West Mexico Photo Safari
Day 1: Participants should plan to arrive in Puerto Vallarta (PVR) as close to 2 pm as possible. Your leaders will meet you at the main exit from the arrivals area and transfer you to our hotel.
Our Safari will start south of Puerto Vallarta with some shooting around our hotel in the early morning. Mid morning we will move to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Hummingbird and fruit feeders attract a good variety of birds among the wonderfully colorful garden plants. West Mexican Chachalaca, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Masked Tityra, San Blas Jay, Grayish Saltator, Yellow-winged Cacique, and Streak-backed Oriole all visit the feeders and should offer us wonderful photo opportunities.
In the afternoon we will drive north, about three hours from Puerto Vallarta. After checking in to our hotel and freshening up, we will have dinner and head to Cerro de San Juan just a few minutes from our hotel. This mountain offers several different habitats and a huge variety of birds for us to shoot. Flower banks provide ideal habitat for numerous hummer species, both resident and migrants from the US and Canada. In addition to hummers, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Olivaceous, White-striped, and Ivory-billed woodcreepers, Pine and Buff-breasted flycatchers, Thick-billed Kingbird, Golden and Black-capped vireos, Green Jay, Spotted Wren, Brown-backed Solitaire, White-throated (Robin) Thrush, numerous Warblers, and Black-headed Siskin are all found on the mountain. As the day fades we will begin our search for nightjars and owls.
Day 2: We will be up early this morning and head back to Cerro de San Juan again. Each morning here is different and species we photographed yesterday will not show up today while a new batch of species will show off for our cameras.
After a midday break we will head back up Cerro de San Juan for more adventures in bird photography. After dinner we will try for owls and nightjars one last evening in hopes of improving on our shots from last night.
Day 3: To San Blas. After one last morning on Cerro de San Juan and we will head for San Blas. Only about an hour away, we will check into our hotel, have lunch and take a midday break.
In the afternoon we will board “pongas”, 22 foot fiberglass boats with expert boatmen and guides to explore the mangroves of the way to the spring at La Tovara. Along the way we will search for abundant water birds including Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, all the herons and egrets of the US, Boat-billed Heron, Snail Kite, Common Black-Hawk, with luck Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Red-billed Pigeon, Belted and Green kingfishers, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Swallow, Mangrove Vireo, and Yellow-winged Cacique. The wonderful thing about these boat trips is that the birds are so used to the boats and people that most are very habituated and so we can approach quite close for photos! In addition to birds we should have opportunities to photograph American Crocodiles along the way.
After a restroom break at the spring we will head back in the dark. Along the way back we should see Boat-billed Herons out feeding rather than roosting, Northern Potoo and Pauraque. With luck a Mottled Owl will be hunting along our route.
Day 4: San Blas area. This morning we will be up early for some land based bird photography. The Singayta Road just ten minutes from San Blas offers us wonderful access to several different habitats. After passing through the village of Singayta we enter mixed palm/tropical deciduous forest. Here we will try for Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Laughing Falcon, White-fronted and Lilac-crowned parrots, Elegant and Citreoline trogons, San Blas and Purplish-backed jays, Fan-tailed Warbler, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, and Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow. Further down the road we get to some agricultural fields and marshy habitats where we may find Hook-billed Kite, Crane and Zone-tailed Hawk, Common and Great black-hawks, Mexican Parrotlet, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Russet-crowned Motmot, Lineated, Pale-billed and Golden-cheeked woodpeckers, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Bright-rumped Attlia, Tropical Parula, Fan-tailed Warbler, Scrub Euphonia, and Blue Bunting. This road is always exciting and you never know what awaits around the next bend in the road!
After lunch and a siesta (we are in Mexico after all!) we will travel to a slightly higher elevation above the town of La Bajada. Although more and more of the land above this town are being converted to Bread Fruit, Mango and Coffee plantations, there is still plenty of wonderful habitat for us to explore. Species include Ruddy Quail-Dove, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Hermit, Mexican Woodnymph, Gray-crowned and Golden-cheeked woodpecker, Tufted and Boat-billed flycatchers, San Blas Jay, Golden Vireo, Yellow Grosbeak and Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow. Two nightbirds can be found here that we will have no other chances for on this workshop -Vermiculated Screech-Owl and Black-and-white Owl. Neither is easy see but we will give them a shot as it gets dark. A number of years back the Black-and-white Owl was found here for the first time – 600 miles north of any previous records!
Day 5: San Blas area. Early this morning we will once again board boats but this time we will explore the Rio San Cristobal. This is one of two rivers that empty into the Pacific Ocean at San Blas. This trip offers many of the same species as the trip to the spring at La Tovara but adds a number of species which prefer the taller forest and the wider open river. Snail Kite, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (usually hundreds), Wood Stork (at a nesting colony), Great Black-Hawk, and Mangrove Cuckoo. Each river trip is different and each will add new species and different photo ops!
After lunch and a siesta our plans will depend on what species we have not had a chance to photograph. There are many great spots and your leaders will decide which one offers us a chance for the most new species or really great opportunities for a few spectacular ones.
Day 6: San Blas area. This morning we will do the Estero el Pozo boat trip to add new species and improve on those we have captured previously. Many of the birds are the same as the Rio San Cristobal, but this area offers more mud flats in addition to the mangroves.
After lunch and a siesta we will work the Shrimp Pond road and a different habitat. Numerous ponds and weedy agricultural field offer a variety of open country and wading birds. Species such as Collared Plover, White-tailed Kite, Harris’s Hawk, Ridgway’s Rail, Ringed and Green kingfisher, Mangrove Vireo, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Ruddy-breasted and White-collared (Cinnamon-rumped variety) seedeaters will be our targets.
Day 7: This morning we will venture out to Roca Elephante (Elephant Rock) and La Piedra de la Virgen (Virgin Rock) for pelagic birds. At each rock we will have opportunities to photograph Blue-footed and Brown boobies, and at Elephant Rock Red-billed Tropicbirds. Along the way out we will look for Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy, Black-vented Shearwater, Black and Least storm-petrels, Red and Red-necked phalaropes, Parasitic and Pomarine jaegers to photograph. This will be a four to five hour trip and we will return in time for lunch.
After lunch your leaders will look at what we have photographed and decide on what area offers the most new species or another try at something that has not cooperated fully yet.
Day 8: This morning we will pack our bags and head back to Puerto Vallarta. We should have many great memories and gigabytes of wonderful captures to help us remember a great trip! We will arrive at the airport about 11 am. Please make your return flight reservations after 2pm today. Adios!