Tropical Forest  El Tuito  San Sebastian  San Blas  Marietas Islands

Birding Tours in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

With Gerardo Hernández Vázquez as bird guide

Bilingual (English-Spanish) Guide, Specialized in Nature-oriented Tourism.

 

Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco, on México´s Pacific coast Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay). The bay is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains, and it is probably the only place where you can find some of the endemic birds of both México´s Northwest and Southwest.

 

On our private guided birding tours with you and your group, we will explore rivers, riparian vegetation, mangroves, beaches, palm and thorn forest, tropical sub-deciduous forest, tropical dry forest, holm oak forest, pine-oak forest and cloud forest. These habitats are home to birds ranging from Blue-Footed Booby (Sula n.Nebouxii) to the Russet-Crowned Motmot (Momotus mexicanus). Other highlights among the many possibilities, including Mexican endemics, are: Rufous-bellied Chachalaca (Ortalis wagleri), West Mexican Chachalaca (Ortalis poliocephala), Elegant Quail (Callipepla douglasii), Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona Finschi), Mexican Parrotlet (Forpus cyanopygius), Colima Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium palmarum), Mexican Hermit (Phaethornis mexicanus), Golden-crowned Emerald (Chlorostilbon auriceps), Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (Centurus chrysogenys), Black-throated Magpie Jay (Calocitta colliei), San Blas Jay (Cyanocorax sanblasiannus), Happy Wren (Thryothorus felix), Sinaloa Wren  (Thryothorus sinaloa), Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus), Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens), Golden Vireo (Vireo hypochyseus), Red-brested Chat (Granatellus venustus), Rosy Thrush-Tanager (Rhodinocichla rosea schistacea) and a number of migrating birds in the winter like the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris).

 

On the Sierra Madre Mountains, in the San Sebastian del Oeste area, among the possibilities of endemics to the highlands are: Bumblebee Hummingbird (Selasphorus heloisa), White-eared Hummingbird (Hylocharis leucotis), Mountain Trogon (Trogon mexicanus), Transvolcanic Jay (Aphelacoma ultramarina), Spotted Wren (Campylorhynchus gularis), Blue Mockingbird (Malanotis caerulescens), Brown-Backed Solitaire (Myadestes occidentalis), Gray Silky -Flycatcher (Ptilogonys cinereus), Red-headed Tanager (Spermagra erythrocephala) , Black-headed Siskin (Carduelis notata forreri), Collared Towhee (Pipilo ocai alticola), Rufous-capped brushfinch (Atlapetes pileatus).

 

The Marietta Islands, located a few miles off the coast of Bahía de Banderas, make up an important area for seabirds to reproduce, rest and feed. They are a breeding site for: Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) and Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster).

 

TOURS

 Tropical forests

On our private guided birding tour to the tropical forest we will pick you and your group up at your hotel or private villa in the Puerto Vallarta area at 6:00 a.m. We will then drive for 45 minutes North of Puerto Vallarta to the natural habitat of some of the bird species endemics to México: Rufous-bellied Chachalaca (Ortalis wagleri), West Mexican Chachalaca (Ortalis poliocephala), Elegant Quail (Callipepla douglasii), Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona Finschi), Mexican Parrotlet (Forpus cyanopygius), Colima Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium palmarum), Golden-crowned Emerald (Chlorostilbon auriceps), Citreoline Trogon (Trogon citreolus) Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (Centurus chrysogenys), Black-throated Magpie Jay ((Calocitta colliei), San Blas Jay (Cyanocorax sanblasiannus), Happy Wren (Thryothorus felix), Sinaloa-bar-vented Wren  (Thryothorus sinaloa), Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus), Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens), Golden Vireo (Vireo hypochyseus)

We’ll return to your hotel or private villa by 12:00 noon

6 hours birding tour.

