Great Kiskadee


Alamos, Sonora, Mexico 
21-26 Nov 2004
narrated by Henry Detwiler

Al & Helga, Jim & Janet, and Suzanne, the girls, and I spent a fine week in this colonial town on the edge of the tropics
species -- bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots.  

We left Nogales early and arrived in Alamos around 6:30pm, after a long but uneventful  drive on the toll road.  As we traveled south the desert became quite lush--we saw more cordon cacti, and just before dark we started 
Church Bell Tower in Alamos

Alamos--colonial streets

seeing trees that just don't grow around Yuma. 
    We didn't stop for birding on the way down, but saw a variety of raptors on the poles and cacti, and the odd duck and shorebird in flooded areas south of Ciudad Obregon.
    Alamos, Sonora was founded by the Spanish as a mining center in 1681, and many of the colonial homes have survived to this date. With cobblestone streets and walled villa, this town of 10,000 residents retains its colonial atmosphere. 


Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Sunday morning we drove through town to Stephanie Meyer’s home, situated along the Aduana Arroyo, across from the large, impressive cemetery.  Before long we had spied Hooded & Streak-backed Orioles, Violet-crowned & Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Social Flycatchers, Rufous-backed Robins, Elegant Quail, and the star attraction, a Blue Mockingbird. 

Blue Mockingbird at Stephanie's

Stephanie (e-mail) shared a wealth of natural history & local knowledge with us, and then we headed out to the Rio Cuchujaqui. It was a beautiful spot, especially since the recent rains had swollen this and all the surrounding rivers.  


Rio Mayo - trip leader David, Al & Helga, Chris & Rosi

The threat of rain loomed large, but David MacKay ( and his assistant Ricardo convinced us to go for it, so shortly after 6:30 we piled into his van, and headed for the Rio Mayo.  

Once the rafts were ready, we put out on the swiftly moving river, and started seeing nice birds right away. 

Black Hawks scanned for breakfast while Red-billed Pigeons shared the tree-tops with White-winged Doves.  We passed several flocks of Black-crowned Night Herons, and stopped once to lure out a Happy Wren singing at the shoreline.  Rufous-bellied Chachalacas were also calling; we finally glimpsed a couple of them.  Social Flycatchers and Great Kiskadees were abundant.  Green Kingfishers were fairly common along the river, but well concealed on the low-hanging branches.  Occasionally one would dart from perch to perch, and then we knew exactly where to look.  Perhaps the most sought-after bird was the Bare-throated Tiger-heron, which we saw well twice.   

Bare-throated Tiger-Herons


The old Camino Real

We got excellent views of White-fronted Parrots, and may have heard a mot-mot.  Lunch was a tasty salad, a fine pasta dish, and delicious brownies. Our final stop of the trip was the Mayo Indian village of Santa Barbara.  Ricardo took us to see an ancient stone Spanish church and a colonial ruin there.

Around noon we docked at an inlet, and as Ricardo set up lunch, David took us upstream to look at petroglyphs, a colonial Spanish aqueduct, and a stone bridge on the Camino Real.

Green Kingfisher on the Rio Mayo


Tuesday morning we spent a little more time at Stephanie's, looking for the elusive Plain-capped Starthroat, and then headed up through the dump (Black & Turkey Vultures, & Caracaras) to hike a mountain trail in search of the Russet-crowned Mot-mot.  We followed that with a creek east of town, where this stately Turkey Vulture was posing. 

That afternoon Suzanne and the girls went shopping and ate ice cream; the rest of us hiked up an arroyo on the west edge of town. A calling Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Elegant Trogon were nice to hear.

Turkey Vulture east of Alamos
For our evening meal Suzanne cooked up an outstanding batch of carne asado burritos and beans for the whole clan, which we complemented with margaritas and Jim's Australian wine. 



Blue-footed Booby

Today  we picked up Stephanie before heading down to the coast.  Using radios, she kept up a running commentary on the native flora & fauna for our three-vehicle caravan.

At Yecoras we pulled up to the harbor and got our first look at our watery transportation.  Al & Helga were leery at first--she doesn't swim.  Fortunately our course of travel was mostly in 1-3' of water.  Stephanie directed our Mayo Indian boatman to stop at the point off the harbor, and we saw our first boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

Young and old Brown Pelicans were everywhere on the water, as were Yellow-footed and Heerman's Gulls.  The exposed mudflats were alive with shorebirds and waders.  

