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Budget travel advice (1 Viewer)

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Hi Everyone,

Just came back from Guyana and my life list is at a nice 875 species in my life list, which roughly means that I'm only 125 species away from my 1,000 milestone and I would really like to achieve it this year.

So far I only have one trip planned to the state of Washington this summer but that would only give me about 20-30 lifers if I get really lucky (family vacation, can't focus solely on birding).

My question to you is the following, which place in Mexico or Central America would you advice to do 1 week and get those last 125 birds? My only other limit is that I want to leave it on the low cost and travel time wise (which is why I'm keep trying to stay away from South America, correct me if I'm wrong) and use a local guide to maximize the options. I currently have a break in the first week of May and the second week of December. Since I am aiming for resident species, migration numbers don't really affect me as I've seen most of the migrants for the region.

I've already birded the Southeast and Pacific Northwest parts of the US, along with short trips for Yucatan, Central Panama and Bahamas, plus the aforementioned Guyana. Based on those, please let me know what you'd recommend, currently I'm thinking of Oaxaca and San Blas or Guatemala, but would like some input before trying anything and if you have a guide to recommend, please don't hesitate.
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
San Blas is one of the best birding hotspots in Mexico. I picked up 65 species there in five days. Also, hotels and restaurants there are inexpensive. I can recommend a local guide if you wish.
 

DMW

Well-known member
If hitting 125 new species is your main goal, I would suggest reading trip reports for the relevant options to see which is most likely to deliver that target. Whether 1 week in Mexico would achieve that will depend on what you have already seen.

The San Blas area is easy to do cheaply on your own, but if you want a guide Mark Stackhouse and Antonio Robles are both local to the area. We bumped into both earlier this month and they were very pleasant to chat with. If you explained your goal and let them know which species would be new, I'm sure both would put together an itinerary for a week that would maximise your new bird count.
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
I went with Mark Stackhouse in San Blas. Nice guy and gives excellent tours. Found Orange-breasted Bunting, Military Macaw, Bumblebee Hummingbird, the nocturnal Potoo and more than 60 others. If you are looking to find 125 species, you could get half of them here in a few days, then move to another spot. Tikal Guatemala is also great.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
If hitting 125 new species is your main goal, I would suggest reading trip reports for the relevant options to see which is most likely to deliver that target. Whether 1 week in Mexico would achieve that will depend on what you have already seen.

The San Blas area is easy to do cheaply on your own, but if you want a guide Mark Stackhouse and Antonio Robles are both local to the area. We bumped into both earlier this month and they were very pleasant to chat with. If you explained your goal and let them know which species would be new, I'm sure both would put together an itinerary for a week that would maximise your new bird count.
I went with Mark Stackhouse in San Blas. Nice guy and gives excellent tours. Found Orange-breasted Bunting, Military Macaw, Bumblebee Hummingbird, the nocturnal Potoo and more than 60 others. If you are looking to find 125 species, you could get half of them here in a few days, then move to another spot. Tikal Guatemala is also great.
Seems like a good place to hit, especially if I want to try a more relaxed birding break, only thing I'm worried is that the US Embassy currently has the area listed as Do Not Travel (which I know it's bs since Guyana is also like that but it was incredibly safe, but don't want to worry my family too much if they see that).
 

DMW

Well-known member
Seems like a good place to hit, especially if I want to try a more relaxed birding break, only thing I'm worried is that the US Embassy currently has the area listed as Do Not Travel (which I know it's bs since Guyana is also like that but it was incredibly safe, but don't want to worry my family too much if they see that).
I suspect San Blas and the surrounding region is safer than any US urban area. It's a quiet, friendly low-key resort area.
 

Butty

Well-known member
Do you have any idea on the rates?
All I could say from memory is 'perfectly fair' as far as I recall. I've travelled with him twice in southern Mex, in groups of 4-5, and, all of the many aspects considered, he might be the best guide I've ever used. Just shoot him an email with an idea of what you want.
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
I suspect San Blas and the surrounding region is safer than any US urban area. It's a quiet, friendly low-key resort area
Correct. Safer than USA. Most people wear masks and lots of outdoor restaurants to eat at. I am heading to Mexico next week.
 

Maroon Jay

Airborne
Canada
A couple of other good spots are Point Pelee Ontario and along the Texas gulf coast. Point Pelee is especially good for warblers in May if you have not already seen most of them.
 

mjh73

Well-known member
Australia
I reckon a week in Colombia with a few days around Bogota and a few days out of either Cali or Medellin would get you 125 and then some at reasonable cost and not too much travel time, noting that was your main reasoning behind excluding S.Am.
 

AveryBartels

Well-known member
I reckon a week in Colombia with a few days around Bogota and a few days out of either Cali or Medellin would get you 125 and then some at reasonable cost and not too much travel time, noting that was your main reasoning behind excluding S.Am.
Very true, and should be pretty straightforward to arrange. Better option yet would be to do Cali area for ~3-5 days to bird Km 18, San Cipriano, Laguna de Sonso then bus/drive (~4hrs) up to Manizales to bird Rio Blanco Reserve, Hacienda El Bosque and Los Nevados National Park. Birding around Bogota requires a vehicle and lots of driving around the city which isn't the most pleasant way to bird. Should be able to get 300+ species in a week.

Note though that the Anchicaya Valley (old road to Buenaventura) has seen some recent unrest and is a bit dicey at the moment. However, other birding areas in the surroundings are fine.

