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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Southern Mexico, January 2003,Alex Kirschel
After a year of little in the way of life birds, despite numerous trips, it was time to get serious and visit one of those places that would make a difference to my list hovering around the 1000 mark. Lots of possibilities then, but to tie in with Demi's desires, it had to be North America somewhere, so it was time to explore, ahem, Southern Mexico.
Preparation for this trip was a joke. Buying any one of three field guides to the birds of Mexico proved completely impossible here in London. None of the major bookstores had them, despite books on just about everywhere else in the world. The online retailers were also warning of delays of up to 2 weeks (which normally means about a month), so I ended up going to Mexico not having a clue of what the birds were like that we were looking for, and what their ranges were. All I had was one or two trip reports, on which to base a loose itinerary. - The Howell book is actually unavailable, even from the publishers, who are now deciding whether to reprint it or not.
Demi actually thought we could cover Yucatan, Chiapas and Oaxaca in two weeks, and for the first two or three days we still harboured hopes of following such a plan, but soon realised we would not only drop Oaxaca, but also half of Chiapas. The target was to see all the endemics in the regions we were going, except perhaps one or two very hard to find species.
I arrived on Jan 7th in the evening and Demi was there waiting, already having arranged a car since his own arrival from New York. My flight from London via Miami was not the most convenient arrangement, but air miles made such a difference in price.
Our plan was to bird Cozumel first, clean up there and then go south to Felipe Carillo Puerto. Our first hotel in touristy Puerto Morales proved the most expensive at US$45, and that for a room with a bathroom that had no door. I tried to identify the ferry crossing details the night before, and found that taking the car across is prohibitively expensive, and pedestrian crossings are best arranged from Calica, rather than the more expensive Playa Del Carmen.
We got to Calica at day break, understanding that the ferry would leave at 7am. Before long I added my first lifers: Melodious Blackbird and Great Kiskadee, near where we thought the ferry comes in. We found a (Golden) Yellow Warbler here. We asked someone driving there about ferry details (all this with no possibility of communicating in the same language), and were told it leaves from further up somewhere at 8am. So we decided to find a birdy spot till then. Just inside the entrance to the Calica port there is a track leading off to the right to a sports field. We parked just here and added several more life birds by the car: Yucatan Vireo, Red-billed Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Social Flycatcher, Cinnamon Hummingbird and Rose-throated Becard. Walking on to the field we could see lots of activity at the other end. ( In the field was a Coati, while on the edges an Agouti) We walked across and soon added Boat-billed Flycatcher, Altamira and Orange Orioles, Masked Tityra, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker (which we initially mis-identified as Yucatan Woodpecker - Golden-fronteds here are NOT golden fronted, they look like Red-bellied Woodys!) Some Brown Jays appeared as we started walking to the car, and we added Tropical Pewee through the trail back. Silhouettes of three long-tailed birds together were not identified, though considered at the time perhaps Squirrel Cuckoos. However, at no time on the trip did we see Squirrel Cuckoos anyhow but on their own.
We drive on to the ferry station and discover that the ferry actually goes at 9am or is it 1pm, and there seems to be some other complications, and we are told we ought to go from Playa Del Carmen where they are more regular! While here we identify Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallows but fail to ID the numerous parrots flying over.
So its decided we ought to get to Playa Del Carmen around lunchtime, and go and bird by the field for the rest of the morning. This time we park up and get the scope out hoping to get a fix on those parrots. As soon as we're in the field we've got onto a stunning Turquoise-browed Motmot! But we've hardly had a chance to enjoy it before a bloke drives up and tells us we're in a private area and must leave. On the way back to the car some parakeets land in a tree, and we have a quick look at these Aztec, or Olive-throated Parakeets (depending on how you lump or split).
So it's around 9am and we decide to try the Jardin Botanical Gardens at Pueblo Morales for the morning. On arrival we are quickly scared off by the entrance price of $7 per person, just for a couple of hours of late morning birding, and end up going down a track across the road. We've already added a Squirrel Cuckoo flying across the highway.
A track off to the right leads to a dump, and here there is the usual activity with the vultures and cattle egrets around. In fact, a scan amongst the Vultures circling above picked out a Short-tailed Hawk (pale phase) - the only one on the trip. We quickly add Mangrove Swallow, there were several of these among the mixed hirundine flocks, and Groove-billed Ani, and what was that thrush? Didn't get a good look, oh there's another, Clay-coloured Thrush! This proved to be the common thrush on the trip.
We then tried a path on the other side of the main track and added a skulking Mangrove Vireo and Green Jay, and on the way back we found a Grey-breasted Martin perched on the power lines. I would not see another one on the trip.
It is was time to head back to Playa Del Carmen for the ferry crossing. We had barely set off when I spotted a raptor perched on a post on the side of the road: Laughing Falcon! We ended up seeing three of these on the whole trip, all around the same area and all perched - probably just one or two birds involved.
As other reports have mentioned, there is little in the way of interest on the crossing, we saw just Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull and Royal Tern here, plus Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone at the dock. We arranged moped hire ($25) and set off for the Chankanaab reserve on Cozumel. Police sent us back for our crash helmets after getting half way there, which wasted a good half hour, and eventually got to the reserve after 3pm. With less than 2 hrs of birding left, we decided to give the $10 entrance fee per person a miss, leaving it for the next day. We drove further down looking for birdy spots. We first stopped by the road and a little pishing excited a Rufous-browed Peppershrike (an enDemic subspecies I believe). Another stop was about 15 minutes further down on the right, where there is a sign for some kind of campground with a few paths and a little bit of a marshy area. There were Jacanas and a few shorebirds here, eg Solitary and Spotted Sands, and the paths soon yielded Black Catbird.
Our final stop was near San Francisco and on a track leading to the left, which has some fragmented dry scrub habitat with lots of options for some birding. We eventually got good looks at the Cozumel Emerald, and as we were about to head back at dusk, I finally nailed a very brown Cozumel Vireo. Fairly common here were the enDemic subspecies of Bananaquit and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and 'trash birds' from North America. American Redstart was abundant.
I mention the term 'trash birds' because this became a theme on the trip. Demi referred to most birds we found, even if new and uncommon, as trash, if their ranges went further south than Nicaragua! He stated clearly he was only interested in birds "he would never see again" so if they occurred anywhere from Costa Rica southwards, they were trash. I disagreed and it caused some major arguments later on the trip. No night birds were seen in the area at dusk and beyond, and we headed back for dinner and the cheap hotel ($25) recommended by the bike hire people.
Up before dawn and down to Chankanaab. We're there by about 6:45am, only to find that it opens at 8am. We head on to the Black Catbird spot from the previous afternoon, and saw more Cozumel Emeralds and Vireos, along with all the other enDemic subspecies seen the day before. At 8am we've got to Chankanaab but the staff are still not ready to let us in. We bird around the bushes seeing things like Yellow-faced Grassquit 'Golden' Warbler and more Cozumel Emeralds. Inside we first bird together in the Jardin Botanical not finding much, and then split up to see if we can individually locate anything of interest (and use walkie-talkies to communicate) at approximately the same time, we both find a new bird. He's found a Greenish Elaenia, and I've found a White-collared Seedeater. He first comes for mine, and its gone, but he'll see one a little later. I then try for his, after observing the large Iguana he found on a tree, and also fail, not seeing one till the following day. Before long we've finally got onto a Yucatan Woodpecker, some female Western Stripe-headed Tanagers (enDemic subspecies), Caribbean Dove and Caribbean Elaenias (all old friends from our Caribbean trip.)
Also here were White-crowned Pigeons, Vaux's Swift, Yellow-throated Warbler, Mangrove Swallow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and our only (female) Black-throated Blue Warbler of the trip. But much as we tried, we were being frustrated by the enDemic species/subspecies of Cozumel (House) Wren. I suggested we can in Chankanaab at around 10am, and try somewhere birdy on the way back. Within a few kilometres we ride past a track going into some good habitat, which is closed off by a barbed wire gate. Demi suggests we go have a look. We find that we can easily, if with no permission, walk around the gate and bird. It seems fairly good here but before long the dogs start barking at us so we start heading back, when Demi says he's seen a bird that may be the critically endangered Cozumel Thrasher! I saw the bird myself, from a different angle and only got a glimpse of a silhouette, but would have gone for a catbird. The bird could not be relocated, but we got about three Cozumel (House) Wrens behaving quite noisily and showing well at this spot! I also got a quick look at a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, flicking its tail continuously, while our only Magnificent Frigatebird at Cozumel flew over, before we headed off.
We got the 12pm ferry back, and by 1pm were heading down to Felipe Carillo Puerto. We were a few miles from there when we noticed some vultures / raptors overhead. Demi couldn't identify the large raptor from the moving vehicle with his bins, but I managed to spot the contrasting black and barred underwing and distinctive shape of a Black Hawk-Eagle with the naked eye, as it flew round my side of the car! Demi then, as usual started arguing about how 'dodgy' my ID was - which typically occurs when two of us look at a bird and one sees it well enough to identify it while the other does not. Again, as is usually the case, he laid off on this bird when we saw another together a few days later.
It was around 3pm and we finally identified how to get onto the Vigia Chico Road (after the sign to go left at the roundabout, you get to a fork where it seems normal to go straight, but this is wrong, you need to bear left at this fork (there are some signs for some facilities of some sort pointing left).
We're approaching the beginning of the forest when I've already spotted our first lifer here: a Keel-billed Toucan!!!! It's feeding out in the open in front of us as we observe to our heart's content. Our first ever Toucan and its put on a real show! We park by some rubbish within a few metres inside the forest and walk down the first 'smelly' track. We've already got Blue Bunting on the side of the road, which is common and conspicuous here, and we see a bird in the scrub, which is completely new to us. Out comes the field guide for assistance. It's a female Grey-throated Chat. Coming back out of this track we've got onto a flock of scolding Red-throated Ant-Tanagers.
Then some American birders drive up and we get chatting. Unfortunately this means we aren't really birding, and certainly did not add as many birds as we ought to have done in the afternoon. Some of the information they gave us was good, but we weren't ready to deal with things like the songs of Singing Quails and never really understood whether we heard them again after it was once pointed out. They helped us onto an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, the commonest from this family around, and I get a distant look at a Tropical Gnatcatcher - which again gets me a slating from Demi for being dodgy: "How did I separate it from the (badly named) White-lored?" "I saw the white lore" (a feature of tropical, not white-lored which has black lores!), I said. He said I could not possibly make that out from that distance, although perhaps my 10X42 SLCs had the edge over his 8.5X42 ELs for once. So this was now even 'dodgier' than the Hawk-eagle, until he realised that White-lored Gnatcatcher occurs several hundred miles from here, and we saw more Tropicals there the following day.
We walk further down and Demi has found some parrots perched at last. I join him to check out what proved to be the far commoner White-fronted Parrot. We shortly also get onto the fork-tailed Canivet's Emerald, and then another birder, a brit called Perry who does conservation work in Mexico with the RSPB, joins and another chat ensues. We say our goodbyes and have a little drive along the road looking for night birds. No luck, so we head back. A little further on from the school we hear a nightjar. We shine the torch and clearly identify a Pauraque, with its long tail with white sides, and also confirm the call in the book. We thought these would be common, but never saw or heard another on the whole trip.
We spend the night at a really dodgy $15 a night hotel, which would be swapped for the better Faisan and something (Pheasant and Deer), which cost just $20 and has hot water and a restaurant.
This was a big day at Felipe Carillo Puerto, the only full day's birding at this site, and looking back; we know we should have spent more time here. There's simply so much to explore here, with subtle differences in habitat producing different birds from one stop to another.
We started by driving the whole distance to the gate for the Sian Kaan Reserve, hoping for nightjars on the track. We flushed a couple around an opening 15km or so from the start. This seems to be the largest stretch of clearing, and proved good for nightjars, the odd hawk, some woodpeckers and a few other birds that seemed to prefer this stretch. We got next to nothing on the nightjar so drove on, with the intention of spending some time at this spot at dusk.
