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Mexico, Yucatan and Chiapas,
PART I: GENERAL INFORMATION
- Flight and visa
- Food and drink
- Medical precautions
- Transport and roads
- Nomenclature & taxonomy
- Maps and sketch maps
- Common birdspecies
PART II: ITINERARY
PART III: RESERVES AND SITES
- Dr. Alfredo Barrera M. Botanical Garden
- Isla de Cozume
- Felipe Carrillo Puerto
- Chichén Itzá
- Palenque Area
- The Usumacinta Marshes
- San Cristóbal de Las Casas area
- Tuxtla Gutiérrez area
PART IV: DAILY LOG
PART V: SYSTEMATIC LIST
This report covers a two-week trip to the south-eastern part of Mexico in February/March 1999 to the Yucatan and Chiapas, land of the Maya.
We covered much of the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas as far south-west as Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The crew comprised Vital & Riet van Gorp, Eric Wille, my girlfriend Willemien van Ginneken and myself.
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, nearby Cozumel Island and Chiapas combine rich tropical birding with a spectacular cultural setting. It is also a notable centre of bird endemism.
Our trip concentrated of course on the bird life of Mexico, but we had the chance to savour the magnificent ruins of the Maya at Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Palenque.
Our itinerary was largely based on a report compiled by Henk Hendriks (1994) and Brian Gee's excellent Mexico/Guatemala report (1996) with additional information from Steve Howell's brand-new "Where to watch birds in Mexico".
Mexico has a high degree of endemism and many species are of restricted range. It is these specialist species that were of most interest to us.
We did not spend a lot of time in the tropical rainforest (Palenque) where the overlap with species we had seen previously in South America and Costa Rica was considerable.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We flew Amsterdam - Cancún (via Cuba) return with Martinair costing ¦ 775,--, a special offer at the time.
No visa is required for EU-citizens. The departure tax at the airport of Cancún was US$ 17,--.
The unit of currency in Mexico is the peso, divided into 100 centavos (confusingly often written $).
In March 1999 the exchange rate varied from 9 to 10: US$1. All major credit cards are accepted.
There is no shortage of accommodation in Mexico; any reasonably sized town will have a range to suit most tastes. Hotels along the coast and near the major tourist attractions are expensive.
Sometimes some gentle haggling can bring the price of a room down significantly.
Some prices (double room):
Hotel Salvía, Cancún
Hotel Faísan y Venado, Felipe Carrillo Puerto 135 peso
Hotel Dolores Alba, Chichén Itzá 270 peso
Hotel María del Carmen, Celestún 200 peso
Hotel Maya Tulipanes, Palenque (***) 480 peso
Hotel Flamboyant, San Cristóbal de Las Casas (****) 500 peso
Hotel Rancho Uxmal, Uxmal 220 peso
Hotel San Pedro, Playa del Carmen 550 peso
FOOD AND DRINK
Food was generally fine, reasonably varied and of good quality. Drinks can be found anywhere.
No vaccinations are officially required to visit Mexico per se. Immunisation against polio, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis however is recommended, although vaccinations should not be treated as a substitute for careful eating and drinking habits. The chance of contracting malaria is minimal.
Mosquitoes, biting gnats and biting or simply annoying flies can be locally numerous, particularly in the lowlands, and especially in the wet season - another reason to visit during the dry season.
Chiggers, one of Mexico's many interesting South American affinities, can be a real pest, and you can pick them up in the field, often when you least expect it. Although there is no complete answer to the problem, as precaution wear long trousers tucked securely into your socks and spray insect repellent liberally on your clothing and boots!
Finally, beware of the sun. Hats and long‑sleeved shirts is essential kit.
Central America has a bad reputation as a high crime area; this reputation is probably not deserved. Mexico is a friendly country and at present a fairly safe place to travel. We travelled for two weeks, had nothing stolen and never felt threatened or even uncomfortable and where in the world is safe these days.
Except for the occasional child asking for pens or money, we were not hassled or bothered while birdwatching around the country. Still, in the larger cities you should take precautions against pickpockets and other theft. Lock your car at all times; never leave valuables in open sight.
At the San Manuel road near Palenque, an official from the tourist office warned us for "banditos" and told us that this was a very bad area to make a stroll, but we never saw anything but very friendly people along this road. Maybe the man exaggerated, but anyway be careful out there.
According to Steve Howell's "Where to watch birds in Mexico" the San Cristóbal area is effectively off‑limits due to the unfortunate recent civil unrest in Chiapas. We spent 4 days in this area, met many Indians and felt all the time very safe, so it is best to check on the local situation in advance of your trip, as we did.
There was significant military presence in Chiapas, especially road checkpoints.
Mexico is a country were English is not spoken widely (except in major resorts), so at least a rudimentary command of Spanish will be helpful.
The dry season begins in late October. February is reckoned to be the best bet for a rain free trip. February/March is also spring for many species, which begin to sing and become more conspicuous.
During our trip the weather was pleasant, dry and sunny, and almost no birding time was lost to rain.
Not everywhere in Mexico it was hot and sunny, although even in the mountains (Chiapas) we needed no more than a light jacket for the first few hours of the morning. Daylight hours were generally 06:00 - 18.30.
Rental cars are easily obtainable at the airport of Cancún. We rented a van (Ford Windstar) at the airport (US$ 1330 for 14 days, unlimited mileage), a rather expensive car. Before taking the car it is important to thoroughly check it for damage, defects etc. Point out every scrape, bump, windscreen chip, bit of missing trim etc. They will make a note of it and they're very hot! The car was excellent (virtually brand new) and never gave us any trouble.
All roads were passable during the dry season, although the gravel road to Cerro Tzontehuiz (San Cristóbal) was diabolical, but we made it easily.
