17-20 August 2013
Our path from Jalisco to northern Veracruz took us through Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende. There are greater cultural attractions here than birding attractions, without a doubt. We had a couple of marvelous days in each city, sleeping in, eating well and doing a lot of sightseeing.
We birded a little as well, and found three great sites. The birds possible in central Mexico aren’t as exciting as those in other parts of the country, but the birding at the sites we visited was still very good. We camped and birded in the oaks at Cuenca de la Esperanza above Guanajuato, in some great grasslands near a town called San Juan del Llanos, and at the Botanic Gardens (Charco del Ingenio) in the more arid and desert-like San Miguel de Allende.
Cuenca de la Esperanza is an oak and chaparral area at about 2500 meters elevation above and just north of Guanajuato. You can find it by heading north out of Guanajuato on the road to Dolores Hidalgo and making a left at the signed turn for “Las Palomas,” which is the name of the visitor center. There is good primitive camping there and the birding is down in the canyon below the upper camping area and surrounding the lower camping area. We found a pretty typical mix of higher elevation oak forest birds – Gray Silky-Flycatchers, Bridled Titmice, Acorn Woodpeckers, Brown-backed Solitaires, White-eared and Magnificent Hummingbirds, Spotted Towhees, etc. There were some migrant Empidonax Flycatchers hanging around, most appearing to be of the Dusky / Hammond’s variety and the one we got good prolonged looks and that called a bit was a Dusky. There were some really large flower banks under the oaks and there were tons of hummingbirds about, but the local Magnificent and White-eared were vastly outnumbered by migrant Rufous Hummingbirds, we counted at least 40 in a morning though there were probably far more than that. Our bird list for an early morning of birding is on eBird.
San Juan de Llanos is found along Hwy 77 between Silao and San Felipe. A short ways south of where Hwy 77 meets Hwy 87, there is a signed turn to the west for San Juan de Llanos. The drive to the town goes through dry scrub and grassland for a couple of kilometers. It’s great habitat that is not overgrazed, and we found it to be very birdy in the early morning with Lark and Chipping Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers, Vermilion Flycatchers, our first migrant Gray Flycatcher and much more. Once in town (all of about 3 blocks by 3 blocks) turning left and finding your way out of town will take you through a brief area of corn fields backing onto a riparian corridor which was also quite birdy. We found Cassin’s Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Blue Grosbeaks, White-tailed Kites, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and quite a bit more here. Some of the side roads here will lead back into the riparian area, which we explored pretty thoroughly in the afternoon. We were surprised to find at least 8 Yellow-breasted Chats that are clearly breeding here – we saw juveniles with a parent and saw food carrying in two different locations! If you keep on the road past the corn fields without turning, however, it heads up onto the side of a rocky, grassy hillside dotted with oaks. There are eBird records for Montezuma Quail here, which is what drew us to the area. We didn’t find Montezuma Quail but the habitat is great and the birding is great out there too. A really terrific area to check out! GPS coordinates for the area are 21.25898, -101.29884. A complete list of species can be found on eBird for San Juan de Llanos
The Botanic Gardens in San Miguel de Allende are called Charco del Ingenio. There’s a great trail system through a mix of native desert vegetation (mesquite, cactus, salvia, jojoba, etc) with a few exotics. The gardens are located above a gorgeous riparian slot canyon and a small reservoir which both add to the mix of birds you get there. We found a good number of Broad-billed and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, Curve-billed Thrashers, Black-chinned Sparrows, Phainopeplas, Canyon and Rock Wrens, a couple of Varied Buntings and the like. The highlight bird here, at least in the summer, is Black-backed Oriole, which breed here. We found a family group of three in some flowering trees. We also had a couple of surprises in the form of a flyover Peregrine Falcon and a couple of migrant Willow Flycatchers. There is a cute café and a giftshop at the gardens as well, it’s really a great spot, for birding or otherwise. The gardens are on the south-east edge of town, just off the pereferico (the ring road / bypass around town) and are well signed. Our list for Charco del Ingenio is on eBird
We also had the pleasure of meeting Luke and Norman from Audubon de Mexico which is based in San Miguel de Allende. They gave us a bunch of great advice for birding locations and were great company! San Miguel de Allende’s inaugural Festival de Colibrís is coming on September 6-8th, it looks like it should be a fun event and more information can be found here http://www.audubonmex.org/