We arrived at the gate and before we knew it, the warden came up. I was expecting to get turned away, when he started opening the gate: He was letting us through! We did not intend to drive through, so I said we were just going to walk along the path a little. The forest was very dense here, mainly mangrove, I think; and seeing birds was a problem. We could hear all sorts of strange noises, but had to be contented with the shorter glimpses we got of Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Cacique and the male Black-headed Trogon that I picked out deeper in the mangrove that Demi could not get onto (though he saw one later in the day). Before getting to the car, at the entrance, I have a look down the path to the warden's quarters, and say something like "Oh look, there's a turkey." I had not realised at first instance that it was indeed the Ocellated Turkey we were looking for! The warden came out and I asked him what birds were causing that racket: Chachalacas, he said proudly. I wanted one.
He took us on a little tour around his quarters, we got good looks at Blue Buntings, and various other common birds, like Social Flycatchers. Then we catch some movement in a small tree: Greenish Elaenia, finally caught up with this fairly common species.
We said goodbye to the warden and began driving back towards 'birdier' spots, where we could at least see the birds. I soon catch a glimpse of a perched raptor (Demi acknowledges my good eye here, saying how the hell did you see that?) We get out and have a look at our first Roadside Hawk. Before heading on we caught up with a regional enDemic hummingbird, the Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, large, with a conspicuously wedge-shaped tail. We would see a couple more Roadside Hawks at the aforementioned clearing, which was our next stop. We could hear a strange squeaking coming from inside the tiny settlement here. Just above a hut, we located the culprit, a Black-headed Saltator. We walked further on and a juvenile Yucatan Jay, with its striking yellow bill, came out of a bush, from which it was calling, and sat on the fence in plain view. Birding was getting real easy here. But we felt we ought to head on to see what other activity we could locate. I suggested we stop by a wide path heading down to a small pond. Just after getting out of the car, I quickly get onto a White-necked Puffbird perched on an overhanging branch over the road! We study it from all sides as this tame individual sits, completely unaffected by our presence. We would not see another on the trip. Not many birds here, so we head further down, back towards the start.
Another stop where there seems to be some activity. We get out and quickly identify several Yellow-tailed Orioles, which are strangely lacking from several trip reports I had examined. They seem fairly common here at Felipe. There are several oriole species around here. We also see Orange, Hooded and Black-cowled Orioles. Demi then calls me over to see the Yellow-throated Euphonias high up in the canopy.
Its getting towards mid-morning, and we decide to head back to the clearing spot to check for raptor activity. There are some noisy Roadside and Grey Hawks, but that's about it. We start walking along the road to see what else we can find. The first bird appearing on a hedge along the road is a Grey-crowned Yellowthroat. We see it well. Then I point out some distant birds feeding on the road "the grassquits!" I say. They were indeed the Blue-black Grassquits. Also feeding with them is a sparrow, but at that distance we're having difficulty discerning whether it's a green-backed or Olive. Demi had seen a green-backed the day before, and an Olive in Texas. I'd seen neither, and could not determine what this bird was. Then a couple of Woodpeckers fly over our head and then towards the sun. "What was that!?" My view was shocking; I thought the birds were green. Demi said he saw a bright red head and thought they were Pale-billed Woodpeckers. They flew off really far and we lost them.
We continue along the road and into the forest. Demi gets onto a bird, it's a flycatcher of sorts, and I can't see it. He says it's got a huge raised crest, I still can't see it, and then it's gone. He had found a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, which I would catch up with the next day. I see some movement by a large bird in the canopy, I finally get a half decent look at it, er, it's a chachalaca, I say. Demi doesn't see it, though he's seen them before, and asks, what did it look like. I say, I couldn't make out colours, but it had a long tail and a thick bill (using the greek word which means 'large'). "Large bill? A chachalaca has the smallest bill ever!" He retorts. I'm getting really upset, I know I saw a chachalaca, but he's going on about how dodgy it all is, and caused me enough doubt, that I decide I cannot include it - I didn't think it was anything like a great currasow or a crested guan (most unlikely here anyway), but I gave in, I could not identify the bird for certain. We head back toward's the car and get onto a Myiarchus flycatcher. We've worked on the identification of these, and this one is, without a doubt, a Yucatan Flycatcher. The calls are almost identical to Dusky-capped but the Yucatan has whitish wing bars compared to Dusky-capped Flycatcher's rusty ones. Also the cap is clearly darker on the Dusky-capped.
We've just started heading back when I get onto some activity. We get out and I point out a stunning Pale-billed Woodpecker. We enjoy it for a bit, and then continue back. Another stop nearer the start and I've got onto the other biggy: A Lineated Woodpecker.
We stop at the Taco Bel nearby (that is how they've spelt it, and the restaurant has no connection to the chain - we liked the food!). Tot up our new birds, and we're pretty content. We know there are several endemics still to look for, and we've got to target those.
We start the afternoon's birding a couple of km down the road, and follow some activity into an overgrown field where the usual Orioles attract our attention. Demi has got onto a Greyish Saltator, which I can't see yet, but I spot a Golden-olive Woodpecker! I show it him, and then start looking for the saltator. He points out the tree, I get onto an Orchard Oriole, no not that, just above it, yes, Greyish Saltator!
We head back to the road and then take a wide path leading off the road to the right. There isn't much activity, but I find Demi his first Black-headed Trogon, and he obliges by finding us a Green-breasted Mango. We take the path back to the road, I'm roadside, he's path side behind some hedges, and at exactly the same time we focus on some Orioles landing on the trees between us. At least one of which is a Yellow-backed Oriole! So cleaned up all the possible Orioles in the area.
We continue driving down, back to the clearing area, park up, for the later afternoon birding, followed by the nightjar efforts at dusk. This time we start heading further down the road and I get onto a wren-type bird. Or is it like a Gnatcatcher, its got buffy underparts but its moving quick and I haven't seen the bill. Demi gets onto it "Gnatwren" he states, pronouncing the G. I start laughing and can't concentrate on following the bird to see it better, though I've identified this Long-billed Gnatwren well enough. Following it we come onto a flock of Ant-Tanagers we can see a raised red crest and claim "Red-crowned Ant Tanager" A couple of days later, we would cross this off the list, having realised the Red-throated has a quite similar red crest. While here, I hear a squeaking three-tone rubber ducky type whistle. I'd heard it before at the warden's path, and now I'm guessing it's the Gnatwren, or is it the Ant-tanager? More on this later. We're wandering a little further down and I can hear some light pecking, I locate the source: Smoky-brown Woodpecker! We watch this bird for several minutes as it performs well!
We've split up a little and I get onto a pigeon flying over. White vent, Black tail, scaled greyish breast, oh and a red eye / eye ring, could be made out. I don't think I've got onto more detail on a flying pigeon before, and this one is a Scaled Pigeon! Demi sees a similar bird later but not well, seeing the contrast between the vent and tail, but I think he decided not to count it in the end.
It's getting to dusk and we've scanned the fields in the clearing, seeing some distant Lesser Nighthawks. Perry then drives up and we're discussing the rest of our trip, and he warns us of dangers in Chiapas. Its now dusk and the nightjar duly sits on the road. We get flashlights onto it and the scope is out. Making out the subtle plumage differences proves difficult, but subjectively we're siding with the poorwill. Then it calls: puc, puc, puc. Yucatan Poorwill! We follow it for another half hour or so as it flies from one spot to another in a circle around us. Demi scans the field again and goes "Do they have Potoos here?" We get the scope on the eye shine, but its already dark and even with flashlights the bird is so far away, all we can tell is that it looks like a smallish Owl. We're studying what we can; did I see small eartufts? I don't know. It's probably a Vermiculated Screech-Owl, but we can't get closer to see for sure. It is sitting on a snag and going on occasional hunting forays and returning to the same spot. We eventually agree to pack it in for the night and head back to the Pheasant and Deer hotel.
Common birds during the day included B + T Vultures, C + R Ground doves, Red-billed Pigeon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, I saw another KB Toucan, a motmot (of which more later) there was Ladder-backed, Yucatan and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers (so we saw 7 woody species in all!). Flycatchers include Dusky-capped, Social, Great Crested, Tropical Pewee (around the clearing), Least, Boat-billed, Great Kiskadee, Rose-throated Becard and Masked Tityra. Brown Jay was common; we had Tropical and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, abundant N.A. trash like White-eyed Vireos, Parulas, Redstarts, Magnolias, C. Yellowthroats, Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Grey and Black Catbird and various other common birds.
We start the day early again, though we have to waste a good 15 minutes at the hotel car park because some idiot has blocked us in. That 15 minutes may have lost us any chance of having a good look at the nightjars again. We flushed one and that was it. So we drive back to near the beginning, park up and start working on the early bird activity. I get a brief glimpse at a Grey-throated Chat, and better looks at Mangrove Vireo. We hear some parrots coming in, they've landed just above us, we have a good look at two, and they are indeed Yucatan (Yellow-lored) Parrots.
We then take a path into some plantations where Demi had found a couple of good birds (Green-backed Sparrow and Southern House Wren) on the first day, before being kicked out by a farmer! So we tread carefully, following what definitely sounds like a wren over by some rocks. I got on it first, Spot-breasted Wren. It makes a lot of noise; including a comb-like sound that I thought was supposed to be the Singing Quail. There is also a Southern (subspecies) House Wren here and one or two other wrens seem to have got away. We're heading back towards the road when Demi picks out a bird on a snag "Blue Ground Dove" he says, "Is there such a bird?" I get on it, remembering this from one or two trip reports, and that it isn't that easy to find.
I turn around, and I've got on the White-browed (Carolina) Wren immediately. I try to show Demi, but he can't see it. He's getting frustrated, and goes round to the road and follows it for several minutes until finally getting a look! We continue walking down the road and I say to Demi we should try this track going off to the right. He says, no it's the one with the Trogon yesterday; there aren't many birds along it. It actually was a different track, we found. I start down and immediately thought I'd try the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl tape. Demi hears the tape and comes for a look. I hear one bird. I play it again. Nothing. We start heading our separate ways again, when he points out the call of Couch's Kingbird. We had seen several Tropical/Couch's types yesterday, but I dismissed them as Tropicals, which were so common everywhere else (and they weren't calling). The bird was high in the treetops in a more open area on the side of the path, but it was much overgrown and difficult to get in for a look. I tried to get in to this tangle, and ended up grazing my legs against thorns, rocks etc. That's it; I was on a mission to see this bird. I got the tape out. This kingbird would be mine. Darn common bird giving me trouble. I finally get on it, singing away. At last, Couch's Kingbird. We then separate again, I head down the track, Demi heads up the road. I try the tape again for the Pygmy Owl. Before I know it, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl flies into view and sits there watching me! Oh what are those birds mobbing it? Er, one is something trashy, the next, oh, White-bellied Wren! I get Demi on the blower (walkie-talkie). He comes down eventually. The wren is no longer in view so he's not too happy, but he's got onto the Pygmy Owl, and, I've just found him another lifer, a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet has come in to mob the Owl now.
We head on a little further but nothing much is happening so we start heading back. Our main target bird for the day was the Rose-throated Tanager and Demi had read the habitat description: mid to upper levels of forest and forest edge. One reason why I had come down this track was because it was in the forest. Demi had got in his mind that forest edge meant he would see it in a field. So we're about half way back along the forest track and I get on some movement up in the canopy. Rose-throated Tanager! Demi doesn't see it immediately, as it flies off somewhere, but gets on it a couple of minutes later. I then also see it again and we watch it for a little while. We head back to the road and soon find Lesser Greenlet. This is a fairly common bird and we may have overlooked it before. Its getting near lunch time and I go back to get the car, while Demi continues birding. I'm half way back when he buzzes me that he's found a Northern Bentbill. I think I'm close to the car and continue towards it. I stop by some activity and find a Collared Aracari! I buzz Demi and he starts running! He's just broken some birding sprint record getting here within 2 minutes. Panting away, he gets onto the bird, which I had been admiring for a while, and then it flies off.
We go to the car and head back to the Bentbill spot, but no luck. We head back to Taco bel, where I enjoy a ranchero (Mexican style) pizza! While having lunch we're trying to decide when to leave, whether to stay another night or not. In the end we agree to leave in the afternoon. We head back to the clearing and Demi birds the forest just east of it, and I head for the forest on the west side. I've barely entered the forest along the road when I get a glimpse of a large black (above) and white (below) bird with a long tail through the corner of my eye, flying along the road towards me and then across into the dense forest. I completely fail to get bins or anything on it and have basically just missed what could have been my only Collared Forest-Falcon.
