When Rafa and I were driving south to Jalisco to start a tour, we had the idea that it would be fun to take some of the “Alas de Alamos” guides on a short trip to the Durango Highway to see some new birds and some new country. During our Jalisco tour we worked it out with Gaby and Mario to take the bus down from Alamos and meet us in Mazatlan on our way back north.
Rafa and I spent a very nice night at the Garza Canela in San Blas after dropping off our clients in Guadalajara, we were lucky enough to hit the tail
end of the culinary festival and got to sample some very special dishes! The following morning we headed out to the Singayta area to get Rafa a few more life birds. It was a bit slow on the road, but we did manage to ultimately get great looks at a very cooperative Collared Forest-Falcon that had been teasing us all morning.
Our plan worked out well and met Mario and Gaby right on time. Rafa and I had already pulled together all the food and drink and we were off for Copala arriving in time for dinner at Daniel’s before they all headed out for the night.
We were off pre-dawn for the high country! We were all excited to be in the mountains and I was excited to show these guys a bunch of new birds. Our first real stop was in the pines where Rafa and I had Gaby and Mario put breakfast together for us just like we would do on a tour! We had a great time pretending to be outrageously demanding and rude. Fortunately, none of my clients would ever be as bad as Rafa and I were! While we were eating we got looks at a Blue-throated Hummingbird, Blue Mockingbird and our first Red Warbler!
My hope was that a flock of Tufted Jays would pop in for a visit while we were eating breakfast, but after a while things slowed down and we opted to move on. It didn’t take long for us to find the them, however! Not 2 miles down the road, I rounded a corner and there on the road was a Tufted Jay trying to remove something edible from the pavement! I quickly pulled over on a very convenient pullout and we spent the next several minutes watching a flock of at least 14 birds interact and fly back and forth across the road…fantastic! Sometimes these birds can be rather skittish, but this time they were completely comfortable with us being in the middle of the flock and they seemed far more interested in eating than worrying about us! In the end it turned out that this was a very important sighting for other reasons as we would not see the jays again on this trip!
Next stop was the old ranch site at the famous birding location near the Barranca de Liebre. Right out of the van, we had marvelous looks at Russet Nightingale Thrush, Red-headed Tanager and Rufous-capped Brushfinch. A bit more looking around and we found more Redstarts of both varieties, Tufted and Buff-breasted Flycatchers and Rufous-capped Warblers.
Soon we were off and down the hill towards the best site for Green-striped Brushfinch. Things started out a bit slow, but this is not that
unusual for the high country in November. I was really happy just to be birding in the high country of Mexico with some of my best buddies and showing them some new places! But soon I had to start getting serious about birds again, the warblers had found us! It was one of those special birding moments that I will never forget. As soon as one person would call out a bird and everyone would get on it, someone would call out another, it was amazing. In all there were a dozen species of warblers alone, plus another dozen birds that included White-striped Woodcreeper, Mountain Trogon, Pine Flycatcher and Mexican Chickadee.
The walk down the road continued to produce all sorts of birds, so by the time we got to the Green-striped Brushfinch stop, I was pretty confident that we would be successful. Sure enough, with just one blast of the tape two brushfinches made there way up the drainage and eventually gave us all really good looks. Along with them came a family of Golden-browed Warblers who also were quite accommodating!
We went back up the hill and made out was to one of the world’s most beautiful locations for lunch – the canyon rim of the Barranca de Liebre. Once again, Rafa and I took pleasure in pretending to be overly demanding clients towards Gaby and Mario while they put together a great canyon side lunch.
Birding had slowed down with the warming day and we took a short drive back out of the Barranca area and towards the cabins that the ejido had built for guests. Once again birding was pretty slow and only a few of the trees that have been fruiting in previous years were producing this time.
We drove back down the mountain to the Petaca road where things were a bit more exciting! The Petaca area has hardly a bit of untouched habitat left, but that seems to suit many species of birds just fine. We got lucky with Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow, Rusty Sparrow and had a beautiful pair of Military Macaws circle us a number of times and then eventually land in a small cave in the cliff face. With the scope we could watch them preening and walking around in the cave…it was very cool!
The day was getting long and we were all pretty whipped, so we opted to call it a day and headed back down to Daniel’s for dinner. It was good to do the list and rehash all the great birds that we had seen that day. After dinner, we all walked into town to see the church and visit the old part of town. Copala is a neat place but too bad a quarter of the buildings on the plaza are abandoned and not doing very well at all! I am afraid that the Butter Company hotel and bar may be at a point of no return as it is really tumbling down.
After a great nights sleep with a only a few jake brakes cutting the nights silence, we chowed down a simple breakfast and were off to the Panuco road just a short distance from the hotel. Admittedly, it was not the best morning I have ever had on the Panuco road, but we did see a lot of neat birds with some work. We eventually got a Colima Pygmy Owl to come in and with him came Golden and Black-capped Vireos, Blue Bunting and two Golden-crowned Emeralds! We also got lots of good views of Military Macaws, the Panuco road must be one of the best places anywhere to get good close looks at this fantastic bird.
We ended up pulling out of Daniel’s about 11:00 a.m. and made our way down to Mazatlan. The boys had never been there so we wanted to spend at least a couple of hours ‘turistiando’ around the historic old town of Mazatlan! After strolling the Malecon and taking lots of funny pictures, we treated ourselves to a delicious seafood lunch before making the drive back home to Alamos! It was a great trip and I was so happy to share some fun times with Mario, Gaby and Rafa!