A small tape recorder is quite useful for drawing in birds. The sound recordings "Songs of Mexican Birds" (two tapes) by Ben B. Coffey Jr & Lula C. Coffey are a must for anyone visiting this area. A good torch is a must and a telescope is useful at coastal sites and lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides.
The birds respond strongly to a tape or whistled imitation of Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl and to pishing!
NOMENCLATURE & TAXONOMY
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (July 1991, Birds of the World, A Check List).
Species in brackets are the English names in "A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America" by Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb, but only mentioned when these differ significantly from the Clements Check List.
MAPS AND SKETCH MAPS
Although I have tried to make all the maps as accurate as possible, please allow for the vagaries of memory. The sketch maps are NOT to scale!
We used the B&B road map of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The scale (1:1 000 000) is small but adequate and it goes as far south‑west
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Neotropic & Double-crested Cormorant, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Yellow‑crowned Night‑Heron, Black & Turkey Vulture, Laughing Gull, White‑winged Dove, Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Olive‑throated (Aztec) Parakeet, Groove‑billed Ani, Golden‑fronted Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Brown Jay, White‑eyed Vireo, Clay‑coloured Robin, Rufous‑collared Robin, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Northern (Ridgway's) Rough‑winged Swallow, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow‑rumped Warbler, Black‑throated Green Warbler, Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, White‑collared Seedeater, Altamira Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great‑tailed Grackle.
Special thanks are due to my friend Mark van Beirs for his great help and valuable advice in planning this trip.
A big thanks also to Eric Wille who did all the driving during the trip.
¨ James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List
¨ National Geographic Society.Field Guide to the Birds of North America
¨ Steve N.G. Howell. Where to Watch Birds in Mexico.
¨ Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb. A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America.
Clearly "A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America." (Howell & Webb) is a must. You also need theField Guide to the Birds of North America as well, as many of the northern migrants are not illustrated in Howell & Webb.
Steve Howell's "Where to Watch Birds in Mexico" proved to be invaluable.
¨ Jon Curson. Birding Mexico,
a guide to selected sites, 1991.
¨ Michiel de Boer. Central-America. Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, 16 March - 12 April 1991.
¨ Henk Hendriks. Southern Mexico 24 December 1993 - 8 January 1994.
¨ Brian Gee. Mexico & Guatemala, winter 95/96.
¨ Tim Wright. Central & Southern Mexico. 4th to 20th April 1996.
¨ John Martin. Southeast Mexico - Yucatan and Palenque. November - December 1996.
¨ Winging It, October 1993.
Birding in the Mountains of the Maya: San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas,
¨ Winging It, March 1995. Mexico, Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
¨ Winging It, February 1996. Birding Cozumel Island, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
BIRDBASE & BIRDAREA
Since 1996 I use this software to keep track of the birds I have seen and to make lists of any country, labelling endemics and birds previously seen in that country, outside it, or both.
BirdArea can produce checklists of the birds of any country
of Clements' world birds.
February 22 Amsterdam - Varadero (Cuba)
February 23 Cancún - Jardín Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera M. - Felipe Carrillo Puerto
February 24 Felipe Carrillo Puerto
February 25 Felipe Carrillo Puerto - Chichén Itzá
February 26 Chichén Itzá - Celestún
February 27 Celestún - Campeche - Champotón - Palenque
February 28 Palenque
March 1 Palenque - San Cristóbal de Las Casas
March 2 San Cristóbal de Las Casas
March 3 San Cristóbal de Las Casas
March 4 San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Tuxtla Gutiérrez - San Cristóbal de Las Casas
March 5 San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Palenque
March 6 Palenque - Champotón - Campeche - Uxmal
March 7 Uxmal - Mérida - Playa
March 8/9 Playa del Carmen - Isla Cozumel - Playa del Carmen - Cancún - Amsterdam
For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
JARDIN BOTANICO DR. ALFREDO BARRERA M.
Accommodation: nearby Cancún has many hotels, although none of them are particularly cheap.
This small reserve (60 ha) is situated about 25 km south of Cancún (Route 307) en route to Playa del Carmen and Felipe Carrillo Puerto. 1 km south of Puerto Morelos look on the left (east) for a large sign for the botanical garden.
The reserve is closed on Sunday. This reserve (entrance fee 40 peso p.p.) offers access to medium height tropical forest via 3 km of well-maintained trails.
Birds seen during our visit:
Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Olive-throated (Aztec) Parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, Cinnamon & Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Black‑headed Trogon, Yucatan Woodpecker, Golden‑fronted Woodpecker, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow‑olive Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Bright‑rumped Attila, Yucatan Flycatcher, Dusky‑capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Boat‑billed Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Rufous‑browed Peppershrike, White‑eyed, Plumbeous & Yellow‑green Vireo, Yucatan Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Black Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Spot‑breasted Wren, Blue‑winged, Magnolia, Yellow‑rumped, Black‑throated Green, Yellow‑throated & Black‑and‑white Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Worm‑eating Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Yellow‑throated Euphonia, Yellow‑backed, Altamira & Hooded Oriole, Orange Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
Blue‑crowned Motmot, Tawny‑winged, Barred & Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Northern Bentbill, Green Jay, White‑bellied Wren, Kentucky Warbler, Red‑crowned & Red‑throated Ant‑Tanager, Blue Bunting, Green‑backed Sparrow.
ISLA DE COZUMEL
Accommodation: at Cozumel of course; nearby Playa del Carmen has many hotels, although none of them are particularly cheap.
Cozumel is a major tourist destination, so getting there is not a problem. An inexpensive passenger ferry (102 peso p.p.) runs twelve times a day between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.
Mexico's Cozumel Island has an interesting mix of Caribbean, Yucatan and island‑endemic birds. You can also take the opportunity to swim or snorkel in the crystal‑clear seas, Cozumel being at the northern end of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Cozumel has three endemic species, Cozumel Vireo, Cozumel Thrasher and Cozumel Emerald and it is also the only place in Mexico to see Stripe-headed Tanager.