 

Bird list:

Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Crane Hawk, Cooper´s Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Gray Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Swainson´s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Collared Forest-Falcon, American Kestrel, Bat Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, West Mexican Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Military Macaw, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Mexican Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, Colima Pygmy Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Pauraque, Golden-crowned Emerald, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Elegant Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Lineated Woodpecker, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Bright-rumped Attila, Grey-collared Becard, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Pacific Slope (Western) Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Nutting´s Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Tufted Flycatcher, Mangrove Swallow, Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Northern Raven, Black-throated Magpie Jay, San Blas Jay, Sinaloa Wren, Happy Wren, Blue Mockingbird, Northern Mockingbird, White-throated Thrush, Rufous-backed Thrush, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Silky Flycatcher, Black-capped Vireo, Cassin´s Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Golden Vireo, Yellow-green Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Tropical Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, MacGillibray´s  Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Wilson´s Warbler, Yellow-winged Cacique, Bronzed (Red-eyed) Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Streak-backed Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern (Common) Meadowlark, Scrub Euphonia, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Grayish Saltator, Yellow Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Blue Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Varied Bunting, Painted Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

 

 

 

 

 

El Tuito

On our private guided birding tour for you and your group to El Tuito, we will pick you up at your hotel or private villa in the Puerto Vallarta area at 6:00 a.m., or at your cruise ship, We will then drive one hour south of Puerto Vallarta to the natural habitat of some of the bird species endemic to Southwest México: West Mexican Chachalaca (Ortalis poliocephala), Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona Finschi), Colima Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium palmarum), Mexican Hermit (Phaethornis mexicanus), Golden-crowned Emerald (Chlorostilbon auriceps), Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (Centurus chrysogenys), Black-throated Magpie Jay (Calocitta colliei), San Blas Jay (Cyanocorax sanblasiannus), White-bellied Wren (Uropsila leucogastra brachyura), Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus), Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens), Slaty Vireo, (Vireo brevipennis), Golden Vireo (Vireo hypochyseus), Red-brested Chat (Granatellus venustus), Rosy Thrush-Tanager (Rhodinocichla rosea schistacea), Orange-breasted Bunting (Passerina L. leclancherii), Blue Bunting (Cyanocompsa parellina).

We’ll return to your hotel or private villa by 12:00 noon

6-hour birding tour

 

Bird list:

Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Common Black Hawk, Gray Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, West Mexican Chachalaca, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Military Macaw, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Mangrove Cuckoo, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Colima Pygmy Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Mexican Hermit, Golden-crowned Emerald, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Rufous Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Elegant Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Green Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Acorn woodpecker, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Nutting´s Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tufted Flycatcher, Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Northern Raven, Black-throated Magpie Jay, White-throated Magpie Jay, San Blas Jay, White-bellied Wren, Blue Mockingbird, Northern Mockingbird, White-throated Robin, Rufous-backed Robin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Slaty Vireo, Black-capped Vireo, Cassin´s Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Golden Vireo, Yellow-green Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Tropical Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, MacGillibray´s Warbler, Red-breasted Chat, Wilson´s Warbler, Yellow-winged Cacique, Bronzed Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Streak-backed Oriole, Scrub Euphonia, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Grayish Saltator, Yellow Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Orange-breasted Bunting, Blue Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Varied Bunting, Painted Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit, Stripe-headed Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-headed Siskin

 

 

 

San Sebastian del Oeste

Private guided birding tour for you and your group to San Sebastian del Oeste, -endemics to the mountains of Western México. We will pick you up at your hotel or private villa in the Puerto Vallarta area at 6:00 a.m. Then we’ll drive for about 2 hours to San Sebastian del Oeste, located in the West Sierra Madre Mountains, from there we will drive to La Bufa, the natural habitat of some of the endemic birds of México´s highlands: Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens), Bumblebee Hummingbird (Selasphorus heloisa), White-eared Hummingbird (Basilinna leucotis), White-striped Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes leucogaster), Transvolcanic Jay (Aphelacoma ultramarina), Spotted Wren (Campylorhynchus gularis), Brown- Backed Solitaire (Myadestes occidentalis),  Blue Mockingbird (Malanotis caerulescens), Golden Vireo (Vireo hypochryseus) Red-headed Tanager (Spermagra erythrocephala), Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons), Rufous-capped Brush-finch (Atlapetes pileatus), Black-headed Siskin (Carduelis notata forreri), Collared Towhee (Pipilo ocai alticola), Rustic-crowned Ground-Sparrow (Melozone kieneri).

 

The scenery changes dramatically as you leave the Valley of Banderas on the way to the West Sierra Madre Mountains. Temperature also drops a few degrees as you drive up the mountains. There is a rapid ascension from sea level to 1,480 meters above sea level. You can clearly perceive how the tropical forest is left behind to give way to the sub deciduous mixed forest, only to see it replaced with the pine-oak forest soon after.

