Saturday 25 March 2017

Mexico January 2017

Clare and I had a great two-week holiday in Mexico. One of the highlights was escaping from our coastal resort near Puerto Vallarta and exploring inland with a hire-car. We stayed two nights in the small (and very picturesque) town of San Sebastian del Oueste, seen here just catching the first rays of morning sun. 

Just above the town is a hill, La Bufa, rising to 2400m, well forested in native pine and oak. A good track, much of it paved, leads right to the summit. We explored various altitudes and found the birding easy and productive. The lower slopes turned up species such as Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Mountain Trogon, and Black-vented Oriole. We even saw a Lesser Roadrunner, but it was too shy to stay for a photo. 

We spent most time between 2100 and 2200m. Here we found this White-eared Hummingbird, along with Red-headed Tanagers, Aztec Thrushes, Transvolcanic Jays and a covey of Long-tailed Wood-Partridge. Bunches of orange mistletoe attracted Acorn Woodpeckers and various orioles and tanagers. We often heard the bizarre songs of the Brown-backed Solitaire, but they remained hidden.

 Back at our coastal resort, good dry scrub-forest extends right to the shore, between the hotel developments. Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Royal Terns and Heerman's Gulls are always flying by.
Eight species of waders visited the rocky shores and sandy beaches below the hotel. They included Wilson's Plover and this Surfbird, one of a wintering flock of five. They come south from breeding grounds in Alaska to feed in the splash zone, like our Purple Sandpipers. 
Just up the road is the fishing village of Punta de Mita, where small boats go out to watch the Humpback Whales that breed in the bay. Judging from the frenzies of the Brown Pelicans and Heerman's Gulls, there's no shortage of fish: in some spots the surface of the sea seemed to be boiling!

Across the main road from the hotel, a quiet road leads inland which we called Bunting Road, since four species of buntings can be seen here, including the lovely endemic Orange-breasted. The orange-barked tree is the gumbo-limbo, (Bursera simaruba), often known as tourist tree for its peeling red bark! Walking here between 8 and 10 in the morning is still cool, and turns up different species on each visit. We have found 16 Mexican endemics along this road, though not all at once! 

Among the most common is Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, but I could equally well have chosen Yellow-winged Cacique. San Blas Jay, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Broad-billed Hummingbird and Citreoline Trogon are also regulars. More challenging are shy skulkers like Blue Mockingbird and Red-breasted Chat. 

Another endemic that we enjoyed watching were these Mexican Parrotlets, as they fed in an acacia. Usually they only appear as a tight flock whizzing past and calling. 

We also visited Rancho Primavera, an hour south of Puerto Vallarta at El Tuito, for two nights. Here we self-catered in a comfortable chalet near a lake. Our hostess Bonnie Jauregui made us feel very much at home and told us what birds to look out for. 

Primavera was the only place we found Russet-crowned Motmot posing for photos. It seemed to be a haven for wintering North American warblers - we saw 9 species. We also found the beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager turning the leaf-litter in the woodland here. 

This young Black-throated Magpie-Jay was a little too friendly, pulling my ear! It had been taken illegally from a nest, confiscated by the authorities and given to Bonnie to join the wild magpie-jays on the ranch. It also took a pen from my pocket and showed every sign of preferring human company to that of its own kind. Many thanks to Clare for the photos and for a great holiday!