Tuesday 7 February 2017

Birding Rio La Tovara

4-7 p.m Jan 23 2017 Rio La Tovara San Blas Nayarit Mexico

Following a short break for liquid refreshments we made our way to the river. We were joined by a latecomer, a tourist from LA, his presence helped reduce the cost of the boat hire considerably. It still left plenty of room for all of us to have clear views without being cramped something that can be an issue on packaged boat tours.
 Our guide Francisco Garcia of Safaris San Blas, an avid birder himself had us walk along the riverbank before boarding. He played an audio tape and almost immediately a reclusive rufous-necked wood-rail ran across our path before quickly disappearing into the undergrowth. Before casting off and above us in an over-hanging tree was a bare-throated tiger heron. Two lifers and we hadn't even launched the boat yet. Things were looking promising!

Bare-throated tiger heron.

  • We set off down the Rio Tovara where black skimmers, black-crowned night herons, osprey and mangrove warblers were just a few of the species putting on a show for us. The river at this point is quite wide but shallow. It teems with fish and other wildlife including river crocodiles and pythons.

    Mangrove warbler, a subspecies of the yellow warbler.

     For splitters and lumpers I have to side on the splitters when I say the mangrove warbler looks unlike any yellow-warbler I have ever seen. 

The mangrove warbler (erithachorides group; 12 subspecies[4]) tends to be larger than other yellow warbler subspecies groups, averaging 12.5 cm (4.9 in) in length and 11 g (0.39 oz) in weight. It is resident in the mangrove swamps of coastal Middle America and northern South America; D. p. aureola is found on the oceanic Galápagos Islands.[4] The summer males differ from those of the yellow warbler in that they have a rufous hood or crown. The races in this group vary in the extent and hue of the hood, overlapping extensively with the golden warbler group in this character.[4] (Wikipedia)

A guide points to a boat-billed heron.

By the time we had entered the mangrove forest the light was failing. The shot (below) needed a little illumination from the boat's handheld lamp, invaluable later on in the trip when we would be in total darkness.

Although I had had a glimpse of a limpkin at Chula Vista earlier in the week I didn't count it as a lifer because I didn't get a satisfactory view. This time I did.

Lineated woodpecker.
Boat-billed Heron.
Gliding through channels of the mangrove swamp was an awesome experience. Although I have enjoyed  similar excursions in Kenya and Vietnam, the sheer beauty of the La Tovara forest was especially stunning. Finally we had passed through the mangrove forest and toward the springs where the mangroves end and pampas like grass takes over. Here we saw the second owl of the day, a surprise barn owl.

Egrets hunker down for the night.

As darkness fell the humidity in the air built up, small droplets formed on my lens and camera and chill enveloped us. From shorts and t-shirt to windbreaker and zip on pants in a matter of minutes. Despite that, we still made our way up stream where one tree held thirty or forty egrets, perhaps more. Around the next corner our third owl of the day and another lifer.
Mottled owl.

As is the custom on the La Tovara tours a lamp is used to illuminate the nocturnal birds. Whether this harms the birds is debatable.  Francisco our guide was very aware of not using the light for too long or directly at the bird. I would consider him an ethical birder and would recommend his services.

I think I have these two birds correctly labelled, both lifers and without illumination impossible to see.
Common Pauraque.

Lesser nighthawk.

Finally it was time to leave but one bird had eluded us, the strange looking northern potoo. However as we made our way back the unmistakable reflection of their eyes gave away their location. We eventually spotted 13 of them, sitting on treetops, gazing up at the stars like giant moths waiting for a hapless insect to pass by and provide a meal.

* We needed the lamps to navigate our way out of the narrow mangrove channels. The same lamps give away the location of the many nocturnal species.

Northern Potoo.

The day ended with our return through the humid and chilly tunnel canopy of the Tovara Forest. I'm glad I had bundled up and had a camera bag on my lap to deflect the wind. As we motored home and back into the Rio Tovara we came across an illegal set seine net, a reminder that not everything in this paradise is as it should be.

It was a long day and time for supper. tomorrow we rise at 5 for a 5.30 a.m.start and head through the farmlands up into the cloud/mist forest and above. A full days birding awaits and hopefully plenty of surprises.

Rio La Tovara, Nayarit, MX
Jan 23, 2017 4:04 PM - 7:04 PM
Protocol: Traveling
15.0 kilometer(s)
54 species

Wood Stork  4
Blue-footed Booby  2
Anhinga  4
Brown Pelican  12
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron  1
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  4
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  2
Reddish Egret  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  4
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  10
Boat-billed Heron  5
White Ibis  10
Black Vulture  7
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  2
Rufous-necked Wood-Rail  1
Sora  1     Heard
Limpkin  1
Whimbrel  3
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Willet  3
Caspian Tern  2
Red-billed Pigeon  1
Barn Owl  1
Mottled Owl  1
Lesser Nighthawk  4
Common Pauraque  8
Northern Potoo  13
Belted Kingfisher  3
Green Kingfisher  8
Lineated Woodpecker  2
Collared Forest-Falcon  2     1 heard, 1 seen
Merlin  2
Orange-fronted Parakeet  4
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Social Flycatcher  2
Tropical Kingbird  20
Thick-billed Kingbird  3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  10
Black-capped Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Waterthrush  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  2
Tropical Parula  4
Yellow Warbler (Mangrove)  4
Wilson's Warbler  1
Streak-backed Oriole  2
Yellow-winged Cacique  2

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
Bc Canada.

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