Tropical Mountain Cloud Forests are the most threatened ecosystems on a national level. They are of great importance due to the extraordinary biodiversity they support and the hydrological services they provide.

San Sebastian del Oeste is a town of approximately 600 inhabitants. Its main attractions are its colonial architecture, the San Sebastian parish dating from 1608, and the adjacent small archaeology and history museum.

8-hour birding tour.

 

bird list:

Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Grey Hawk, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Band-tailed Pigeon,                                              Sinaloa Martin, White-eared Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-Chined Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Bumblebee Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, White-striped Woodcreeper, Pine Flycatcher, Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Social Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Green Jay, San Blas Jay, Transvolcanic Jay, Spotted Wren, Happy Wren,                        Brown-throated Wren, White-throated Robin, Brown-Backed Solitaire, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Russet Nightingale Thrush,

Blue Mockingbird, Grey Silky Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Cresent-chested Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend´s Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Grace´s Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Wilson´s Warbler, Red-faced Warbler

Painted Redstart, Slate-throated Redstart, Elegant Euphonia, Rufous-Capped Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Red-headed Tanager, Greyish Saltator, Black-headed Siskin, Black-headed Grosbeak, Varied Bunting,

Rufous-capped brushfinch, Rusty-crowed Ground-Sparrow, Collared Towhee, Stripe-Headed Sparrow, Yellow-eyed Junco, Bronzed Cowbird, Yellow-winged Cacique, Hooded Oriole, Audobon´s Oriole, Bullocks Oriole.

 

 

San Blas –Mangroves and Forests-

On our private guided birding tour for you and your group to San Blas, Nayarit, We will pick you up at your hotel or private villa in the Puerto Vallarta area at 6:00 a.m. We’ll then drive for about 3 hours north of Puerto Vallarta to a coffee plantation village. We will continue to La Aguada, where we will embark on a boat river trip through the mangroves in the San Cristobal estuary, better known as La Tobara, after one of the water springs that feed the estuary, looking for such species as Northern Potoo, Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail.

One day -12 hour birding tour-

Two days one night tour

Three days and two nights tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marieta Islands, a Natural Protected Area, a marine life sanctuary.

On the north end of the bay, near the point known as Punta de Mita and just a few miles off shore, the Marietas are an archipelago consisting of four small uninhabited rocky islands, almost all of which are of difficult access.

They shelter sea and land fauna, a breeding colony of Blue footed and Brown boobies. In the surrounding waters, numerous species of fish and marine mammals find shelter and prosper.

In the winter months, humpback whales visit the waters on Banderas Bay, and in particular the area near the Marietas, to mate and to give birth to their calves.

The Marietas, therefore, are one of the main natural attractions of the bay.

 

 

 

Whale Watching on the Bay of Banderas

Dec-08 thru March-23

During the season from November to March each year, humpback whales swim along the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean from the cold northern waters to the Bay of Banderas to carry out the rituals of courtship and mating, and to have their calves in the welcoming, relatively warmer waters of this region.

The annual migration of the whales has always been a known fact, but it is only in recent years that whale watching has become relevant as a recreational activity for visitors and residents alike.

The Ministry of Tourism has taken it upon itself to train tour guides and boat captains offering activities such as sport fishing and boat rides on the bay to have whale watching enjoyed without altering the natural life of the ocean.

On a recent whale watching excursion guided by Certified Guide Gerardo Hernandez, specialized in nature-oriented tourism and certified by the Tourism Ministry in whale watching, we enjoyed the view of such magnificent mammals, the largest in the world, and some of the largest living creatures in nature.

Aboard a “panga” with a certified boat captain we motored west to the Marieta Islands, in whose surroundings humpback whales are most likely to be found.

It wasn’t long before our guide pointed out to the presence of a whale group made up of a mother, a calf and an escort. Water jets could be seen in the distance, indicating the presence of the whales. We turned that way and as we approached, the boat slowed down to maintain the distance established by the regulations. We were in awe, watching the magnificent spectacle: the calf frolicked alongside its mother. Other boats soon joined in the watching, escorting the group eastward.

We could hear the exclamations coming from the other boats, joining our own as we rejoiced in the acrobatic demonstrations of the baby whale, while its mother patiently watched over it, and showed only her back and dorsal fin.

