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Mexico: Western

Visiting classic destinations in this endemic-rich region, we will target all endemics and near-endemics including Elegant Quail, Long-tailed Wood Partridge, the mega Tufted Jay, beautiful Red Warbler, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Slaty Vireo, both Orange-breasted Bunting and Painted Bunting, and Red-breasted Chat, amongst many more stunning Mexican and Central American species. This is one of the most spotlighting-heavy bird tours in the world, with excellent chances to see more than 15 nocturnal species! These include stunners like Cinereous Owl, Balsas Screech-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Stygian Owl, and Eared Poorwill.

Baja Peninsula Extension

A few extra days to see specialties like Yellow-footed Gull, Cape Pygmy Owl, Grey Thrasher, Xantu's Hummingbird, Belding's Yellowthroat, and Baird's Junco. Also includes a few range-restricted species shared with the US like Ridgway's Rail, Elf Owl, Grey Vireo, and California Gnatcatcher. Plus of course the charismatic Greater Roadrunner!

Next dates

15-28 February 2025

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 6

Leaders:

Daniel Aldana and local leader René Valdés

Guaranteed departure

Baja Peninsula Extension

28 February - 3 March

Tour length: 4 days

Group size limit: 6

Leaders:

Daniel Aldana and local leader René Valdés

Guaranteed departure

All our tours to Mexico are operated by René Valdés, one of the country’s most respected and well-connected bird guides. This means that we are always running with the most up-to-date information, and have relevant permissions in place at all birding sites. Despite some government advisories taking an overly-cautious stance against travel to certain parts of Mexico, we are completely confident in the safety of all our itineraries.

Day 1: The tour starts at Manzanillo International Airport (ZLO) at midday, with a quick stop nearby for Spot-breasted Oriole! We will drive a short distance to our first birding site, close to Barra de Navidad. In the immediate vicinity of this locality lies some great patches of good forest, where we will look for our first West Mexican endemics like the beautiful Red-breasted Chat, Flammulated Flycatcher, Lilac-crowned Amazon, “West Mexican” White-bellied Wren, Olive Sparrow, Golden-crowned Emerald, West Mexican Chachalaca, Citreoline Trogon, and Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, amongst a wealth of other commoner but nonetheless interesting species. We will spend the night at Barra de Navidad.

Day 2: We will have a full morning in the Barra da Navidad area to find any specialties missing from the previous afternoon, hopefully with some time to explore nearby lagoons and scrubs where we have our first chances for Rufous-necked Wood Rail and San Blas Jay. We will continue our journey towards Colima, arriving in time for afternoon birding.

Day 3: In the area surrounding Colima, thorn forest sites typical of the Balsas drainage will yield exciting endemics like the striking Black-chested Sparrow, Sclater’s Wren, Banded Quail, and at night the scarce Balsas Screech-Owl. One of the highlights of the whole trip will be watching the sublime Orange-breasted Bunting, along with the stunning Painted Bunting, plus colourful cousins like Varied Bunting, Blue Bunting, and Indigo Bunting. Other great birds in the area include Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Russet-crowned Motmot, and Blue Mockingbird.

Day 4-5: An early start on Day 4 will see us reaching the scenic Nevado de Colima and its two famous volcanoes for two full days of great birding! Endemics and near-endemics to be found here include Long-tailed Wood Partridge, the nomadic Aztec Thrush, rare Slaty and Dwarf Vireos, stunning Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Collared Towhee, Green-striped Brushfinch, Grey-barred Wren, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, our first jewel-like Red Warblers (here of the white-eared subspecies), and Mexican Violetear, amongst many others. A number of exciting night birds occur at this location, so we’ll have to make a special effort to have a good chance to find them all! They include the impressive endemic Cinereous Owl, scarce Northern Saw-whet Owl, near-endemic Whiskered Screech Owl and Mountain Pygmy Owl, plus Mexican Whip-poor-will, Buff-collared Nightjar, and the cracking Eared Poorwill. Nights at Ciudad Guzman.

Day 6: After a final morning on Nevado de Colima, we will depart north towards San Blas. We should arrive in time for some initial birding before checking in to our base for the next four nights.

Day 7-8-9: Three full days to cover a number of sites in this excellent area, all hosting a great number of endemic and striking species. We will be birding the pine-oak forests of Cerro San Juan and foothill woodlands, as well as the nearby lowlands, where endemics like Elegant Quail, Colima Pygmy Owl, Bumblebee Hummingbird, Mexican Woodnymph, Mexican Hermit, and Mexican Parrotlet all feature. This is particularly good area to see Collared Forest Falcon, Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Grey-collared Becard, “Dickey’s” Audubon’s Oriole, Sinaloa Crow, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Black-capped Vireo, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Sinaloa Wren, Spotted Wren, and West Mexican Euphonia. We will also make a special effort to find the monotypic Rosy Thrush-Tanager, and the rare Greater Swallow-tailed Swift.

