In the spring of 2008, our friends Chuck and Dorothy Gates took us to this awesome place on the Pacific Coast of Mexico that they had been raving about for years. The town of San Blas, in the Mexican state of Nayarit, lies halfway between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
A traditional Mexican tourist town, San Blas has attracted birders for several decades for the fascinating combination of a diverse avifauna and an authentic Mexican birding experience. Watching the sunset from the church above town, we watched Short-tailed Hawk cruising by at eye level and White-collared Seedeater in the weeds at our feet. A boat ride through mangrove tunnels will put us eye-to-eye with Boat-billed Heron and Common Potoo, and the jungles above town showcased such west-Mexican endemics as Colima Pygmy-Owl, Mexican Parrotlet, Citreoline Trogon, and Purplish-backed Jay.
I later discovered that habitat diversity in tropical Mexico changes quickly with latitude.
Through my participation in the Vallarta Bird Festival, I found Rancho Primavera, a lovely private estate nestled among the oak woodlands of the southern Sierra Madre and just outside the 16th century pueblo of El Tuito. The Ranch property itself is a naturalist’s nirvana, with ponds, streams, woods, and meadows attracting over 20 resident endemics, such as Golden Vireo, Blue Mockingbird, and Black-vented Oriole, plus the amazing Rosy Thrush-Tanager.
In 2014, we ventured a bit farther down the coast to the tiny Mexican state of Colima. I love the beach and lowland jungles, but I was craving some altitude—Colima delivered. Just an hour from the tourist town of Manzanillo, we had reached the lava-coated flanks of Volcan de Fuego, the Fire Volcano. Just to the north, Volcan de Nieve, the Snow Volcano, invited us into wonderful cloud forest habitat. This region showcased an amazing array of mountain birds, including Red, Golden-browned, and Crescent-chested Warblers, and a dizzying array of tropical hummingbirds. Common birds of Colima included Gray Silky and Brown-backed Solitaire, and the wildflowers painted a rainbow of color.
Needless to say, our Mexico itinerary has expanded since that fateful trip with Chuck and Dorothy in 2008. With the three states of Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima lined up together, and with so much good birding so easily accessible to Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, we put together this exciting itinerary to give you the best of Mexico’s dry Pacific Slope. In case you get overwhelmed with all the Mexican endemics, the abundance of wintering North American songbirds will make you feel right at home. Escape with us to Pacific Mexico, and wrap yourself in a warm, laid-back birding paradise.
-Your host and guide, Stephen Shunk
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