As Gerardo saw the number of boats near the whales increase, he suggested turning the boat around and looking for other group of whales, not to overwhelm the mother and its calf. On route to the Marietas in search of other whales, we encountered a large number of marine birds, feeding on schools of fish. Pretty soon we had other groups of whales in sight, and headed towards them.

Again, we were presented with the wonderful experience of watching the enormous marine mammals breaching impressively.

That day there was a lot of whale activity: at a given moment, we had five different groups of whales surrounding us. Being near these huge animals is a very intense experience that combines the sensation of being at sea, with the sun and the breeze, witnessing the activities of the cetaceans, which include courtship and the care for the calves.

Always in search of whales, we motored past the Marietas, and when the time to return came, we passed near the islands, and marveled at one more spectacle: hundreds of marine birds of various species perched on the rocky formations. the Marieta Islands are a protected natural area and a bird sanctuary for marine birds like the blue footed booby.

As we made our way back to shore, expressions of joy and satisfaction were on the faces of the passengers. Comments among fellow passengers revived the highlights of the trip, a beautiful morning in the company of the humpback whales, the yearly VIP visitors to the Bay of Banderas.

 

 

Bird and Whale Watching Tour

Whale Watching Dec-08 thru March-23

Bird watching throughout the year

 

On our private guided whale watching tour for you and your group we will pick you up at your hotel or private villa in the Puerto Vallarta area at 9:00 a.m., or at your cruise ship, We will then drive one hour north of Puerto Vallarta to the Punta de Mita and to board an outboard-motored boat, driven by a certified captain.

This makes motoring  to the Marietas a short 20 minute traverse, during which whales, dolphins and a wide variety of marine birds can be spotted and watched, even photographed.

In the early hours of the morning the sea is calm, making sailing smooth and making whale watching more enjoyable, providing great photo opportunities, along with the possibility to witness courtship rituals as well as frolicking calves under the protective watch of their mothers and accompanying males.

Motoring the channels between the islands is amazing. Thousands of birds can be seen perched atop the cliffs or flying in circles above.

5 hours tour (panga boat included for two hours).

 

Testimonial

In February 2009, I found a personal guide, GERARDO HERNANDEZ VAZQUEZ, to take my brother and I out for a half day of more serious birding than I had experienced the year before.

With only the two of us, Gerardo’s current group rate of $250 for a party of up to three cost me a little more than double what I had previously paid, but it was more than worth it. If you are interested in doing some serious rather than casual birding, with a kind, personable, knowledgeable guide who has genuine appreciation for the local birds and their environs, I highly recommend Gerardo.

Even after having gone out the year before, I added 20 life birds to my list, including the citreoline trogon, cinnamon hummingbird, blue mockingbird, pale-billed and golden-cheeked woodpeckers, golden vireo, and military macaws. We saw 53 + birds in our half day tour.

Gerardo was good about communicating with me by email and picked us up at our hotel right on time.

If you are serious about birding and want to maximize your experience you can’t go wrong going with Gerardo. Check out his website at this address:    www.naturevallarta.com

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g150793-i46-k1907755-Birding_tours_in_vallarta-Puerto_Vallarta_Pacific_Coast.html

Dear Gerardo,

Thank you very much for superb bird-watching tour around the mountains of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. If I’m honest I didn’t really know what to expect. Was I going to be paying money out to someone who pretends to know the local birds or someone who was just going to take me to see birds that I could see along the roadside myself. Well I’m glad I did as not only was the ID of the birds in the trees and scrub spot on but also your knowledge of the bird songs and calls was top class, as a keen birder of the UK I know how important that songs and calls can be to help find the birds you want to see, and I know that it takes years of field work and experience to learn the calls and songs so 10/10 for that. The birds seen and heard were far better than expected and a big thank you for going out of your way to find me the bird I was desperate to see (boat billed heron) 🙂 even though there was no guarantee to see this elusive bird, I will definitely recommend you to anyone wishing to add Mexican birds to their list.

Thank you

Paul T.

 

Articles

Birdwatching on the Revillagigedo Islands.

By Miguel Camacho.