I do get on a bird before long, and it's a cracker. Something flies into the trees on my left. I get on it. It's a female Collared Trogon. This bird also has a red belly, like the male, but has a brown, rather than green back. I try to buzz Demi, but the batteries have died in the walkie-talkie. Eventually he catches up with me, but there is nothing more around. We start heading back. We're outside the forest and walking along the clearing edge. What's that flying across the road and sat on the hedge? It's a vireo he says, no, it's a flycatcher I say. We can only see its plain large head and its dark green back. Then it flies off. Close examination of the field guide reveals our bird as an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. Shame we didn't see the belly, but we identified the bird. Demi looks up, "Bat Falcon!" he shouts. We watch it for a while as it circles above us. We head back towards the car, and I get on a bird on the edge of the forest on the east side. It's that punk with the erect crest, the Yellow-bellied Elaenia! Obviously likes the forest edge around this clearing, as Demi had his around here the day before.
Its 4pm, and Demi insists we drive off now, as he wants to get to the hotel in good time, even though it means missing the remaining 2hrs birding. In the end, it was all in vain, as we didn't get to a hotel by 10pm, and went to bed without dinner! What happened was I drove all the way towards Calakmul, thinking that the Calakmul Hotel or something like that was actually by the ruins. It's not. It's about 100 km away. You can rent a cabin nearby for $60 a night. We decided against this ridiculous over-expenditure, and headed back to the previous town, Xpujil, and settled into some hut-like cabins for about $25. It was very cold here, and there were no blankets.
We get up early, and head off the 100km or so to the Calakmul ruins site. Ocellated Turkeys are everywhere - and we photographed some coming up to the car at the entrance gate to the reserve! Normally there is a charge for using the road and for entry to the ruins, but we were here on a Sunday, when it's all free. We continued on, stopping briefly at a pullout to check the activity. We get onto a hummingbird, which turns out to be the supposedly common White-bellied Hummingbird. We didn't see it too well, and it had pollen on its crown and bill. We would not see another.
We get to the entrance before the opening time of 8am (or was it 7am?), so bird around the car park. There are some noisy roadside hawks here, and we soon add a couple of lifers, in the form of a Barred Woodcreeper and a Scrub Euphonia. Once into the ruins site, we can hear some birds but we aren't seeing much. We head off the trail into the forest after some loud calls, including a bubbling call. We find the culprit, a Montezuma Oropendola! We continue looking around in the forest and locate Olivaceous Woodcreeper; much smaller and very different to the Woodcreepers we've seen so far. We've been tracking a small, 'tailless', non-descript bird for a while, and eventually get on it. It proves to be a female Red-capped Manakin. Eventually we rejoin the path and come towards a small reed-fringed lake. There are some flycatchers moving around in the wooded area in front of the lake, including some Least and Yucatan Flycatchers and our only Bright-rumped Attila of the trip. We head towards the fringes of the lake. We see Least Grebe and Green Heron, and Demi spots something running along the side, a stunning Grey-necked Wood-Rail!
We continue along the paths towards the main ruins area. Demi thought he had a large hawk fly over but couldn't get on it before. Then we catch one landing in a tree not far from the path. An adult Great Black-Hawk has sat there in open view and we can study it and compare it with the field guide as long as we like! We continue a little further where there is some activity, including a Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and Demi thought he had a Kentucky Warbler, which would have been a lifer for me, but I was concentrating on another strange bird. Was it a Woodpecker? No. A Woodcreeper? Perhaps. We're studying the field guide carefully - the bird is right next to us and not flying away. We think it could be a Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, it has the supercilium but it looks totally wrong! What on earth is it? We look at a few more possibilities, but we're baffled. It has an upturned bill! Anyway, later, when we get back to the car, we look in Peterson and work out that it's a Plain Xenops.
Anyway, after this strange bird we are approaching the impressive pyramids when we both look up at a soaring bird. Whoooaaa, King Vulture! Not bad. So then we climb up a pyramid and sit around looking for activity. We get onto a Black Hawk-Eagle (Demi can now give me a rest on the 'dodgy' one from before). But there is little else, and we're about to start heading down when a trogon comes and sits high in a tree by the pyramid. I get onto it and we're discussing it with Demi. I am assuming it's the common Black-headed Trogon we've seen a few times. We had already seen one today, plus a male Collared Trogon. Out comes the field guide: It's a Violaceous Trogon! If I remember well, it was a female, which is difficult to separate from the wing pattern, but we've looked at the other identifying features and worked it out. Going on memory, one has a blue eye-ring, while the other a yellow one. The tail patterns are also different - the violaceous is barred round the edges.
We start heading back to the car. We haven't eaten in about 24 hrs and we've run out of water too. There are NO refreshments or food of any kind at Calakmul, and its 50km to the nearest village, so bring your own! We soon get onto a strange Flycatcher on the edge of the path in the understory. It's distinctive, dark greenish back, big eye ring, flat bill. It's an Eye-ringed Flatbill, our only one. Continuing on, near the entrance, I get on a small bird hopping around on the ground. Found it, that Kentucky Warbler! Great views of a bird I failed to see in the US. They turned out to be fairly common in Southern Mexico, and easy to see, as they wander about on the ground, calling from time to time. I think we only saw males. A minute later, I see some large birds moving in the canopy. Nailed 'em this time: Plain Chachalacas. No mistake, I watch them for a while, when Demi finds me another lifer: Northern Bentbill, close by, in the understory. Three new birds for me in five minutes, none of which are lifers for Demi (he's getting frustrated). We head to the car, sleep for half an hour or so, and then decide to go back in for a little longer, before heading off. The afternoon proved a failure. We saw a few more King Vultures, but after having chatted with some female birders, attempted to locate the Crested Guans they had seen. Eventually we hear an extraordinary racket coming from inside the forest, not far from where they suggested we look. We can't see them from the path, so start bushwhacking our way towards the sound. Bad move. We succeed in flushing two or three birds away, and I only manage to identify a smaller red-billed pigeon. They were 99.9% Crested Guans. We even checked on the calls, but we got nothing on the birds, other than their size. Totally unsatisfactory, and we soon left, after seeing some Howler monkeys near the path.
Other birds seen included several more chachalacas on the road on the way back, both waterthrushes, lots of trash warblers, we thought both Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, another male Rose-throated Tanager, smoky-brown Woodpecker, the common parrot and parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl - on the road back, Squirrel Cuckoo, most of the common flycatchers, and things like Yellow-throated Euphonia, Wood and Swainson's Thrushes, Yucatan Jay, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Turquoise-browed Motmot (or was it?), Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari and more.
We ended up leaving around 3:30pm. Ok we were starving and thirsty, but again it was Demi who wanted to make sure we got to a hotel early enough. We drove on to the next town, Francisco Escarcega, deciding to get to bed early there and get up by 4am to head towards Palenque. Again the decision to leave early was wasted, as we lost two hours later when Demi misplaced the car keys. We ended up breaking into the boot from the inside, and still not finding them, and the hotel clerk eventually found them under the bed in the room! That two hours was murder, we thought we would never get into the car first, but somehow a clerk opened one of the car doors (was it unlocked after all? I thought we checked). This Nissan Tsuru has the most ridiculous system for getting into the boot. You need to start the car, then press a button. Well without the keys, we couldn't do that! So we're reflecting on potentially the end of the trip, as we might need to go for days without a car until the car hire people come and rescue us, when the keys are eventually found. We go and eat lots of tacos and burritos at the Supertacos café; my first food in over 30hrs, (I'd gone 24hrs - since a fanta - without any calories at all!) and then it's off to bed.
This day would be another big one. We got up around 4am and set off for the Usamacinta Marshes, 50km or so before Palenque itself. It's dawn and we stop by a gate to scan the marshes. We walk through, and see some regular herons - Green, Great Blue, Great - the usual suspects. There's also Northern Jacana, Neotropic Cormorant, Limpkin, Blue-winged Teal, Wood Stork and Kiskadees here, we're thinking whether to head on or stick around a bit more, then swoosh! An Aplomado Falcon flies over us, across the road and out of sight. We got barely more than a silhouette, but it is pretty distinctive! Then we got onto a pair of Black-crowned Tityra in a tree ahead. Again, we're wondering what now, shall we go to the car? Then we can here some parrots approaching. Now they're in site, a pair of them, and aren't they big. We get our bins on them. Yellow-headed Parrots! We didn't harbour much hope of seeing this rare and endangered species. Unbelievable! We start looking at a few raptors flying over. There's a couple of Osprey, Demi sees a Caracara, and then there's a pair of something else, Demi does the honours - he's seen them before: White-tailed Hawks. It's not bad here, but we need to get to Palenque to catch the morning activity. I'm driving on, and Demi, sees a Ringed Kingfisher on the power lines. I make to turn back. "What?" He says. "You're turning back for this trashy bird?" He's giving me so much stick, but I'm not going to allow this impressive bird, and a lifer get away. He's still giving me crap - oh it's the most trashiest bird in the world, or some rubbish like that. Anyway, I've parked the car up, we walk onto the bridge where it can be seen from, and flush something from the middle of the stream, towards the reed edges. Sungrebe! Turning around was worthwhile, even for Demi, after all. And I got to see my first Ringed Kingfisher - surprisingly the only one we saw on the whole trip (and I thought it was the commonest bird since the Passenger Pigeon). We also see a Snail Kite near here.
We get to the turning towards Palenque (at a deserted Pemex Station), drive a bit further, when some parrots fly over, and appear to have landed. We get out of the car, walk back to where they're in sight, and we're in luck, another lifer, Red-lored Parrot.
We finally get to Palenque. It's probably around 8am. We pay the entrance fee of $3.50 each and head inside. We get to the pyramids and climb up for a quick scan. We get onto a small raptor perched at the very top of the forest. We check it out carefully, though just with binoculars. Its got to be a Double-toothed Kite. Fortunately, we saw another in a tree just next to us at the entrance, as we went outside for lunch. I've picked out another very distant raptor, perched. This one is unmistakable, even from the outrageous distance (even further than the Kite). It's a White Hawk. Unfortunately, we didn't see another to get better views, and this one was gone when we returned with the scope just before lunch.
We take the museum bound track into the rainforest. There's a stream that's crossed several times. Demi scans along the stream, he's found me my first Green Kingfisher! There's not much more excitement till we get out to the road, which goes on to the museum. A motmot seen is dismissed as a Turquoise-browed.
At the junction of the road and the path there is a lot of activity. First bird we get on is an empid. Out comes the field guide, no problem, Yellowish Flycatcher. There's a noisy flock of Buff-throated Saltators there, Demi then finds us a female Green Honeycreeper, I've got a glimpse at a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird that he's missed, and then a stunner, I find a Royal Flycatcher. There is undoubtedly lots of activity here, but we start heading up the road for other possibilities. Immediately I spot some Blue-grey Tanagers going into the bushes, and a few metres further on there's another strange little flycatcher. It's a Yellow-Olive Flycatcher. 7 lifers in 15 minutes. Palenque has this sort of potential. We see another two on the walk up the road back to the car park. The first is the local melanerpes, the Black-cheeked Woodpecker, and then a flock of small parrots flies over, they can only be White-crowned Parrots from what we see, but I am happier identifying the flock that lands ahead of us in the car park - we scope them and enjoy them well!
We spend about twenty minutes on the pyramids hoping to scope raptors. We only get onto a perched Bat Falcon, which we see well; then it's back for lunch. At the restaurant by the car park we try the Hamburgers. Smallest ever, basically meatball size, but quite tasty. We head back into the forest, looking for birdy routes, but without much success. We get on a White-breasted Wood-Wren fairly quickly, but then split up for a bit, without much luck. It's here that Demi studies the bright red crown on the Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, which results in our -1 bird on our life list! We start heading back to the car park, and take the track going below the entrance. There's good activity here. A flock of attractive Crimson-collared Tanagers comes in. There's one or two Woodcreepers, Euphonias, things we've seen before, and then Demi gets onto a small black finch with a white patch in the wing. That'll be the Thick-billed Seedfinch, I say. We get out the field guide, it seems I'm wrong; it's the Variable Seedeater. Based on the bill shape, it had to be that. Now, others have seen the Seedfinch rather than the Seedeater here, but we've got the latter.
