Birders are weird. I can say that because I come from a birder family.
Watching bird watchers can be entertaining: Here is an imaginary conversation between my parents, two elderly birders, married for 40 years, trying to argue quietly about whether the bird in the tree just ahead is really a Western Tanager or a Yellow Grosbeak.
“It can’t be a grosbeak! Look at that tiny little beak!” “I’m sure it’s a grosbeak.” “Well you just want it to be a grosbeak because you don’t have it on your Life List yet, like I do – from eight years ago!” By this point the whispers have begun to erupt into a volume level that is uncomfortable for both grosbeaks and tanagers. The two senior birders are suddenly left alone, abandoned by the bird in question. But they are still speaking in that suppressed, penetrating voice that is supposed to be inaudible to birds.
“SSSHHHHH! We just lost the grosbeak!” “That was no grosbeak!” Bonnie Jauregui and her 83-year old mother, Patricia Morrow, run the 90-hectare Rancho Primavera about three kilometers from El Tuito on the road to Yelapa. The principle crop: happy birders (or birdwatchers). The birders are happy because they see a LOT of birds. In fact, a total of 160 species have been recorded on her property.
Serious birders are pleased not only by the number of distinct species to be seen within the ranch boundaries, but also by the ability to see so many other birds within a short, one hour radius of the ranch. If you include species seen on day trips from the ranch, the bird counts can easily double. “It’s because there is such diverse terrain within an hour’s drive from El Tuito,” Bonnie says. “On one day, you can drive to the tropical coastline and the mangroves. The next day you can be in the high mountain areas with very different habitat.”
The ranch offered its first birding tour in 1996. Today, while the ranch remains virtually unknown in Puerto Vallarta, it has been included in itineraries for the prestigious VENT Travel Tours in Austin, TX, the largest company in the world specializing in birding tours. Most Primavera guests stay for a week, dividing their time between birding, hiking and relaxing by the natural lagoons that offer fishing (delicious tilapia) and swimming.
The accommodations are simple but comfortable in either a ranch house room or in a cabin with full kitchen. But guests rooms at the ranch house and the two cabins have grown “organically” over the last ten years and the rates are a bit confusing at first. I will let Bonnie define the accommodations and pricing:
“There are the guest rooms that are minimum stay of 6 px for 3 nights which include breakfast and dinner. Then there are the casitas, the minimum stay is 2 nights at $100 a night or $500 the week. I don’t discourage meals prepared in the casitas but I am very glad when the locals get the guests’ business” at restaurants in El Tuito.
The accommodations at the ranch are deceptively unpretentious: birders actually are one of the most affluent travel segments. Birders in the US and Canada alone spend more than $30 Billion on their hobby each year and they are increasingly drawn to Mexico which has more than a thousand bird species.
However, Bonnie and Patricia are not exactly looking to “cash in” on the birding business. They allow day visitors to enter the ranch to “bird” without charge. “We have a donation box and we don’t allow parties or picnics but we do want people to come and enjoy the birds.”
Conservation is the central theme at Rancho Primavera. Bonnie and Patricia recommend the “Macaws Forever” programs (www.macawforever.org/) to support the dangerously low populations of this gorgeous local bird. This Vallartabased organization is also known as “Unidos por las Guacamayas”. Bonnie supports them because “they are reaching out to the communities to teach locals, especially children, about the predicament that the macaws are facing because of the poaching and loss of habitat. As scientists, they are also monitoring the macaw population in the Bahía de Banderas and Cabo Corrientes.” Bonnie and Patricia had their own tastes of near-extinction during their early years at the ranch before they finally hosted their first birding tour in 1999. “We tried a lot of different ways to make a living up here,” Bonnie said. “But gradually we discovered we were ‘rich in birds’ and that really has worked for us.”
Contact information for Rancho Primavera: Bonnie Jauregui, Rancho Primavera, El Tuito,
Tel: (322) 269-0257.