If you are a tour guide specialized in nature-oriented tourism, it means you are prone to adventure. A recent trip taken by a group of Puerto Vallarta tour guides, specialized in Nature-Oriented Tourism -Whale Watching; Tourism Secretariat officials and a nature photographers to the Revillagigedo Islands proves it. This trip to the islands was made possible by the Tourism Secretariat, as part of its training programs for tour guides.

The Revillagigedo Islands (also Revillagigedo Archipelago or Islas Revillagigedo) are a group of four volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, known for their unique ecosystem. They have been part of Manzanillo municipality of the Mexican state of Colima since 1861, but are nevertheless under Mexican federal jurisdiction, and lie 386 km southwest of Cabo San Lucas, the southern tip of Baja California peninsula, and between 720 and 970 km west of Manzanillo.

The islands are named after Don Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo, the 53rd viceroy of New Spain.

Four volcanic islands make up the Revillagigedo archipelago, Socorro, Clarion, Roca Partida and San Benedicto, for a total area of 157.81 km², extending over c.420 from east to west. Socorro is the largest and most diverse in flora, fauna, and topography. Its highest elevation is Mount Evermann, 1130 meters above sea level.

The Revillagigedo are known to be the wintering grounds for whales making the trip from the cold waters of the North Pacific. However, they are also home to a number of bird species, some of them endemic to the islands, which became the object of Tour Guide Gerardo Hernandez’s interest.

The group of tour guides, headed by a representative of the Tourism Secretariat, left Puerto Vallarta early on Friday, May 16, for Manzanillo, where they were to board a Navy ship that would carry them to the archipelago, a 36 hour traverse across the Pacific.

There is a naval station in the south of Socorro Island, with a population of 40 (staff and families). On Clarión, there is a small naval garrison with 9 men. Other than that, the islands are uninhabited. The Mexican Government established the islands as a Biosphere Reserve on June 4, 1994.

The group of Puerto Vallarta tour guides joined a multidisciplinary group made up of biologists from the University of Guadalajara, headed by Dr. Salvador Hernandez Vazquez, who are carrying out sea production studies on the islands, as well as a census of the Townsend’s Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis) population; a group of scientists from the University of Colima, headed by Geographer Gavilanes; and several eco-tourists aiming to climb Mount Evermann.

The ARN DOBLADO set sailed from Manzanillo at midnight, and from the moment it was daylight, passengers were able to enjoy the marvels of the ocean, from a school of bottlenose dolphins frolicking alongside the ship and a humpback whale, to a flock of juvenile red-footed boobies, which perched on the antenna wires and made the journey to the archipelago on the ship.

On May 18, upon arriving at Socorro, the group landed and settled at the assigned sleeping quarters, after which they proceeded to the task of exploring the islands’ singular landscape. Socorro is the island with the most diversity as to flora, fauna and topography, and it was precisely these micro ecosystems that captured Gerardo’s eye. A small forest approximately 600 meters above sea level turned out particularly interesting since it is home to the Socorro Parakeet (Aratinga brevipes); Socorro Mockingbird (Mimodes graysoni) and others.

Only a few hours after landing, they spotted the first endemic bird, a Socorro Mockingbird (Mimus graysoni).

The next morning, after a one-hour drive, Hernandez spotted a Tropical Parula (Parula pitiayumi). Further into the shrub area he spotted several Socorro Wren (Thryomanes sissonii). As the group continued to climb toward the top of the Evermann, they finally spotted a flock of Socorro Parakeet (Aratinga brevipes).

Several endemic species of Socorro are now threatened with extinction. The Socorro Mockingbird (Mimodes graysoni) numbers less than 400 individuals altogether. The endemics Socorro Parakeet (Aratinga brevipes) and the Townsend’s Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis), are also endangered. The Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni) is now extinct in the wild, but is being bred in captivity. The Elf Owl’s Socorro subspecies (Micrathene whitneyi graysoni) appears to be extinct. Other plant and animal taxa in the archipelago are also considered threatened or nearly so.

On May 20, the travelers sailed off to Playa Blanca, looking forward to snorkeling in a coral area they learned about. First they stopped at Playa Norte, where Navy infants had an assignment. They swam and explored the beach, where they found tracks of a sea turtle on the sand. Unfortunately the boat broke and they returned to base earlier than scheduled. However, on the way back they saw a shark, turtle and a giant manta ray.

