My wife and I spent 4 days birding and sightseeing in North-eastern Mexico from November 22nd to 26th, 2002. We drove to and spent some time at the Horsetail Falls/Cola de Caballo area near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Gomez Farias, Tamaulipas, and the Xilitla, San Luis Potosi area. The roads were in good shape and the weather was excellent. Some areas were birdier than others. All in all, the trip was successful. Below is a detailed report for each day.
Friday, November 22nd. We departed Harlingen en route to Reynosa, Mexico to obtain our vehicle entry permit. Be advised that the place to get your vehicle permit at the Mcallen/Reynosa Bridge is not located at the bridge. You do have to drive to a separate location in town to get your vehicle permit.
We left Reynosa at 12:15 p.m. and took the toll/cuota road towards Monterrey. Birds seen along the way between Reynosa and Monterrey included: Great Egret, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Harris's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (including 2 dark-morph individuals), Ferruginous Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Chihuahuan Raven, Northern Mockingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, House Sparrow.
We arrived at the Hacienda Cola de Caballo at 4:00 p.m. for our overnight lodging. This hotel is located just above the town of Santiago near Horsetail Falls. It is a clean, upscale hotel with the nightly rate priced at $110.00. We had a chance to briefly look around the hotel grounds and the very scenic falls. We did not see much since it was getting late: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Eastern Phoebe, Canyon Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Clay-colored Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, House Sparrow.
Saturday, November 23rd. We checked out of the Hacienda Cola de Caballo at 5:30 a.m. and continued up the mountain past the Cola de Caballo en route to the highrise to look for the Maroon-fronted Parrots. This is a beautiful drive, but somewhat curvy.
We made several stops along the way to check out some birds between our drive from Cola de Caballo to the highrise: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Maroon-fronted Parrot, Greater Roadrunner, White-throated Swift, Acorn Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Greater Pewee, Western Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Eastern Phoebe, Green Jay, Gray-breasted Jay, Common Raven, Bridled Titmouse, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Clay-colored Robin, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-headed Vireo, Cassin's Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, Magnolia Warbler seemed out of place, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Painted Redstart, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Rufous-capped Brush Finch, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle, Audubon's Oriole, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow. The Maroon-fronted Parrots were very difficult to see. Several birds were first heard then seen a few thousand feet above us as specks in the sky. We were finally able to see 2 low flying individuals for a good look. These birds were seen approximately 5 miles past the Cabanas Las Guacamayas.
The road from Arteaga past Las Guacamayas was in pretty rough shape. The first several miles were very rocky and bumpy. We did not have time to continue west towards Los Lirios and Boquillas due to our limited time. Our attempts to locate the Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush in the gorge were unsuccessful - the winds were very strong through this canyon making it very difficult to hear anything.
We left the Cola de Caballo at 1:15 p.m. and headed southeast towards Ciudad Victoria: Double-crested Comorant, Neotropic Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Harris's Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Green Jay, Brown Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Chihuahuan Raven, Common Raven, Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird.
We drove to Ciudad Mante where we stayed overnight at the Hotel Mante. Accommodations there were nice but pricey at $70.00 per night. The Hotel Monterrey in town would be a more economical alternative.
Sunday, November 24th. We left Mante early and headed southwest to El Salto and the El Naranjo area. The birding to and around the El Salto falls was very good. By the time we left El Salto falls it was close to noon and much of the birding activity had declined. We opted to drive south to Ciudad Valles and check out the grounds around the Hotel Taninul then proceed to Xilitla.
The grounds at Hotel Taninul were crowded with people and there were not very many birds active. The most unusual bird we saw was a Golden-cheeked Warbler foraging with a mixed flock in the trees by the Cascada El Meco pullout, below El Salto falls.
Birds we saw at El Salto, El Naranjo, and on the drive to Hotel Taninul included: White Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Wood Stork, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Roadside Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Plain Chachalaca, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Green Parakeet, Red-lored Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Amazon Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Green Jay, Brown Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Spot-breasted Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Clay-colored Robin, Blue Mockingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Tropical Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler - nice adult male, Black-and-white Warbler, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Summer Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, Indigo Bunting, Olive Sparrow, Blue-black Grassquit, White-collared Seedeater, Red-winged Blackbird, Meadowlark sp. Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Yellow-billed Cacique, House Sparrow.
We had reservations to stay at El Castillo in Xilitla; a very unique experience. The nightly rate for a room was $49.50.
Monday, November 25th. We departed from El Castillo fairly early and headed to Las Pozas to see what birds would be moving around there early. The birding there was very disappointing. Not much was moving around nor calling. We did manage to see several Montezuma Oropendolas on the hike towards the big waterfall. Our search for Emerald Toucanets was unsuccessful.
Birds we sawat Xilitla and Las Pozas included: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Rock Dove, Red-billed Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, White-tipped Dove, Green Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Brown Jay, Spot-breasted Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Clay-colored Robin, Blue-headed Vireo, Tropical Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Wilson's Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, Summer Tanager, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Montezuma Oropendola, House Sparrow.
We decided to leave the Xilitla area at noon in order to head north to Gomez Farias. We detoured and drove to Aquismon for a few minutes. Along the way we saw a gorgeous Aplomado Falcon eating a large insect in flight from its talons. The area around Aquismon looks as though it would be a much better birding destination than Xilitla.
We got to Gomez Farias at about 5:00 p.m. and went directly to La Florida. We immediately saw the following birds there: Gray Hawk Bat Falcon - Stunning views/photos, Plain Chachalaca, Red-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, Red-lored Parrot, Groove-billed Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Eastern Phoebe, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Brown Jay, Clay-colored Robin, Yellow-winged Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, White-collared Seedeater, Melodious Blackbird, Audubon's Oriole.
We stayed overnight at the nice Hostal Casa de Piedra in Gomez Farias. This is a neat little bed and breakfast that charges $40.00 per room and includes a wonderful home cooked breakfast and coffee. It makes for a great base to explore the Gomez Farias area.
Tuesday, November 26th. This was by far the best day of birding for us. We left the b & b early and headed to the fork in the road at the base of the mountains and walked up the left fork towards Alta Cima. Birds were very active and vocal. At least 2 Collared Forest-Falcons were calling throughout the entire morning.
We saw the following birdsin this area and our walk up the road: Thicket Tinamou - several heard, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Collared Forest-Falcon - 2 birds calling, Plain Chachalaca, Singing Quail - excellent views, Red-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, White-tipped Dove, Green Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Red-crowned Parrot - only 2 birds seen the entire trip, Red-lored Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Vaux's Swift, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot - stunning views/photos. Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Green Jay, Brown Jay, Common Raven, Spot-breasted Wren, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Clay-colored Robin, White-throated Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-headed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler - working an ant swarm with the Ant-Tanagers, Golden-crowned Warbler, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Yellow-winged Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager - at least 6 birds-very close looks, Flame-colored Tanager, Olive Sparrow, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Audubon's Oriole, Altamira Oriole.
We left Gomez Farias at 1:00 p.m. and saw a Bat Falcon on a power pole just below town and got some excellent photos. We stopped at La Morita for some fabulous Mango juice and saw a Blue-gray Tanager in the trees at the nursery.
We headed back north to Texas and saw the usual roadside birds on the way back including American Kestrels, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Mockingbirds, and a couple of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.