We decide to drive back to the Usamacinta Marshes for the last hour or so of birding. We haven't planned things too well, wasting time driving 50km back and forth, and going over a toll bridge each time. But we see birds, so it's worthwhile. We've turned at the deserted gas station, and now driving along the marshes recommended for Black-collared Hawk. We haven't seen it on the trip reports, blah blah, what's that flying towards us? It's landed on a bush right as we drive by it, a Black-collared Hawk! No bins needed, no need to stop; we saw it with the naked eye about 20 feet away! Another Aplomado whizzes by.
We get to the toll bridge; there are lots of birds around, lots of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Laid that bogey to rest. We take a road recommended by Howell. There are some little finches landing on the fence. White-collared Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquits. Demi has got a Grassland Yellow Finch. Where is it? It's there, where? It's flown, I see it fly but I can't ID it. I want to get out. No, he says, let's drive on; they're really common. I didn't see one. We had big arguments about this later.
We drive a fair way down, past a farm with a spider monkey on the right, to another farm on the left with lots of Jacanas. There are all sorts of Herons and Egrets around, but no Pinnated Bittern. Demi then gets onto a lifer for us. Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Then there's another, and another, and a hundred more, they're everywhere, Fork-tailed Flycatchers up the yinyang! We drive on to another spot across the other side of the highway. It's dusk, and visibility is not great. I've tracked down some more of those little black finches with the white wing patch. I think these might be the Seedfinch. No, the bill looks wrong again, and this is definitely the wrong habitat, and behavior: Variable Seedeaters, again.
We start driving, and two birds fly across the road: Double-striped Thick-knee, not bad.
Other notable birds on the day included Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, White-collared Swift, a male Violaceous Trogon, Belted Kingfisher, Aracari and Toucan, Lineated and Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Barred and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Wren, Warbling Vireo, Blue-winged, Kentucky, Chestnut-sided and Hooded Warblers (plus the trashy ones - Magnolia easily the commonest bird), Scrub Euphonia, Painted and Indigo Buntings, and Yellow-tailed and Baltimore Orioles.
We found a hotel for $30 (La Canada, I think) and found an internet café in town which does laundry. The tacos were excellent at the restaurant that stands out on the right as you start driving up the hill into town. Back at the hotel, I see the damage done to my ankles by the insects. A month later, I'm still sporting the scars, and they still itch, too. One insect got in, I thought a chigger at the time, but probably a tick - I removed it quickly (bright green).
Today we went straight to Palenque at dawn, and parked by the crossing of the museum path with the road that had lots of activity the day before. It was raining fairly heavily. We entered the thin strip of forest on the field side, and I see a Wood Thrush. Demi is behind me and turns left, and gets onto a bird, I try to get on it. He starts repeating the following words "Scaled Antpitta", I miss it. I completely fail to focus my bins on a bird I saw moving along the path. It's the first time I really felt disadvantaged with 10x42 binoculars. I've missed the chance for a notoriously difficult-to-see bird.
I try to flush it out with no luck. I'm thinking of excuses why I didn't see the bird. The one that works for me at the time is that there was no need for him to keep talking, I saw it before he said anything - ie he scared the bird off and put me off trying to get my bins on the bird. But these are lame excuses. I think it's the bins more than anything else. Somewhere down the line, I'm going to have to get some 7 or 8X for forest birding.
We drive a bit further up to a bend recommended by Howell (we haven't used this book nearly enough, or the trip reports for that matter, and it's our loss). We start tiptoeing along a path. Remember, its bucketing it down, we're glad we took our Gore-tex. Demi, going on ahead finds us a distinctive Orange-billed Sparrow, which we watch for a while as it hops around on the ground. We continue along, and there isn't all that much to see, but I'm desperate for the Antpitta, or an Antthrush etc. I look up through a gap in the foliage as a distant bit of movement catches my eye. It's actually a hanging twig that shook a bit, but why? Just below it is silently perched a fabulous Rufous-tailed Jacamar! We've opened up a whole new family, and that was well picked out, at a distance, if I say so myself! I'm still 'distraught' at missing the Antpitta though. A flock of warblers includes our second ever Golden-winged Warbler.
Finishing up here, we head for the car park. I see some birders preparing to enter, I talk to them for a bit and they say they just saw some Yellow-winged Tanagers in a tree by a restaurant just further down from the museum. We head straight down there, but wrongly go to a restaurant next to, rather than further down from the museum. There is some activity here, and round the back Demi locates a pair of Golden-hooded Tanagers, which are nice and colourful. There are also Blue-Grey Tanagers here, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-breasted Chat and both the Euphonias we had seen before. Round the front there is more activity, a male Green Honeycreeper, and a large hummer. It's perched most of the time, and we see it very well, but it's not exactly like anything in the book. We decide it must be a Violet Sabrewing in a juvenile/immature plumage, as everything else fits.
We drive back to the car park and take another path into the forest from there, supposedly good for the Mexican Ant-thrush. We see very little, I think a Kentucky Warbler, and it's at this time that Demi starts going into one. He wants to get out of there straight away, we're wasting time at a site with no endemics and have to get onto the places with endemics. From this point on, he blames every enDemic missed on the 3 days we spent at Palenque (we spent less than 1.5 days here of course), which was my fault, as it was my suggestion to bird there. He says he'd rather have one more enDemic than the 30 odd birds he saw here, including the Ant-pitta.
We agree to leave at 12. But split up, I want to go into the forest, he wants to go back to the restaurant to look for the Yellow-winged Tanagers and to study those hummingbirds. He actually ends up birding a little more round the ruins and sees two birds I would not see, a tyrannulet and a euphonia (they're both yellow or yellow and green, but I don't remember the names, as I don't have a field guide!). He then goes down to the restaurant and finds a juvenile Common Black Hawk which he'll later show me, and he catches up with Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, being harassed by the larger Violet Sabrewing.
I take a path up into the forest, which is apparently quite popular with birders. I see a Collared Trogon but little else, and start following the Howler Monkey calls, but get nowhere near. A little bird flies in, I can't see, it, its moved quicly and then again and it comes and sits above me, I get onto it, it's brown above, pale below and it has the shortest stub of a tail. I'm trying to look at its face, but can't see it, and it disappears. I thought perhaps a Manakin, but it was clearly browner. I'd later check the field guide and decide it's a Stub-tailed Spadebill. Demi gave me unprecedented for virtually the rest of the trip on this bird. I didn't see the distinct face, it could have been anything, he said. According to the field guide, it could only have been a Spadebill or a female Manakin, and the colour indicated Spadebill, as did the behaviour. Fortunately, I saw one on the next to last day - a huge relief.
Going back down, I get to just before the steps leading to the ruins, and I notice some activity. First I get onto a calling warbler. Before getting my bins on it, I thought it was a Yellowthroat, and then I noticed the stripes on the crown, I'm about to say to myself Worm-eating Warbler, when I notice its very different. It's a Golden-crowned Warbler. I watch for a while, till I notice a Woodcreeper. This one is different to any I've seen before. Its head shape is rounder, and it is unstreaked. I can make out a supercilium and decide it's the Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, but couldn't discern a distinctive two-toned wing. This bird remains hesitantly on my list, but I'd like to see photos of this and the Ruddy Woodcreeper from the same genus, to take away any slight doubt. Then, bzzzzzzzzzzz, what's that! Like a slow moving stumpy hummingbird flying straight by me, but it's black with a red head. It's a beautiful male Red-capped Manakin. I find where it landed and watch it for a little, with its white eye and yellow thighs. What a stonker! Trip bird!
I catch up with the American birders who explain where the Yellow-winged Tanager was, and then get out to meet Demi. We head on down to what appears to be a campsite for hippies. We get out here, and again its started to rain. Demi spots a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker on the forest edge, I spot a Blue-crowned Motmot. We then get on each other's find. I watch the Woodpecker for a while; it's a beauty.
We soon give up on the Tanager and head on. I suggest we stop for a moment at this watchpoint suggested by Howell, some 6km or so down the road to Ocosingo, apparently good for Brown-hooded Parrot. After five minutes or so of nothing, we head back to the car, when a couple of parrots fly up and land in the trees above the road. They are quite distant and it's raining, but we can make them out, they are indeed Brown-hooded Parrots! I go and get the scope on them to see them well. Is this luck or does Howell know the whereabouts of every individual bird? His book is certainly good, when we started using it, we found a lot of the birds he suggested, except at one place, which he made out to be the top site, but it turned out pretty average, and that could be because they've decimated the forest there. We'll be there in a couple of day's time, at Lagos de Montebello.
The drive on to San Cristobal de las Casas is awful. The road is fair enough, going through some mountains, but they have taken speed bumps way too far here. There are more on this one road than in whole countries.
Going on Howell's book and trip reports we look for a road that's 2km back down the Ocosingo road from San Cristobal. The one we actually ended up at is about 3km down, so probably the wrong one (later we found one 2km down), but even so, this turned out to be a pretty good spot. We got there at around dawn and parked a little way down, and quickly got onto a warbler flock. There were so many virens group birds. Hermit Warbler was probably the most common, followed by Townsend's and Black-throated Green. Before long we got onto one of the warblers we were looking for: Crescent-chested Warbler. This flock was craning our necks somewhat, and the sun was at the wrong angle, so we concentrated a little on the other birds tagging along. Rufous-collared Robin was soon added, and then a trogon came in. We didn't get great looks but we managed to identify it as a Mountain Trogon, and later on saw one really well. A couple of birds singing at the top of a tree the other side of the fence on the right were Black-headed Siskin. We then got a better angle on the warbler flock, and before long I found one of the birds I wanted bigtime: Pink-headed Warbler. We watched it for a while as it showed so well. It behaves quite strangely for a warbler, often hovering around a branch, feeding, before landing, and is really conspicuous. As a threatened, declining species, I wonder what the causes might be for its decline. A Woodcreeper here proved to be the Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, the common one of the region (apparently only three occur, but we only saw this species several times). We started heading back towards the car when we saw an empid. We were looking at it for ages, and got the field guides out and still couldn't tell. It was obviously either Pine or Hammond's but we didn't know how they could be told apart! Following it for a while we stumbled upon a noisy flock of Band-backed Wrens! We then decided to head off for the Cerre Huitepec, apparently the key park in the region and good habitat for the regional enDemic, the Blue-and-white Mockingbird.
We paid our entrance fee at Cerre Huitepec and started hiking up the fairly steep trail. In the first 5-10 minutes or so, we managed to add two more lifers. Slate-throated Redstart and White-eared Hummingbird. We would see a few more of each, but we were struggling to find much activity, somebirds we did find included Red-faced Warbler, some Yellow-rumps, including the Goldman's race, Acorn Woody and Blue-headed Vireo. On the way back down we decided to cut through into the field on the right as you come down, as this is probably the mocker's habitat. Again things were pretty slow, but we soon added another lifer, the widespread Rufous-collared Sparrow, and also saw some more Band-backed Wrens, Steller's Jay (distinctively different subspecies to the US variety), Magnificent Hummer and Western Tanager. We left fairly disappointed with what we found here (three trash birds!) Then again, I haven't seen the hummingbird again.
We made another quick visit to the place we were at in the morning, but couldn't locate the warbler flock, and it was now birdless. Other birds we had in the morning included Black-and-white Warbler, Hutton's Vireo, Eastern Bluebird, Bat Falcon, Inca Dove, Greater Pewee (or Jose Maria as its fondly known), Olive Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Brown Creeper, the minute brownish Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-eyed Junco, and a new subspecies: the 'Guatemalan' (Northern) Flicker.
As things were quite, we decided to drive on to Comitan, in preparation for the following day's birding at Lagos de Montebello. A late afternoon stop in birdy habitat yielded little: another Hairy Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Wilson's Warbler. But we could clearly heat the ethereal song of solitaires. Unfortunately we couldn't get onto one, and it was getting dark. From the description of the song, it was almost certainly the Brown-backed Solitaire, but I don't bother with 'heard only' so haven't added it to the list (as was the case with the Crested Guans). Arriving in Comitan, we saw our first House Sparrows of the trip. We ate at Pizza Chicos in Comitan, and got food poisoning. We'd feel the effects for a few days.
