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The west coast of Mexico still has some unspoiled stretches, such as the northwestern coast of the state of Jalisco. The 2.5 hour drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport seems a small sacrifice once you are settled in. My wife and I were vacationing at a dear friend's beach oasis near the village of Mayto. Not surprisingly, I was able to squeeze in several morning outings both north and south of our location.

I was quite impressed with the volume of birds just in the roadside thickets. At some stops within 15 minutes, I encountered 30-40 species. The bunting show was especially rich with the endemic Orange-breasted the most abundant followed, in order, by Varied, Painted, and Blue. Seeing adult males of all 4 species together is an experience worth being alive for.

Wrens were at every stop with Happy being more common than Sinaloa (the reverse of their status in southern Sonora) with the diminutive White-bellied mixed in. Warbler diversity was high with Nashville, Orange-crowned, and Yellow being the most numerous. Not to leave out the orioles who were represented by Streak-backed, Hooded, Black-vented, and dozens of Orchard.

Some specialties added some zest to my outings. Red-breasted Chat (notably smaller than our Yellow-breasted Chat) tends to be buried deep in vegetation but, fortunately, often comes out to playback. The vividness of the adult male belies its portrayal in the bird guides. One of my favorite West Mexican species, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, turned in some surprisingly accommodating performances. Normally quite the skulker, this species came in close several times. Very agile as it glides (8-10' off the ground) through dense vegetation. But, for me, the most alluring species of the area is the Rosy Thrush Tanager. Despite its perplexing name (looks and sounds thoroughly like a thrasher), it is a visual and vocal stunner. This bird will test your patience to reveal itself but the reward is worth the effort. A bonus of any encounter with this species, is the chance to see the male and female duettimg. Both are vocally adept and tend to sing in close proximity to each other. As they haunt the darkest places of the understory, the difference in plumage (male reddish on the breast, female orange) is not that apparent. Plus, there is sometimes a Blue Mockingbird lurking in the same area.

Other notable sightings included Bright-rumped Attila, Golden-crowned Emerald, Pale-billed Woodpecker, White-throated Magpie Jay, and Cinnamon-bellied Seedeater to name a few.

The last evening on the coast as I returned from Aquilles Serdan just north of Mayto, I stopped to listen for Mottled Owl. I quickly heard 4 different individuals calling. An even deeper growling call fooled me for a moment (reminding me of Crested Owl from much more tropical locations) until I realized it was a nearby Bare-throated Tiger Heron. The local Pauraques joined in the dusk chorus and a lone Buff-collared Nightjar swirled around me as I played its call. A magical end to an all too brief vacation.

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