April 12-20, 2013

This past April found 7 intrepid members from Northern Arizona Audubon piling into a big van and heading south from Tucson and into the

Mountain Pygmy Owl

Mountain Pygmy Owl

rural hinterlands of Arizona’s closest southern neighbor, the Mexican state of Sonora.  Tossing aside torrid rumors and apparently thumbing their noses at the barrage of bad press about the dangers of Mexico, they crossed the border without fear and eager to learn more about the birds and culture of northern Mexico.

I think it is safe to say that more than a handful of ill-conceived notions about Mexico fell into oblivion during this tour, and people came away with a strong appreciation of just how much the wonderful country of Mexico has to offer both naturally and culturally.  All along the way we had nothing but friendly and interesting interactions with locals, always helpful and welcoming to us

First of all, and most importantly, the birding was superb!  As a group we saw and heard 238

species including 14 Mexican endemics, as well as a broad array of tropical specialties.  Some participants that had birded deeper in the tropics walked away with over 50 new birds on this trip, illustrating the depth of diversity that can be found just a short distance south of the border.  Certainly one of the major highlights for everyone was finding 13 Military Macaws on the second day of the trip within 200 miles of the U.S. border!  They were silently roosting as we began to look for birds a canyon at 2500 feet in elevation full of enormous Aspen trees (yes, Aspens surrounded by tropical deciduous forest!).  It was warm and bird activity was low, In fact we were just getting ready to move on when the unmistakable cackles of macaw flight calls broke the silence!  Unfortunately, we really only heard the birds as they fled the roost, and this was a bit disappointing for all of us.  But as our luck would have it, not 2 minutes later the sound of the cackling was heard again from the distance, and in formation, pair after pair of the beautiful green, blue, red and yellow macaws began to return to the Aspens and gave us crippling views and photos!  It was one of those incredible bird watching moments that I don’t think any of us will ever forget!

Spotted Wrens in love

Spotted Wrens in love

Other great bird moments included a very excited pair of Spotted Wrens doing a courtship display; a very confiding Northern Pygmy Owl who posed nicely for photos; a rare look at two birds at their very northern limit, Russet-nightingale Thrush and Gray-Collared Becard (just outside of the town of Yecora); finally getting a good look at a shy Russet-crowned Motmot, a fine example of a very tropical bird! There were many other great sightings as well…two species of trogons, two species of Pygmy Owls, Four species of Parrots; Black-throated Magpie and Purplish-backed Jays, Squirrel Cuckoos and thousands of water birds on our trip to the Sea of Cortez.

Throughout the trip we birded a large variety of interesting habitats that ranged from Arizona upland and oaks along the border, to pine forests in the Sierra Madre at 7300 feet as well as tropical deciduous forest around Alamos, coastal mangroves and lagoons on the Sea of Cortez and Sonoran desert north of Hermosillo.  We were treated to Sonoran hospitality everywhere we went and ate good food and enjoyed getting to know each other while enjoying the laid back atmosphere of Mexico.

Accommodations on the trip ranged from simple to elegant.  Yecora, most likely never to become a hotspot of all inclusive resort tourism, offered the least elegant rooms of the tour, but the fantastic food and free flowing Bacanora (Sonoran Moonshine Mescal) at Octavio’s restaurant took any edge off the room condition.  In Alamos, we stayed at the beautiful and comfortable El Pedregal Nature Lodge, where we were treated to luxurious rooms and

It took a while but we did finally see the Motmot!

It took a while but we did finally see the Motmot!

fantastic food, much of it grown in the Pedregal gardens.  Our last night was spent in Guaymas on the Sea of Cortez at the historic Hotel Playa de Cortez with a million dollar sunset and crazy good seafood farewell at the famous Los Arbolitos.

Didn’t sign-up soon enough to get a spot on the last trip?  No worries…we will soon be offering another trip to Sonora with Solipaso and possibly to other birding hot spots in Mexico.