Thursday, February 25, 2016

Winter Mexico Tour Y2K16, Days 8-9: Rancho Primavera

After Tecuitata, we headed south for fertile new birding grounds, in a new state and different time zone, no less. We lurked south through the sprawling gringo-orgy that is Puerto Vallarta, and it wasn't long after that we arrived in El Tuito, where we turned off the highway toward Rancho Primavera. We had been looking forward to birding Rancho Primavera very much, where I had rented a house for us, because we knew A) there was good birding on the property and B) there was geri birding on the property. That's right friends, Rancho Primavera is that rarest of rarities...a place in Mexico that actually feeds birds! Sure, there are countless lodges in Central America world-renowned for the great birds that their feeders bring in, but that phenomenon has yet to take hold in birdy Mexico. Luckily, Rancho Primavera does have some feeders, and thus some quality confiding birds. So, for the sake of conversation and public disclosure, if you know of ANY place in Mexico that is good geri birding, leave a comment! Dipper Dan knows of a place in Los Alamos, and I once saw a Wedge-tailed Sabrewing at a feeder in Tamaulipas, but that's all I know of.

Rufous-crowned Motmot was one of the endemics that inspired this trip. Luckily, we saw them at many different places, and they would frequently give good looks like right here. Facemelting? Yes. It's birds like this that keep me fantasizing about going south every winter.

I think this is the best way to start off the feeder train. This is a Blue Mockingbird, a highly desirable (if not uncommon) bird. As you can see, it is not skulking in the dark undergrowth being a pain to see, it is boldly eating out of a papaya in plain view. If you have seen these birds before, I think you can appreciate how mind-blowing it is to actually see one calmly eating out in the open.

The first Blue Mockingbird I saw was many years ago, in Southern California. People still grumble about that bird, which was denied natural vagranthood by the Bird Police. Luckily, I have seen many since then, but none like this! This bird lived in the shrubbery around our rental house and we would see it on the regular.

As I mentioned, because Rancho Primavera has nice habitat on the property, we saw many big mixed flocks during our stay. This Black-throated Gray Warbler, slurping up an inchworm, was in a flock with Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers, the only ones of the trip.

The abundance of western migrants in that realm is something else...such high densities of these species compared to most of the U.S.

Jasmine the free-flying-but-not-really-wild Lilac-crowned Parrot lives at the ranch. It's a bit surprising to be birding somewhere and all of a sudden she just shows up on your shoulder. Jasmine liked Stilt the most.

Jasmine did not like Dipper Dan as much as Stilt. Dan and Jasmine did not have a conventional relationship.

(White-throated) Flycatcher Jen, being a newly sociable being, relished her time with Jasmine, a fellow sociable being.

The first morning at Rancho, I had some serious issues with my lens fogging up. I liked this shot of a male Yellow Grosbeak (!!!) enough to try to rescue this image though.

Yellow Grosbeaks love the feeders at Rancho Primavera. Could this be the best place in the world to get point-blank looks at this species? I would put a lot of pesos on it.

Is this not an amazing bird? This is the bird that dreams are made of. Mexican dreams.

Grayish Saltator are common birds in West Mexico, they seem to be in just about every mixed flock you find if you are low enough. I like them well enough, but it is not birds like this that make me think about going south every winter.

Our trip did suffer from a lack of sparrow diversity, but at least there were Stripe-headed Sparrows practically everywhere we went. I had previously only seen a handful in Costa Rica, so it was a bit of a surprise to see so many, especially considering how striking they are. Expect to see a bunch of these at the Rancho Primavera feeders.

The west coast of Nayarit and Jalisco may lack in a diversity of sparrows, but the abundance of buntings makes that fact easier to bear. It was great to see Varied Bunting on the reg, which you have to work for a bit in southeast Arizona (they're not hard at Florida Canyon though).

Black-vented Oriole is one of the specialty birds at Rancho Primavera; they were rumored to be reliable here, and the rumors were true. This life bird (!) was on a hummingbird feeder next to the house we rented. Convenience! Lifers! That is the way of the geri.

I was not mentally prepared for how they look exactly like Black-cowled Orioles, which I'd seen before in Costa Rica. We would go on to only see one Black-vented Oriole away from Rancho Primavera on the entire trip, so I feel like this is the place to go to see this species in the area.

Rufous-backed Robin is a common yet alluring bird, but I didn't manage any pics of them until we got here. Before this trip I'd only seen them as vagrants in California, both times at desert oases. That is not their preferred habitat, it turns out. Seeing birds where they are supposed to live is weird, right?

I kid, I kid, save your indignant righteousness for another post. Rufous-backed Robin is happy right where Rufous-backed Robin belongs. More from Rancho Primavera coming soon!