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During a recent holiday in a fabulous Punta Mita resort, just south of Sayulita Mexico, we decided to change it up a bit and join bird expert, Vidal Prada, for an unforgettable day of birding outside the resort.

Even for a knowledgeable birder from British Columbia, Canada, Mexico may as well be another planet. The birds in northwest Mexico are colourful, more plentiful and completely different. You’re basically starting over! So we decided to join Vidal Prado for a day long birding tour with his company (find it here:

Citreoline Trogon

A six am start time was civilized, (two years ago in Playa Del Carmen, it was four am!), and after picking up a fellow tourist in Sayulita, we drove north to eventually reach La Tovara National Park near the town of San Blas, Nayarit.

On the drive we stopped a few times to spot various hawks, Citreoline Trogons, Summer Tanagers, Orchard Orioles and Wood Storks – to name just a few – before arriving at La Tovara National Park at around 11.00 am. 

Streak-backed Oriole

La Tovara is one of the most important mangrove sites in Mexico and the only way to visit it is by boat. There are 6 km of channels in this natural reserve composed of fresh water from the mountains which mixes with saltwater forming an estuary. The brackish water is the perfect habitat for some 250 species of endemic and migratory birds such as the cinnamon heron and green macaw.

Green Heron

We spent 3 hours slowly gliding through mangrove swamps and fields, seeing wildlife everywhere, including a number of large crocodiles, sprawled over logs getting a suntan. There were birds galore – Herons, Hawks, Kingfishers, Great Egrets, White Ibises, Wood storks, even a Northern Potoo, (a bizarre looking secretive bird of prey), and many many more. It was actually overwhelming, but in a fun way. It would take many trips to “master” the diversity  here. We had a blast twisting and turning with binoculars, trying, and failing, not to miss anything. This rich ecosystem is the best tropical river experience we’ve had. 

The mangroves of La Trova National Park

At the end of the river we arrived at The Kiekari Crocodile Sanctuary – Centro De Rescate Y Conservacion De Fauna Sylvester – housing crocodiles, many birds and even a couple of jaguars, (who are getting rarer in the region thanks to good old homo sapiens). The mission of the resident biologists is to preserve the endangered species of the mangroves – in particular the crocs.

Trust me. . . .

On returning we had a great lunch of fresh prawns at a roadside cafe in San Blas, before the 2 hour nail biting drive back to the hotel. 

Iguana, Mexico

A long day but if you wish to see and enjoy the immense variety of birds that live in this region, it’s fabulous.

Vidal is extremely knowledgeable and a fun guy to spend the day with. He shared his ebird list with us and apparently we saw 64 different species! 

Heron and Painted turtle
Yellow-crowned Heron
The Birdman from Langley, BC (for TRDB)

For more bird articles by Colin, check out TRAVEL RICH, DIE BROKE – FOR BIRD LOVERS.

Other birding articles by Colin Rankin that you may enjoy:

Wildlife in Antarctica – a Photographer’s Dream! (Penguins)

What Makes The Falkland Islands Worth Visiting? (Albatross, penguins, caracaras)

Costa Rica – Finding your Inner Bird!

Wonderful Woodpeckers

A Cluster of Buntings (Lasuli and Snow Buntings)

A Pleasant Surprise (The Cape May Warbler)

Birding Rio Lagartos (Mexico Birds)

“Keepers” – what makes a great photo?

Even More LBJ’s – The Bewick’s Wren (Little Brown Jobs)

Puffins (Newfoundland)

Hey! That’s My Fish! (Ospreys in British Columbias)

Little Green Jobs

Bird Photography – Novice no More!

Revenge of the Water Thick-Knees