23 – 27 July 2013
We have birded around San Blas for the past 5 days with some great highlights! We managed to see instead of just hear a Collared Forest-Falcon near the water treatment ponds, we found a Laughing Falcon along a new road near Singayta, huge numbers of wading birds in the shrimp ponds, Stripe-headed Sparrows near Chacalilla, Bare-throated Tiger-Herons in a few locations, Fan-tailed Warblers in a few locations, San-Blas Jays in Tecuitata, and Colima Pygmy-Owl and the Mexican (Long-Billed) Hermit at La Bajada.
San Blas is already well known as a birding destination though there are a few newer sites that are not well documented that we would like to share.
The most exciting new site is Tecuitata. The village of Tecuitata is working with Safaris San Blas and birders in San Blas to develop ecotourism and birding in the area and as such there is a nominal 50 peso/person fee to visit this area but in return the village is working to preserve the habitat, which is a mixture of intact forest and shade coffee. A cobble road up through the forested hillside provides great views into the understory on one side and into the canopy on the other, offering some really great birding. To reach Tecuitata, you will want to go south from San Blas along Matanchen Bay, through Aticama and towards Santa Cruz. The highway will come to a T just before Santa Cruz, a right turn would head into Santa Cruz, a left turn heads towards Tecuitata and then on towards Cerro San Juan/Rancho La Noria and eventually Tepic. After this left turn, it’s about 4-5 miles to the village of Tecuitata. When you come into town, you want to seek out a gentleman named Teodoro to pay for your visit. As you come into town, watch for the KM 37 marker on the right. Immediately after this marker, pull over to the right (don’t turn on the side street though), and his house is on the right immediately past the marker. If no one is around you can ask around town for Teodoro or to access the birding area. When you pay you will get a little receipt and Teodoro will show you the gated entrance to the cobbled road. It’s just before his house and across the road, very easy to find. Once on the road, drive up through the various mango plantations (though we found a great bit of activity in this scrubby area including at least 6 Citreoline Trogons, several Russet-crowned Motmots, our only San-Blas Jays of the day, an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper on a post no more than 8’ away, and Elegant Quail were heard in the fields below). We walked a few stretches of the lower road. Higher up, where another road comes in from the left, there is room to park under a large tree and there is great birding from here all the way to the top where there is a great overlook of San Blas and Matanchen Bay.
Another new site that is very nice is referred to as “South Singayta.” It is a dirt road across the highway from Singayta proper, easily found just west of town and starting behind a nursery. We drove in a bit off the highway and parked in the first pullout and walked a kilometer or two. There are a few cleared mango plantations but otherwise the road is lined with great scrubby thorn forest. Our highlights of a quick morning visit were Laughing Falcon and Rosy Thrush-Tanager, which were actually both at the first pullout on the right.
A couple of final places not in Howell’s Birdfinding Guide but worth mentioning are the Cocodrillario road, Chacalilla, and a new road construction project. The Cocodrillario road is easily found heading south from Matanchen towards Aticama, where it is a signed left turn. It goes through scrubby grassy fields then reaches a flooded grassy marsh area which was filled with waterbirds. We found Snail Kites, Limpkins, a Bare-throated Tiger Heron and a Common Black-Hawk on a hot afternoon and the area apparently has Spotted Rails as well. Chacalilla is a signed turnoff from the road to Guadalupe Victoria (described in Howell’s guide as the shrimp pond road). The road first goes through more mangroves and shrimp ponds, then up a hill into the town of Chacalilla (we found Stripe-headed Sparrow in the scrub here) and apparently the side roads out of the otherside of town have great birding and some great ponds though we did not explore very far in the heat of the afternoon that we were there. The last new site, a smaller one but worth a quick check if you have some time in the area is a new road being built that leaves the highway along Matanchen bay just south of the Cocodrillario Rd and heads inland. It will eventually be a toll road to Tepic but in the meanwhile it’s a barely-travelled road through the scrubby habitat and up into the start of the hills that lets you park anywhere and bird from the roadside.
While in San Blas we had the opportunity to meet and spend a morning birding with a local birder, biologist and guide named Jonathan Vargas. He is involved in many community based efforts to increase awareness, to educate kids about birds and conservation, and to work with villages such as Tecuitata to conserve the habitat they have and attract ecotourism. He’s also a great guy and a great birder! He has formed a small guiding operation called Safaris San Blas which we would highly recommend if you are visiting San Blas and are considering a guide! Check out the Safaris San Blas Facebook Page!