Mexico Trip Report (2010)

Hacienda de los Santos,
Alamo, Mexico
January 8 – 17, 2010

January 8, 2010 : Arrived in Tucson; Overnight at Courtyard

Met our group and went to dinner at the fine “noveau” Sonoran restaurant, Poca Cosa in downtown Tucson.

January 9, 2010: Overnight at San Carlos on the Sea of Cortez

Arrived in San Carlos by road from Tucson about 6:00 PM. Weather is beautiful with clear skies and calm seas. This is one of the most beautiful ports on the Sea of Cortez. We stopped at a small estuary close to the hotel that had Tricolored, Louisiana, Little Blue and Great Blue Heron, also Yellow-crowned Night-heron, our first Heermann’s Gulls, and many Brown Pelicans.

From the beachfront of the Plaza Hotel, and from our balconies overlooking the Sea of Cortez, we saw countless Blue-footed Boobies and a few Brown Boobies, plus Royal and Caspian Terns and Common and Pacific Loons in winter plumage. Dinner at the hotel’s very good Italian restaurant.

January 10, 2010: Morning on the Sea of Cortez; Drive to Alamos

After breakfast, we took a walk through the dunes along the beach. Costa’s Hummingbirds were present, the males flashing their beautiful gorgets. Gambel’s Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher, Verdin, and Rufous-winged Sparrow were found in the desert scrub behind the dunes. Gilded Flickers were working around the Saguaro cactus.   After a leisurely morning birding along the beach, we packed and headed for Alamos. Crested Caracara and Harris’s Hawk were about in fairly large numbers along the Route 15 corridor. We arrived at the Hacienda de los Santos around 5:30 PM. It’s difficult to describe this fine hotel. It sprawls over about 5 acres planted with native vegetation and shaded by several large fig trees, which are magnets for Mexican Parrotlets, Rufous-backed Robins, Streak-backed Orioles, and numerous neotropical warblers. The luxurious suites surround small dipping pools. The restaurant is reach by crossing a charming stone bridge. The decor is colonial Spanish throughout, and it feels like you’re stepping back in time to an older, more genteel time.

January 11, 2010: Birding Aduana Arroyo

We had a fine breakfast in front of a roaring fire (it’s quite cool in the early morning, about 45F), then headed for Aduana Arroyo to do some birding. A dirt road runs through the arroyo, and there are many fig trees and hetcho cactus along the way.   Red-billed Pigeons were numerous along the road, and we found many Rufous-backed Robins working the fig trees. We spotted our first Streaked-backed Oriole perched atop a cactus. We heard Happy Wrens, but couldn’t get a glimpse. We were stunned to see a Gray Silky-flycatcher perched at the top of a kapok tree. I have never seen one in Sonora and, a short time later, we saw a couple of more. Green-tailed Towhees and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, both winter migrants, were fairly abundant. Black-throated Magpie-jays also put in their first appearance, a life bird for our group as were most of the others we had seen so far.

We stopped in the 16th century village of Aduana and toured the ancient church there, then returned to the Hacienda for lunch and siesta. The temperatures, as usual, rose dramatically as the sun came up in the morning so that by mid-afternoon it was a pleasant 80F or so.

January 12, 2010: Birding the Mintadero and Rio Cuchijaqui

Up early and off to the Mintadero and Rio Cuchijaqui. Along the way, we see Common Black-hawk and Merlin. It’s a beautiful morning, but very quiet with little bird activity, unusual for this area. Much of the arroyo was heavily scoured out by the 12” rain a couple of months ago. Nutting’s Flycatcher, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Common Black-hawk and Gray Hawk are all seen. Rock Wren singing away on a rock! Back to the Hacienda for a nice lunch, siesta and, for some, a swim. Excellent dinner at Sam’s Gourmet Restaurant in Aduana.

January 13, 2010: Sea of Cortez and Estero Tobari

Breakfast at Hacienda, then heading for the Sea of Cortez for the day. Stop at the Rio Mayo bridge in Navajoa.

Great looks at Northern Jacana. This bird used to be ‘casual’ in Sonora when we first started coming here 15 years ago. Clearly at least a couple of pairs are now breeding along the lower Rio Mayo. We have begun to see Grayish Saltators in the Alamos area as well, suggesting a range extension from northern Sinaloa.

Gambell’s Quail along the road to the sea. Also White-tailed Kite and Peregrine Falcon. As usual, there were thousands of shorebirds, waders and ducks on Estero Tobari. The bridge is out to the island is still impassable, so there’s no way to get to the seaside. Nevertheless, very productive. Good looks at Gull-billed Tern and Roseate Spoonbill. Returned to Hacienda by four. Cocktail hour, then to Cafe del Sol for a fine Mexican dinner.

January 14, 2010: Free Day in Alamos

A day for folks to relax by the pool or explore the unique Spanish colonial architecture of Alamos. In the late afternoon, we searched for Rufous-crowned Motmot, but without success. This bird has been very reliable for the last few years, but no luck this year. Dinner at Cherrise’s Rancho Palomar. She’s a world-class chef and her cooking is superb.

January 15, 2010: Rio Mayo Raft Trip

Up at the crack of dawn for hour-long drive to the Rio Mayo. We boarded our raft at 7:30 with Armando, our exceptional boat man and a fine birder. A beautiful morning with hundreds of Great Egrets and Neotropical Cormorants flying about. Common Black-hawks in abundance. Especially good looks at Rufous-bellied Chachalacas.   Lunch along the river and a nice walk up the arroyo to the aqueduct and the Mayo pictographs along the cliff faces. Bare-throated Tiger-herons, both immature and adult, seen well by all. Stopped at San Bernardo, a tiny Mayo town, and walked through the old water mill and the ancient church. Out of the river by 3:00 PM.

Returned to Hacienda. Dinner in one of their several private dining rooms with a nice fire. Serenaded privately by the Los Haciendos group.

January 16, 2010: Return to Tucson

We drove back to Tucson for an overnight stay there, then flights home on Sunday.

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