Birds seen during our visit:
Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Ruddy Turnstone, Royal & Sandwich Tern, Caribbean Dove, Mangrove Cuckoo, Green‑breasted Mango, Cozumel Emerald, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Cozumel Vireo, Yucatan Vireo, Black Catbird, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Magnolia, Black‑throated Green & Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Swainson's Warbler, Bananaquit, Stripe‑headed Tanager, Yellow‑faced Grassquit.
Glossy Ibis, Hook-billed Kite, Ruddy Crake, Sora, White-crowned Pigeon, Yucatan Parrot, Yucatan Nightjar, Yucatan Woodpecker, Caribbean Elaenia, Bright-rumped Attila, Cozumel Wren, Cozumel Thrasher, Rose‑throated Tanager, Lesser Goldfinch.
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO
Accommodation: Hotel Faísan y Venado at FCP, the hotel is excellent, if you don't mind the stuffed jaguar decor.
FCP is located 225 km south of Cancún on route 307.
Birders covering the Maya route in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula would do well to visit the stretch of dirt road, which extends from the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto to Vigia Chico in the state of Quintana Roo. This area is surrounded by excellent areas of tropical semi-deciduous forest which hold a high diversity of interesting birds.
We worked the road to about 20 km, making stops every kilometre. The first 2 km are scrub and farmland. It is one of those forests where you see different things every time you go in, so the more time you can spend here the better.
Birds seen during our visit:
Thicket Tinamou, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Short‑tailed Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Occelated Turkey, Red‑billed Pigeon, White‑winged Dove, Common & Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Olive-throated (Aztec) Parakeet, White‑fronted Parrot, Yellow‑lored (Yucatan) Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove‑billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, Pauraque, Yucatan Poorwill, Wedge‑tailed Sabrewing, Canivet's Emerald, White‑bellied Emerald, Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Black‑headed Trogon, Collared Aracari, Yucatan Woodpecker, Golden‑fronted, Ladder‑backed, Smoky‑brown, Lineated & Pileated Woodpecker, Ruddy, Olivaceous & Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Barred Antshrike, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Caribbean Elaenia, Eye‑ringed Flatbill, Stub‑tailed Spadebill, Tropical Pewee, Yellow‑bellied & Least Flycatcher, Yucatan Flycatcher, Dusky‑capped & Brown‑crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Gray‑collared Becard, Rose‑throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Yucatan Jay, Brown Jay, Rufous‑browed Peppershrike, White‑eyed, Mangrove & Yellow‑throated Vireo, Yucatan Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Gray Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Spot‑breasted, (Southern) House & Carolina (White‑browed) Wren, White‑bellied Wren, Blue‑gray & Tropical Gnatcatcher, Ridgway's Rough‑winged Swallow, Blue‑winged, Yellow, Chestnut‑sided, Magnolia, Yellow‑rumped, Black‑throated Green & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common & Gray‑crowned Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Gray-throated Chat, Olive Sparrow, Green‑backed Sparrow, Red‑throated Ant‑Tanager, Rose-throated Tanager, Scrub & Yellow‑throated Euphonia, White‑collared Seedeater, Yellow‑faced Grassquit, Northern Cardinal, Black‑headed Saltator, Blue Bunting, Altamira, Hooded, Orchard & Black‑cowled Oriole, Orange Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
King Vulture, Black & Ornate Hawk‑Eagle, Collared Forest‑Falcon, Singing Quail, Black‑throated (Yucatan) Bobwhite, Ruddy Crake, Blue Ground-Dove, Vermiculated Screech‑Owl, Yucatan Nightjar, White‑necked Puffbird, Rufous‑breasted Spinetail, Mexican Antthrush, Ochre‑bellied Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcher, Thrushlike Mourner, Red‑capped Manakin, Long‑billed Gnatwren, Black Catbird, Swainson's Warbler, Tawny‑crowned Greenlet, Red‑legged Honeycreeper, Yellow‑winged Tanager, Summer Tanager, Grayish Saltator.
Accommodation: there are several (mostly expensive) hotels available around the ruins and in Piste.
We stayed at the very good and fairly cheap Hotel Dolores Alba.
This Maya site is famous for its spectacular ruins, including the majestic El Castillo, a huge pyramid that juts above the surrounding low forest.
Chichén Itzá offers the birder a variety of birds typical of dry thorn forest as well some species of more humid forest. The ruins are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and cost 70 pesos/person.
Birds seen during our visit:
Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Gray Hawk, White‑winged Dove, Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Groove‑billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, Vaux's Swift, Turquoise‑browed & Blue‑crowned Motmot, Golden‑fronted & Golden‑olive Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Masked Tityra, Yucatan Jay, Green & Brown Jay, Rufous‑browed Peppershrike, White‑eyed & Mangrove Vireo, Clay‑coloured Robin, Gray Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Ridgway's Rough‑winged Swallow, Cave Swallow, Blue‑winged, Magnolia, Yellow‑rumped & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Botteri's Sparrow, White‑collared Seedeater, Rose‑breasted Grosbeak, Black‑headed Saltator, Indigo Bunting, Yellow‑billed Cacique, Altamira, Hooded, Orchard & Baltimore Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
Zone-tailed Hawk, Plain Chachalaca, White‑tipped Dove, White‑fronted Parrot, Wedge‑tailed Sabrewing, Canivet's Emerald, Cinnamon & Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Violaceous Trogon, Yellow‑bellied Sapsucker, Collared Aracari, Greenish Elaenia, Rose‑throated Becard, White‑bellied Wren, Yellow‑winged Tanager, Blue Bunting, Orange Oriole.
Accommodation: there are several very expensive hotels available around the ruins.
We stayed at the reasonable and fairly cheap Hotel Rancho Uxmal.