Mature Brown Pelican

A rosy speck at the edge of the mangroves materialized into a pair of Roseate Spoonbills as we closed in on them.  White Ibis were both feeding in the water and resting in the mangrove trees, while Reddish Egrets danced around in the bay after their fishy prey. Down one of the channels we listened for the chip of the Yellow "Mangrove" Warbler, and before long we saw this handsome subspecies with the reddish head and yellow body. 

Down another channel Stephanie showed us several Yellow-crowned Night Herons, feeding with the rest of their clan--Tricolored Herons and Little Blue Herons.  

Fishing panga full of Brown Pelicans

Following our boat trip Stephanie took us to an open-air seafood restaurant in Huatabampito for a feast of butterflied, fried, and stuffed shrimp, two kinds of fish, and ceviche.


On Thursday morning Jim & Janet stayed behind in Alamos to explore real estate, while the rest of us hiked up a beautiful arroyo west of town.  Varied Buntings, several Blk-thrtd  Magpie-Jays, and a mixed flock of northern warblers & flycatchers attracted to pooling water were the primary attractions. 

Black-throated Magpie-Jay 

Strangler Fig

In the upper canyon we found this great example of a strangler fig, with its roots wrapped around a giant boulder.  On the way back to our vehicles, Al spotted our only tarantula for the trip.

After lunch we all drove up the Las Lunas mircowave tower road, and finally spotted the raucous & gaudy Purplish-backed Jays.   Nutting's Flycatchers were throughout the area, calling loudly and often.  This was followed by a gourmet turkey & ham feast at the Casa de  Aduana Restaurant in the old mining village east of Alamos.

Nutting's Flycatcher


On our last full day at Alamos we returned to the Aduana Arroyo, where we finally got to see an Elegant Trogon.  And then, as we were coming back into the little village, we hit a jackpot of bird activity.  Cassin's Kingbirds were mercilessly mobbing Magpie-Jays. A Western Tanager was  feeding in the bushes with White-crowned & Chipping Sparrows.


Black-throated Magpie-Jay

Black-throated Magpie-Jay being mobbed by Cassin's Kingbirds
House Wrens, Social Flycatchers, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, and various vireos & warblers were moving about. And then Jim identified a most excellent bird--a late Yellow Grosbeak.  Al found it in his scope just in time for us all to see the brilliant yellow feathering and massive bill.
That afternoon we did some additional shopping in the artisans' market in  downtown Alamos, and then headed over to Stephanie's garden one final time.  

The artisans' store in Aduana
Our final tourist act was to tour the colorful and crowded  Alamos cemetery with its mix of above-ground tombs and underground graves.  When we returned to the Casa de Maria Felix, it was time for the men to cook up a final feast from our turkey and carne asado leftovers.  On Saturday we spent another day of the road; about nine hours driving north, an hour and a half at the Nogales border crossing, and then another four and a half hours heading home to Yuma.  A long journey, but worth every minute! 

