Friday, 31 March 2017

Bird watching in the Yucatan (22nd Feb-9th March 2017) Akumal

The last stop during our trip was near Akumal, some 20 miles north of Tulum. We had 6 days here staying in a rather nice apartment overlooking the sea (Las Villas).

Whilst here we did have trips out to Muyil so as to see some more Mayan ruins but to also gain access to a little bit of the Sian Ka'an biosphere.
We also had a snorkeling trip to Cenote Yal Ku - a cenote that's actually part of a sea inlet and has a wide range of sea fish to see whilst flippering around.

My birding here was very restricted to the trees bordering the access road to the apartments/houses along that stretch of the beach. At the southern end of this road development failed to materialse and the road had subsided a little meaning for about 20 yards it's permanently flooded to an inch or two in depth (and quite muddy) and this extended "puddle" proved to be a magnet for a number of species. The beach, the garden and our balcony provided the rest of my patch.

During our drive from Chichen Itza we'd stopped for some essential provisions (mainly beer and wine) and we were settling down on the balcony to have a relaxing moment before unpacking when a hooded oriole appeared in the palm tree at the corner of our balcony. This bird (and it's mate) was in that tree for most of our stay and was a constant source of frustration because it was nearly always partially obscured. It was also so close (5-6 yards) getting the whole bird in frame was a problem.

Hooded oriole (male)

From our trip to Muyil.

Mayan ruins

Birding wise the area immediately inside the gates was quite birdy and we saw a a number of the common species seen/posted already including american redstart, magnolia warbler, kiskadee and social flycatcher . New species were in the form of a yucatan flycatcher (or possibly dusky capped- they are very similar), summer tanager, and black-cowled oriole.
We did do the jungle walk down to the lagoon but the path was so narrow very little was seen. At the lagoon you could look across the water which was all very pretty but not a bird was in sight.

Yucatan flycatcher

Summer tanager (male)

Black-cowled oriole (male)

Black-cowled oriole (female)

American redstart
For lunch we stopped at a beach-side restaurant in Tulum

After a few minutes at the restaurant I had to scurry back to the car for my camera as a roseate spoonbill flew over. Fortunately more were to follow.

Now a selection of shots taken along the access road to our apartment (Las Villas) with most being obtained by or actually in the puddle

Green heron

Yucatan Jay

Northern Waterthrush

Least Sandpiper. (I was actually in the puddle when I took this.)

Yucatan virio
Caribbean elania

Magnolia Warbler

Black-headed trogon

Violaceous Trogon

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Grey Collared becard

From the beach:

Spotted sandpiper

Grey plover


From the Garden/balcony:

Yellow-crowned night heron

Great Kiskadee

Yellow-throated warbler

Tropical mockingbird

And that's about it.
An excellent 2 weeks, staying in some lovely places with the staff and service  - particularly at Hacienda Chichen Itza - being really friendly. I was lucky with our lodgings in that at both Puerto Morelos and Akumal we were on very quiet roads where you could bird pretty much undisturbed (dead end roads so little through traffic). In our travels we did go past several places I had considered staying and these were also on small bush/tree lined roads but these roads were through roads and the traffic constant.

My list for the two weeks crept up to 108 species and I managed shots of about 90% of those though not all were of sufficient quality to post. As a general statement it would be correct to say that bird density in the Yucatan was quite low and birding was slow but in just about every session I managed to find one or two new species such that even on the last day at Akumal I managed streaked flycatcher and grey-collared becard just 30 yards from out lodgings.
Other than a 2.5 hr session with a guide at Chichen Itza all the birds shown were self found but there's no doubt I would have benefited from a guide to get the species count up - for example I only had a single sighting of a toucan and even that one was only a fly-by. The guides I found on the internet however were pretty pricey so I didn't bother.
Only disappointment - I did not get to Rio Lagatos. If I ever go back to the Yucatan I will try again to get there but allow more time for Diego Munez to reply.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Bird watching in the Yucatan (22nd Feb - 9th March) Chichen Itza cont.

For the second full day at Chichen Itza I engaged the services of the hotel's local bird guide who's name, I'm sorry to say, eludes me - old age getting to me.
Anyway Angie and myself met him at 6.30 am for a tour of the grounds and wildlife reserve. Things started slowly with him finding birds we'd already found ourselves then he started hooting/tooting and after a few minutes started getting a reply. To cut a long story short he hooted/tooted in a pair of ferruginous pygmy owls.

This actually took up a lot more time than it sounds especially as I wanted to get as close as possible and with the light from the most advantageous direction.
He also pointed out several "Yucatan" woodpeckers which were in fact more golden fronted woodpeckers (at the time increasing my confusion on the subject).
After that we went through the hotels large vegetable garden and down a track I hadn't found on my own - one of the reasons to hire the guy!

New birds seen where greyish saltador, black headed saltador, blue-grey gnat catcher,, female summer tanager, and red-throated ant tanager the latter appearing just a few yards away and disappearing just as fast.

Another Golden fronted woodpecker

Greyish saltador

Black-headed saltador

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Summer tanager (female)

In the afternoon I retraced our steps of the morning and added masked tityra, tourquoise browed motmot and grey headed tanager. The resident black headed trogon also came past our chalet late on.
A feature of the area was that whilst the bird density was low walking the same few tracks threw up new species on just about every visit.

Masked Tityra

Turquoise-browed motmot

Grey-headed tanager

Birding took somewhat of a back seat during the next 2 days as we did a bit of touristy stuff. We had a lengthy tour of Chichen Itza itself entering the grounds around 8.00 am. This was excellent with loads of explanation of the ancient religion, the buildings and their significance. One sad fact was presented. Chichen Itza is one of the foremost Mayan ruins and whilst our guide spoke Mayan (taught by his father)  it is no longer taught in the local schools. Sad really.

On the final full day at Chichen we went  along to Ik kil - a nearby cenote where you are allowed to swim (for a price). The water is some 60 feet below ground level, reached by stairs. The water is pretty cool and very deep - the sign said 50 meters.  It's strange the way swimming in 150 ft of water seems more worring than in 20 feet.

The rest of our time at Chichen I contined to go out both first thing (when I could)  and late afternoon but the number of new species found diminished everyday. Some I did find were yellow-winged tanager, rose breasted grosbeak, green backed sparrow, veux's swift, Ridgeways swallows and finally managed distant views of boat billed flycatcher.  Most of the time was spent trying to get better shots of what I had already seen.

Yellow-winged tanager

Add caption

Green-backed sparrow

Boat-billed flycatcher

I spent a huge amount of time trying to get close to the resident green jays finally getting some good shots on our very last morning. I also saw yucatan jay most days but as always happens our best views were returning from breakfast where a family group was around 10 yards from the footpath and completely in the open - needless to say I didn't have the camera.
I did rack up a few more patio ticks/photographs with the highlight being a very confiding turquoise motmot and got a lot closer to the black headed trogon.

Green Jay

Turquoise-browed motmot

Black-headed trogon

Then it was time to return to the coast (Akumal) for the beach/bar/sun part of the holiday.

The Hacienda Chichen Itza is a delightful hotel. the staff were superb as were the guides they organised for our bird watching and Chichen Itza tours.
The birding was hard work though. Social flycatcher, both motmots, golden fronted woodpecker, Altamira oriole, green jay, clay coloured thrush's were quite common but hummingbirds were very hard to find due to the lack of flowering plants around the garden - though the very dry weather may have had an impact on the number of flowers present.