Listening to birds singing is common even in the city, but doing it while walking through Puerto Vallarta, surrounded by trees and observing the different and colorful species, many of them endemic to Mexico, from where the sound comes, is a unique experience.
It is 7:00 AM and although the weather forecast doesn’t favor the sun, that does not discourage the biologist Fernando Romo, guide of the Birds of Paradise Tour, of the company Eco Tours Mexico, who remembers that it is the rainy season which is ideal for nesting birds. Also, it is early when they are more active in searching for food.
“The plan is to look for the beautiful birds of Banderas Bay, you can find ‘atrapamoscas’, ‘plumones’ and ‘momotos’, which already have their chicks, so you can take good pictures of the birds arriving at the nests”, he explains of the road towards the border with Nayarit, in the north of the municipality.
Fernando shares a little history of Puerto Vallarta, named after Ignacio Luis Vallarta, governor of Jalisco (1871-1875). The original name was Puerto las Peñas and even the guide makes a stop where in the middle of the ocean the rocks that honored that name are located.
He also points out Mismaloya, the beach where “La noche de la iguana” (1964) was filmed, starring actor Richard Burton and actress Ava Gardner, which led to the visit of Elizabeth Taylor, the actor’s girlfriend, and so the press International that came to cover the love story began to discover the beauty of Vallarta.
“You have to be quiet to listen and see the birds,” says Fernando, returning to the topic. “In those arches you see a lot what are pelicans, cormorants, fregatas, blue footed boobies, vultures, egrets, many birds that are quite good, now we are going to focus on the small ones”.
The journey starts on a steep street in Lomas del Pacífico, which although it has houses nearby, has a lot of vegetation and large trees; Fernando lends us some binoculars, meanwhile, he installs his “scope” to show us the most special birds of the region.
The specialist explains that you have to adjust the binoculars with the opening, which is in accordance with the separation of the eyes, and with the upper roller you should focus until you see a single image clearly; meanwhile, anticipate that there will be birds that are seen every day, but that does not stop the enjoyment of bird watching.
As soon as he hears a song, Fernando says excitedly: “Listen, it’s a …” and before the complicated name of the species can be assimilated, he raises the peephole of his scope (telescope) and points to the top of a tree, not in vain the 12 years of experience leading such tours, although his specialty was in the area of marine mammals.
“When I bought a camera, my interest in birds began, but it was until one day when I went out to walk with my dogs that I saw a Painted Burnting, a member of the cardinal family, that awoke the spark in me to see more birds; that’s how I began to look for more and more and I began to photograph them and identify them,” he recalls.
The first to appear is a cachetidorado woodpecker, so Fernando warns that most of the names are very funny, such is the case of llanerito tortilla with chile, which is found in other regions of the country; Immediately one observes preening itself to a pair of headed sparrows.
After a few minutes the emotion of finding other species is contagious, and among the trees is a cacique with yellow wings; then another kind of complex name standing on some cables, near some sparrows; followed by a swift, which is often mistaken for swallows.
The guide dominates perfectly the places where the birds like to perch, as in certain branches or type of trees, so it is not difficult to find even the smallest species, such as the bumblebee hummingbird, which is the second smallest in the world, about two centimeters in size, the smallest is the hummingbird bee, from Cuba.
Suddenly, a yellow grosbeak appears -pink yellow. Fernando says that the names of the species are handled in English because it is easier to generalize them, in addition to the fact that most of those who take the tour, especially in winter, are foreigners from the United States and Canada.
Following the route, each bird surprises with its plumage that becomes brighter in the reproductive state. Males emphasizes because they must exhibit it to attract the females; some are jumping on the ground, so it is necessary to locate them at a distance because when they feel the presence they take flight.
“The tour is for all ages but children sometimes do not have much interest in looking for birds; for this reason, it is recommended for adolescents, adults, and seniors, “says Fernando about birdwatching, due to the patience and caution involved.
The tip that he provides is first observing the birds flying, see where they land and then focus the binoculars to admire closely the beautiful colors they have, such as yellow, orange, blue, green, white and even black that contrasts with other shades between their feathers.
A scratched back oriol, in honor of the black and white lines of his “back”, makes an appearance; centimeters above, a dove is located, which is the most common, unlike the collarejo or semillerito, caciques and titira, which precede it. Shortly after, a colorful momoto appears, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of the journey through the chromatic range that it carries.
Almost two hours later, as the temperature began to rise, we took the road back to Barra de Navidad to go to the Botanical Gardens of Vallarta, where you can walk between vast paths of plants and trees, cross the Bridge of Dreams and go down to the Horcones River, all while continuing the objective of searching for birds.
After traveling only a small part of the 26 hectares of the place, it is time to rest in the Visitor Center where there is a viewpoint from which you can see the hummingbirds that are approaching to drink nectar from drinking fountains, as well as flowers that there abound, like orchids, all of them of different and beautiful colors.
Although at the conclusion, visitors do not take any material remembrance, since Fernando jokingly says that he will not capture a parakeet or another species for that purpose, it is clear that this experience is something that will always take place because not everyone has the fortune of admiring these types of bird. However, the biologist gives us a list of birds to mark those that were seen during the trip.
On this occasion, we had the opportunity to appreciate 26 species in a shorter period than usual (sometimes from 07:00 to 15:00), so Fernando describes the tour as successful. Before saying goodbye, he mentions that in a four-hour tour during the winter you can see up to 80 or 100 species, and in the summer season up to 50, however, it is guaranteed that the whole year you can enjoy birdwatching, so the Birds of Paradise Tour can be enjoyed any day, although the best time is from November to April.