Sonora, Mexico, 20-27 Nov 2004
# Species
1 Pied-billed Grebe
2 Eared Grebe
3 Western Grebe
4 Blue-footed Booby
5 Magnificent Frigatebird
6 American White Pelican
7 Brown Pelican
8 Neotropic Cormorant
9 Double-crested Cormorant
10 Bare-throated Tiger-heron
11 Great Blue Heron
12 Great Egret
13 Snowy Egret
14 Little Blue Heron
15 Tricolored Heron
16 Reddish Egret
17 Cattle Egret
18 Green Heron
19 Black-crowned Night Heron
20 Yellow-crowned Night Heron
21 Roseate Spoonbill
22 White Ibis
23 White-faced Ibis
24 Black-bellied Whistling Duck
25 Brant
26 Gadwall
27 American Wigeon
28 Blue-winged Teal
29 Mallard
30 Northern Shoveler
31 Northern Pintail
32 Green-winged Teal
33 Lesser Scaup
34 Bufflehead
35 Red-breasted Merganser
36 Ruddy Duck
37 Rufous-bellied Chachalaca
38 Osprey
39 White-tailed Kite
40 Common Black Hawk
41 Northern Harrier
42 Sharp-shinned Hawk
43 Cooper's Hawk
44 Harris' Hawk
45 Gray Hawk
46 Red-tailed Hawk
47 American Kestrel
48 Peregrine Falcon
49 Elegant Quail
50 American Coot
51 Black-bellied Plover
52 Killdeer
53 American Oystercatcher
54 Black-necked Stilt
55 American Avocet
56 Willet
57 Spotted Sandpiper
58 Whimbrel
59 Long-billed Curlew
60 Marbled Godwit
61 Ruddy Turnstone
62 Sanderling
63 Western Sandpiper
64 Dunlin
65 Long-billed Dowitcher
66 Black Vulture
67 Turkey Vulture
68 Crested Caracara
69 Laughing Gull
70 Bonaparte's Gull
71 Heerman's Gull
72 Ring-billed Gull
73 California Gull
74 Herring Gull
75 Yellow-footed Gull
76 Western Gull
77 Caspian Tern
78 Royal Tern
79 Elegant Tern
80 Forster's Tern
81 Rock Pigeon
82 Red-billed Pigeon
83 White-winged Dove
84 Mourning Dove
85 Inca Dove
86 Common Ground-Dove
87 White-tipped Dove
88 Mexican Parrotlet
89 White-fronted Parrot
90 Groove-billed Ani
# Species
91 Greater Roadrunner
92 Ferruginous Pygmy- Owl
93 Broad-billed Hummingbird
94 Violet-crowned Hummingbrd
95 Plain-capped Starthroat
96 Belted Kingfisher
97 Green Kingfisher
98 Elegant Trogon
99 Gila Woodpecker
100 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
101 Western Wood Pewee
102 Gray Flycatcher
103 Pacific Slope Flycatcher
104 Black Phoebe
105 Say's Phoebe
106 Vermilion Flycatcher
107 Dusky-capped Flycatcher
108 Ash-throated Flycatcher
109 Brown-crested Flycatcher
110 Tropical Kingbird
111 Western Kingbird
112 Cassin's Kingbird
113 Thick-billed Kingbird
114 Social Flycatcher
115 Nutting's Flycatcher
116 Great Kiskadee
117 N. Beardless Tyrannulet
118 Loggerhead Shrike
119 Bell's Vireo
120 Plumbeous Vireo
121 Warbling Vireo
122 Black-throated Magpie-Jay
123 Purplish-backed Jay
124 Sinaloa Crow
125 Common Raven
126 Chihuahuan Raven
127 Mangrove Swallow
128 Violet-green Swallow
129 Verdin
130 Sinaloa Wren
131 Cactus Wren
132 Happy Wren
133 Canyon Wren
134 Bewick's Wren
135 House Wren
136 Rock Wren
137 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
138 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
139 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
140 Rufous-backed Robin
141 Northern Mockingbird
142 Blue Mockingbird
143 Curve-billed Thrasher
144 Crissal Thrasher
145 European Starling
146 Phainopepla
147 Yellow-rumped Warbler
148 Orange-crowned Warbler
149 Yellow Warbler
150 Painted Redstart
151 Black-throated Gray Warbler
152 Macgillivray's Warbler
153 Nashville Warbler
154 Wilson's Warbler
155 Common Yellowthroat
156 Western Tanager
157 Green-tailed Towhee
158 Canyon Towhee
159 Rufous-winged Sparrow
160 Chipping Sparrow
161 Brewer's Sparrow
162 Lark Sparrow
163 Lincoln's Sparrow
164 White-crowned Sparrow
165 Cardinal
166 Pyrrhuloxia
167 Yellow Grosbeak
168 Black-headed Grosbeak
169 Blue Grosbeak
170 Lazuli Bunting
171 Varied Bunting
172 Red-winged Blackbird
173 Brewer's Blackbird
174 Great-tailed Grackle
175 Brown-headed Cowbird
176 Hooded Oriole
177 Streak-backed Oriole
178 House Finch
179 Lesser Goldfinch
180 House Sparrow

Photos © Henry D. Detwiler