We start nice and early, but our stomachs aren't feeling to good, which doesn't help. At the crack of dawn we drive down one of the roads that Howell suggests is good for something we I can't quite remember without a field guide, but it was a rail or quail or something like that. Nothing. We then look for the remnant cloud forest between 10 and 12km down the road in the Lagos de Montebello Park, and find a few trees. Nonetheless we head up a really muddy path in the thick fog, and start seeing a few things flying around. One bird we get on is a brushfinch, but we really can't make out its features in this visibility, and it's soon off. Then a bird flies into a fairly isolated bare tree near us. The fog isn't helping but the bird is just sitting there, so we can ID it in our time. Slate-colored Solitaire. There is so little else around, one Macgillivray's Warbler is about all else we manage to identify, so we start heading back to the car. A flock of something, perhaps psittacids flies over, though I can't see them in the fog. Demi says he can, and says the silhouettes look like parrotlets. He checks the field guide and comes up with Barred Parakeets. Now it's my turn to call the dodgy tune, not least because parrotlets and parakeets are distinctively differently shaped. We would not encounter another flock.
We then drive back a couple of kms to a track just before the one that goes off to a village. We drive down and park at where another track crosses it. There are lots of birds here. Most of them are Clay-colored Thrushes, but some other characters are turning up here and there. Green Jays for instance, Swainson's Thrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and then Demi picks out a Blue-and-white Mockingbird. I can't get onto it and see the bird flying off at a distance with the naked eye. Not again! I'm stomping around now in a mood, trying to get this bird, but instead I'm seeing things like Yellow-backed and Baltimore Orioles, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and trash. We start heading down the track the other way where there are lots of thrushes. We're trying to figure out a Black or Mountain Thrush, but they all seem to be Clay-colored. Then we start going through some thickets chasing some warbler activity. Demi has got onto a Vasileuterus warbler. He says it was the one with white under the eye. I get out Peterson, it seems to be the Chestnut-headed Warbler. I'm waiting there, but no sign. We start going through to the other side of the bush when a real character comes into view: a male Barred Antshrike. What a corker! Its hanging around us buzzing away, when the warbler turns up again, and I see it well. It seems to have some patchy white under the eye. We later check Howell, and it seems the other way round, this is actually the Rufous-capped Warbler. The other one doesn't even occur in Mexico (though someone had it on a trip report: dodgy.)
We get out of these brambles and go further down the path. We get to a crossroads and Demi starts going left where some thrushes are. I go a little bit further on and quickly get onto some acitivity in a field on the right. There are Clay-colored Thrushes and Melodious Blackbirds, and I focus on one dark-backed bird, thinking it's also a blackbird. It then turns around: Blue-and-white Mockingbird, nailed it! We head on down one of the tracks and end up at a small lake. There is a muddy path going around, which we follow. We get onto an Elaenia, but its not one we've seen before. We check the field guide later, looks like Mountain Elaenia. We check the range; apparently it occurs well south of here, in Honduras and SE Guatemala. We have to leave it at that. The matter is confused by the fact that Demi got onto it a couple more times (was it the same bird or several?) Perhaps it was a vagrant individual which we didn't give the due attention to, or has the species expanded its range? Or did we get it wrong? Who knows.
The bird draws us up the hill a little from the lake, and we get onto some other activity. I get onto a bird that has completely baffled me. It's going to need the field guide. Demi tries to get onto and gets on something completely different. My bird goes just as he spots it. Checking the field guide I can easily identify it as a Common Bush Tanager, but Demi has failed to get anything on it, but he'll see plenty more later. As the bird flies away, he says "Look at the bird just below there, it's a present from me to you" A Philadelphia Vireo, fantastic! I've wanted this one badly (some of those North American migrants aren't trash you know). Demi would get onto a couple more of these later. We head back towards the car, and a flock here contains one of the birds we thought we got glimpses of here and there during the morning. At last I see it well, a Flame-colored Tanager. There are a few confusing moments when we think we've found Fan-tailed Warbler, but they turn out to be Yellow-breasted Chats.
Its now around 12pm, and we decide to have a go down the short road that heads straight on towards the main lake from the entrance (about 3km). We park up by the lake, get hassled a bit by some little kids, and head down a track into the pines. There's a bird singing "Jose Maria" and we get great looks at the Greater Pewee. Suddenly, a raptor flies in; it's a White-breasted Hawk! Phew, we were worried about dipping that one. Lakeside from where we're standing we can hear some Jay activity. They aren't showing though for a while, but eventually we see them well: Unicolored Jays. The lake holds Pied-billed Grebe, Green Heron and we also see Cattle Egret and Turkey Vulture.
We decide to head back to the Chinkultic ruins site for the afternoon's birding. A flock of warblers here keeps us interested for a while, there's the usual virens group crowd, but there's also some interesting individuals here and there, like a Golden-winged Warbler, another Rufous-capped Warbler and a couple of Nashville Warblers. There's also another Barred Antshrike. We head on towards the lake, where there are some distant Tree Swallows, while one bird that comes into view in a nearby tree proves to be a Grey Silky-Flycatcher. A raptor flies by here, a White-tailed Hawk. We got onto a flock of noisy Common Bush Tanagers but there's little else to excite us, so we end up heading back to the lake at Lagos de Montebello to see if we can find anything more. En route, there's a White-tailed Kite. A Spot-Breasted Wren puts in an appearance back at LDM, but that's about it. Other birds on the day included Southern House Wren, Social and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Hairy Woodpecker, trashy warblers and vireos, Lincoln's and Rufous-collared Sparrows, and the ubiquitous Great-tailed Grackle.
Back to Lagos De Montebello for the morning, and the fog is thicker than yesterday. A quick look around the remnant cloud forest indicates it's impossible to bird in the conditions, so we go back to where we birded most of the previous morning. We go to where some of the thrush activity is occurring, and before long I've picked out a White-throated Thrush. We then go round the lake again and see a Willow Flycatcher type bird, which we noticed the day before but didn't get much on. We looked at it for a while, as it made forays from low reeds around the lake, and checked the field guides later, which indicated it should be the White-throated Flycatcher. This therefore has been added to my list on the basis that Willow and Alder don't winter anywhere near here, but there is a slight doubt, and more information on this species is needed.
It subsequently started to rain, and it wasn't letting up, though it was just about bearable to bird in. We started heading in different directions and before long I didn't know where Demi was, so I continued birding alone (without walkie-talkies). In the village there was some interesting activity, and one dark bird baffled me. It flew across the road, and all I saw was a dark plumaged bird with a clear yellow wing bar. I waited around a bit, and an Azure-crowned Hummingbird came and sat really close to me. Then the other bird sat up in a tree, it turned out to be the previously elusive Yellow-winged Tanager! I continued walking past the village, and the rain started dying down. Some fields on the right hand side had some activity, including another Azure-crowned Hummingbird and a couple of Grey-crowned Yellowthroats. On the left side of the road a bird was moving around in deep cover, and I kept on it until it eventually sat out on a bush. I could clearly make out it was an aimophila sparrow, and big one at that. I studied various identification features, memorising them for looking at the field guide when back at the car. When I got to look, it was easy to pick out Rusty Sparrow. It sat there in the open for ages, and was still there an hour later when I brought Demi round. A little further down there were some flocks of Rufous-capped Warbler and Common Bush Tanager, and then I got on a distinctly coloured small bird: Blue above, red below, with a strangely shaped bi-colored bill. I didn't have a clue what it was at first, so I needed the field guide. Walking back, looking for Demi, I found another along a higher track near the car, and saw this one well enough to realise this must be a Flowerpiercer, with that hook on the upper mandible. The field guide revealed it was the Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer. I hooked up with Demi, who found nothing (but got good looks at the Blue-and-white Mockingbird), and took him back giving him the chance to see three of the four birds I found (excluding the Tanager).
We then decided it would be best to drive back to San Cristobal, as we clearly weren't going to find many of the key species we needed here, including several regionally enDemic hummingbirds. We got to the 2km (or 3km) road, down the Ocosingo highway, and soon found one of those difficult empids. The scope came out and Demi had got the fix we needed. We could clearly see that the lower mandible was completely orange/pink coloured, rather than the predominantly dark bill of a Hammond's Flycatcher. This was therefore, a Pine Flycatcher! Demi then thought he saw a Golden-browed Warbler, but wasn't certain, and searching the area for 20 minutes revealed just several dozen Townsend's Warblers.
The Chanal Road was next on the agenda. We stopped to study a few jays in the first couple of miles, but all proved to be Steller's. This area is apparently good for Black-throated Jays, but we couldn't find any. Also Ocellated Quail was never really likely, but we drove along, all the same. About five miles down, we got out where a couple of thrushes were moving, and next to them found a White-naped Brushfinch. I decided to wander down the road to where the pines began, and noticed a warbler flock. I focus on the first bird I see. I can't believe my eyes; I call Demi over saying "This bird looks very suspicious". He gets on it and agrees, "That's it; it's a Golden-cheeked Warbler".
I had a feeling I'd find one. The day before, Demi had asked about several birds, which I had to dismiss, mainly as Black-throated Greens. I knew what I was looking for, and in this case, I found it! These endangered North American birds are regular winter visitors to this area, and having found one here, I may not need to look for them in Texas, though I still need the Black-capped Vireo around there.
Further stops revealed more Rusty Sparrows, a Hepatic Tanager, (Chiapas) Yellow-eyed Junco, Acorn Woodpecker and other characteristic birds of the area. We drove back through San Cristobal, and on to Tuxtla Guittierez, the state capital. We drove around in traffic aimlessly for a while, eventually going back to stay at a cheap motel we checked out earlier (we couldn't find anything else that was reasonably priced).
Up at dawn, but it takes a while to get to Sumidero Canyon, through the bustling town of Tuxtla and its abundant Collectivos (taxi buses). Straight through at the entrance, we pull over perhaps less than a km into the park, as there are birds crossing the road, and they're pretty darn spectacular: White-throated Magpie-Jays! We get out here attracting by much movement in the roadside bushes and a very orangey flowering tree. There are lots of orioles, but other than Hooded, we've found many Streak-backed Orioles. The flowering tree is full of Nashville Warblers, the majority sporting orange heads thanks to the pollen! There are also Tennessee's here, there are some Ridgway's Roughies and a myiarchus flycatcher proves to be the Nutting's (a first for Demi).
Demi then explodes in excitement, he's got on a Varied Bunting. I see a shadow, and some bland female buntings. Sticking around doesn't help; I follow a gnatcatcher call and get on the ridiculously named White-lored Gnatcatcher. Of all the badly named birds, American Robin, Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, Key West Quail-Dove, Kentish Plover, this is surely the worst. The bird has black lores, how can you call it a White-lored Gnatcatcher? To add fuel to the fire, Tropical Gnatcatcher, does indeed have white lores. Driving on a couple of flashes of blue and purple fly across the road, and I'm now happy with my pathetic views of Varied Bunting.
According to Howell, a bend something like 7km down the road is good for Flammulated Flycatcher. We park up here, it's a little windy and we can't here a thing, but I walk on to the bend. There is some activity from the bushes on the inner side of the bend and we get on the noisy culprit, a Banded Wren. There's a bird moving about six inched below the wren. This one's an Olive Sparrow.
Next stop in the fields about 12km into the park, where we understand, Botteri's Sparrows occur. We can see and hear lots of hummers but getting on them is not easy. Most seem to be Canivet's Emeralds, and we've picked out a few Berylline Hummingbirds. The tape fails to lure a Botteri's Sparrow, and instead brings up its big brother, the Rusty Sparrow (playing Botteri's tapes seem's to have the effect, in my experience, of bringing up any aimophila sparrow, except Botteri's.)
We get to the top and its quite birdy. We follow a Woodcreeper, which I'm convinced is not a spot-crowned, and proves to be a spot-crowned. We get onto a Hummingbird which we try really hard to turn into a Slender Sheartail (I thought these were easy!), but it was undoubtedly a Ruby-throated. More obliging was an Emerald Toucanet, performing in the big tree in the center. I thought these were down in the rainforests!
Driving back we stopped at a couple of the recommended miradors but saw nothing, let alone Slender Sheartails. On the road back, a couple of Plain Chachalacas crossed over, and we then began our long trip at around 11am from here, Sumidero Canyon, through Tuxtla, San Cristobal, Ocosingo, Palenque, Campeche, Merida and finally onto Celestun! We stopped a couple of times for birds along the way, seeing House Finch on the Ocosingo road, and a further stop along there I was convinced I had a Brown-capped Vireo (where there was also a female Hepatic Tanager, a Grace's Warbler, and a Hermit Thrush), but now I'm not so sure. Without a field guide I can't work on the differences with Warbling Vireo, and I've lost confidence in my ID on that bird.
