The striking Boat-billed Heron. Photo: Steve Howell
Not far from the U.S. yet in the midst of a rich and decidedly tropical avifauna, the small coastal fishing town of San Blas has long been famous among birdwatchers. From our base in town we’ll explore the nearby palm and thorn forests, oak woods, coffee fincas, mangroves, freshwater marshes, beaches and coastal lagoons and inshore waters. These habitats host birds ranging from Blue-footed Booby and Wilson’s Plover to Russet-crowned Motmot, Fan-tailed Warbler, and the little-known Mexican Woodnymph. Other highlights among the many possibilities including 30 Mexican endemics, are Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Mexican Parrotlet, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, San Blas and Purplish-backed Jays, and Golden Vireo. This short tour, based at an exceptional hotel with a fine restaurant, a swimming pool, and staff that accommodate birdwatchers, provides an opportunity for relaxation as well as an excellent introduction to birding in Mexico.
Day 1: The tour begins at 7:00pm in Puerto Vallarta. Night in Puerto Vallarta.
Days 2-8: We’ll depart early for birding near Puerto Vallarta looking for such species as Limpkin and the endemic San Blas Jay. After an early lunch at the hotel we’ll drive north through the humid coastal hills to San Blas, our base for the coming week. We should find around 250 species within a few miles of town as we travel from the plantations and scrub around San Blas to palm forest near Singayta, shady coffee plantations and pine-oak forest, and the beach and lagoons at Matanchen.
Characteristic landbirds around San Blas include Citreoline Trogon, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Sinaloa Crow, Happy Wren, Rufous-backed Thrush and Yellow-winged (Mexican) Cacique, and we’ll always be on the lookout for surprises such as Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle or Cassin’s Sparrow, which seem to pop up regularly. The area also holds a wealth of wintering migrants from North America including Black-capped Vireo and Painted Bunting. Certainly one of the highlights of a birding trip to San Blas is an evening boat trip winding through the mangroves, famous for roosting Boat-billed Herons and for Northern Potoos, which come out to hawk for insects at dusk.
We’ll also make a day trip to a nearby mountain with pine-oak forest which offers a cooler climate and birds including White-eared, Berylline, and Bumblebee Hummingbirds, Red-faced, Hermit, and Rufous-capped Warblers, Painted and Slate-throated Redstarts, Tufted Flycatcher, and perhaps Red-headed Tanager and White-striped Woodcreeper.
Early starts are important to make the most of the rich birdlife, and optional after-lunch siestas are recommended before bird activity picks up again in late afternoon. A good beach is close to the hotel and the area is famous for its excellent mariscos (seafood) and green-flash sunsets. Nights in San Blas.
Day 9: We’ll drive this morning to Puerto Vallarta, arriving at the airport around midday when the tour concludes.
Updated: 18 January 2019