Where was I, oh yes, we were just about to catch a ferry to Mazatlan from La Paz right.
Wrong!! Contrary to what was written in the Lonely Planet latest edition to Mexico (published this September!!!), there are no ferries to Mazatlan on Fridays, only on Sundaays, mondays and thursdays, boll-ocks. We didnt find this out til we arrived at the terminal (no Xantus Hummer), so after much cursing of Lonely Planet, we decided to jump on the boat to Topolobampo instead, several hundred miles North of where we wanted to be, not ideal. Moral of the tale: Lonely Planet are a bunch of lazy pricks who cant be arsed to update their info for their new books. Or maybe its that travellers should do some of their own research rather that putting all their eggs in one thick paperback basket.
Anyway, the few hours on board the boat before sunset were pretty productive for us, we scored Red-billed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Grey Phalarope, Brown Booby and Black Strom-petrel, so we wern´t that pissed off when we arrived in Topolobampo in the middle of the night with the prospect of a long day on a bus ahead. And it was a long day. We left at 11pm, the bus broke down, we switched to a new one, 7 am, and the bus was involved in massive high speed smash-up (thats a bit dramatic actually, some little lorry clipped us slightly) so we had to wait a few hours for some insurance weasel to arrive and take photos, 5pm and after a change in Tepic ,we fianlly arrived in San Blas, one of the premiere birding spots in Western Mexico. It was soon too dark to do any birding that night, but the next day was mind-blowingly awesome:
47 lifers in a day!!! That doesnt happen very often.
Starting off at dawn around the sewage pond trails (sounds lovely I know) we were soon racking them up, Broad-billed and Cinammon Hummingbirds in gardens, Varied and Painted Butnings feeding on the tracks, Citreoline Trogon and Russet-crowned Motmot sitting on telephone wires, Happy Wren and Bells Vireo in the scrub, it was hard work keeping track.
We then headed up to the small fort overlooking the town, and continued to score with Tropical Parula and MacGillvary´s Warbler giving exceptional views, Mexican Parrotlets buzzing around, a pair of Masked Tityra sitting quietly in a fruiting tree. After a quick streetside Taco in town, we caught a bus up to the nearby village of Singayta. Walking down the dirt road through the village and into some scrubby areas we rounded a corner and there were a load of Elegant Quail on the side of the track, resultado, a difficult North-west Mexican endemic under the belt. The hummers contined to stack up, with White-eared and Violet-crowned ,and Golden-crowned Emerald. Orange-fronted Parakeet, Godmans (Scrub) Euphonia and Stripe-headed Sparrow were other good local birds, and we finished off with a fine pair of Black-throated Grey Warblers as we waited for a bus back. A final look at the Sewage ponds trails before dark added Clapper Rail, Stilt Sandpiper, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat and Black-bellied Whistling Duck to a day list of around 120 species.
The real fun however started today.
After a long, shitty bus ride from San Blas to Uruapan, in the Western Central Highlands, we arrived to find that the bus terminal was still 2km outside fo town, just great! Luckily, just as we feeling a little jaded, some local family offered us a ride into town in the back of their pick-up, dropping us right outside our cheap, but slightly fowl hotel.
Up early again today, we caught a bus to the nearby town of Angahuan. It wasnt a known birding site but we had heard that the trails up to the adjacent volcano passed thorugh Pine Forest, the habitat of some very sough after species. Arriving in the village, we saw that the volcano was actually some way off, and instead decided to have a mosey up a hill what was labelled as a ´recreation area´ with signs showing bike trails through the woods ,sounded promising, providing the bikes kept away for the morning. What a choice it proved to be, we immediatley picked up Yellow-eyed Junco, Mexican Jay, Grey Silky and Slate-throated Redstart. Pushing on up the hill, we encountered a few mixed flocks containg Olive, Grace's and Golden-browed Warblers, Greater Pewee and Tufted Flycatcher. Reaching the radio masts at the summit, there was a sudden flash of colour, up went the bins, and, SHIT THE BED!!! RED WARBLER!!! What a stunning bird; bright strawberry red all over apart from a shiny little silvery ear-covert patch and a subtle pink wing bar. I´ve tried searching the net for a picture but none quite do the bird justice. It´s one fo those birds that the first time you see a picture of it, you just have to see it ,and it was one of my most wanted birds of the trip, and I wasnt disappointed, its even better in real life. Hopefully we'll see a few more before the year is out and´i'll try and compose myself enough to compose a photo. On the way back down we picked up Mountain Trogon, Painted Redstart, Russet Nightingale Thrush and a whole heap more hummers; Rufous, Magnificent, Black-chinned and Green Violet-ear, along with several bizarre Cinammon-bellied Flowerpiercers.
In the afternoon, we caught another bus out to the Cascades De Tzararacua, a series of waterfalls about 10km outside Uruapan. Despite it being really chuffing hot in the middle of the day, we added Bridled Titmouse, Crescent-chested Warbler, Arizona Woodpecker, Cassins Vireo and White-throated Thrush to our growing trip list.
Overall not a bad day considering that the area around Uruapan is hardly recognised as birding area, it just sounded good, and accesible by public transport for plebs like us so we though we'd give it a go, and it paid off. Thats what this sort of birdy travel is all about.
Anyway, thats me up to date for the time being, hopefully on the next post i'll be able to tell you of a small personal milestone that I should reach within the next few days. Don't look away!!!