Vera Cruz River of Raptors

For the fourth year in a row, Barb & Pat Ward are traveling to Vera Cruz, Mexico to the site of the world’s largest raptor migration.  Each fall birds of prey pass through this narrow corridor between the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal mountains.   The Pro Natura Hawk Count Team, in a three-month season, counts more than 5,000,000 raptors passing over this Gulf Coast plain.  Millions of other birds, such as warblers and flycatchers, fly over as they head south.  Also of interest are the migrating butterflies and dragonflies.  They have timed our tour to coincide with the peak Broad-winged Hawk migration.

In the past they have found 20 species of raptors and 24 species of warblers. On one of the trips, in one thirty-minute period, 18,500 Broad-wings soared overhead. Their goal is 250 for a total number of species for the trip.

Robert Straub, who wrote the site guide for the birds of Vera Cruz, will be the guide again.  Robert has been a resident in Mexico for a number of years and has proven to be an excellent leader.  This is an easy trip with adequate accommodations, good food, and a nice van for traveling.  The group will be based in Cardel, Mexico at the Hotel Bienvenido for several days.  A few hours in the middle of the day will be spent watching migrant raptors at two very comfortable hawk-watching sites.  The mornings and afternoons will be free to explore the region, visiting excellent nearby birding sites along the coast and inland, as well as exploring cultural sites that the region has to offer. Participants will also spend a couple of days in the highlands in the Sierra Madre Oriental, based in the city of Xalapa where we will be searching for several Mexican endemic species.

Days 1-3: Hawk-watching near the coast

Based in Cardel, about 6 km from the coast.  There we will be able to hawk-watch from the roof of the hotel. In the afternoon, when the coastal winds begin to push the birds inland, we’ll head to Pro Natura’s tower in Chichicaxtle.  Morning outings will include a coastal lagoon, a mangrove forest, and coastal dry scrub forest.  In addition to spectacular flights of early morning passerines, such as Dickcissel, Eastern Kingbird, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the group will search for endemic species, such as Vera Cruz wren, Mexican Sheartail, Canivet’s Emerald, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, and other common local species.  Local raptors expected are: Common Blackhawk, Great Blackhawk, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Bat Falcon, and Laughing Falcon.

Days 4-5: Xalapa and the Highlands

Just a short drive away and at 4,500 feet in elevation is the lovely city of Xalapa.  It is surrounded by different habitats with many different bird species.  Explore the nearby cloud forest and pine oak forest, which hold many endemic species such as: Bumblebee Hummingbird, Wedge-tailed Saberwing, Gray Silky Flycatcher, Blue Mockingbird, Rufous-capped Brush Finch, Red Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, and Collared Towhee.  Look for many western migrants such as Hermit Warbler, Townshend’s Warbler, MacGuillvary’s Warbler, and Western Tanager.

Days 6-9: Coastal Birding

Return to the coast for more hawk-watching, hoping to catch more flights of big raptors.  Excursions will include a visit to a wonderful shade-coffee plantation where our hosts will treat us with a trek into their land which includes large tracts of native forest. They will also provide a fantastic lunch on the veranda of their 19th century hacienda.  The last day of birding will be to an area of savannah south of Vera Cruz where Aplomado falcons are common.  Looking for Double-striped Thickknee, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Pinate Bittern, and Plain-breasted Ground Dove.  The final night will be back in the city of Vera Cruz staying in downtown near the Zocalo, town square, for our farewell dinner and flight home the following day.

Cost includes transportation in a Sprinter Van with a driver, guide fees, boat trip, lodging, meals, tips and a donation to Pro Natura.  Not included are airfare to and from Vera Cruz, alcohol, and items of a personal nature.

Cost: $2,775.00 per person (double-occupancy). Additional charge of $250.00 per person for single occupancy.

A deposit of $200.00 will save you a spot for this outstanding adventure!

Register HERE with Pat and Barb Ward


Date: September 27 - October 5