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!
We left the lagoon and drove a couple of kilometers into the jungle. Our destination was the Tamcach-Ha Cenote where Luis hoped to find the Turquoise-browed Motmots that breed in the underground caverns, but before we had driven too far he asked the driver to stop when he found a spot that seemed quite birdy. We got out of the van and started walking down the road; after only a few steps, Luis pointed out a Yellow-green Vireo foraging in a tree right above us. This vireo looks like a Red-eyed Vireo with bright yellow sides and flanks, and indeed these two birds were once considered to be the same species. It was a handsome bird, but like most vireos, it was foraging too high among the leaves to get a photo.
On April 18th Doran and I took the first ferry over to Playa Del Carmen to meet with Luis Ku of Motmot Birding Tours to do some birding near Coba and Punta Laguna. It was still fully dark when we left Cozumel, so we didn’t get to see any flying fish or other marine life. However, it was light enough by the time we arrived to see Luis waiting on the ferry pier with his binoculars. Normally Luis’ outings start at 5:00 am in order to arrive at his destination around sunrise, when the birding is best; unfortunately the first ferry didn’t leave until 6:00am, so we didn’t get across to the mainland until about 6:45 and over to Coba about an hour later. In this case there definitely would have been an advantage in staying at a resort on the mainland.
It was about an hour’s drive to Tulum from Playa Del Carmen, and we arrived at mid-afternoon. The shuttle deposited us at the main entrance to the park, and at first we weren’t sure where we needed to buy our tickets as the entire area looked like an outdoor flea market with vendors selling a variety of foods and wares in different booths and buildings. Doran was immediately intrigued by the colourful Mayan calendar disks displayed outside one of the buildings and spent some time looking through them before eventually purchasing one. From there we found the ticket booth, and after buying our tickets we proceeded down the main avenue that leads to the gate.
The next morning Doran and I headed over to the mainland for the day where we spent some time in Playa Del Carmen (which was busy and full of tourists and street vendors) before travelling south to Tulum to see the ruins there. Although we weren’t birding in the morning, I nevertheless saw some great birds and took pictures whenever I could. The ferry dock was much birdier than I expected, and I picked up some of the water birds I was hoping to see. The bird that most surprised me was the first one I saw when we got out of our taxi – three Ruddy Turnstones were running along the concrete concourse leading to the ferry boarding area, dodging people and stopping to investigate food found on the ground. I am used to seeing these birds on rocky beaches where they peck at the sand and flip over rocks looking for aquatic invertebrates and insects; I didn’t realize they scavenged for food in busy urban coastal areas just the way gulls do!
On April 16th my fiancé Doran and I took our first trip outside of Canada and the U.S., spending the week in Cozumel, Mexico. We chose it because when we had originally been looking at going on a cruise, it was one of the destinations we particularly wanted to see because of the Mayan ruins close by, and a one-day stop didn’t seem like enough time to see the region. I was also interested in the birds there, though that would have been true of any destination!
We had only arranged the trip two weeks prior to our departure, and as I was not familiar with any of the birds of the Yucatan Peninsula, I borrowed a friend’s field guide (the famously huge “A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America” by Howell and Webb) until the one I ordered from Amazon could be delivered (which didn’t even arrive by the time I had to leave). Using eBird as my guide, I began studying the most commonly reported birds seen in April, and the more I learned about Rufous-browed Peppershrikes, Bright-rumped Attilas, Masked Tityras, Cozumel Vireos, Yucatan Jays, Green-breasted Mangos, and Squirrel Cuckoos, the more excited for my trip I became. I prepared a list of the most frequently reported birds during the month of April that I needed for my life list using eBird’s brilliant Target Species tool. According to the list, my first new birds were most likely to be Great-tailed Grackle (reported on over 57% of all complete checklists), Tropical Mockingbird (42% of all checklists), and Magnificent Frigatebird (34% of all checklists).
I didn’t get much birding in this past weekend as I had quite a few errands to run, so I spent much of my free time watching the birds in the backyard. The winter finch invasion has continued for the second week in a row, and it was a real treat hearing all the Pine Siskins in the neighbourhood during the week and watching them in the backyard this weekend. Purple Finches are moving through as well, for I found three of them in the park three days in a row last week, and had at least a male and female in the yard behind mine on Thursday and Saturday. The neighbours in the house in the yard behind mine have been keeping their feeder stocked, so there were plenty of finches around on the weekend. Even though it was cold all weekend – it barely reach 0°C on Saturday and 3°C yesterday – the birds spent a lot of time in the trees and shrubs in neighbouring yards, as well as at the feeder in my yard and in the yard behind mine.