Uxmal is a famous site of impressive Maya ruins amid deciduous thorn forest. The dry thorn scrub around the ruins hold a variety of species typical of the peninsula and wintering birds from Northern America will also be conspicuous here.
Birds seen during our visit:
Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Short‑tailed Hawk, Plain Chachalaca, Ruddy Crake, White‑winged Dove, Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove‑billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black‑headed Trogon, Turquoise‑browed & Blue‑crowned Motmot, Golden‑fronted Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Least Flycatcher, Yucatan Flycatcher, Brown‑crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Boat‑billed & Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Yucatan Jay, Green Jay, Rufous‑browed Peppershrike, White‑eyed & Mangrove Vireo, Clay‑coloured Robin, Gray Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Spot‑breasted Wren, White‑bellied Wren, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Cave Swallow, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow‑throated & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, White‑collared Seedeater, Rose‑breasted Grosbeak, Yellow‑billed Cacique, Altamira, Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
Collared Forest‑Falcon, Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Canivet's Emerald, Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Bright‑rumped Attila, Gray‑throated Chat, Scrub Euphonia, Indigo & Painted Bunting, Blue Bunting, Orange Oriole.
Accommodation: There are three basic hotels in Celestún. We stayed at Hotel María del Carmen.
The small coastal town of Celestún is situated about 100 km west of Mérida.
Celestún is famous for its flamingos, but is also good for a variety of waterbirds and a few speciality landbirds.
Most of the birds can be seen from land, but a boat trip up the Riá Celestún is recommended for getting close‑up views of the flamingos and a variety of waterbirds typical of the mangroves.
Birds seen during our visit:
Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic & Double‑crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Greater (American) Flamingo, Reddish, Snowy, Great & Cattle Egret, Tricoloured, Little Blue & Great Blue Heron, Bare‑throated Tiger‑Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black & Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Common & Great Black‑Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Black‑throated (Yucatan) Bobwhite, Gray‑necked Wood‑Rail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, American Oystercatcher, Gray Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Black‑backed & Laughing Gull, Royal & Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, Common & Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Groove‑billed Ani, Lesser Nighthawk, Canivet's Emerald, Cinnamon & Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Mexican Sheartail, Belted & American Pygmy Kingfisher, Golden‑fronted & Ladder‑backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Vermilion & Dusky‑capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, White‑eyed, Mangrove & Yellow‑throated Vireo, Gray Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Yucatan Wren, White‑lored Gnatcatcher, Mangrove Swallow, Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow, Northern Parula, Tennessee, Yellow, Mangrove, Magnolia, Yellow‑rumped, Palm & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Yellow‑backed Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great‑tailed Grackle.
Blue‑winged Teal, Short‑tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Collared Forest‑Falcon, Bat Falcon, Rufous‑necked Wood‑Rail, Stilt Sandpiper, Zenaida Dove, Lesser Roadrunner, Yucatan Woodpecker, Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Least Flycatcher, Bright‑rumped Attila, Prothonotary Warbler, Savannah Sparrow.
Accommodation: Palenque has a wide range of hotels and campsites, including several along the road to the ruins. We stayed at Hotel Maya Tulipanes.
The rainforest of eastern Chiapas, site of the Palenque ruins, harbours the highest bird diversity in Mexico.
Roads, trails and clearings in the vicinity of Palenque offer easy access to the forest, while nearby extensive marshes and open country add further variety. Indeed, almost any lowland species of southern Mexico can be found here.
Stunning is the only word to describe the sight of the Temple of Inscriptions and the Palace at the Palenque ruins, as they rise above the surrounding rainforest. The whole area is good with trails at the back of the Temple of Inscriptions, at the back of the buildings at the right of the park entrance, and down to the museum being good for forest interior species.
The "Lovely Continga" site just before km 40 of the Ocosingo Road (San Manuel Road) is certainly worthwhile a visit. There is no sign to San Manuel, but this is what the site is called in other reports. Slash and burn agriculture and logging were occurring in the area though this has been the case for many years. How much longer this can continue before the birds disappear remains to be seen. This area was still excellent for birds and though there was much overlap with Palenque there were a number of species much easier to see here.
Birds seen during our visit:
Slaty‑breasted Tinamou, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Double‑toothed Kite, Gray & Roadside Hawk, American Kestrel, Bat Falcon, Pale‑vented Pigeon, White‑winged Dove, Common & Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Gray‑headed Dove, Olive‑throated (Aztec) Parakeet, Brown‑hooded & White‑crowned Parrot, Groove‑billed Ani, Pauraque, Wedge‑tailed Sabrewing, Green‑breasted Mango, White‑bellied Emerald, Cinnamon, Buff‑bellied, Rufous‑tailed & Stripe‑tailed Hummingbird, Violaceous Trogon, Collared Aracari, Keel‑billed Toucan, Golden‑fronted, Black‑cheeked, Golden‑olive, Chestnut‑coloured & Lineated Woodpecker, Tawny‑winged & Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Stub‑tailed Spadebill, Olive‑sided Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Bright‑rumped Attila, Rufous Mourner, Tropical Kingbird, Social Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Rose‑throated Becard, Masked & Black‑crowned Tityra, Brown Jay, White‑eyed & Philadelphia Vireo, Wood Thrush, Clay‑coloured Robin, Tropical Mockingbird, Band‑backed, Spot‑breasted & (Southern) House Wren, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Rough‑winged Swallow, Tennessee, Yellow, Chestnut‑sided, Magnolia, Yellow‑rumped, Black‑throated Green & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded & Wilson's Warbler, Rufous‑capped Warbler, Rusty Sparrow, Bananaquit, Black‑throated Shrike‑Tanager, Red‑crowned & Red‑throated Ant‑Tanger, Summer Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's (Crimson‑rumped), Yellow‑winged Tanager, Yellow‑throated & Olive‑backed Euphonia, Golden‑hooded Tanager, Green & Red‑legged Honeycreeper, White‑collared Seedeater, Rose‑breasted & Black‑faced Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Chestnut‑headed & Montezuma Oropendola, Yellow‑billed Cacique, Hooded, Baltimore, Bullock's & Orchard Oriole, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
Great Tinamou, King Vulture, Black Hawk-Eagle, Barred & Collared Forest-Falcon, Spotted Wood-Quail, Ruddy Crake, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Crested, Mottled & Black-and-white Owl, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Long-tailed & Little Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, Long-billed Starthroat, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Tody Motmot, White-necked Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Emerald Toucanet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Rufous‑breasted Spinetail, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Great Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Scaled Antpitta, Northern Bentbill, Royal Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Thrushlike Mourner, Gray-collared Becard, Rufous Piha, Lovely Cotinga, White-collared &Red-capped Manakin, White-bellied Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Long‑billed Gnatwren, Kentucky & Mourning Warbler, Gray-headed Tanager, Blue-black Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Green-backed Sparrow, Giant Cowbird.
