28 – 30 July 2013
Cerro San Juan is a mountain area just outside of Tepic, Nayarit that has been famous for birding for some time. Atop Cerro San Juan is Rancho La Noria, a large ranch with cabins, camping, a restaurant (open weekends at least during the slow season) and many developed trails. Cerro San Juan offers access to habitat ranging from thorn forest at about 1000 meters to pine oak woodland up to over 1500 meters. Birding starts when you leave route 76 (the Santa Cruz – Tepic road) at the Cuarenteño turnoff. The cane fields described as being low on the mountain in Howell’s birdfinding guide are gone and are replaced with avocado orchards, which were not particularly birdy except at the very top where they transition to oak woodland – this edge area was productive. The oak woodland and pine oak woodland above were generally pretty quiet and not very productive for our July visit. At the top, at Rancho La Noria, there is a large meadow and several trails leading into the forest. This area was fairly productive for us, particularly the edges of the meadow, but the forest itself was quiet. We found a few mixed species flocks largely composed of White-striped Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Warbler, Red-headed Tanager, Crescent-chested Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, and Slate-throated Redstart. We found Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush to be extremely common and Spotted Wren is common and very confiding around the Rancho. The road continues past Rancho La Noria down towards Ejido Cuarenteño through more humid pine oak forest. This area was also generally quiet for us, with mostly the same species as before, though we did find Berylline Hummingbird to be common in blooming Mistletoe and we found one female Mexican Woodnymph. No sign of Bumblebee or Sparkling-tailed Hummingbirds. Two nice surprises were a Collared Forest-Falcon that we saw fly and three female/immature Black-and-White Warblers which seemed pretty early in late July! We also found a total of about 6 Dickey’s (Audubon’s) Orioles on the road down to Cuaranteño in three different locations, close to each other. On the road down there is a pink and white concrete shrine on the right side of the road. From about the shrine for the next ¼ – ½ mile was where we found the Dickey’s Orioles.
We also went out several times morning and night to look for owls and nightjars, in and around Rancho La Noria. We heard 4 Great Horned Owls, 1 Whiskered Screech-Owl (very distant), and had 1 seen and 1 other heard Mottled Owl. We struck out on nightjars completely.
Overall, Cerro San Juan is a great place, the restaurant and the owners are terrific. Unfortunately, it was pretty slow birding for us in July, though good for lots of looks at Berylline Hummingbird and Dickey’s Oriole. Our final recommendation would be to avoid weekends, including Sunday night, as the whole area and Rancho La Noria in particular are really popular with ATV and dirtbike riders, including late into the evening making owling difficult!