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Birding Around Banderas Bay
Professor Dennis W. Boddy

Among all of Mexico's destinations, the Bay of Banderas' unique personality has recently made it a favorite hotspot for nature lovers. Due to it's own peculiar characteristics that have created a bio-diverse paradise, the common goal is to be able to enjoy it's immense beauty and endeavor to protect it.

Now Puerto Vallarta faces the new Millennium, attempting to preserve it's amazing natural beauty, as well as its own identity in order to bring on a positive balance between nature and tourism, while maintaining the integrity of the area.

There is a new generation of eco-tour leaders developing enjoyable and educational activities that bring public awareness of environmentally sensitive areas and their resources. These tours are based on a method of intense living experiences within this wildlife area, the express purpose being evaluation and safe integration methods.

Although the ever-expanding urban pressure is rapidly changing the natural environment in the region, particularly in sensitive areas of decay, both nature and tourism can interact positively.

To the visitors of this area we wish you good luck in your birding. We also hope you recognize the NATURAL beauty of the area, not only the birds, but the vegetation, the animals, the mountains and the seashore and you will help us to protect it all.

Most of our advice will go to the more inexperienced of the birders, but perhaps the experienced ones will find something of use in this section.

Most species of birds don't like humans. There are exceptions, like grackles, house sparrows, rock doves, etc, but most species leave when humans arrive. Stealth on your part is necessary. Actually, I have found my car to be a good blind. Quiet, slow movements and drab clothing help. Birding in this area is best just after dawn and is very good for two or three hours, but as Rudyard Kipling put it, "The dawn comes up like thunder." Of course, there are birds to be seen all day long, especially marine ones and in the wetlands. It gets better again late in the afternoon, but like the dawn, the twilight thickens quickly here.

A pair of binoculars will help immensely. While sharp eyes are useful, they will only help in identifying a few species of birds, such as pelicans and frigate birds. If that is all you are interested in, don't worry about the binoculars, but if you want to know what species of warbler you are seeing, get a pair. If you are really enthusiastic and have the finances, a good scanning scope will be highly beneficial for identifying distant hawks or marine birds.

You should avail yourself of two important items of literature: a checklist of the birds of the area, and a field guide to the birds of Mexico. A field guide, in theory, covers all the birds ever seen in the country. That can be in the neighborhood of 1500 species if you include Central America as some of the books do. It is an awesome task to go through that many descriptions and pictures to try to find the one bird you are looking for. A checklist to the local species is an extremely useful aid, and that is what The Birds of Paradise is. I don't believe another one exists, so I can say that this one is the best.

Actually, we have spent nearly 20 years developing it. Like any such lists, mistakes are possible, and there are certainly omissions. Almost every year, a new species has been added to the list. However, we doubt any one will see a common or even somewhat common bird that is not on the list. Of course, if you go to El Tuito or San Sebastian, areas that have different habitats than the Valle de Banderas, you will find species not listed.

The main economy of our area is tourism and if the tourists demand natural beauty and conservation of the life around us, it will help. We hope you will support those local conscientious tour leaders who work hard to protect our environment. There is a growing number of tour groups, and tour leaders that are developing sophisticated knowledge about the birds. We strongly urge you to avail yourself of their expertise.

The area as a whole needs to do much in educating its own people that live iguanas in the wild are better than stuffed ones in a curio shop. Free birds are friends and better than caged ones. This place we call "paraíso" is "paradise lost" if it is not actively protected from that small, but rapacious sector of the tourist industry bent on gaining a little wealth from whatever source they can. Enjoy it!

Don't forget you can find The Birds of Paradise - Dennis W. Boddy's checklist of the Birds of Puerto Vallarta in: Casa del Tequila, Sierra Madre, Ecotours, Sr. Book and others.

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