Accommodation: nearby Palenque has a wide range of hotels and campsites, including several along the road to the ruins. We stayed at Hotel Maya Tulipanes.
The name Usumacinta Marshes is given by birders to the area of savannahs and marshes out to the east of Palenque along and off Route 186 just west of and for a few kilometres east of the toll bridge over the Usumacinta River.
The best areas were the paved road to Palizada and the dirt road to Playa Larga both a few kilometres after the toll bridge to the left (coming from Palenque). Driving along these roads can be good for birds.
While birding from Route 186 (best area between km 160-175) is possible, traffic is often fast and heavy. Taking any of the side roads is safer and more pleasant.
Birds seen during our visit:
Least & Pied‑billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Black‑bellied Whistling‑Duck, Blue‑winged Teal, Reddish, Snowy, Great & Cattle Egret, Tricoloured, Little Blue & Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Yellow‑crowned Night‑Heron, Bare‑throated Tiger‑Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Wood Stork, Black, Turkey & Yellow‑headed Vulture, Snail Kite, Roadside Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Gray‑necked Wood‑Rail, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary & Spotted Sandpiper, Long‑billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Semipalmated & Least Sandpiper, Gray Plover, Killdeer, Common, Plain‑breasted & Ruddy Ground‑Dove, Groove‑billed Ani, Belted & Ringed Kingfisher, Golden‑fronted Woodpecker, Common Tody‑Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Scissor‑tailed & Fork‑tailed Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Mangrove Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Grassland Yellow‑Finch, Variable & White‑collared Seedeater, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Melodious Blackbird, Great‑tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird.
Thicket Tinamou, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Jabiru, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Lesser Scaup, Masked Duck, Black-collared Hawk, Ruddy Crake, Sungrebe, Double-striped Thick-knee, Yellow-headed Parrot, Great Horned Owl, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Amazon Kingfisher, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Barred Antshrike, Yucatan Jay, Sedge Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue-gray Tanager, Botteri's Sparrow.
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS AREA
Accommodation: hotels are plentiful in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
We stayed at Hotel Flamboyant in the centre of the town.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, usually shortened to San Cristóbal, sits in a mostly cleared valley surrounded by mountains covered with pine-oak forest.
This Spanish colonial town, is visited by thousands of people for its architecture, setting, and the nearby population of indigenous people. Several good birding sites are within 30 minutes of San Cristóbal:
CERRO HUITEPEC RESERVE
The Huitepec Ecological Reserve just west of San Cristóbal preserves a sizeable remnant of woodland and is maintained by Pro-Natura. In the reserve is a two-kilometre nature trail that allows access to cloud forest on the upper slopes of the Huitepec Volcano.
To reach the reserve , take the paved road toward San Juan Chamula 3.2 km from the intersection with the western bypass. The entrance is marked on the left. The reserve is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the entrance fee is 10 pesos/person.
Birds seen during our visit:
Black Vulture, Band‑tailed Pigeon, White‑eared Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Greater Pewee, Steller's Scrub‑Jay, Hutton's & Blue‑headed Vireo, Cedar Waxwing, Rufous‑collared Robin, Gray Catbird, Band‑backed Wren, Bushtit, Black‑capped Swallow, Crescent‑chested Warbler, Yellow, Magnolia, Townsend's, Hermit, Black‑throated Green, Wilson's & Black‑and‑white Warbler, Golden‑cheeked Warbler, American Redstart, Slate‑throated Redstart, Golden‑browed Warbler, Hepatic Tanager.
Green Parakeet, Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, Gray Silky-Flycatcher, Brown-backed Solitaire, Blue-and-white Mockingbird.
OCOSINGO ROAD SITE
Most of the San Cristóbal Birds can be seen here and this area is a good site for the Pink-headed Warbler.
The Ocosingo Road (MX 199) goes east from MX 190 at a well-marked intersection seven kilometres south of the town. At km 2.6 you will see a fairly obvious track on the right (garbage!), this is the start of a whole network of tracks and paths through the forest. Pines are the dominant trees, though there is a mixture of oaks and other hardwoods. The best strategy here is just to follow the trails at random until you find where the birds are. You can also take a much better road at km 2.9 also on the right.
Birds seen during our visit:
Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, White‑winged Dove, Garnet‑throated Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Hairy Woodpecker, Pine Flycatcher, Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Yellow‑bellied Flycatcher, Steller's Jay, Unicoloured Jay, Hutton's & Blue‑headed Vireo, Gray Silky‑Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Ruddy‑capped Nightingale‑Thrush, Rufous‑collared Robin, Brown Creeper, Band‑backed Wren, Rufous‑browed Wren, Bushtit, Black‑headed Siskin, House Finch, Crescent‑chested Warbler, Yellow, Magnolia, Townsend's, Hermit, Black‑throated Green, Wilson's & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Pink‑headed Warbler, Slate‑throated Redstart, Golden‑browed Warbler, Yellow‑eyed Junco, Common Bush‑Tanager, Olive Warbler.
