Wednesday, May 30, 2018

San Carlos, Mexico

Over the past weekend, to celebrate the end of the school year, we headed out to San Carlos, Mexico.  It's a 5 and 1/2 hour drive south of Tucson. 

We arrived exhausted and were greeted by this California Praying Mantis.  Carefully I took this critter out to the patio.  

During our time in San Carlos, we relaxed a bit and had some drinks along the beach.  I did some light birding along the coast focusing on gulls. 

The Yellow-footed Gull of the Baja Pennisula is an endemic.  Here in San Carlos, this bird was the most common gull present. 

The Sonoran Desert ranges all the way into the state of Sinaloa.  It's a fascinating region of desert. Here you can find the iconic Saguaro Cactus growing next to areas of Cardon and Organ Pipe Cacti.  

As the vegetation changes the further south you go, so does the birding.  Here we not only see traditional Sonoran birds with typical ocean birds, but we begin to see Neotropic birds show up like the mangrove subspecies of Yellow Warbler, Mangrove Swallows and Great Kiskadee.  It is here that you can find other strange birds(not often seen in the northern Sonoran desert region) like White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks and Little Blue Herons.  There are Reddish Egrets and Tricolored Herons. The Sonoran Desert is an amazingly diverse area. 

One of my favorite species of birds, the Bronzed Cowbird, was seen in good numbers almost every place we went.  In fact, I searched high and low for a Brown-headed Cowbird.  No luck. 

Let's talk safety.  Getting to San Carlos is relatively easy.  We headed south down to the Nogales Mariposa port of entry and stopped near the Circle K to purchase some insurance.  Then we headed down to get the visa for the vehicle.  Don't take your chances.  If you get into a wreck and don't have the visa along with that insurance, they could impound your vehicle.....forever!  And you only need that visa if you pass Hermosillo.  Places, nearest the border, like Rocky Point(or Puerto Peñasco), don't require this visa. 

San Carlos is a clean and sleepy little ocean village.  It's worth the extra hours of driving.  It's cheap to rent a beautiful place.  In fact, I came back with money from this trek!  That rarely ever happens.  As for safety.  Always use common sense.  Lock up things, etc.  Now let's talk Mexico. 

Another favorite gull of mine is the Heerman's Gull.  Easy to ID and a beautiful bird to observe along the coast!  Having traveled Mexico this year(and the last), I must mention a couple things that I've heard from my Mexican friends and US workers down in this country.  I've been going to the safe tourist "corridors" of the country that are easy to travel and away from the drug cartel lanes. It's why I hired a guide in Mexico City this past spring due to being close to another state(Morelos, not on the list but a known drug corridor nonetheless).  Here is the latest Mexican Travel Advisory . 
"Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas.
U.S. government employees are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. government employees are also not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico with the exception of daytime travel on Highway 15 between Nogales and Hermosillo.

Do not travel to:
  • Colima state due to crime.
  • Guerrero state due to crime.
  • Michoacán state due to crime.
  • Sinaloa state due to crime.
  • Tamaulipas state due to crime."

However, we did notice some cartel activity in San Carlos in various spots because they own beach homes.  And it makes sense.  San Carlos is fairly close to the state of Sinaloa, known by Mexicans and the US, as a not-so-safe state to visit.  The cartels run their major operations out of this state and several others listed above. 

BUT with that said, San Carlos was safe. MANY Americans and other foreign nationals vacation in San Carlos. In Mexico, always travel by day and with others. It's the same in several areas of the US. So just use common sense. We had a blast.  Plus the birds were amazing!

I had several places I wanted to check out while we were there.  One included the San Pedro island for the nesting ocean birds and the other was the El Soldado Estuary between San Carlos and Guaymas.  Unfortunately, hurricane winds put a kibosh on our pelagic trek out to the island. 

However, I was able to do a count around the tidal areas and see lots of great ocean birds like a fast moving Black Storm-Petrel.  There weren't any life birds on the table here except maybe a Gull-billed Tern.  For me, this was more about connecting the dots in another sector of the Sonoran Desert.  Plus, my birding focus has shifted to the state of Sonora now. 

And when I wasn't counting birds around the town, we were celebrating the start of summer. I will say that I added Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and White Ibis to my Mexico list bringing my total national Mexican list up to 428 birds seen in the country.  In the next post, we'll explore the beautiful El Soldado Estuary. 

We had to keep an eye on Tami with that tequila.  We all got a little crazy:)
Now it's time for a margarita:)  Until next time.....


  1. Hello, I have heard many horror stories about tourists in Mexico. I am glad you were safe and had a great vacation. The scenery and views are beautiful. It looks like a nice way to start off your summer break. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  2. It sounds as though you had a wonderful break - love the sky in that first photo and as always it is great to see the birds you have seen :)

    Thank you so much for the very kind words on my mum - it is much appreciated.

  3. Lovely post and I really like the bird shots. Cheers Diane

  4. Gorgeous shots! Looks like such a beautiful area! I appreciate the warnings and kids are planning to visit Yucatan and Cozumel...I hope those are considered safe areas!

    1. Yep. Totally safe. They're going to love it. But they'll need to drink a lot to stay hydrated;)

  5. awesome photography - keep enjoying your trip.

  6. It looks like a great time and the creatures are such a great addition to see.

  7. Mexico is somewhere I’d love to visit for the wildlife. Maybe one day. Love the different gulls and that very smart Yellow legged Gull.

    1. Ahhhh.....the food, the people....the's a great place for photography and wildlife and culture. Hope you get a chance to go!

  8. Seems like a lovely vacation. Although it's been decades since I traveled into deeper Mexico people told nothing but scare stories then. Whenever I travel I'm careful.


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