On the 21, aboard the ARM ESCOBEDO, the group sailed along the Clarion Island shore, and enjoyed the company of dolphins swimming alongside the vessel; they spotted killer whales nearby, and a female humpback whale with her calf, frolicking not far from the ship. They also saw a shark, and a number of sea birds: Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra), Red-Billed Tropicbird, (Phaethon aethereus) and a crow, which a sailor said has seen eating oysters.

In the early hours of the morning -Gerardo commented- “crewmen rescued a bird after it apparently got entangled in the antenna wires and crashed on deck. We were called to check on the bird; and decided to let it rest for a while before examining it. We found no injuries or broken bones, so we set it free. It was exciting to see the bird take off after setting on the water briefly” he said. The bird was a juvenile Red tailed Tropicbird (Pheathon rubricauda). This species, according to Pitman and Ballance (2002), and Howell and Webb, have been on San Benedicto island only in recent years, and population is estimated at 10 couples.

It is worth noting that not only birds are an attraction at The Revillagigedo Islands. The whole archipelago teems with land and marine life, and unique species exist there, like a beautiful blue lizard. Particularly attractive is the Roca Partida Island, around which hundreds of hammerhead sharks gather, the reason for such gatherings being studied by scientists and sought after by adventurous divers.

Time at the islands seemed to fly, and the group, by then a jovial group of friends, boarded the ARM ESCOBEDO back to Manzanillo. There were lots to talk about on the way back; a cumulus of experiences and learning to assimilate over a short period of time.

The Mexican Armada deserves a special commendation, according to guide Gerardo Hernandez, for their efficiency and professionalism. “I felt safe when the ship commander told us ‘We have a mission to take you safe and sound to shore’” Gerardo said. Life aboard the Navy Ships, models of organization and discipline, was also a great experience.

This trip to the islands has certainly broadened the horizons of tour guides charged with presenting the natural wealth in our region to visitors, as they raise awareness as to preservation of the natural treasures we all enjoy.

Recently, at the convention rooms of Canto del Sol Hotel, a five-day update training session for tour guides took place, to meet the requirements established by the Mexican Norm.

According to regulation NOM-08-TUR-2002, tour guides must accumulate at least 160 hours of training every four years in order to renew their license.

Gloria Lopez Gomez, from the Tourism Ministry Procedures and Verification Department was in charge of supervising the organization of the training.

Classes were taught by specialists, and included aspects of History of Puerto Vallarta and the practice of Bird Watching.

The latter was taught by Tour Guide Gerardo Hernandez Vazquez, Specialized in Nature-Oriented Tourism, Certified in Whale watching and whose Bird Watching Certification is in being processed by the Ministry of Tourism.

Gerardo’s appointment as trainer in this session was determined by his ten years of expertise in the field, by his participation in the Bird Watching Guide Training Regional Workshop, and his recent participation in the recent First International Meeting of Tourism in Protected Areas, where he coauthored the paper “Birds of Puerto Vallarta, Natural Legacy of Tourism in Nature; Preservation and Tourism, Experiences in Ecotourism in Natural Protected Areas; Good Practices in Development of Tourism in Natural Protected Areas”.

During the four-hour initial session, Gerardo shared with his peers his experiences in bird watching expeditions, bird migrating cycles, and the specifics on what makes Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay such a paradise for bird watchers. In the region, a variety of ecosystems coexist, which make up the habitat for a wide range of bird species, both resident and migrating.

According to Researcher Fabio Cupul Magaña’s article published in Mexicoa science magazine, volume 3, numbers 1-2, 2001-2002; at least 369 species, 24 of them endemic to Mexico, can be found in the region.

Training was supported by a slide presentation with photos taken by Hernandez Vazquez over his ten years of career as bird watching guide.