Mountain Pygmy-Owl, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Blue-throated Motmot, Yellowish Flycatcher, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Golden-cheeked & Red‑faced Warbler, Red Crossbill, Yellow-backed Oriole.
Accessible cloud forest can be found on the Northwest slope of Cerro Tzontehuitz, the highest mountain in the area.
Go north-east from San Cristóbal (on the "periferico") about 7 km on the tarmac road to Tenejapa. Approximately 1 km after the small village of Piedrecitos turn left to Tzontehuitz (no sign) on a very rough and rocky road.
Proceed 2.5 km and bear left at the fork, staying on the main road. There is another fork in 2.9 km at a small village where you should turn right. You are steadily climbing through scrub habitat.
We did little birding in the lower stretches though we did see such birds as Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Rufous‑browed Wren and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer en route. At 3.5 km from the last fork you will cross a ridge and will be at the area of cloud forest near the mountain peak.
A power line cuts through part of the woods and it is here where you start birding. Near the first ridge crossing are several places where you find some small trails.
Birds seen during our visit:
Turkey Vulture, White‑breasted Hawk, Band‑tailed Pigeon, Garnet‑throated Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Spot‑crowned Woodcreeper, Greater Pewee, Steller's Scrub‑Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Robin, Clay‑coloured Robin, Rufous‑collared Robin, Blue‑and‑white Mockingbird, Band‑backed Wren, Rufous‑browed Wren, Bushtit, Yellow, Yellow‑rumped Wilson's & Black‑and‑white Warbler, American Redstart, Pink‑headed Warbler, Slate‑throated Redstart, Golden‑browed Warbler, Yellow‑eyed Junco, Common Bush‑Tanager
Highland Guan, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Emerald Toucanet, Yellowish Flycatcher, Unicoloured Jay, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Brown-backed Solitair, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush.
TUXTLA GUTIERREZ AREA
Accommodation: a hotel in Tuxtla Gutiérrez or San Cristóbal de Las Casas.
The birding near Tuxtla Gutíerrez is more Pacific-slope oriented than that of San Cristóbal. Driving to Tuxtla takes almost two hours on a good, though winding road.
EL SUMIDERO CANYON
El Sumidero Canyon is a deeply carved gorge by which the Río Grijalva cuts its exit north to the Gulf of Mexico. This very impressive geological feature is a short distance (20 minutes from the centre) of Tuxtla Gutíerrez. The best way to bird it is to work the road west of it, which has several overlooks, ending at the Atalaya Mirador. The first 15km or so pass through semi-arid scrub and farmland; after this there is some mature woodland. We spent a few hours at this site.
Birds seen during our visit:
Black & Turkey Vulture, Red‑tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Berylline Hummingbird, Amethyst‑throated Hummingbird, Plain‑capped Starthroat, Ivory‑billed Woodcreeper, Yellowish Flycatcher, Boat‑billed Flycatcher, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Band-backed Wren, Black-throated Green Warbler, Streak‑backed Oriole.
Singing Quail, Green Parakeet, Lesser Roadrunner, Great Swallow-tailed Swift, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Green-fronted Hummingbird, Slender Sheartail, Russet-crowned Motmot, Belted Flycatcher, Gray-collared Becard, Canyon Wren, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Fan-tailed Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Red-breasted Chat, Yellow-winged Tanager, Blue Bunting, Black-vented Oriole, Bar-winged Oriole.
ZOOLÓGICO MIGUEL ALVÁREZ DEL TORO
This zoo is an example of how all zoos should be, it only holds fauna indigenous to Chiapas and most of the enclosures are simply fences around pre-existing forest. This zoo is a few kilometres south of town on a forested hill. The admission is free and the birding is very good. Avoid weekends!
Birds seen during our visit:
Bare‑throated Tiger‑Heron, Black Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Plain Chachalaca, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Russet‑crowned Motmot, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Clay-coloured Robin, Gray Catbird, Yellow Grosbeak, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.
Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Black Guan, Gray-headed Dove, Mangrove & Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Canivet's Emerald, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Collared Aracari, Barred Wren, Black-headed & Buff-throated Saltator, Yellow-winged Cacique, Streak-backed Oriole.
Our trip started with a long Martinair flight from Amsterdam via Varadero (Cuba) to Cancún. The flight touched down in Cancún 16.30 p.m. local time, considerably later than scheduled.
Having changed money we left the confines of the airport building and rented a minibus at the Alamo-office near the airport and then headed to Cancún and checked into the Salvía Hotel.
We started early on our second day as we headed to the botanical garden en route to Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
We had to wait a while before we could enter the Dr. Alfredo Barrera M. Botanical Garden. We walked a few hours in this small reserve and it provided us with our first taste of Yucatan's distinctive avifauna.
Here, among other species, we found Olive‑throated (Aztec) Parakeet, Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Black‑headed Trogon, Yucatan Woodpecker, Bright-rumped Attila, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Vireo, Black Catbird, Lesser Greenlet, Spot‑breasted Wren, Hooded Warbler, Rose‑throated Tanager and Orange Oriole. Not a bad start, and one that set the pace for the rest of our trip.
At mid-afternoon we headed to FCP. Some of the birds we encountered along the way were Yucatan Scrub‑Jay and Northern Rough‑winged Swallow.
We booked a room (135 pesos for a double room) in the Faísan y Venado Hotel in the centre of the small town. Dumping our stuff in the hotel we spent the last hour of the day along the Vigia Chico Road. Amongst the birds we encountered along the track were Yellow‑lored Parrot, Pale‑billed Woodpecker and best of all, Yucatan Poorwill.
