Macaws, Parrots and Quetzals of the Mountains of Chihuahua
Dates TBA, last cost per person double occupancy: $1,975 $300 single supplement
This trip offers the unique opportunity to visit breeding locations for the endangered Thick-billed Parrot, the dazzling Eared Quetzal and the elusive Military Macaw-all within 300-400 miles of the US border. Elevations visited will range from 5,000-9,000’ mostly in the Sierra Madre of west-central and southwest Chihuahua. We will also get to view 2 of the most spectacular sights in North America: Basaseachic Falls and the Copper Canyon. Trip is by van from Santa Fe, NM but participants can be picked up near airports in Albuquerque or El Paso.
Drive from Santa Fe to Madera, Chihuahua. (approx. 600 miles). After traversing a long section of the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico, we start to gain elevation in northern Chihuahua. Passing through 2 sets of oak-dominated foothill ranges, we arrive at the mountain logging town of Madera (7,000’). Night is at the Hotel Real del Bosque.
Just north of Madera is the most easily accessed remaining breeding area for the Thick-billed Parrot. A local guide working for the Mexican conservation organization Pronatura, will take us high on the mountain ridges to the groves of old aspens that the parrots favor for breeding. We will be able to see birds pairing up and starting to select nesting cavities. This is also the first area we have a chance of seeing the Eared Quetzal. Slate-throated Redstart and Crescent-chested Warbler also breed here. Night stay back in Madera.
This morning we leave Madera for the 4 hour drive to Basaseachic Falls. After lunch at Ranch San Lorenzo, where we will be spending the night, we will walk to the head of the falls. American Dippers can be along the creek as well as singing Brown-backed Solitaires. The head of the falls is home to dozens of Black Swifts who seem to revel in the updrafts created by the thousand foot drop. Dinner back at Rancho San Lorenzo.
We will hike a secluded canyon behind the ranch owner’s house where we may encounter birds such as Tufted and Buff-breasted Flycatchers, and Russet Nightingale Thrush. Eared Quetzal has been seen in the area as well. Following lunch, we head south to Otachique, a remote village in a very enchanting canyon on the edge of the Rio Oteros drainage. On the way we are likely to see the local Striped Sparrow. Night at Hostal de Otachique where we are definitely off the grid.
Today our goal is El Sanctuario de las Guacamayas (so named by the locals)-the canyon breeding site of a group of Military Macaws. The canyon habitat is described as humid evergreen with steep canyon walls rising above. It is a 2 mile moderate hike to reach the site.
The walk takes us through both Mountain Trogon and Eared Quetzal breeding territories. We will hear the macaws before we see them. The typical encounter (and they are rare) with Military Macaws is a distant flyover across some inaccessible canyon. Here we will eat our lunch with the birds flying directly overhead, perching in dead snags a short distance away, and investigating cracks in the sheer cliff faces for possible nesting sites. It is an experience you will never forget. We will also venture a short distance further down the canyon for a chance to see Rufous-capped Brushfinch and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. And then there is the matter of the 2 mile hike back to our cabins!
After breakfast at the lodge, we head for San Juanito. We will do roadside birding during our 4 hour drive, particularly in a stretch where a few Thick-billed Parrots have nested in the past. Our destination is Cabanas Noritari (indigenous word meaning “close to heaven”). The afternoon will have an optional birdwalk in the nearby pine forest or free time to rest and relax. In the evening there will be an optional excursion to call in Mexican Spotted Owls in a nearby canyon.
Our last full day in the Sierra Madre. On our way to the rim of the Copper Canyon, we will take in the view at an overlook above the Rio Oteros, the northwest most drainage of the Copper Canyon system. We have seen Gray Silky Flycatchers here in the past. Continuing on, we soon reach Divisadero, the high point on the mesa that divides the Rio Oteros and Rio Urique. Our lunch stop will give us a view down into Barranca de Urique, over 6,000’ deep, the most impressive of the 5 canyons that make up the Copper Canyon region. We may even see a Zone-tailed Hawk cruise by the window of the restaurant. After lunch, we will take the short drive to Mansion Tarahumara where we will hike along the rim of the canyon. At the Mansion itself we are likely to see the classic pine forest hummers of the Sierra Madre: Blue-throated, Magnificent, and White-eared. In the late afternoon, we return to Noritari.
Early breakfast and then we leave one land of enchantment and hit the road for The Land of Enchantment- New Mexico. Dinner in Socorro and late return to Santa Fe-9-10pm