• Bill West

Jalisco, West Mexico Jan.7-18, 2017


Returning to Jalisco for the first time in 6 years was great fun especially being able to visit so many distinct habitats close to the coast. Unlike most mountain ranges in the western hemisphere that run north/south, the central volcanic belt of Mexico stretches from east of Mexico City in an east/west direction ending just north of Puerto Vallarta. Diversity in Jalisco ranges from coastal mangrove lagoons to pine forest atop Cerro La Bufa, a massif that soars to 8,000'. Coastal scrub at this latitude is much lusher than further north in Sonora. Regional endemics, such as Orange-breasted Bunting, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, and Red-breasted Chat, plus wintering species such as Painted Bunting give an otherwise drab landscape some riveting splashes of color. Higher in the foothills, one enters tropical deciduous forest, a unique thorn forest that thrives from southeast Sonora to the Guanacaste region of northwest Costa Rica. Here the colorful species can be much larger, and on the move-Military Macaw and Lilac-crowned Parrot being the most notable. Wintering warblers are everywhere including Nashville, Black-throated Gray, Wilson's, and Orange-crowned as well as some local gems such as the skulking Fan-tailed. Black-capped Vireo, the highly range restricted breeder of the Edwards Plateau in Texas, makes the foothills here the heart of its wintering range side by side with its cousin the endemic Golden Vireo.

Another unique habitat, found adjacent to Puerto Vallarta, are lush, jungle like ravines. Many West Mexico specialties can be found here such as San Blas Jay, Blue Bunting, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, Russet-crowned Motmot, Citreoline Trogon, and Rusty crowned Ground Sparrow. As Puerto Vallarta is basically a bowl surrounded on three sides by mountains (the other direction is ocean), there is no where to go but up. We headed to the Spanish colonial village of San Sebastian del Oeste, a Pueblo Magico situated on a plateau at about 6,000'. Talk about going back in time! The narrow, cobblestone roads are all over town and, where there are no one way arrows painted on corner buildings, can make for some interesting confrontations in our massive, 21st century chariots. After several stops for directions, we emerged out the east side of town and headed for a camping spot in the mountains.

Our last full day in Jalisco found us in pine/oak habitat, entertained by calling Mountain Trogon, Transvolcanic Jay, and Greater Pewee as we made coffee. After breakfast, we headed up the La Bufa road (still cobblestone!) encountering many Townsend's Warblers as well as Red-faced and Painted Redstart. Hummingbirds abounded including Ruby-throated, Blue-throated, Magnificent, Rufous, Berylline, and White-eared. We did not manage to find Bumblebee-this being the extreme northwest edge of its range. We did get great looks at a calling Chestnut-sided Shrike Vireo-one of the most bizarre colored species in the bird world. In a meadow just below the summit we were pleasantly surprised to find a pair of Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercers, busily wreaking havoc with the many high altitude flowers. After dusk, we settled in for our last night in Jalisco, serenaded by several Whiskered Screech owls close by and a pair of Mottled Owls talking to each other in a deep canyon far below us.


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