Saturday 11 February 2017

Birding San Blas to La Noria

Jan 24 2017 San Blas to La Noria.
The alarm was set for 4.30 a.m. but I didn't need it, I was already awake, funny how that works! Despite the early hour I was eager to get going for what was going to be a full day's birding.
The first stop would be the local OXO (Mexico's version of 7 Eleven) for a large coffee and muffin.
As we drove out of San Blas the sun was still hiding behind the Sierra Madre Mountains. We passed through chili, corn and tobacco farms, past people going to work, some were setting up roadside stands. The shrimp ponds glowed with the golden light from the sky. I could have spent an hour photographing silhouettes but I was with birders and besides we had a thirty kilometre drive with numerous stops ahead of us. A good enough excuse to return next year.

We stopped at a nondescript hedge and waited for any signs of birdlife. We had three species of hummingbirds in short order. blue-throated, broad-billed and cinnamon. Then a bird I really had hoped to see, a black-capped vireo.

Black-capped vireo.
Climbing higher into the hills we again stopped where guide Francisco hoped we would find the rufous-capped warbler. He has a good ear and soon enough we were onto a pair. 

Wow! My first new warbler of the trip and what a beauty it was. I had photographed many of the wintering warblers that we get back in Canada but this one really captivated me as it flitted through the undergrowth, twitching its tail and diving towhee like in and out of bushes. The others decided to have lunch while I looked for a perfect picture of the dainty bird.

Rufous-capped warbler.
The dirt track we were travelling offered any number of places to stop look and listen. It wasn't long before we heard a russet-crowned motmot. As it turned out there was a pair sitting together on a tree branch.  
Russet-crowned motmot.
We drove on through the countryside climbing ever higher. The humidity of the lowlands was now replaced by an almost perfect mix of sun and shade. There were some great birds. Yellow grosbeaks, hepatic tanagers and a gorgeous red-headed tanager. 
Red-headed tanager.

We eventually arrived at Reserva Ecológica Sierra de San Juan-La Noria, a farm high in the mountains between Nayarit state capital Tepic and our base San Blas. There were all kinds of birds to feast the eyes on. The first were a pair of hepatic tanagers, then a striking tufted flycatcher. In a tree a flock of twenty elegant quail proved impossible to photograph but rewarded us with great views as they suddenly flew off into the forest. The double-toothed kite is not a common sighting especially on the west coast slope. We were able to confirm the ID from a grab shot I took as it flew across our path before disappearing into the forest.
Hepatic tanager (female).
Hepatic tanager (male)

Around one corner we came across a ravine full of flowering vines, a great pace to look for hummingbirds. Without the aide of a set-up I had to shoot at high ISO to get even the smallest chance in the dim light. This is one of the better captures from about fifty shots, most of which ended up in the trash folder.
Mexican woodnymph.

Gray flycatcher.
The tufted flycatcher one of the most accommodating birds of the whole trip always returning to the same perch, a real poser! 
Tufted flycatcher.

The Pacific slope flycatcher, a species that can be found in my home town back in Canada. 

Pacific-slope flycatcher.
Yellow grosbeak.
During the day we saw well over a hundred species, for me many were lifers. I managed decent pictures of some species, others like the one above I consider a good ID shot and others were seen through bins or very distant camera ID shots, which our guide Francisco would then confirm.

Black-headed siskin.
Rusty sparrow.
The rusty sparrow is found from Mexico to NW Costa Rica.

La Noria proved to be productive with sixteen lifers..not bad for one hour and fifteen minutes of birding. If you visit avoid the weekends as it can be overrun with campers, impromptu soccer games, and ATV's. There are no feeders, the owners want the birds to be naturally occurring.

Reserva Ecológica Sierra de San Juan--La Noria, Nayarit, MX

Jan 24, 2017 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Protocol: Stationary
37 species

Elegant Quail  20

Black Vulture  4

Turkey Vulture  3
Double-toothed Kite  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
White-winged Dove  2
Black Swift  23     Seen well , large swifts flying along the tree line. Large, long winged black swift.
Vaux's Swift  100
Bumblebee Hummingbird  1
White-eared Hummingbird  4
Acorn Woodpecker  1
American Kestrel  1
Tufted Flycatcher  3
Greater Pewee  1
Gray Flycatcher  3
Buff-breasted Flycatcher  1
Say's Phoebe  1
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Common Raven  2
Violet-green Swallow  90
House Wren (Brown-throated)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
Hermit Thrush  2
White-throated Thrush  1
Blue Mockingbird  1
Gray Silky-flycatcher  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  5
Rufous-capped Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  1
Stripe-headed Sparrow  4
Chipping Sparrow  2
Rusty Sparrow  2
Hepatic Tanager  2
Black-headed Grosbeak  1
Audubon's Oriole  1
Black-headed Siskin  3

Last but not Least
Wilson's Plover.
The day had been fantastic enough s as we approached San Blas we suddenly turned off the main hwy and headed toward a beach turnout. I knew our guide Francisco hand something special to show us, a Wilson's Plover. They were so camouflaged they were hard to see, eventually one moved, giving away their presence.

Eventually we arrived back at San Blas tired and dusty but satisfied that we had had one heck of a day.

Tomorrow we have a half day of birding before catching the bus back to Rincon de Guayabitos.

"It's never too late to start listing"
John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. John your photos are stunning. What a great trip you had! The firt photo you have marked as a Plumbeous Vireo is actually a Black-capped Vireo.


  2. Thanks for catching my error. We did see a plumbeous at the same location. I'll have to go back into those files now and dig it out.