I would imagine you couldn't go wrong with Southern Mexico though. That's an area I have been wanting to get to for years!
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
If you want 100 + species easily and safely then a trip to the UK would get you loads quickly. Esp in migration times. Obviously if you have been to Europe already then ignore this!
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
If you want 100 + species easily and safely then a trip to the UK would get you loads quickly. Esp in migration times. Obviously if you have been to Europe already then ignore this!
Although outside of migration times, if all @Igonz1008 's birding has been in the Western Hemisphere, just about anywhere in Europe, Asia or Africa would get him 100+ species quicker than UK. UK isn't a particularly cheap destination either, although transatlantic flights might be cheaper to London than elsewhere in Europe, especially with the large number of UK - Florida flights? One option might be to get a cheap flight to a UK airport from Florida, then tag on a cheap Ryanair or Easyjet flight to either southern Portugal / Andalucia or the Baltic states - the latter being cheaper when you are there. Both areas could be done independently and safely travelling alone, without needing expensive guides or birding lodges.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Very true, and should be pretty straightforward to arrange. Better option yet would be to do Cali area for ~3-5 days to bird Km 18, San Cipriano, Laguna de Sonso then bus/drive (~4hrs) up to Manizales to bird Rio Blanco Reserve, Hacienda El Bosque and Los Nevados National Park. Birding around Bogota requires a vehicle and lots of driving around the city which isn't the most pleasant way to bird. Should be able to get 300+ species in a week.
If you did that itinerary and ended up flying into / out of Bogota and have half a day or less to spare, you could easily pick up a few Eastern Andes species with a taxi to the funicular at Monserrate, and the botanical gardens too - the wetland areas nearer the airport are less safe I believe, and best done with a guide. It's true anywhere further afield requires a vehicle / guide, but with an early start you can avoid traffic issues getting out of the city.
 

YuShan

hikingbirdman.com
United Kingdom
I agree with the others who recommend San Blas. Very nice birding and easy to do by yourself without guides etc. I do want to mention that I had a burglar entering my room while I was in bed. Switching on the light fixed this (he didn't get anything). I was also warned by a local that two weeks earlier a birder got robbed in the Sewer Ponds Trail area. The robbers then fled through the mangroves.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
If you want 100 + species easily and safely then a trip to the UK would get you loads quickly. Esp in migration times. Obviously if you have been to Europe already then ignore this!
Although outside of migration times, if all @Igonz1008 's birding has been in the Western Hemisphere, just about anywhere in Europe, Asia or Africa would get him 100+ species quicker than UK. UK isn't a particularly cheap destination either, although transatlantic flights might be cheaper to London than elsewhere in Europe, especially with the large number of UK - Florida flights? One option might be to get a cheap flight to a UK airport from Florida, then tag on a cheap Ryanair or Easyjet flight to either southern Portugal / Andalucia or the Baltic states - the latter being cheaper when you are there. Both areas could be done independently and safely travelling alone, without needing expensive guides or birding lodges.
I know it's probably overthinking, but as things are right now, I'd rather avoid Europe (even the Westernmost countries), and while I've never been outside of the Americas, I'd rather hold off and plan a 2 week trip to Spain/Portugal in the future than taking a long flight for just full 3-4 birding days.

But only time will tell, I know most of my European must see targets are split between the Iberian and Scandinavian Peninsulas, so let's see when I get the chance to visit them.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
I reckon a week in Colombia with a few days around Bogota and a few days out of either Cali or Medellin would get you 125 and then some at reasonable cost and not too much travel time, noting that was your main reasoning behind excluding S.Am.
If you did that itinerary and ended up flying into / out of Bogota and have half a day or less to spare, you could easily pick up a few Eastern Andes species with a taxi to the funicular at Monserrate, and the botanical gardens too - the wetland areas nearer the airport are less safe I believe, and best done with a guide. It's true anywhere further afield requires a vehicle / guide, but with an early start you can avoid traffic issues getting out of the city.
Very true, and should be pretty straightforward to arrange. Better option yet would be to do Cali area for ~3-5 days to bird Km 18, San Cipriano, Laguna de Sonso then bus/drive (~4hrs) up to Manizales to bird Rio Blanco Reserve, Hacienda El Bosque and Los Nevados National Park. Birding around Bogota requires a vehicle and lots of driving around the city which isn't the most pleasant way to bird. Should be able to get 300+ species in a week.

Note though that the Anchicaya Valley (old road to Buenaventura) has seen some recent unrest and is a bit dicey at the moment. However, other birding areas in the surroundings are fine.

I would imagine you couldn't go wrong with Southern Mexico though. That's an area I have been wanting to get to for years!
Species for time and money definitely make Colombia and Ecuador very appealing, but for now I'm trying to hold off on such countries since I don't want to simply see over half of the easy targets of South America in one year. I just did 10 days of birding in Guyana, and outside of some Pantanal/Pampas specialties and missed megas like Harpy Eagle and Sunbittern, I got so many sought after birds from the lowlands that I want to keep the Andes as a surprise for now at least.

Though knowing me, if I see a trip being prepared that I can join, I'll likely drop everything for it.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
A couple of other good spots are Point Pelee Ontario and along the Texas gulf coast. Point Pelee is especially good for warblers in May if you have not already seen most of them.
As an avid Florida birder, outside of about a dozen Eastern migrants (many of which breed in the Southern US), I've been blessed with seeing most of the warblers of North America barely an hour's drive from my house.

But Texas and either Point Pelee or Magee Marsh are in my bucket list just so I can see many of these warblers in easily in breeding plumage. Most of them only come through the East coast of Florida during Fall migration, so I've never even seen a Chestnut-sided or Bay-breasted Warbler in breeding plumage!
 

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