Mark Pretti Nature Tours, L.L.C.

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San Blas and the Durango Highway:
Birding and Natural History in Beautiful West Mexico

January / February, 2018 dates TBA

Harboring about ten percent of Earth’s biodiversity, Mexico is one of the most biologically rich countries in the world.  During this birding and natural history adventure, we’ll explore and learn about some of that richness as we travel to two of Mexico’s most interesting birding destinations -  the Durango Highway in southern Sinaloa and the San Blas, Nayarit area.

Our trip begins on the Durango Highway where extensive tracts of tropical de woodlands of the Sierra Madre.  In the charming and picturesque town of Copala, we’ll experience some of west Mexico’s best seasonally dry forest.  Endemics such as Sinaloa and happy wrens, black-throated magpie jay, yellow-winged cacique, blue mockingbird, and rusty-crowned ground-sparrow are joined by special birds including military macaw, black-capped vireo, ivory-billed woodcreeper, orange-fronted parakeet, and Mexican parrotlet.  We’ll also learn about the relationships between local plants – Bursera, Acacia, Guamuchil, strangler fig, Guanacaste, and “cannonball” tree – and the birds and wildlife of the area.  In Copala we'll enjoy a comfortable hotel and an excellent restaurant, both with fine service and hospitality.

Further up in the Sierra Madre, in the refreshingly cool pines and oaks, we’ll walk through a rich canyon where we’ll have chances to see mountain trogon, brown-backed solitaire, golden-browed warbler, green-striped brushfinch, white-eared hummingbird, the rare eared quetzal, red-headed tanager, white-striped woodcreeper, a nice variety of migrants, and the grand slam of Madrean warblers with red (red warbler, red-faced warbler, and painted and slate-throated redstarts).  While those birds should keep us pretty busy, the bird for which the area is famous is the spectacular tufted jay which is usually found in large and noisy groups.

We then head south to San Blas, a beach and fishing town where the Vasquez family runs the excellent Hotel Garza Canela.  Long known as a birder’s paradise, the San Blas area has tropical rivers, mangroves, beaches, shade grown coffee plantations, and a “sky island” with pines and oaks, all habitats that we’ll visit.   

Among the hundreds of species possible in the San Blas area, including the Cerro de San Juan, are purplish-backed and San Blas jays, snail kite, limpkin, masked tityra, russet-crowned motmot, fan-tailed and Colima warblers, citreoline and elegant trogons, golden vireo, bumblebee hummingbird, Mexican woodnymph, lesser roadrunner, spotted wren, rosy-thrush-tanager, rufous-necked wood-rail, gray-crowned woodpecker, crane hawk, bare-throated tiger-hero, boat-billed heron, mangrove cuckoo, and many shorebirds, waterfowl, and waders.  In addition to the birds there are other animals to be found, and in the past we’ve seen green and spiny-tailed iguanas, many colorful butterflies including the white morpho, Collie’s squirrel, raccoon, coatimundi, and even ocelot and jaguarundi. 

Trip highlights in the San Blas area include - an incomparable boat ride to La Tovara where mangroves transition to freshwater marsh and up to a dozen northern potoos are seen on the night portion of the trip; a visit to Capulin coffee where we’ll have an outstanding lunch and learn about the benefits of the only fully hand processed coffee on Earth; a day trip into the Cerro de San Juan, a “sky island” where several unique species can be found.

I've been visiting this part of west Mexico since 1999, and it remains a perennial favorite with great native forests, fantastic bird variety and abundance, easy travel, and excellent lodging and service from the warm and talented people of Mexico. 

The cost will be about $2750 per person, double occupancy, and includes all lodging, meals, excursions, admissions, and transportation from Mazatlan.

Detailed itinerary available on request

Photo: Russet-crowned Motmot by Ed Eder
           Tufted Jay by Jerry Johnson 

Last updated: June 28, 2016.