121 West Tyler, Harlingen, TX 78550
956.423.1446

EL CIELO BIOSPHERE RESERVE, MEXICO – BIRDING HEAVEN!!

Fee: Single $1,495 – Double $ 1,295 – Triple $1,275 / 6:30am Monday, Nov 11 – 6pm Friday, Nov 15

Operated by GO WITH JO TOURS – (956) 423-1446. Register with Jo.

Less than six hours south of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a magical mountain range that is home to many tropical birds not found in the United States. The name, El Cielo, says it all – this is heaven to birders! The El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site of international significance, offers cloud forest, dense tropical forest, cascading waterfalls, dramatic vistas, and enchanting birds. This is our second year offering a post-festival trip to El Cielo after a hiatus of several years. You can see the results of our 2018 post-festival trip at https://rgvbfebird.blogspot.com/2018/11/el-cielo-species-list-november-12-16.html.

We are delighted to return to El Cielo and the diversity of tropical birds found there (255 resident species plus 175 migratory visitors), and the welcoming local communities. Reading a list of bird names is an adventure in taxonomy for a location so close to the US border: Blue-capped Motmot, Lineated Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Crescent-chested Warbler, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, Golden-browed Warbler, Yellow-winged Tanager, Melodious Blackbird, to name a few. While this trip is a sampler trip, designed to whet your interest for birding in these magical mountains, we will seek the specialty endemic birds of the area including Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl, Tamaulipas Crow (locally rare in winter), Altamira Yellowthroat, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and the Golden-olive (Bronze-winged) Woodpecker. We visit this forested karst topography, 560 square miles of steep mountains and valleys, at the start of the dry season – to enjoy the water pools, lush scenery, and wondrous sounds surrounding them.

ITINERARY: [Days are subject to change depending on the weather conditions at each site.

 Monday Nov 11 – Depart Harlingen 6:30 AM. We’ll make our way in a modern motor coach across the border. After completing the required paperwork for a short-term visa (bring your passport), we’ll continue south across the Tropic of Cancer to Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas and Gomez Farias. After a short break at the “Y” we’ll continue on to Gomez Farias. After a late lunch at the Hotel Cumbres Inn & Suites we’ll check in before birding the hotel grounds. We will remain in the same hotel for our entire visit.

Lunch, Dinner, hotel. Night, Hotel Cumbres Inn & Suites, Gomez Farias. L, D.

Tuesday Nov 12 – Our morning will be spent in the La Azteca area looking for the specialty birds of open areas, such as Blue-black Grassquit, Morelet’s Seedeater, and Brown Jay. This grassy area often has wet patches favored by the Altamira Yellowthroat. This will be our first experience in the open-air pick-up trucks that will take us to the birding sites unreachable by bus. We’ll likely hear

the ethereal voice of the Thicket Tinamou – more often heard than seen – for the first time. After returning to the hotel for lunch, we’ll spend the afternoon birding around the El Cielo Interpretive Center and walk a nearby forest track. Time allowing, we’ll make a stop in an agricultural area to look for Aplomado Falcon and maybe even Double-striped Thick-Knee. Depending on the weather and recent reports, we’ll explore the town of Gomez Farias one evening, searching for Stygian Owl (which sometimes hunts the town plaza) and nightjars. B, L, D.

Wednesday Nov 13 – We’ll start early in our pick-up trucks and head up the one lane cobble stone and dirt road towards Alta Cima, normally a 1-hour drive but taking all morning, to listen and watch for tropical forest flocks along the road. A late lunch at the community-run restaurant (limited selection and no special meals possible) is provided, and we’ll take a brief opportunity to look at vendors selling local needlework featuring birds as well as treats including jams, and liquors in the tiny town. Our return trip down the same road to our hotel gives us a second chance at wandering flocks before dinner. The day will be long and tiring but the birds and scenery will be sensational. Possible species include Crested Guan, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl, Crescent-chested Warbler, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, White-winged Tanager, and Hooded Grosbeak. B, L, D.

Thursday Nov 14 – It’s a short ride by bus to the town park of Boca Toma 2, an area on the Rio Sabinas with a few trails we can walk near the beautiful, clear, clean river. We’ll look for riverine and riparian birds, including Rose-throated Becard, Amazon (also Green and Ringed) Kingfishers, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Tropical Parula, and the recently split Blue-capped Motmot. A small outboard boat will take us in shifts to look for the rare Sungrebe with a chance for a wild Muscovy Duck. After lunch, we’ll visit La Florida, a pretty river area that can be heavily used for recreation but includes a large diversity of birds. We’ll look for the foothill forest species expected in this habitat. We may decide to stay out until sunset to look for nightjars if the weather is suitable. B, L, D.

 Friday Nov 15 – After breakfast and check out, we will bird a mix of woods and fields below Gomez Farias this morning, hoping for raptors, wintering and open country birds, and if we’re very lucky a Tamaulipas Crow or Crane Hawk. Afterwards, we’ll stop at the La Morito store, famous amongst birders as the “Mango Pie” store, for a chance to purchase their well-known dessert and a little birding. Last year we saw Aplomado Falcon, Morelet’s Seedeater, and a late Broad-winged Hawk! We’ll have a box lunch for you to enjoy on the bus as we venture north back to the border. We’ll pass through customs and immigration and anticipate a dinnertime arrival to Harlingen, but do not schedule a flight departure tonight. B, L.

Note: You are required to carry your passport (valid for six months beyond the end of this trip- please check your expiration date). Price includes meals from lunch on Monday to lunch on Friday, 4 nights lodging in Mexico, all transportation, 5 days of guided birding, and loads of good birds! All alcoholic beverages will be at your individual expense.

DEPARTS: Harlingen, Luby”s Cafeteria, on Dixieland Rd. –  6:30 AM

Approx. Arrival: Friday, November 15, 6:00 PM