Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped our nation, I signed up for a birding trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, in March of 2021. One of our former Jay’s Bird Barn employees, Micah Riegner, now works as a professional birding guide for a tour company called Field Guides, and Micah was slated to guide the Oaxaca trip.
Unfortunately, at some point last year, all of the international birding tours were canceled due to COVID. Micah and I were very disappointed — but we were not deterred.
Earlier this year, we decided to create our own private driving birding trip to Mexico that wouldn’t require flying. We are all fully vaccinated, and our destination was a small town at the southern tip of the state of Sonora. Our group consisted of four participants — myself, Micah, and a couple from Prescott.
Thankfully, our trip became a reality last week! On the first day, we drove from Prescott to Hermosillo where we spent the night. The next day, we drove the remainder of the way to the lovely town of Alamos. We stayed at El Pedregal Nature Lodge and Retreat Center — a 20-acre oasis with eight elegant adobe casitas connected by paths to the main lodge.
Within five minutes of getting out of the car, I already had five new birds for my life list! And these were not your average ho-hum birds — these were stunning, gorgeous birds.
On the grounds, they have a bird feeding area with water features and nectar, fruit and seed feeders. The feeding area attracted a variety of birds such as the gigantic black-throated magpie jay (about 30 inches long!), yellow grosbeaks, elegant quail and black-vented orioles, just to name a few.
It is hard for me to express in words what it is like for me to see a new bird species for the first time. I have to say it is akin to a spiritual experience. It is truly a ‘wow’ moment. I have seen pictures of many of these bird species in field guides for 40 or 50 years, but to see actually see them for the first time, in the wild, is a very gratifying experience.
One reason the experience of seeing a new bird in the wild is so impactful is because no matter how good the pictures or illustrations are in field guides, pictures in books just don’t do justice to the beautiful colors of the actual bird.
For a week, we took day trips in and around the Alamos area. We even went into the Monte Mojino Reserve for two nights where we stayed in a very primitive, off-the-grid remote area.
The reserve habitat is primarily tropical deciduous forest, along with riparian forests and pine-oak forest at the higher elevations encompassing the Cucujaqui River watershed.
In one 48-hour period, we saw only two other cars! Needless to say, the birding in the reserve, and around Alamos, was spectacular. We saw things like military macaws, lilac-crowned and white-fronted parrots, Mexican parrotlets, and ivory-billed woodcreeper (not to be confused with the presumably extinct ivory-billed woodpecker).
Each day was filled with adventure — seeing “new” birds for the first time such as lesser roadrunner (a close relative to our greater roadrunner), purplish-backed jays, Sinaloa crows, fan-tailed warbler, Sinaloa wren, happy wren, crane hawk, brown-backed solitaire, buff-collared nightjar, russet-crowned motmot and many more.
For the trip we saw 184 species! I am so grateful to have had this wonderful experience of birding in Mexico, and anxiously look forward to the time when I can travel again to see more new birds. We live in a beautiful world.
Until next week, happy birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.