Several rivers flow into the sea here and create vast expanses of swamps, mangroves and seasonal lagoons and host huge numbers of waterbirds including American Avocet, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill and lots of migrant waders. We will take at least one boat trip through the mangroves, which may allow us to see Yellow-breasted Crake (only recently discovered in Mexico at this site), along with more chances for Rufous-necked Wood Rail. The waterways are full of other birds, including Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Belted Kingfisher, White-throated Flycatcher, Mangrove Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and more. After dark, we can target Northern Potoo and Middle American Screech Owl, both quite common in the mangroves. We also have further chances if needed for Cinereous Owl and Eared Poorwill.

Day 10: We will head northwards after some final morning birding, reaching the famous Durango Highway in time for our first session of birding there this afternoon. Along the way we will make stops in search of Aztec Rail, Spotted Rail, Mexican Duck, and the localised Endangered grassland specialty, Sierra Madre Sparrow. The latter is usually found with an assortment of other sparrows, including Striped Sparrow and sometimes Baird’s Sparrow.

Day 11-12: Our two full days along the Durango Highway will be focused on finding some of Western Mexico’s most sought-after endemics in fabulous native pine forest. These include the fabulous Tufted Jay, which we will be looking for at la Reserva de la Chara Pinta. The quality of birding at this location is just outstanding, so we’ll allow enough time to connect with many great species like White-striped Woodcreeper, stunning Red and Red-faced Warblers, Red-headed Tanager and many more widespread birds like Blue-throated Mountaingem, Mountain Trogon, near-endemic Pine Flycatcher, Rusty-crowned Ground Sparrow or the near-endemic Yellow-eyed Junco. In recent years, the mythical Eared Quetzal has become much easier to see, so we stand a good chance of connecting with this mega! Sadly, the once regular Sinaloa Martins have seemingly disappeared from the area. Some nightbirding might well produce Whiskered Screech Owl and Mexican Whip-Poorwill. This is also maybe the best place in the world to see Stygian Owl!

Day 13: Following some final morning birding lower down the Durango Highway, we will continue to the foothills Mazatlan, well-adorned with fabulous thorn forest. We will spend some time here this afternoon, and during the course of the day we might well encounter the shy Lesser Roadrunner, endemic Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Golden-crowned Emerald,  huge Military Macaws, Mexican Parrotlet, Black-throated Magpie-Jays, the endemic Happy Wren, Fan-tailed Warbler, Black-capped and Golden Vireos, Red-breasted Chat, and many more. We will spend the night in Mazatlan.

Day 14: We will have another morning birding in the vicinity of Mazatlan, looking for some scarce endemics like Elegant Quail and Purplish-backed Jay or any other species we would have missed the day before. We will then make our way to Mazatlan International Airport (MZT) where the tour will end this afternoon.

 

BAJA PENINSULA EXTENSION

Day 1: Overnight in Mazatlan after the end of the main tour.

Day 2: Morning flight to either Los Cabos or La Paz. Search for the endemic Belding’s Yellowthroat, before our first session in the dry thorny woodland characteristic of Baja. Already this will give us good chances of seeing two more endemics: Xantu’s Hummingbird and Grey Thrasher. We should also target the range-restricted Grey Vireo and California Gnatcatcher, along with more widespread species like Greater Roadrunner, Costa’s Hummingbird, Gilded Flicker, California Scrub Jay, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia, California Towhee, and Lazuli Bunting. Spotlighting is great here too, so we should easily find the diminuitive Elf Owl (the smallest owl in the world!), Western Screech Owl, and Common Poorwill. We’ll then continue to our hotel in the pleasant seaside town of La Ventana, where we will stay for the duration of the extension.

Day 3: Departing early, we’ll ascend the San Antonio Range along a (very) bumpy 4WD track in an old rustic pickup truck. It’s quite uncomfortable, but once we are dropped at the top, it is usually fairly striaghtforward to find the endemic Baird’s Junco, along with the very pale “San Lucas” American Robin, along with less spectacular subspecies of Cassin’s Vireo and Warbling Vireo. Our final endemic, the Cape Pygmy Owl, should eventually reveal itself, accompanied by a flock of small and angry passerines! We will then head over to La Paz, for an evening on the mudflats. Here, Yellow-footed Gull is pleasingly common, as is the near-endemic Ridgway’s Rail. We should also see Black Skimmer, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, and lots of other shorebirds. Belding’s Yellowthroat is usually around somewhere at the sewage works if we missed it on the first day.

Day 4: With one last morning, we can focus on anything still missing before heading to Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) where the extension ends after lunch.

At this time of year, the bay off La Paz offers effectively guaranteed snorkelling encounters with Whale Sharks. Several companies offer packages for about $250USD pp, which includes pick-up and drop-off from any hotel in Los Cabos. Easy to do if you stay an extra day at the end of the extension!

Tour details

MAIN TOUR
Cost:
$ 5,700
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 750

EXTENSION
Cost:
$ 1,700
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 250

Accommodation: All comfortable hotels throughout the main tour and extension. Our lodge on the Durango Highway does not have power outlets in the rooms, but electronics can be charged in the dining room, and showers all have hot water.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside and trail birding. Some slightly longer walks up to two hours whilst looking for Eared Quetzal.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.