Saturday, 25 February 2017

West Mexico: Puerto Vallarta

Following an overnight flight via Mexico City we eventually arrived in the charming resort of Puerto Vallarta shortly after 8am. Everyone had decided to fly out two days early and get fully recharged before the tour officially commenced and so, of course, we began our birding immediately after meeting up with our excellent guide Kim Risen. Driving south out of the town we followed the coast road and made our first stop opposite a couple of large offshore rocks where lots of Brown Pelicans were nesting, several Magnificent Frigatebirds soared against the clear blue sky and we saw loads of Royal Terns fishing offshore. All of a sudden a Citreoline Trogon flew past us and landed in a nearby large tree. How bizarre! As we followed this beauty a pair of Greyish Saltators were found, followed by Nashville Warbler, San Blas Jay and an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper.

A short drive further along the coast road took us to the Botanical Gardens and this turned into a very productive session. Just below the car park we saw a large feeding flock containing Hooded Orioles, maybe 10+ stonking Varied Buntings (a bird I really wanted to see after missing it in west Texas & Arizona), several Nashville Warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler, a close Black-throated Grey Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and the first of many Yellow-winged Caciques

Not a great photo, but it's my first Varied Bunting..

Nashville Warbler is very common here....

We headed down to the restaurant, where we were due to have lunch and spent a very enjoyable time watching the feeding station below us. Once some fruit was placed on the large ‘bird table’ a group of Yellow-winged Caciques flew in and provided us with much entertainment, although the presence of several superb Golden-cheeked Woodpeckers proved something of a distraction, as did a pair of Godman’s (Scrub) Euphonias

Godman's (Scrub) Euphonia

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (endemic)

Yellow-winged Cacique

A MacGillivray’s Warbler decided to ponce around out in the open below the feeding station, a few Green Jays also put in an all-too brief appearance, and both Plain-capped Starthroat and Cinnamon Hummingbird were drawn to the hummer feeders here. 

Cinnamon Hummingbird

MacGillivray's Hummingbird

Plain-capped Starthroat

Lunch was very nice and during this time we could observe the feeders, as well as a fruiting “Gumbo Limbo” tree which drew in Orange-fronted Parakeets, Plumbeous Vireo, Social Flycatcher, several Rose-throated Becards, 5+ Masked Tityras, and a Lineated Woodpecker. Phew! But for me the best sighting was the obliging pair of Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrows that appeared below the feeders, although my photo isn't the best...

Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow (another endemic)

Leaving here we walked along some of the trails and found a Golden-crowned Emerald and a cracking Grey-crowned Woodpecker. But by now it was well after 2pm so we decided to drive the 10 minutes to our wonderful lodge and just chill out for the remainder of the day. Needless to say the draw of new birds had us watching the surrounding forest and gardens from the verandah immediately upon arrival…! This was another cracking area and we had a fantastic view of the garden and surrounding forest and from the comfort of our chairs could observe our first Grey-crowned Becard, Bright-rumped Attila, Streak-backed Oriole, Thick-billed Kingbird, Golden Vireo, and also get closer views of the Orange-fronted Parakeets.  

Orange-fronted Parakeet

Things got even better once we began walking around the garden with the major highlights being an uncharacteristically showy Blue Mockingbird and a Russet-crowned Motmot perched on a large boulder in the middle of the stream. 

Blue Mockingbird (endemic)

Russet-crowned Motmot (near-endemic)

Other goodies along the river included several female Blue Buntings, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Sinaloa Wren, several Audubon’s Warblers and a close Wilson’s Warbler. In the garden an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper showed well, several Stripe-headed Sparrows gave their jangling song, and our first Rufous-backed Thrushes were much appreciated. There was also a Clay-coloured Robin, Yellow-breasted Chat, Greater Pewee, several Berylline Hummingbirds, and a Black-throated Grey Warbler

Blue Bunting (female and near-endemic)

The checklist on the veranda was continually interrupted by the ridiculously obvious Blue Mockingbird, some flyover Lilac-crowned Amazons, and a Rufous-backed Thrush. Oh and I forgot to mention the Green Kingfisher seen along the stream. Boy, I’m loving the birding here in West Mexico and it’s great to share this with such an enthusiastic group and an equally enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Can't wait for tomorrow…

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