Thursday, March 31, 2016

Winter Mexico Tour Y2K16, The Final Days: Laguna La Maria, Playa del Oro, Rancho Primavera

Ahhh, the final Mexico post. Let's push through! Laguna La Maria is known for its picnic tables. This is because Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes (trip bird!) like to forage near them.

This is the same Black-throated Green Warbler from my last Mexico post. I don't know if I'll see any more this year, so here is another photo. Farewell, Black-throated Green Warbler.

There's a lot of Solitary Vireos in Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. Most are Plumbeous, but Cassin's (like this one) are fairly common. This is isn't a crush obviously, but Cassin's Vireo has never graced BB&B before, so there it is and here we are.

Dipper Dan was fuming from the lack of lifers that morning. Can't say I blame him.

After making our way west to the coast and north past Manzanillo, we took a detour to check the Manzanillo airport marshes, mentioned in Howell's was awful. Definitively the worst birding spot of the trip...the marsh is not what it used to be, and I don't recommend setting aside any time to bird here. Only bird of interest was an adult male Snail Kite soaring over the road.

That night we stayed in Barra de Navidad, which is full of gringos but small - legit seafood though. Sweet, luscious concha was had. We randomly found the place that was listed as the cheapest in town according to my Mexi travel guide, and I'm pretty sure that title was not awarded unjustly. Don Francisco was giddy, it cost so little money. Lucky for us, we got a room on the roof, which overlooks a little lagoon, which turned out to be a great place to drink and bird simultaneously. Unexpectedly, Barra de Navidad happens to be home to an absolutely enormous Barn Swallow roost, which was located just a couple of blocks away.

Don Francisco, Stilt and Flycatcher Jen gaze upward into the swallow swarm directly above us, getting ready to land on things like windowsills for the night.

We stayed in Barra de Navidad in order to bird the Playa Del Oro road the next morning. The birding was good! The major highlight was a Golden-crowned Emerald that Dipper Dan found, which was the last lifer of the trip for me. After so many hummingbird failures and the stress of being gripped off on yet another target species, this was truly satisfying. We dipped on Flammulated Flycatcher, but had lots of Orange-breasted Buntings, White-bellied Wrens (new trip bird, common here), and an absurd number of Red-billed Tropicbirds scoped from the beach.

Looking southward along the beach at Playa del Oro. See that big offshore rock on the right? It is surrounded by tropicbirds. We had some Black Terns offshore as well (trip bird!). The eBird checklist from the morning can be perused here.

After Don Francisco frolicked in the water and promptly lost his glasses (which gave birth to "Hank", whom we all love and miss dearly) and lunching in Barra de Navidad, we lurked north up the coast, stopping at the same random wetlands that we birded on the way south, in order to dip on Collared Plover yet again. The dip was a success!

This Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is not a Collared Plover.

Neither is this Roseate Spoonbill.

Flycatcher Jen and Stilt ensure that no Collared Plovers are nearby.

That afternoon we made our triumphant return to Rancho Primavera. Bonnie informed us that a Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird had appeared while we were gone, which enraged Dipper Dan. We did not see it. But we did have a mellow morning of birding the property on the final day, which was a good way to end the trip.

Streak-backed Orioles came in for the crushiest encounters.

We saw a lot of dingy Streak-backed Orioles on the trip, but this one brought the facemelt.

Before this trip, I had only seen one Plain-capped Starthroat...for about 5 seconds. It was not a pleasant experience. Rancho Primavera provided many superior viewing opportunities.

This is a good bird...large hummingbirds have a certain allure to them. I'll have to look at one in Arizona sometime. According to Bonnie, the property doesn't get the number or diversity of hummingbirds that they used to get, but I reckon that could change at any time.

Goodbye Yellow-winged Caciques. You are a weird endemic.

So long Masked Tityra. In what country will I see you next?

Adios, Orange-fronted Parakeet. May you remain plentiful.

Vaya con dios, Black-throated Magpie-Jay. I still do not quite comprehend how you exist.

After dropping Stilt off at the Puerto Vallarta airport, the remaining nerds made one last desperate try for Collared Plover (a bird that I hate) at a river mouth at the edge of town, which of course was unsuccessful but it was very birdy and seems like a good spot for them. After that, we drank some mezcal in the airport and went our separate ways...except I sat next to Flycatcher Jen on the plane (Mexican Miracle) and got a ride home from Don Francisco's family from the airport in San Francisco.

There's not a whole lot I would have done differently on this trip...a second day birding "Voclan de Fuego" would have been great, and we should have birded Microondas La Cumbre instead of birding north of Colima (toward Laguna La Maria). A second day of birding Tecuitata (Nayarit) would have been good as well. There are some additional locations near San Blas that we did not get to, but I feel like we did quite well with our target birds there.

But, of course, we did not get everything. I got gripped off on Amethyst-throated Hummingbird and Red-breasted Chat (repeatedly and hurtfully). We did not get Banded Quail, Collared Plover, Mexican Hermit, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Bee Hummingbird, any interesting swifts (ugh...major failure), Eared Poorwill, Bare-shanked Screech-Owl (not that we looked, they are at Microondas La Cumbre), Thick-billed Parrot, Flammulated Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Aztec Thrush, Colima Warbler, and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. I think that covers most of the dipped-on birds we could have reasonably seen.

But you know what? Fuck those birds I didn't see. I got 47 lifers on this trip (!) and had a hell of a time. I saw 350 species or so in less than two and a half weeks, and I only had food poisoning for one day! Thanks to Flycatcher Jen (who gets listed first because she craves notoriety), Don Francisco, Stilt and Dipper Dan for joining me on another very fucking nerdy and very fucking successful birding trip.


  1. Excellent series of posts. It is no small feat to find and ID so many birds on one's own outside your native country. You inspire me to try my hand at executing a tropical birding trip without the insane expense of a guide. However, I'm no #7 and wonder how much I would flounder without the crutch of guide. Nonetheless, I think I will try...

    1. Do it! It does help to have a bunch of eyes available just to get on birds. We would have gotten more shit with a guide (even for one day), but no regrets...Chencho was good enough for all of us.