Leaving our hotel before dawn we again headed to the Vigia Chico Road. We birded the forest and occasionally the fields from the track. The women drove the car and we did walk a lot.
The forest proved excellent. Many birds responded strongly to the tape of Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, especially the North‑American warblers. Without the tape and pishing we would have only seen a fraction of the birds we did. Magnolia Warbler, Black‑throated Green Warbler and Gray‑crowned Yellowthroat swelled our list of migrants
A wealth of other species here quickly expanded our trip list and amongst the species seen were Thicket Tinamou, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, the rare Occelated Turkey, Wedge‑tailed Sabrewing, White‑bellied Emerald, Blue‑crowned Motmot, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, Mangrove Vireo, White‑bellied Wren, Green‑backed Sparrow, Red‑throated Ant‑tanager, Blue Bunting.
In the late afternoon we saw for a split second the highlight of the day: a Jaguarundi, while it crossed the road!
Breakfast at 5.30 and at first light we headed to the Vigia Chico Road. We spent a few hours on the track and amongst the birds we did see were White‑fronted Parrot, Buff‑bellied Hummingbird, Black‑headed Trogon, Caribbean Elaenia, Eye‑ringed Flatbill, Stub‑tailed Spadebill, Gray-collared Becard, Gray‑throated Chat and Yellow‑faced Grassquit.
At 10.30 we travelled northwards to Chichén Itzá. We booked three rooms at Hotel Dolores Alba, only three kilometres from the ruins.
Hereafter we drove to the nearby ruins. Of course there was time to view the famous ruins, the remains of one of the most complex of all late classic Mayan ceremonial centres. A good scramble to the top of the Castillo afforded stunning views of the surrounding forest. Hereafter we started to explore the tracks in the vicinity of the ruins.
We spent the rest of the day here and amongst the birds we encountered were White‑winged Dove, Turquoise‑browed Motmot, Green Jay, Blue‑gray Gnatcatcher, Botteri's Sparrow and Orchard Oriole, but no lifers.
Early next morning we made a short stroll around our hotel and added Indigo Bunting to our triplist.
We then travelled to the small coastal town of Celestún and booked rooms at hotel María del Carmen, a small hotel along the sea. After lunchtime we hired a boat (550 pesos) and made a trip to the mangroves (Parque Natural Ría Celestún).
The trip with this small boat was quite an adventure itself! Brown Pelicans, American White Pelicans and Black Skimmers sat on exposed sandbars and we saw a good variety of waterbirds, amongst them of course close‑up views of Greater Flamingos, the main tourist attraction.
A search for Red‑necked Wood‑Rail in the mangroves was unsuccessful, but we did see Bare‑throated Tiger‑Heron, Gray‑necked Wood‑Rail and American Pygmy Kingfisher.
In the late afternoon we explored the scrub habitat north of the town and among the many good birds we saw here were Common Black‑Hawk, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Mexican Sheartail, Vermilion Flycatcher, Yucatan Wren, White‑lored Gnatcatcher and Painted Bunting.
Our pre-breakfast birding in the scrub habitat north of Celestún produced several new species amongst them a covey of Black‑throated Bobwhites, Mangrove Swallows and a Palm Warbler.
Near the bridge we made a last effort in finding the Rufous‑necked Wood‑Rail in the mangroves, but we failed miserably, although we did see Mangrove Warbler. Then we set off for the long drive to Palenque. En route to Palenque we stopped at Champotón for lunch.
We made a few stops along route 186 at the Usumacinta Marshes and amongst the birds we saw were Black‑bellied Whistling‑Duck, Yellow‑crowned Night‑Heron, Wood Stork, Lesser Yellow‑headed Vulture, Snail Kite, Crested Caracara and Eastern Meadowlark.
This evening we checked in at the plush Hotel Maya Tulipanes in the Las Canadas area of Palenque.
Dawn found us at the San Manuel Road, a few kilometres south of Palenque. A wealth of species in this second‑growth birding area quickly expanded our list and highlights included Violaceous Trogon, Keel‑billed Toucan, Black‑cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous‑capped Warbler, Crimson‑collared Tanager, Golden‑hooded Tanager, Green & Red‑legged Honeycreeper and Montezuma Oropendola. But we did not find the Lovely Cotinga!
After lunch we set out for the nearby Usumacinta Marshes, a good afternoon trip when forest birding tends to be quiet. We explored a few side roads. The marshes provided wonderful opportunities to photograph a variety of waterbirds. Amongst the birds we encountered were Bare‑throated Tiger‑Heron, Aplamado Falcon, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Plain‑breasted Ground‑Dove, Ringed Kingfisher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Scissor‑tailed Flycatcher, Grassland Yellow‑Finch and Bronzed Cowbird. The main draw here however was the Pinnated Bittern, a bird we should have seen during our trips to Venezuela and Costa Rica.
A very early start the following morning ensured that we were at the Palenque ruins by dawn.
We spent the morning climbing around the Mayan ruins, enough time to encounter a large foraging flock (more than 25 species!) that the Neotropical rainforest is famous for. A diligent search produced amongst others Slaty‑breasted Tinamou, White‑crowned Parrot, Bat Falcon, Green‑breasted Mango, Rufous‑tailed Hummingbird, Chestnut‑coloured Woodpecker, Tawny‑winged Woodcreeper, Philadelphia Vireo, Band‑backed Wren, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black‑throated Shrike‑Tanager and Orchard Oriole.
Leaving Palenque we drove south to San Cristóbal de Las Casas. En route to San Cristóbal we had an afternoon bathed in sunshine in the mountains. A few roadside stops added Azure‑crowned Hummingbird and Rufous‑collared Robin to our list.
