 1 EC, 3 ML

Gray Flycatcher: 1 ML, 1 SA, 1 AM

Cordilleran Flycatcher: 2 EC, 2 AM

Western-type Flycatcher: 3 EC, 2 ML, 2 RC, 2 SA, 3 Me

Say's Phoebe: 2 km 21 immigration station (Mx 15)

Black Phoebe: 1 RY, 10 RC, 6 Me

Vermilion Flycatcher: 1 RC, 1 Me, 1 El Caracol

Dusky-capped Flycatcher: 10 EC, 5 ML, 15 RC, 10 SA, 10 Me, 5 AM

Nutting's Flycatcher: 10 EC, 3 ML, 10 RC, 10 SA, 10 Me, 3 AM

Cassin's Kingbird: 10 EC, 5 ML, 5 RC

Thick-billed Kingbird: 3 RC, 2 Me

Social Flycatcher: 4 RY, 20 EC, 5 RC

Great Kiskadee: 2 RC

Violet-green Swallow: 2 RC, 6 SA, 3 on road to VJ (may have been Mangrove Swallow, but I never managed a definitive look at the rump)

Northern Rough-winged Swallow: 10 RC

Purplish-backed Jay: 1 ML, 4 RC

Black-throated Magpie-Jay: 15 EC, 5 ML, 8 SA, 18 Me, 12 AM

Sinaloa Crow: 100's around Ciudad Obregon, RC, Me

Chihuahuan Raven: 3 on Rt. 15, north of Magdalena

Common Raven: 10's on Rt. 15, 1 ML, 4 RC, 2 Me

Cactus Wren: 1 HD, 1 RYp, 1 El Caracol

Rock Wren: 1 RC, 1 SA, 2 Me

Canyon Wren: 4 EC, 10 RC, 2 SA, 5 Me, 2 AM

Happy Wren: 3 EC, 1 ML, 2 RC, 1 Me

House Wren: 1 RC

Verdin: 3 HD, 2 RY, 1 AM

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: 1 EC, 1 ML, 2 SA

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher: 1 HD

Black-capped Gnatcatcher: 1 RY, 1 ML

B-g/B-c Gnatcatcher: 5 EC, 5 ML, 10 RC, 5 SA, 5 Me, 5 AM

Blue Mockingbird: 2 Me (1 immitating part of a Solitary Vireo song), 1 AM (imitating the Thick-billed Kingbird prreeet call)

Northern Mockingbird: 1 RY, 1 RC, 4 road to VJ

Curve-billed Thrasher: 2 HD, 1 RY, 2 RC, 1 road to VJ

Brown-backed Solitaire: 2 EC, 4 AM

Rufous-backed Robin: 5 EC, 2 SA, 2 AM

American Robin: 1 in a bush along the road to VJ

Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 4 EC, 1 Me, 1 AM

Phainopepla: 1 along Mx 15, north of Magdalena

Loggerhead Shrike: 1 road to Me, 2 road to VJ

Plumbeous Vireo: 1 AM

Cassin's Vireo: 1 EC, 1 RC, 1 Me

Warbling Vireo: 1 AM

Orange-crowned Warbler: 8 RY, 10 EC, 10 ML, 15 RC, 5 SA, 20 Me, 5 AM

Nashville Warbler: 4 EC, 1 RC, 1 SA, 3 Me

Lucy's Warbler: 3 EC, 2 Me, 2 AM

Yellow-rumped Warbler: 1 RY, 20 EC, 5 RC, 30 SA, 10 Me, 5 AM

Black-throated Gray Warbler: 2 RY, 10 EC, 3 ML, 3 RC, 5 SA, 5 Me, 4 AM

Louisiana Waterthrush: 3 RC, 1 Me

Wilson's Warbler: 2 RY, EC, 1 ML, 5 RC, 2 SA, 5 Me, 1 AM

Painted Redstart: 1 AM

Streak-backed Oriole: 7 EC, 3 SA, 2 AM, 2 El Caracol

Hooded Oriole: 2 RC, 4 El Caracol,

Scott's Oriole: 1 El Caracol

Eastern Meadowlark: 3 road to VJ

Great-tailed Grackle: urban areas

Brewer's Blackbird: 100's along Mx 15 near Potam

Brown-headed Cowbird: 2 road to VJ

Hepatic Tanager: 2 RC, 3 SA

Summer Tanager: 1 RC, 1 SA

Western Tanager: 5 EC, 1 RC

Scrub Euphonia: 1 bird singing in EC, about 1.5 miles above the park

House Sparrow: urban areas

Lesser Goldfinch: 5 RY, 20 EC, 15 RC, 25 Me, 5 AM

House Finch: 10 HD, 10 EC, 5 ML, 10 RC, 5 Me

Song Sparrow: 1 RC, 1 road to VJ

Savannah Sparrow (Large-billed form): 1 VJ

Brewer's Sparrow: 4 El Caracol

Vesper Sparrow: 6 Presa Rodriguez (east of Hermosillo)

Lark Sparrow: 8 HD

Rufous-winged Sparrow: 5 HD, 2 Navajoa-Alamos road (km 20)

White-crowned Sparrow: 10 RYp

Green-tailed Towhee: 2 He, 1 RYp, 1 ML, 1 AM

Canyon Towhee: 4 HD, 2 RYp,

Black-headed Grosbeak: 5 EC, 5 RC, 4 + a flock of 16 birds SA, 2 AM

Northern Cardinal: 2 HD, 2 RYp, 2 RY, 5 EC, 2 ML, 5 RC, 2 SA, 3 Me, 2 AM

Pyrrhuloxia: 3 RY, 1 AM

Blue Grosbeak: 2 RC

Lazuli Bunting: 4 RC

Varied Bunting: 7 ML (this species was the last diurnal bird that I heard vocalizing at dusk, continuing with their delicate chips well after the other species had become silent), 4 SA

Jay Taylor