After a steady flight of around five hours we welcomed the + 25°C of west Mexico, it had been -16°C when we left Montreal. The usual formalities completed we sat patiently on the coach while the smokers had their nicotine fix before hauling themselves aboard complete with aroma. Our destination was the last of three hotels, the Grand Palladium and rather out on a limb, it being along the road to Punta da Mita – a small blob of well-developed land at the north end of the Banderas Bay. We had chosen the location in the hope that the beach and beer lovers would prefer to be more downtown and that it would be quieter and thus it proved to some extent.
Bins had been in hand right from the boarding of the bus as always and we’d had some luck in clocking Wood Stork, Short-tailed Hawk and the inevitable Grey-breasted Martins which only ever seem to breed at airports. The route took us past a few manicured golf courses which were littered with American Coots while the wires everywhere had a kingbird on them that was surely tropical. Part way to Bucerias, a town half way around the bay, you cross the Rio Ameca which had sandbars covered in flocks of unknown birds, obviously a place to check later.
Check-in at the hotel was quick and the room ok but the overall design of the accommodation blocks showed that the complex architect had absolutely no idea how to make it work for birders. Sea watching was obscured by some trees and the canopy of the adjacent scrub was partially obscured, really! All I had to work with was an expanse of rock pools at low tide and fairly distant views of passing boobies, gulls and terns. A ten minute scan of the sea revealed the presence of dozens of Humpback Whales, their blows and flukes a constant and the odd booby had ventured closer allowing Blue-footed and Brown to be identified.
As the day cooled we ventured out around the complex, finding Military Macaws, Muscovy Ducks and a pair of Ostriches, the hotel had a small zoo! Next to the zoo things looked better and they had a botanical garden of sorts with gravel trails and a couple of dope smoking Canadians who seemed entranced by a Palm Tree. Dead center of the plantation was a large and fruiting fig which had a riot of activity in the canopy. The first lifer was a noisy troop of Yellow-winged or Mexican Caciques followed by Rufous-backed Thrush (or robin!) and Rufous-bellied Chachalaca. I’d expected the latter to be hard to track down due to hunting but at the Grand Palladium they don’t bother the birds and the birds just get on with their lives.
Our first day total of 39 species was modest but included six new species with Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker and San Blas Jay joining those mentioned previously in the crown of that glorious fig. Tomorrow we get our rental car and the whole Puerto Vallarta area will be our mollusc.
Below shots of the chachalaca, jay, cacique, thrush and woodpecker. The gnatcatcher was too high for a shot and, strangely the only one we saw in the entire trip.