Among the birds presented by Gerardo to his peers, the following stand out: Bobo Patiazul (Sula n.Nebouxii) Blue-Footed Booby, Momoto Coronicafé ((Momotus mexicanus) Russet-Crowned Motmot and species endemic to México like: Urraca hermosa carinegra (Calocitta formosa? Colliei) Black-Throated Magpie Jay, Loro Corona-violeta (Amazona Finschi) Lilac-crowned Parrot, Periquito Mexicano (Forpus cyanopygius) Mexican-Blue-Rumped-Parrotlet, Tecolotito Colimense (Glaucidium palmarum) Colima Pygmy-Owl, Trogon Citrolino (Trogon citreolus) Citroline Trogon, Saltapared Feliz (Thryothorus felix) Happy Wren, Saltapared Sinaloense (Thryothorus sinaloa) Sinaloa –Bar-Vented-Wren, Zorzal Dorsirrufo (Turdus rufopalliatus Rufous-backed Thrush-Robin-, Mulato Azul (Melanotis caerulescens) Blue Mockingbird, Vireo Dorado (Vireo hypochyseus) Golden Vireo, Carpinterito Cachetidorado (Centurus chrysogenys) Golden-cheecked woodpecker, Chachalaca Mexicana (Ortalis poliocephala) West Mexican Chachalaca, Chachalaca Vientre-castaña (Ortalis-poliocephala?-wagleri) Rufous-bellied-West Mexican Chachalaca, Codorniz Elegante (Callipepla douglasii) Elegant Quail, and Colorin pecho naranja (Passerina leclancherii) Orange-breasted Bunting.

An emphatic warning was issued by Hernandez to the class against the use of recorded sounds to attract birds to the purpose of watching them, since the recorded birdsong is interpreted by the resident bird as an invasion of his territory, and could reach the point of eliminating its offspring in outrage.

The issues dealt with during the training were of such great interest to the participating guides that they all requested field practices, and according to Ms. Gloria Lopez Gomez’s response, such practices are to be included in the next session’s curriculum.

Undoubtedly, training like this works very well in maintaining quality service standards in tour guide activities, but also to promote awareness as to environmental preservation and protection of bird species.

Birdwatching in Puerto Vallarta

( Published in Ambito Puerto Vallarta newspaper,

issue 168, May 15, 2005 )

 

Last week I went out bird watching with my friend Gerardo. He is an experienced tour guide who specializes in nature tours and bird watching, and received first-hand training by Manuel Lomelí,a specialist with over 40 years of experience.

Puerto Vallarta is a very special place for bird watching. Because it has wetlands, coastal lagoons and estuaries as well as jungle covered mountains, it offers a home for all kinds of birds, from spoonbills, herons, egrets, ducks, to woodpeckers, doves, flycatchers, parakeets, jays, magpies, orioles, hummingbirds, mockingbirds, owls, hawks and eagles. There are numerous endemic species, some of which share a home in Puerto Vallarta and can only be found together here.

Bird watching is an early morning activity. We left before sunrise towards the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, and very soon we spotted some ducks flying to their feeding areas, a prelude to the many species of birds we were about to encounter.

With the rising sun we arrived at a crossroad were we got off the van and started walking on foot trails, and immersed in a birdsong symphony; at a certain point we could hear the song of ten different species of birds around us.

Gerardo, of course, knows all the birds by name. And he told me the name of every bird we spotted, but they were simply too many to remember. I do remember a few of them, like the black-throated magpie and the San Blas jay, elegant trogon, cinnamon hummingbird, gray hawk, a black hawk we spotted in the distance.

As we strolled along the paths under the evergreen trees, we enjoyed witnessing the life of birds, something that looked like hummingbird courtship later turned out to be a territorial quarrel; and the magnificent flight of two gray hawks was in fact a diversion to drive us away from their nest, which we discovered on the top of a huge tree, and from which we kept a respectful distance. This diversion proved to be a priceless opportunity to admire those wonderful birds flying around for quite some time. One of them later remained perched on a tree branch, and that was a treat to our eyes. It was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by such an abundance of wildlife. At times we had a hard time deciding on which specimen to set our binoculars. Sparrows, jays, trogons, parrots, hummingbirds, it was a feast!

We spent the morning filling our senses with the sounds and the sight of beautiful birds, and the cool morning breeze on our faces.

As we headed back for Puerto Vallarta, we were both very pleased by our successful bird watching expedition. We had enjoyed the sight of numerous species of all kinds of birds, even enjoyed the excitement of spotting a species of robin for the first time, and rejoiced in the close contact with nature.

Nature Vallarta Birding Tours

Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

with Gerardo Hernández Vázquez

Bilingual (English-Spanish) Guide Specialized in Nature-oriented Tourism

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