We arrive at Celestun at 3am, and park up on a dirt track behind some mangroves, to get some sleep for a couple of hours. During our bathroom visits, we both flush some unidentified Night Herons.
Its just gone 5am and we're up to drive back to the bridge which is good for Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, getting there before dawn. We scan each side but can't see any Rails - the tide is too high. As I'm poking my head into the mangroves I notice a couple of large roosting birds just above. BOAT-BILLED HERONS! Juveniles, but wow! These are real crackers, we watch for a little as they start to move out of view and eventually off as the sun gets up.
We then drive back into Celestun and north for a few kms as suggested by Howell and the trip reports, for the three specialties. First up we each get on a female Mexican Sheartail. We'd get fleeting glimpses of one or two more of these, but saw no males. Then some noise and movement attracts me to a bush. I peek in from one side and get stunning views of a couple of Yucatan Wrens! I call Demi over to join in, and he's almost complaining that I called him over to see this 'common' bird while he was trying to get better looks at the Sheartail! We saw no more wrens after this!
We're now walking through basically trying to flush some bobwhites and before long, I've done just that flushed up a group of six or seven Yucatan Bobwhites. I call Demi over and we flush them again, and flush them one or two more times before calling it a day.
Next we drive south of town to the dump, and right on cue, the Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures are standing around, among the commoner Black Vultures and the odd Turkey Vulture. They're easy to identify in this situation, as they're head markings are very distinct.
Now onto the boat ride. It cost us something like $20 each, but the guide promised us we'd get Pygmy Kingfisher and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. We only wanted these plus the Wood-Rail, so we agreed. He told us he could not get us Boat-billed Heron, they are really unpredictable and difficult to find! We were not too concerned.
After ages hanging around the tourist attraction of a flock of Greater Flamingos, we head into the mangroves. Almost immediately, a Pygmy Kingfisher comes next to the boat doing its clicking noise. It's almost as if they have a deal the boatman and the bird that when we ride through, he'll pop up and give us a show! Spectacular. We see several more really well, here and at the next mangrove entrance where we go for the Tiger-Herons. The guide has found a nest, so this is a guarantee. We walk along a little boardwalk and he points out the nest to us. There is an adult and two nestlings, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron! The adult then comes down and shows really well. We see more Pygmy Kingfishers and Demi gets onto a Green Kingfisher too. We both see Belted Kingfisher here.
Its noon and time to drive on, but not before another stop at the end of the bridge to look for Wood-Rail. We see Prothonotary Warbler, Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler, Mangrove Vireo and Common Black-Hawk, and finally Demi is onto it. Actually there's two Rufous-necked Wood-Rails, running along the exposed mud along the mangrove-lined edge, which we watch for several minutes, and the larger Grey-necked Wood-Rail shortly joins them. Other birds here included Vermillion Flycatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Tropical and White-lored Gnatcatcher (confused?), and many more.
We leave Celestun content that we've seen virtually everything we could have hoped for, save Lesser Roadrunner. The drive to Coba begins, and even on the expensive toll road ($10 or so), we only get there around 5pm, and there's not much birding to be had. We see Limpkin, Anhinga, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Aztec Parakeet and Altamira and Hooded Oriole, among others.
There is an expensive hotel and a really cheap one, and we chose the latter. At $10 a night, you get a plain room, with at first, no water. That was then fixed, so we now had cold water. A rooster outside our window kept Demi up most of the night (though I slept through it - it was a long drive.)
Birdwise, there is one main reason to go to Coba, and that's Ruddy Crake. Everyone sees it here. It has a fairly limited distribution, and being a crake, is generally retiring, but at Coba, you have an excellent chance of seeing this bird well.
With this information in mind, we were at the recommended spot around the lake, just passed where the road ends. Demi decided to adopt a sit-at-one-spot-and-wait strategy. I decided to walk along the side of the reed-fringed edges, hoping to get on something. Within 15 minutes one popped out of the reeds, and gave me crippling views for about 10 seconds: Ruddy Crake. I called Demi over, indicating where the bird was last seen. He now sat at this spot and waited. I got bored, so headed round to where there was some forest - this was prime time birding, after all. I saw a couple of things, such as Yellow-billed Cacique and Wood Thrush, but was itching to get into the ruins site, to look for Tinamous, Forest-Falcons, Ruddy Woodcreeper, and other birds seen at this location on other trip reports. I was approaching 8am and I noticed Demi was chatting to someone. Was that the American guy I chatted to at Palenque?
I am walking towards them, and then see another Ruddy Crake. Again, I see it well, but it's out of sight before Demi can get to me. Sticking with him a bit, we see Soras! I then tell him I'm going into the ruins; he says he'll sit and wait the rest of the morning for a crake, and then decide what to do from there. We agree a time to meet for lunch, put on the walkie-talkies (which proved useless here), and go on our separate ways.
It was pretty quite. I saw another White-bellied Wren and Green-backed Sparrow, and then hooked up with the American couple, and the usual birding banter ensued for the next couple of hours. No new birds were seen, but I got excellent looks at Long-billed Gnat-Wren, while other birds of interest included Black-headed and Violaceous Trogon, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yucatan Woodpecker, Barred Woodcreeper, Rose-throated Becard (the Americans were seeing the Grey-collared Becard, but not while with me), Hooded Warbler, Summer Tanager, Black-headed and Greyish Saltator, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and Masked Tityra.
Demi ended up seeing a juvenile Ruddy Crake, and also caught up with the White-bellied Wren in some rainforest portion behind the lake he went into. At lunch we discussed our options. Demi initially wanted to bird here for the rest of the day, and look for an adult crake the following morning. He didn't take too much convincing when I said I would much rather go back to that legendary site: Felipe Carillo Puerto.
We're there, Felipe Carillo Puerto revisited, by about 3pm, still a good two hours plus to bird. This time we follow Howell's directions to a track 6km or so down the road. We're not getting great looks at the birds. There's Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Collared Aracari, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, the usual Blue Buntings, Yellow-throated Euphonia, another male Rose-throated Tanager, and I get a brief glimpse at a bird that could be a Stub-tailed Spadebill. Demi goes into one: "Every bird you don't see well is a Spadebill." I'm completely fed up with his attitude giving me stick on this, so I say, lets split, I continue down the path, while he heads back to the road.
I soon get onto a flock of three birds. One is a Plain Xenops, which I get great looks at. With it is an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, and the third bird pokes its head up, well it's a Tanager. I don't see it well, but it looks like an Ant-tanager and a little different to the Red-throateds I'm used to seeing in flocks of, Red-throateds. The bird's gone, so I head on, until I get on a stonking male Red-capped Manakin, which I watch sitting above me for about 10 minutes. I just sit there and enjoy this extraordinary little bird. I'm heading back when I come across the same little flock with the Xenops. This time a get much better looks at the Ant-Tanager. It does have dark borders to the red crown, and crucially, the ear coverts are bright, giving the bird more of a beady eye look, than the Red-throated, which has dark ear coverts. It's a little subjective, but I give myself Red-crowned Ant-Tanager. Other trip reports seem to see many of these, and I wonder if the red crowns on the much commoner Red-throated Ant-Tanagers also fooled them.
A little bit further back towards the road and I here that squeaking call again. I've heard it so many times but not worked out which bird it was. Long-billed Gnat-Wren? No, the bird today had a completely different range of calls. One of the Ant-Tanagers? I enter a couple of meters into the forest, and soon get onto the bird really close to me. I watch as it flies from perch to perch around me, squeaking (that three-toned rubber ducky sound again) with each movement. It can easily disappear from view when it moves, as it is well camouflaged in the undergrowth, despite its distinctive facial pattern. This is The S-t-u-b - t-a-i-l-e-d S-p-a-d-e-b-i-l-l.
I get back to Demi and tell him what I saw. He's more interested in the Ant-Tanager, but going back we see nothing, as its already getting dark. Onto the road then and towards the nightjar spot. We soon get onto two, but only see one well. The scope comes out. Demi says he can see the white triangle on the throat, diagnostic of the Yucatan Nightjar. I look. I can't see it. I briefly see a white line somewhere. Then the bird's gone. That's it. It remains unidentified, and it is confusing, as both birds seemed to look like the Nightjar, exactly where we had Poorwills a week earlier.
Driving out, passed the school there is a nightjar sitting on the road under a lamp-post. I don't see it till just before we drive straight by it, flushing it in the process. Demi, is driving, says he thought it was litter. Our best chance of seeing whichever it was - and it was not a Pauraque - lost, just like that. We have dinner at Taco Bel, and it's back to the El Faisan Hotel.
We only have a couple of hours to bird, as we need to drive on to the airport for our flights back. A couple of hours in the morning, at Felipe Carillo Puerto, can be exhilarating though. Effectively our fifth day it this site, and it can still turn up surprises.
Starting off at the 6km track we were on yesterday, it's the crack of dawn and there isn't much activity yet. After I while, I decide to head back to the road, while Demi saunters on, looking for the Ant-Tanager. I'm nearly back on the road and I swear I can hear what I expect is a Tinamou. Cannot find it though. I'm next to the car, looking at the birds on the road, just taking the place in. I can barely move, I'm just too excited about being here, and knowing I have to leave shortly. A small bird across from the car is causing me some confusion. Without a field guide I'm trying to work out if it's one of the Tody-Flycatchers. It isn't, I then think it could be a Greenish Elaenia, and then finally settle on Yellow-olive Flycatcher. Then a flock of birds come into the road. I haven't seen these before, what are they? No idea. The field guide later proves they are female Rose-throated Tanagers.
I realise there's about 15 minutes left, so start heading down a trail nearby, I'm barely on the trail when I notice a plump bird running in front of me, and then off into the forest: Thicket Tinamou! I'm then hearing some strange calls, but can't get onto the birds. It's time to head back. Then two birds fly across the path and into some foliage nearby. What are these attractive little birds? Another lifer, that's for sure: Tawny-crowned Greenlets. The activity was picking up, but it was time to go. Demi caught up with the Spadebill, saw a Thicket Tinamou also, and one of the Tody-Flycatchers. Not bad for our last morning of a trip, at a site well covered before.
On the road back, we saw another Laughing Falcon, and a Roadside Hawk got me going for a second, but I couldn't turn it into a Hook-billed Kite. That and Crane Hawk strangely eluded us on this trip, but we saw good raptors so couldn't complain.
All in all, an enjoyable trip, my favorite birding spot in the world, in Felipe Carillo Puerto (legendary), and a good number of endemics in the Yucatan, if much less success in Chiapas. Nearly 200 lifers, not bad for a two-week trip, and Mexico will need to be revisited on at least two or three more occasions.
