Birds, Wildlife & Whale-watching in San Pancho, Mexico
San Pancho Bird Life:
San Pancho is a birdwatchers paradise. More than 300 species are to be found along the coast and in the mountains around San Pancho. Migration accounts for the great variety during the winter months compared to summer. Some of the largest birds you will see circling high overhead – magnificent Frigatebirds (tijeras in Spanish) and vultures; Brown Pelicans and others will skim the water, their wingtips only millimeters from the waves; while chachalacas, caciques, kiskadees, crows and many other species can been seen flitting amongst the trees. The most common birds seen are gulls and the purple-black Grackle with its sharply pointed beak, skewed tail and its amazingly wide vocal range, including the ability to mimic – especially cell phone tones!
To view birds you only have to look in any direction, or listen for their distinctive calls. Gulls and shore-birds can obviously be found along the beach, but fresh or sweet-water birds are common at the estuary just behind the south end of the beach and nearby streams. In fact, the estuary serves as a natural bird sanctuary – numerous species can be seen, from large great-necked herons and great egrets to grebes and many other smaller species, foraging amongst the water lilies or perched in the shade of the trees – photo opportunities are abundant here.
Around town, bushes and trees host a wide variety of birds. Pairs or small flocks of raucous Orange Fronted Parakeets (pictured) speed across the fields, chattering noisily amongst themselves, while another noisy local can be seen just before sunset as squadrons of Yellow Winged Caciques flock to a particular tree in the garden of a house at the N.E. corner of the baseball field.
Hummingbirds, woodpeckers, flycatchers, orioles, doves, hawks, thrushes and sparrows are common sights. A walk along jungle paths will offer more and different habitats, but viewing is more difficult amongst the thicker foliage, though by no means impossible.
With patience and vigilance, colorful Russet Crowned Motmots and Black-throated Magpie Jays can be seen; and the turkey-sized West Mexican Chachalaca (pictured), easily identified by its prehistoric call before you see it, is not uncommon. All are endemic to the San Pancho region.
In the jungle you may see Lilac Crowned Parrots and even the Military Macaw (pictured) can only be found in the deepest undisturbed jungle.
Encounters with animals will be rare, but foxes, tejones/coati (pictured), raccoons, armadillos, possums, and squirrels may be seen
Land-crabs, spiders, geckos (pictured), iguanas and other assorted lizards are all around. Usually only geckos are present indoors (they should be welcomed, as they eat flying insects). If you are staying in the jungle snakes and scorpions can be more prevalent. Land-crabs make their appearance in summer months – they are harmless and non-edible (hence their numbers).
San Pancho is surrounded by tropical jungle and has many plants and trees throughout the village, and “bugs” are forever present. A clean house will keep most at bay. At night, light will attract moths, beetles and other flying insects. Suggestion – to avoid being buzzed, do not sit under or next to a lamp, or have a separate lamp with a brighter bulb elsewhere in the area. Some moths and beetles are large and beautifully-marked; moths can have wingspans the size of a hand, and scarab and horned beetles are just a little smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Spiders vary from the “normal” household kind to the truly exotically-colored – most are harmless, though of course, it’s best to be prudent. Black widows and tarantulas are generally not found in this part of Mexico. To cut down the number of mosquitoes make sure there is no standing water around the house, as that is where they breed. Dawn and especially dusk are the worst times for getting bitten.
Whale Watching, Dolphins, & Turtles
In the winter months the Humpback whales (pictured) use the protective waters of Bahia de Banderas to raise their calves. It is amazing to be up close to the largest mammal on the planet. You can hire a boat in San Pancho, Los Ayala, Punta de Mita, or in Vallarta for this exciting excursion. In the Bahia de Banderas all the boats work together to make sure that you see a whale on your trip. SEE “ACTIVITIES/TOURS”.
Pacific Green and Olive Ridley turtles (pictured) come ashore along this coastline – in San Pancho only the Olive Ridley – to lay their eggs June through October, and hatchlings emerge September through December. The local Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, or Turtle Project, are a volunteer-based organization that have been responsible for the release of over a million baby turtles in San Pancho. The obstacles are so numerous for baby turtles that only about 1 in 1,000 survives to adulthood. Turtles may be observed in the sea while snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing. Watch for the yellow dune buggy on the beach daily at sunset during the winter months, and you can witness the release of dozens of baby turtles.