Heading east from Navajoa, Sonora, you face the prominent Sierra de Alamos, you’ll eventually find yourself in rolling hills. A visibly diverse canopy of a muted green develops and you are no longer in the flat coastal scrublands. Morning Glory trees, with pendulous white flowers appear irregularly along the roadside. You’ll pass through a large gateway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and you are in Alamos.
We arrived in Alamos late, missed rendezvous with Oliver and his parents. This got us off to a rocky start. But it was an absolute joy to sit as the town came to life, after the solitude of Navopatia. It took a second for me to relax in a new place without a plan, but everything worked out and we found a place to stay.
Alamos is a town of about 25,000, but when you sit in the main plaza it feels like much less populous. The municipality was founded in the late 17th century in the advent of silver mining in the area. Designed by the King of Spain’s personal architect at the time, it is known as ‘La Ciudad de los Portales” because of its many large doorways and walkways. As we explored the area in the next few days, Alamos’s age was apparent, although in recent years gringos have revamped the dilapidated mansions and tourists have begun to flock, bringing money for modern augments. There was still a large degree of historical charm.
One of the unique things about the town is the high sidewalks: they’re extremely tall, in some places coming up to my stomach (I’m 6’). The purpose is to accommodate for the monsoons that rage through in mid summer. Being in the mountains, they get the full brunt of run off from these storms and they literally flood the streets daily. In the off season, it made avoiding cars on the ubiquitous narrow streets difficult.
We ended up renting an amazing place up the hill from the main town. El Pedregal is run by Jennifer and David Mackay and is set on an amazing swath of undeveloped forest and scrub. Letting us dirt bags stay in their straw bail building was incredibly generous. It meant we got to wake up in a birding paradise, pick Dave’s brain for places to gallivant, and explore the town from a comfortable locale.
My excitement about finally being in Tropical Deciduous Forest was overwhelming and I didn’t get a good night’s sleep as a result. Anticipation of this new habitat was palpable in my peers as well, we were pretty much all up and birding around the property by a chilly, chilly daybreak. Jeff and I almost immediately found Black-throated Magpie-Jays because they flew by screaming their heads off. Though gorgeous birds, they look as if someone put them together fancifully (but masterfully) with feathers and glue. I was excited to put some studying to use and pick out a few white-crested juveniles among the bevy. Violet-crowned Hummingbirds were calling everywhere – a bird that I’d only seen singly in Patagonia, Arizona. They were squeaking their territorial claims throughout the loose sub-tropical forest.
We’d explored the property fairly well, talking to a group from High and Lonesome Bird Tours about the birds they’d seen. We all sat patiently and watched a female Black-vented Oriole peruse a leafless but blooming Tree Morning Glory (Ipomoea arborescens ) along with other Orioles and the never-ending stream of Orange-crowned Warblers. The next day I found a Tropical Parula, a good bird for the region this time of year, enjoying the blooms.
Pulling a large group together, even excited birders, can take time. The time had finally come to head out to the Rio Cuchujaqui, but we had some stragglers (including a poodle and labradoodle whom I was not thrilled were coming along). Thankfully, while milling about waiting for the roundup, a group of Mexican Parrotlets flew in over us and landed right on the property. These sparrow-sized parrots hardly ever land in plain view and we got the best looks we could have hoped for. Chirping and preening, they sat happily in view just long enough for us to round-up everyone and hop in our vehicles.