My bird list:
|Crypturellus cinnamomeus||Thicket Tinamou||1 at FCP|
|Ortalis vetula||Plain Chachalaca||Seen at Calakmul and Sumidero Cyn, heard regularly|
|Agriocharis ocellata||Ocellated Turkey||FCP and Calakmul|
|Colinus nigrogularis||Black-throated Bobwhite||(Yucatan Bobwhite) at Celestun|
|Dendrocygna autumnalis||Black-bellied Whistling-Duck||Usamacinta Marshes|
|Anas discors||Blue-winged Teal||Usamacinta Marshes|
|Melanerpes formicivorus||Acorn Woodpecker||Cerre Huitepec, Chanal Road and Sumidero Cyn|
|Melanerpes pucherani||Black-cheeked Woodpecker||Palenque|
|Melanerpes pygmaeus||Yucatan Woodpecker||Chankanaab, FCP and Coba|
|Melanerpes aurifrons||Golden-fronted Woodpecker||Common and widespread|
|Sphyrapicus varius||Yellow-bellied Sapsucker||Chankanaab, FCP and Palenque|
|Picoides scalaris||Ladder-backed Woodpecker||FCP|
|Picoides villosus||Hairy Woodpecker||San Cristobal and Lagos de Montebello (LDM)|
|Veniliornis fumigatus||Smoky-brown Woodpecker||FCP and Calakmul|
|Piculus rubiginosus||Golden-olive Woodpecker||FCP and Palenque|
|Colaptes auratus||Northern Flicker||Guatemalan subspecies at San Cristobal|
|Celeus castaneus||Chestnut-colored Woodpecker||Palenque|
|Dryocopus lineatus||Lineated Woodpecker||FCP and Palenque|
|Campephilus guatemalensis||Pale-billed Woodpecker||FCP|
|Aulacorhynchus prasinus||Emerald Toucanet||1 at Sumidero Canyon|
|Pteroglossus torquatus||Collared Aracari||Widespread|
|Ramphastos sulfuratus||Keel-billed Toucan||Widespread|
|Galbula ruficauda||Rufous-tailed Jacamar||1 at Palenque|
|Notharchus macrorhynchos||White-necked Puffbird||1 at FCP|
|Trogon melanocephalus||Black-headed Trogon||Widespread|
|Trogon mexicanus||Mountain Trogon||1+ at San Cristobal|
|Trogon collaris||Collared Trogon||FCP, Calakmul and Palenque|
|Trogon violaceus||Violaceous Trogon||Calakmul, Palenque, Coba and FCP|
|Eumomota superciliosa||Turquoise-browed Motmot||Widespread|
|Momotus momota||Blue-crowned Motmot||1 at Palenque|
|Megaceryle alcyon||Belted Kingfisher||Widespread|
|Megaceryle torquata||Ringed Kingfisher||1 at Usamacinta Marshes|
|Chloroceryle americana||Green Kingfisher||1 at Palenque|
|Chloroceryle aenea||American Pygmy Kingfisher||Celestun|
|Piaya cayana||Squirrel Cuckoo||Widespread|
|Crotophaga sulcirostris||Groove-billed Ani||Fairly common and widespread|
|Aratinga nana||Olive-throated Parakeet||Fairly common and widespread|
|Pionopsitta haematotis||Brown-hooded Parrot||2 at San Miguel (Palenque to Ocosingo route)|
|Pionus senilis||White-crowned Parrot||Palenque|
|Amazona albifrons||White-fronted Parrot||Fairly common and widespread|
|Amazona xantholora||Yellow-lored Parrot||2 at FCP|
|Amazona autumnalis||Red-lored Parrot||route Usamacinta Marshes to Palenque|
|Amazona oratrix||Yellow-headed Parrot||2 at Usamacinta Marshes|
|Streptoprocne zonaris||White-collared Swift||Palenque|
|Chaetura vauxi||Vaux's Swift||Common and widespread|
|Campylopterus curvipennis||Wedge-tailed Sabrewing||FCP and Calakmul|
|Campylopterus hemileucurus||Violet Sabrewing||1 at Palenque|
|Anthracothorax prevostii||Green-breasted Mango||FCP|
|Chlorostilbon canivetii||Fork-tailed Emerald||Cozumel Emerald (Cozumel), Canivet's Emerald (widespread)|
|Hylocharis leucotis||White-eared Hummingbird||Cerre Huitepec|
|Amazilia candida||White-bellied Emerald||1 at Calakmul|
|Amazilia cyanocephala||Azure-crowned Hummingbird||LDM|
|Amazilia beryllina||Berylline Hummingbird||Sumidero Canyon|
|Amazilia rutila||Cinnamon Hummingbird||Fairly common and widespread|
|Amazilia yucatanensis||Buff-bellied Hummingbird||FCP|
|Amazilia tzacatl||Rufous-tailed Hummingbird||Palenque|
|Eugenes fulgens||Magnificent Hummingbird||Cerre Huitepec|
|Doricha eliza||Mexican Sheartail||Celestun|
|Archilochus colubris||Ruby-throated Hummingbird||Sumidero Canyon|
|Glaucidium brasilianum||Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl||FCP and Calakmul|
|Chordeiles acutipennis||Lesser Nighthawk||FCP|
|Nyctidromus albicollis||Pauraque||1 at FCP|
|Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus||Yucatan Poorwill||FCP|
|Columba livia||Rock Pigeon||Widespread|
|Columba leucocephala||White-crowned Pigeon||Cozumel|
|Columba speciosa||Scaled Pigeon||1 at FCP|
|Columba flavirostris||Red-billed Pigeon||Fairly common and widespread|
|Zenaida macroura||Mourning Dove||1 possible at Playa Del Carmen|
|Zenaida asiatica||White-winged Dove||route Usamacinta Marshes to Palenque, Celestun|
|Columbina inca||Inca Dove||San Cristobal|
|Columbina passerina||Common Ground-Dove||FCP|
|Columbina talpacoti||Ruddy Ground-Dove||Very common and widespread|
|Claravis pretiosa||Blue Ground-Dove||1 at FCP|
|Leptotila verreauxi||White-tipped Dove||Widespread|
|Leptotila jamaicensis||Caribbean Dove||Cozumel|
|Aramus guarauna||Limpkin||Usamacinta Marshes and Coba|
|Heliornis fulica||Sungrebe||1 at Usamascinta Marshes|
|Laterallus ruber||Ruddy Crake||2 at Coba|
|Aramides axillaris||Rufous-necked Wood-Rail||2 at Celestun|
|Aramides cajanea||Grey-necked Wood-Rail||1 at Calakmul, 1 at Celestun|
|Porzana carolina||Sora||1 at Coba|
|Gallinula chloropus||Common Moorhen||LDM|
|Fulica americana||American Coot||LDM|
|Tringa melanoleuca||Greater Yellowlegs||Usamacinta Marshes and Celestun|
|Tringa solitaria||Solitary Sandpiper||Cozumel and Usamacinta Marshes|
|Tringa macularia||Spotted Sandpiper||Cozumel and Celestun|
|Arenaria interpres||Ruddy Turnstone||Playa del Carmen and Cozumel|
|Calidris alba||Sanderling||Playa del Carmen|
|Calidris minutilla||Least Sandpiper||Puerto Morales|
|Jacana spinosa||Northern Jacana||Cozumel and Usamacinta Marshes|
|Burhinus bistriatus||Double-striped Thick-knee||Usamacinta marshes|
|Himantopus mexicanus||Black-necked Stilt||Usamacinta Marshes and Celestun|
|Larus atricilla||Laughing Gull||Playa del Carmen and Cozumel|
|Sterna maxima||Royal Tern||Playa del Carmen and Cozumel|
|Elanus leucurus||White-tailed Kite||Usamacinta marshes and LDM area|
|Harpagus bidentatus||Double-toothed Kite||Palenque|
|Accipiter chionogaster||White-breasted Hawk||LDM|
|Leucopternis albicollis||White Hawk||1 at Palenque|
|Buteogallus anthracinus||Common Black-Hawk||Palenque and Celestun|
|Buteogallus urubitinga||Great Black-Hawk||1 at Calakmul|
|Busarellus nigricollis||Black-collared Hawk||1 at Usamacinta Marshes|
|Asturina plagiata||Grey Hawk||Fairly common and widespread|
|Buteo magnirostris||Roadside Hawk||Common and widespread|
|Buteo brachyurus||Short-tailed Hawk||1 in the Puerto Morales area|
|Buteo albicaudatus||White-tailed Hawk||Usamacinta marshes and Chinkultic|
|Spizaetus tyrannus||Black Hawk-Eagle||1 near FCP, 1 at Calakmul|
|Polyborus plancus||Crested Caracara||Usamacinta marshes|
|Herpetotheres cachinnans||Laughing Falcon||always seen perched by side of road in puerto morales area|
|Falco sparverius||American Kestrel||several in chinkultic area (LDM)|
|Falco femoralis||Aplomado Falcon||2 at Usamacinta Marshes|
|Falco rufigularis||Bat Falcon||FCP, Palenque and San Cristobal|
|Tachybaptus dominicus||Least Grebe||1 at Calakmul|
|Podilymbus podiceps||Pied-billed Grebe||LDM and Coba|
|Phalacrocorax brasilianus||Neotropic Cormorant||Usamacinta Marshes and Celestun|
|Phalacrocorax auritus||Double-crested Cormorant||Celestun|
|Egretta tricolor||Tricolored Heron||Usamacinta Marshes and Celestun|
|Egretta caerulea||Little Blue Heron||Usamacinta Marshes and Celestun|
|Egretta thula||Snowy Egret||Widespread|
|Ardea herodias||Great Blue Heron||Widespread|
|Casmerodius albus||Great Egret||Widespread|
|Bubulcus ibis||Cattle Egret||Widespread|
|Butorides virescens||Green Heron||Widespread|
|Nyctanassa violacea||Yellow-crowned Night-Heron||Celestun|
|Cochlearius cochlearia||Boat-billed Heron||2 at Celestun|
|Tigrisoma mexicanum||Bare-throated Tiger-Heron||Celestun|
|Phoenicopterus ruber||Greater Flamingo||Celestun|
|Eudocimus albus||White Ibis||Celestun|
|Ajaia ajaja||Roseate Spoonbill||Cozumel|
|Pelecanus erythrorhynchos||American White Pelican||Sumidero Canyon|
|Pelecanus occidentalis||Brown Pelican||Playa del Carmen and Cozumel|
|Coragyps atratus||Black Vulture||Common and widespread|
|Cathartes aura||Turkey Vulture||Common and widespread|
|Cathartes burrovianus||Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture||Celestun|
|Sarcoramphus papa||King Vulture||Several at Calakmul|
|Mycteria americana||Wood Stork||Usamacinta marshes|
|Fregata magnificens||Magnificent Frigatebird||1 at cozumel|
|Mionectes oleagineus||Ochre-bellied Flycatcher||FCP and Palenque|
|Camptostoma imberbe||Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet||1 at Cozumel and 1 at FCP|
|Myiopagis viridicata||Greenish Elaenia||Fairly common and widespread|
|Elaenia martinica||Caribbean Elaenia||Cozumel|
|Elaenia flavogaster||Yellow-bellied Elaenia||FCP|
|Oncostoma cinereigulare||Northern Bentbill||1 at Calakmul 1 at FCP|
|Rhynchocyclus brevirostris||Eye-ringed Flatbill||1 at Calakmul|
|Tolmomyias sulphurescens||Yellow-olive Flycatcher||Palenque and FCP|
|Platyrinchus cancrominus||Stub-tailed Spadebill||heard often, seen briefly Palenque, nailed at FCP|
|Onychorhynchus coronatus||Royal Flycatcher||Palenque and Coba|
|Contopus pertinax||Greater Pewee||San Cristobal and Lagos de Montebello (LDM)|
|Contopus cinereus||Tropical Pewee||Calica and FCP|
|Empidonax albigularis||White-throated Flycatcher||1 at LDM (confusion with Traill's?)|
|Empidonax minimus||Least Flycatcher||Fairly common and widespread|
|Empidonax affinis||Pine Flycatcher||San Cristobal|
|Empidonax flavescens||Yellowish Flycatcher||Palenque|
|Pyrocephalus rubinus||Vermilion Flycatcher||Palenque|
|Attila spadiceus||Bright-rumped Attila||1 at Calakmul|
|Myiarchus yucatanensis||Yucatan Flycatcher||FCP and Calakmul|
|Myiarchus tuberculifer||Dusky-capped Flycatcher||Fairly common and widespread|
|Myiarchus nuttingi||Nutting's Flycatcher||Sumidero Canyon|
|Myiarchus crinitus||Great Crested Flycatcher||FCP|
|Tyrannus melancholicus||Tropical Kingbird||Very common and widespread|
|Tyrannus couchii||Couch's Kingbird||nailed at FCP (where common) prob. overlooked elsewhere|
|Tyrannus savana||Fork-tailed Flycatcher||locally common at Usamacinta marshes|
|Megarynchus pitangua||Boat-billed Flycatcher||Fairly common and widespread|
