Mexico: Rio la Tovara

It is known that to find the potoos near San Blas one must first find Chencho.  It took us a couple days to track him down, but track him down we did and a boat ride into the mangroves was scheduled.  Of course we all thought we were in a different time zone which should have complicated things but somehow it did not.  Mexican miracles combined with Frank's excellent luck make for magical potoo outings.

The boat

Anhinga y Chencho
We set off with Chencho in the afternoon of January 7th under sunny frigatebird-filled skies, full of hope for our target birds.  We had Chencho so we knew we would be fine.  Within fifteen minutes we spotted Rufous-necked Wood-Rails creeping in the shadows of the mangrove roots, occasionally blinding us with their brilliance.  No photos.  A Magnificent Frigatebird instead:

We cruised around the main river, checking out birds and sleeping crocodile children.

We took a turn into the dense mangroves following the twisty-turny waterway, sometimes ducking to avoid the vegetation.  Birds and crocs were waiting for us.

Mangrove Warbler, a subspecies of Yellow Warbler

 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

We came to a spot packed with Boat-billed Herons, the most ridiculous of herons.

 Further into the mangroves we went until Steve called out our first Northern Potoo, perched directly above a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron.  Ahhhh what do you do?  You ignore the heron and stare at the potoo.  That's what you do.

 Potoos do not look like much while sleeping.  We carried on through the mangroves...

Green Kingfisher

The sun was getting lower as we cruised into Snail Kite country.

Sweetest Crested Caracara pair

Little Blue Heron

We came upon a major Tropical Kingbird and Orchard Oriole roosting spot where a local Merlin was taking advantage and feasting on a TK dinner.  The bats and Common Pauraques started flying as we reached the end of the line where we disembarked for a brief break, waiting for darkness to settle in.  A family of ring-tails scurried along a rock wall offering only the briefest of looks.  Then it was back to the boat.

Chencho prepared his big light for the ride back and we excitedly began spotting eyes reflecting back at us.

Eye of the potoo

We stopped many times to light up perched Northern Potoos, counting a total of 13.

We also caught a very cute but unidentified mammal and a Limpkin.

We rode back through the mangroves to the main river where Chencho was able to navigate without the light.  I remember leaning back and staring at all the stars, feeling the warmish air rushing by, and wondering if things would ever be that good again.

Good times.


  1. Wow, sounds like a great day. Those potoo shots are awesome.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this! So exotic!

  3. Amazing experience Jen, great birds!! I know you will have many more of these awesome times!

  4. Potooooooos!! I thought for sure those were a figment of birders' imagination. Nothing that silly-looking can be real.

  5. Mighty fine birds all around, but you should not have squeezed that Potoo so hard. Enjoying this series of posts!

    1. If you had a potoo in your hand you would not be able to resist squeezing it either.

  6. The slight droop in the bill of the silhouetted bird means its a Little Blue.

    That boat ride is going to be hard to top. I want to take one where we can get an Agami Heron.

    1. I want more birding by boat rides in general. Geri at its finest.

  7. Those potoo shots are kind of creepy. I had no idea.


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