In the late afternoon we arrived in this attractive Spanish colonial town. We checked into the Hotel Flamboyant in the centre of the town, our base for the next four days. In the evening we tried to identify a "difficult" warbler as we sipped Corona beer at the patio of the hotel. It turned out to be a Tennessee Warbler.
Cerro Huitepec was our destination the following day. We had to wait a while before we could enter the reserve, but while waiting we added Black‑capped Swallow and Golden‑browed Warbler to our life list.
The trails were very steep, but none was really long or difficult. We spent all morning on this forested peak and other birds of note we saw were Band‑tailed Pigeon, White‑eared Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Greater Pewee, Bushtit, a very confiding Cedar Waxwing, Crescent‑chested Warbler, Golden‑cheeked Warbler and Hepatic Tanager.
After lunch we headed to Cerro Tzontehuitz. The road was diabolical and it took us almost an hour to reach this area from the main road. Here we ran into our first and only really disruptive rain of the trip. However a short climb up into the hills rewarded us with really close views of Blue‑and‑white Mockingbird, Rufous‑browed Wren and Cinnamon‑bellied Flowerpiercer.
The following day the weather had improved and we left our charming hotel before dawn and we headed to the nearby Ocosingo Road site. Strolling in the forest we searched among the pines for Garnet‑throated Hummingbird, Pine Flycatcher, Unicoloured Scrub‑Jay, Gray Silky‑Flycatcher and Pink‑headed Warbler, all of which proved relatively easy to see, but we did not find Brown‑backed Solitaire. We later visited another part of the forest and met a few American birders. Birds seen here included Brown Creeper, Yellow‑eyed Junco and House Finch.
At midday we spent a few hours in town, did some sightseeing and shopping and then set off for Cerro Tzontehuitz. We birded the area near the transmission towers on the peak and added White‑breasted Hawk, Spot‑crowned Woodcreeper and Mountain Robin to our list.
Up at 5.30 for our trip to Tuxtla Gutiérrez , the state's capital. At km 28.5 of the road from San Cristóbal - Tuxtla we had to wait three hours due to a car accident. When it was too hot in the car we started birding from the main road and .. added two lifers to our list, Hooded Yellowthroat and Varied Bunting.
We arrived at El Sumidero Canyon at 11.00 a.m., too late and too hot. We visited a few "miradores" of this amazing looking canyon and amongst the birds we eventually did see were Berylline & Amethyst‑throated Hummingbird , White‑throated Magpie‑Jay and Streak‑backed Oriole.
We then headed to the Zoo in Tuxtla. We spent a few hours in this well kept place. We did see Great Curassow, a most wanted lifer for us. The curassow was very easy to see, in fact so easy that we checked with the staff to make sure they were wild and not escaped. Most noteworthy of other species we did see were Crested Guan, Russet‑crowned Motmot, Gray Catbird and Yellow Grosbeak.
In a last effort to find Highland Guan we again headed to Cerro Tzontehuitz. We birded the ridge area, but we did not find the guan. Species we did see were Mountain Trogon, Slate‑throated Redstart, Yellow-eyed Junco and Elegant (Blue‑hooded) Euphonia.
Our stay at San Cristóbal was one of the highlights of the trip and we were all rather sad to leave this superb birding area. On the return to Palenque a couple of stops added Zone‑tailed Hawk, Blue‑gray Tanager and Black‑headed Siskin to our list. In the late afternoon we arrived in Palenque and checked into the Hotel Maya Tulipanes.
On this morning we again visited the Lovely Cotinga site just before km 40 of the Ocosingo Road. We did our best, clocking up an impressive list of birds, but our efforts to find the Cotinga were NOT successful.
Species of note included Gray‑headed Dove, Brown-hooded Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Olive‑sided Flycatcher, Rufous Mourner, Rusty Sparrow, Yellow‑winged Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Black‑faced Grosbeak and Chestnut‑headed Oropendola.
The rest of the day was largely a travelling day as we headed north to Uxmal. At 15.30 we arrived at Uxmal. We checked into Rancho Uxmal, a few kilometres north of the ruins by the main 261. Hereafter we birded the area around the ruins, the track into the dry forest on the right just before the left hand bend immediately before the ruins. Plain Chachalaca, Ferruginous Pygmy‑Owl, Yucatan Flycatcher, White‑lored Gnatcatcher gave all good views and we also did see two obliging White‑nosed Coatis.
A night time excursion failed to produce any owls or nightjars.
The morning was spent in the Uxmal area, mostly concentrating on the ruins area. Hundreds of Cave Swallows nested in the Magician's Pyramid, a small pond held Ruddy Crake, but no more lifers were discovered this morning.
The final part of the trip took us to the coast to Playa del Carmen. After a few hours of driving we checked into the Hotel San Pedro. There were lots of hotels to chose from in this busy resort and lots of places to eat though they were relatively expensive compared with less touristy areas.
Our final morning was spent at Cozumel Island. We took the first ferry to Cozumel and arrived in the early morning at this popular tourist destination. We took a taxi to km 6.8 of the Cross‑island Highway and started to bird the scrubby forest along the side road. We spent four hours along the side road and Caribbean Dove, Mangrove Cuckoo, Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Vireo, Bananaquit and Stripe‑headed Tanager were amongst the additions to our list.
At 14.00 p.m. we returned to Playa del Carmen and then
headed to Cancún airport for our Martinair flight to Amsterdam.
It was a fairly successful trip. We had good views of most possible endemics and near-endemics. We also had good looks at some quite difficult to find species including Yucatan Poorwill and Occelated Turkey.
I finished this trip with 64 lifers. The final total for the four days trip was 326 species of birds.
My five best birds of the trip? Pinnated Bittern, Occelated Turkey, Russet-crowned Motmot, Blue-and-white Mockingbird and Pink-headed Warbler, lifers all of course.
Chaam 5 May 1999,
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4861 AH Chaam
Telephone: 0161 - 491327