|Myiozetetes similis||Social Flycatcher||Very common and widespread|
|Pitangus sulphuratus||Great Kiskadee||Very common and widespread|
|Pachyramphus aglaiae||Rose-throated Becard||Fairly common and widespread|
|Tityra semifasciata||Masked Tityra||Common and widespread|
|Tityra inquisitor||Black-crowned Tityra||2 at Usamacinta Marshes|
|Pipra mentalis||Red-capped Manakin||Calakmul, Palenque and FCP|
|Thamnophilus doliatus||Barred Antshrike||LDM and Chinkultic|
|Xenops minutus||Plain Xenops||Calakmul and FCP|
|Dendrocincla anabatina||Tawny-winged Woodcreeper||Palenque|
|Sittasomus griseicapillus||Olivaceous Woodcreeper||Calakmul and FCP|
|Dendrocolaptes certhia||Barred Woodcreeper||Widespread|
|Xiphorhynchus flavigaster||Ivory-billed Woodcreeper||Common and widespread|
|Lepidocolaptes affinis||Spot-crowned Woodcreeper||locally common at San Cristobal and Sumidero Canyon|
|Cyclarhis gujanensis||Rufous-browed Peppershrike||Fairly common and widespread|
|Vireo huttoni||Hutton's Vireo||San Cristobal|
|Vireo griseus||White-eyed Vireo||Abundant|
|Vireo pallens||Mangrove Vireo||Widespread|
|Vireo bairdi||Cozumel Vireo||Cozumel|
|Vireo solitarius||Blue-headed Vireo||Widespread|
|Vireo flavifrons||Yellow-throated Vireo||Fairly common and widespread|
|Vireo philadelphicus||Philadelphia Vireo||LDM|
|Vireo magister||Yucatan Vireo||Uncommon. Only around Calica (where common)|
|Vireo gilvus||Eastern Warbling-Vireo||Fairly common and widespread|
|Vireo leucophrys||Brown-capped Vireo||I possible en route Ocosingo to Palenque|
|Hylophilus ochraceiceps||Tawny-crowned Greenlet||2 at FCP|
|Hylophilus decurtatus||Lesser Greenlet||Fairly common and widespread|
|Cyanocitta stelleri||Steller's Jay||Common at San Cristobal and LDM|
|Aphelocoma unicolor||Unicolored Jay||LDM|
|Cyanocorax yucatanicus||Yucatan Jay||FCP and Calakmul|
|Cyanocorax yncas||Green Jay||Widespread|
|Psilorhinus morio||Brown Jay||Very common and widespread|
|Calocitta formosa||White-throated Magpie-Jay||Sumidero Canyon|
|Ptilogonys cinereus||Grey Silky-flycatcher||1 at Chinkultic|
|Bombycilla cedrorum||Cedar Waxwing||Sumidero Canyon|
|Sialia sialis||Eastern Bluebird||San Cristobal|
|Myadestes unicolor||Slate-colored Solitaire||LDM|
|Catharus ustulatus||Swainson's Thrush||Fairly common and widespread|
|Catharus guttatus||Hermit Thrush||1 en route Ocosingo to Palenque|
|Catharus mustelinus||Wood Thrush||Common and widespread|
|Turdus grayi||Clay-colored Thrush||Abundant|
|Turdus assimilis||White-throated Thrush||1 at LDM|
|Turdus rufitorques||Rufous-collared Robin||San Cristobal|
|Dumetella carolinensis||Grey Catbird||Fairly common and widespread|
|Melanoptila glabrirostris||Black Catbird||Cozumel and FCP|
|Melanotis hypoleucus||Blue-and-white Mockingbird||1 at LDM|
|Mimus gilvus||Tropical Mockingbird||Fairly common and widespread|
|Certhia americana||American Tree-Creeper||San Cristobal|
|Campylorhynchus yucatanicus||Yucatan Wren||Celestun|
|Campylorhynchus zonatus||Band-backed Wren||San Cristobal and Cerre Huitepec|
|Thryothorus maculipectus||Spot-breasted Wren||Fairly common and widespread|
|Thryothorus pleurostictus||Banded Wren||1 at Sumidero Canyon|
|Thryothorus ludovicianus||Carolina Wren||White-browed Wren at FCP|
|Troglodytes aedon||House Wren||Cozumel Wren (Cozumel) Southern House (widespread)|
|Uropsila leucogastra||White-bellied Wren||FCP and Coba|
|Henicorhina leucosticta||White-breasted Wood-Wren||Palenque|
|Ramphocaenus melanurus||Long-billed Gnatwren||FCP and Coba|
|Polioptila caerulea||Blue-grey Gnatcatcher||Cozumel subspecies abundant. Nominate race common|
|Polioptila albiloris||White-lored Gnatcatcher||Sumidero Cyn and Celestun (inc. alternative morph)|
|Polioptila plumbea||Tropical Gnatcatcher||FCP and Celestun|
|Tachycineta bicolor||Tree Swallow||Widespread|
|Tachycineta albilinea||Mangrove Swallow||Puerto Morales area and Chankanaab|
|Progne chalybea||Grey-breasted Martin||Puerto Morales area|
|Stelgidopteryx serripennis||Northern Rough-winged Swallow||FCP|
|Stelgidopteryx ridgwayi||Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow||Widespread|
|Hirundo rustica||Barn Swallow||Widespread|
|Hirundo fulva||Cave Swallow||Widespread|
|Passer domesticus||House Sparrow||Comitan|
|Carduelis notata||Black-headed Siskin||San Cristobal and poss. En route to Comitan|
|Carduelis psaltria||Lesser Goldfinch||LDM|
|Carpodacus mexicanus||House Finch||en route San Cristobal to Ocosingo|
|Melospiza lincolnii||Lincoln's Sparrow||LDM|
|Zonotrichia capensis||Rufous-collared Sparrow||Cerre Huitepec and LDM|
|Junco phaeonotus||Yellow-eyed Junco||Chiapas subspecies at San Cristobal|
|Aimophila rufescens||Rusty Sparrow||LDM, San Cristobal and Sumidero Cyn|
|Arremon aurantiirostris||Orange-billed Sparrow||Palenque|
|Arremonops rufivirgatus||Olive Sparrow||Sumidero Canyon|
|Arremonops chloronotus||Green-backed Sparrow||FCP and Coba|
|Atlapetes albinucha||White-naped Brush-Finch||1 at San Cristobal|
|Vermivora pinus||Blue-winged Warbler||Calakmul and Palenque|
|Vermivora chrysoptera||Golden-winged Warbler||Palenque and Chinkultic|
|Vermivora peregrina||Tennessee Warbler||Sumidero Canyon|
|Vermivora ruficapilla||Nashville Warbler||Chinkultic and Sumidero Cyn (where common)|
|Parula americana||Northern Parula||Very common and widespread|
|Parula superciliosa||Crescent-chested Warbler||San Cristobal|
|Dendroica petechia||Yellow Warbler||Mangrove, Golden and nominate all seen.|
|Dendroica pensylvanica||Chestnut-sided Warbler||Palenque|
|Dendroica magnolia||Magnolia Warbler||Abundant|
|Dendroica caerulescens||Black-throated Blue Warbler||Chankanaab|
|Dendroica coronata||Yellow-rumped Warbler||Abundant|
|Dendroica townsendi||Townsend's Warbler||Locally abundant|
|Dendroica occidentalis||Hermit Warbler||Locally abundant|
|Dendroica virens||Black-throated Green Warbler||Locally abundant (widespread)|
|Dendroica chrysoparia||Golden-cheeked Warbler||1 at San Cristobal|
|Dendroica dominica||Yellow-throated Warbler||Chankanaab|
|Dendroica graciae||Grace's Warbler||1 en route Ocosingo to Palenque|
|Dendroica discolor||Prairie Warbler||Cozumel|
|Dendroica palmarum||Palm Warbler||Cozumel and Puerto Morales|
|Mniotilta varia||Black-and-white Warbler||Very common and widespread|
|Setophaga ruticilla||American Redstart||Abundant|
|Protonotaria citrea||Prothonotary Warbler||1 at Celestun|
|Helmitheros vermivorus||Worm-eating Warbler||Cozumel|
|Seiurus aurocapillus||Ovenbird||Fairly common and widespread|
|Seiurus noveboracensis||Northern Waterthrush||Widespread|
|Seiurus motacilla||Louisiana Waterthrush||Widespread|
|Oporornis formosus||Kentucky Warbler||Widespread|
|Oporornis tolmiei||MacGillivray's Warbler||LDM|
|Geothlypis trichas||Common Yellowthroat||Very common and widespread|
|Geothlypis poliocephala||Grey-crowned Yellowthroat||Widespread|
|Wilsonia citrina||Hooded Warbler||Widespread|
|Wilsonia pusilla||Wilson's Warbler||Very common and widespread|
|Cardellina rubrifrons||Red-faced Warbler||Cerre Huitepec|
|Ergaticus versicolor||Pink-headed Warbler||San Cristobal|
|Myioborus miniatus||Slate-throated Redstart||Widespread|
|Basileuterus culicivorus||Golden-crowned Warbler||Palenque|
|Basileuterus rufifrons||Rufous-capped Warbler||LDM and Chinkultic|
|Icteria virens||Yellow-breasted Chat||Fairly common and widespread|
|Granatellus sallaei||Grey-throated Chat||FCP|
|Coereba flaveola||Bananaquit||Cozumel (subspecies) fairly common|
|Chlorospingus ophthalmicus||Common Bush-Tanager||LDM and Chinkultic|
|Habia rubica||Red-crowned Ant-Tanager||1 at FCP|
|Habia fuscicauda||Red-throated Ant-Tanager||Common and widespread|
|Piranga bidentata||Flame-colored Tanager||LDM|
|Piranga flava||Hepatic Tanager||LDM and route Ocosingo to Palenque|
|Piranga rubra||Summer Tanager||Widespread|
|Piranga roseogularis||Rose-throated Tanager||FCP and Calakmul|
|Piranga ludoviciana||Western Tanager||Cerre Huitepec|
|Ramphocelus sanguinolentus||Crimson-collared Tanager||Palenque|
|Spindalis zena||Stripe-headed Tanager||Western Spindalis on Cozumel|
|Thraupis episcopus||Blue-grey Tanager||Palenque|
|Thraupis abbas||Yellow-winged Tanager||1 at LDM|
|Euphonia affinis||Scrub Euphonia||Calakmul and Palenque|
|Euphonia hirundinacea||Yellow-throated Euphonia||FCP, Calakmul and Palenque|
|Tangara larvata||Golden-hooded Tanager||Palenque|
|Chlorophanes spiza||Green Honeycreeper||Palenque|
|Volatinia jacarina||Blue-black Grassquit||FCP|
|Sporophila americana||Variable Seedeater||Palenque|
|Sporophila torqueola||White-collared Seedeater||Very common and widespread|
|Tiaris olivacea||Yellow-faced Grassquit||Cozumel and FCP|
|Diglossa baritula||Cinnamon-bellied Flower-piercer||LDM|
|Pheucticus ludovicianus||Rose-breasted Grosbeak||LDM|
|Cardinalis cardinalis||Northern Cardinal||Fairly common and widespread|
|Saltator atriceps||Black-headed Saltator||Common and widespread|
|Saltator maximus||Buff-throated Saltator||Palenque|
|Saltator coerulescens||Greyish Saltator||FCP and Coba|
|Cyanocompsa parellina||Blue Bunting||FCP (where common)|
|Passerina cyanea||Indigo Bunting||Fairly common and widespread|
|Passerina versicolor||Varied Bunting||Sumidero Canyon|
|Passerina ciris||Painted Bunting||Cozumel and Usamacinta Marshes|
|Gymnostinops montezuma||Montezuma Oropendola||Calakmul|
|Amblycercus holosericeus||Yellow-billed Cacique||FCP and Coba|
|Icterus chrysater||Yellow-backed Oriole||FCP and LDM|
|Icterus auratus||Orange Oriole||Calica and FCP|
|Icterus mesomelas||Yellow-tailed Oriole||FCP and Palenque|
|Icterus gularis||Altamira Oriole||Fairly common and widespread|
|Icterus pustulatus||Streak-backed Oriole||Sumidero Canyon|
|Icterus galbula||Northern Oriole||Baltimore Oriole widespread|
|Icterus cucullatus||Hooded Oriole||Common and widespread|
|Icterus spurius||Orchard Oriole||FCP and Usamacinta marshes|
|Icterus dominicensis||Black-cowled Oriole||FCP|
|Agelaius phoeniceus||Red-winged Blackbird||Puerto Morales area|
|Sturnella magna||Eastern Meadowlark||Usamacinta marshes|
|Dives dives||Melodious Blackbird||Very common and widespread|
|Quiscalus mexicanus||Great-tailed Grackle||Abundant|
|Molothrus aeneus||Bronzed Cowbird||1 at LDM|
330 Species in total
Alex Kirschel 2003.