This special tour to the Veracruz region of Mexico features the “River of Raptors,” one of the great natural phenomenons on earth. We will participate in the worlds most spectacular hawkwatch, where single day counts have exceeded over 700,000 raptors, and the one-day record is 1.5 million!
The last dozen fall seasons; Pronatura hawk-counters have recorded over five million birds of prey. Besides enjoying this staggering spectacle of raptors, we will visit a variety of habitats and quaint villages, where local avifauna, raptors and North American migrants are enjoyed. This area ranks among the better places in the Americas to observe eastern and western passerine migrants and wintering birds side-by-side in the same locality. We can expect over 300 species, including over 30 species of raptors, a possible 20 species of hummingbirds and numerous endemics.
We will also get a chance to enjoy some of the local culture, when we visit the small town of La Antigua where Cortez established the first Spanish colony in 1520; the 13th century Totonacan ruins at Cempoala, built by a native people who were conquered by the Aztecs and later joined Cortez during the conquest of Mexico’s Tenotichtlan, as well as a visit to the Museo de Antropologia in Xalapa, famous for its collection of colossal heads of Olmecs dating back to 900 BC.
In the coastal lowlands we will visit La Mancha Biological Station, a research site with mangroves, a beautiful beach and small lakes. Local birds include Laughing and Aplomado Falcons, Zone-tailed and Black Hawks, with a chance for Boat-billed Heron. Las Barrancas is a vast grassland savannah that holds Double-striped Thick-knee, Common Tody-Flycatcher and Plain-breasted Ground-Dove and in areas of wet meadows Pinnated Bittern and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. On our way to Xalapa we visit the shade coffee plantation at El (Rancho) Mirador, where both Yellow-olive and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and Olivaceous and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper are possible and the butterflies simply outstanding. Based out of Xalapa, we will visit the cloud forest at Macuiltepetl Ecological Park that holds the endemic Blue Mockingbird and White-naped Brush-Finch, Blue-crowned Motmot and several species of hummingbirds including Azure-crowned, Wedge-tailed and Rufous-tailed.
From this quaint colonial capitol in the mountains west of Cardel, we travel to a beautiful waterfall at Xico, famous for its beautiful scenery and excellent birding including Bat Falcons and swifts. Several areas of high-elevation pine forest/oak habitat, such as at Las Minas and La Joya, provide opportunities to observe the endemic Red Warbler, Dwarf Jay and Striped Sparrow, as well as Olive, Hermit and Golden-crowned Warblers. In past visits, large feeding flocks of mixed passerines, including Slate-throated Redstarts, Rufous-capped Warblers, Rufous-capped Brush Finch, Russet Nightingale-Thrush and dozens of other special birds provided very exciting birding opportunities.
We see a complete change of habitat around Perote, where the desert dominated by Joshua Trees and Agaves holds Scott’s Oriole, White-eared Hummingbird along with familiar Southwestern US species. At Catemaco we’ll bird the UNAM Biological Reserve – 800 acres of Primary forest where some of the typical tropical birds include Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari and Violaceous Trogan. Along the forest trail we hope to come across an ant swarm where birds such as Ant-Tanagers, Woodcreepers, Bright-rumped Attila and Stub-tailed Spadebills follow. Raptors in the open country include Bat Falcon and White Hawk.
In the afternoon we visit Laguna de Sontecomapan, a large coastal lagoon where we take a boat trip into the lagoon and then up one of the feeder streams. Here we see most aquatic species, as well as some tropical specialties such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Sungrebe, and maybe Grey-headed Kite. Our final morning will be spent at Nanciyaga and La Jungla. These are remnant patches of Rain Forest along the edge of Lake Catemaco, and a good location for many of the common tropical species such as Spot-breasted Wren, Blue-crowned Motmot, Red-lored Parrot and Long-tailed Hermit.
Focus: Birds, Butterflies, Culture, Photography
“Robert Straub is the best guide I have ever worked with. He realy enjoys showing ‘his’ birds and ‘his’ chosen place to others.” – Nathaniel W., Edinburgh, Scotland Veracruz ABA tour 2009