After we returned from Mexico I only had a week to enjoy migration in Ottawa before heading off to southern Ontario to see my family. When I awoke in my own bed on Saturday, the day after our return to Ottawa, I was happy to find some migrants right out in the backyard: a Red-winged Blackbird was singing and two male Brown-headed Cowbirds were foraging in the neighbour’s trees, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was flitting around in a shrub in the yard behind ours, and a Chipping Sparrow and three Dark-eyed Juncos were vacuuming up the seeds beneath my feeder. Both the cowbirds and kinglet were year birds for me. Out front I heard a Common Grackle singing and saw a Blue Jay breaking off twigs from the tree outside my window for nesting material. I was surprised that the juncos were still there, but – as expected – the Pine Siskins were gone. Indeed, although I heard and saw others around Ottawa until the middle of May, I never had any visit the feeder in my yard again.
Mexico was a terrific place for birds. It was not as great for other types of wildlife, though perhaps that was due to the time of year that we visited. I saw only a couple of different butterflies and dragonflies, and I didn’t see a single frog or turtle. I saw one snake (unidentified), one squirrel (unidentified), a pair of Spider Monkeys, several bats (unidentified) and a possible Coati. Although I had hoped to come back with several lists of wildlife species seen in Mexico, I returned only with a comprehensive list of birds. Here is the list of 101 species seen in Mexico (lifers in bold):
My fiancé and I just spent a week in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico where we spent some time birding and exploring Isla Cozumel. I have lots of photos and stories to share, and hope to get caught up again before my next birding trip a week from now! I will be back-dating my posts for a while until I can catch up, though I’m not sure if I will be able to get everything posted before I head off to southern Ontario.
In the meantime, here’s something to whet your appetite!
Our last two days on Cozumel were quiet ones. On Thursday we rented a scooter for a couple of hours and drove up to the trails on the northwestern corner of the island where Arturo had taken us a few days earlier. We stopped in at the country club briefly to check out the pond, and at first I didn’t think there were any birds at all – the egret and the Black-necked Stilts were gone. A careful scan of the far shore eventually revealed two birds there – an American Coot and a Common Gallinule, both of which can be seen in Ottawa, but were new for my Mexico list.
We arrived at the trails at 10:30 am. Although they had been very “birdy” on Tuesday at 7:30 am, they were much quieter on Thursday at 10:00 am. We drove to the shore and looked for shorebirds first. A pair of Spotted Sandpipers were running along the beach, while further along the shore we saw a large group of Sanderlings. I spotted a waterthrush lurking in the vegetation at the edge of the beach, but it disappeared before I could get a photo of it to confirm whether it was a Northern Waterthrush or a Louisiana – the latter would have been a life bird for me.
After getting lunch at one of the restaurants on the rocky eastern coast of Cozumel, Doran and I drove to San Gervasio to see the ruins and the birds there. These ruins are situated in the middle of the jungle, but even so it was much birdier than I had hoped. We had to pay twice upon arrival, once at the first gate and again at the second gate, but as the total cost per person was only about $9 USD we didn’t mind. One fee is collected by the Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in order to pay for the maintenance of the ruins, and the other fee is collected by the Foundation for Parks and Museums of Cozumel (FPMC) to pay for the maintenance of the parking lot, tourist facilities, and roads. A few other tourists were visiting the site, but it wasn’t nearly as crowded as Tulum, which was nice, and there were no bugs to speak of which was even better.
We didn’t have any more guided excursions planned, so on Wednesday Doran and I rented a car to drive around the island and explore on our own. The rental did not go well – the company delivered the jeep we were expecting, but the transmission was standard, which meant we couldn’t drive it. So the guy called his company and asked them to send the only car which had automatic transmission, an old Chevy. Although a convertible, it looked fairly old and hard-used, lacking both a rear view mirror and a back license plate. Doran wasn’t even able to tell what type of Chevy it was. I won’t call it a junker, but it was close, and we accepted it and prayed that everything inside worked just fine.
Our last birding stop was the quaint Mayan village of El Cedral in the southwestern quadrant of the island. This village is home to the oldest Mayan Ruins on Cozumel Island, although little of the original ruins from 800 A.D. remain after parts were destroyed by Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II in order to build the island’s first airport. The Mayan village was once the capital of Cozumel, and consists of large properties full of food and flower gardens, small colourful bungalows, and thatch-roofed buildings. The openness of the village and the many flowering plants attract a lot of birds, which makes it a great birding destination and a peaceful change from the bustling city of San Miguel.