Mexico: The Final Days

White-collared Seedeater

White-collared Seedeater

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.

We drove a little further up the road to get closer to the shorebirds. There were about 20-30 Sanderlings and at least five Ruddy Turnstones all digging in the debris along the shore, and I thought the turnstones looked much more at home on the shore than waiting for scraps at the ferry docks.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderlings

Sanderlings

We parked the scooter and walked the trails after that. I was hoping to see the Western Spindalis or male White-collared Seedeater again so I could photograph them, or a Cozumel Vireo for my life list, but although we heard several birds singing and twittering in the vegetation, this time pishing was not successful in bringing them out into the open. I heard a couple of vireos and a woodpecker that sounded like a Red-bellied but wasn’t able to spot them in the dense trees. The usual Yellow Warblers were singing and the usual vultures were soaring overhead, but other than an American Redstart and a few Bananaquits I didn’t see any other songbirds.

The Lantana was busy with butterflies, however, and I managed photos of two different species.

Julia Heliconian

Julia Heliconian

Butterfly sp.

Butterfly sp.

On our way back to the scooter Doran spotted a Turkey Vulture sitting in a boat – something you don’t see very often!

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

We found an opening onto a swampy area that looked perfect for herons, and although I spent about 15 minutes there watching a vireo and a redstart I was not able to get any photos of either. Another bird was flitting around in the trees at the back of the swamp and the brief glimpse I got intrigued me – it wasn’t something common, possibly wasn’t something I had seen before. I had time to register a dark cap before it disappeared.

There were also a few odes flying over the water, including one that looked like anamberwing and another that looked like a saddlebags. A few small damselflies that looked like bluets were lurking in the mangroves at the far side of the lagoon. I wasn’t able to get photos of any of them as they were too far away for my camera.

I did get one more new bird for my Mexico list when I saw a flock of White Ibises flying overhead; only too late did I see the pink bird flying with them, probably a Roseate Spoonbill. They were flying out of view by the time I saw it and I wasn’t able to see the bill.

As we reached the scooter I noticed three iguanas sitting on the rocks in an open area. Two were small, but one was huge.

Iguana

Iguana

Iguana

Iguana

That was my last real birding outing; although I didn’t get any new life birds, I was pleased to add a few last bird species to my Mexico list.

Later that night I spent some time watching the birds from our balcony. The usual Barn Swallows and Vaux’s Swifts were hunting for bugs, and I only saw one Magnificent Frigatebird soaring over the water.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Then I spotted a grackle fly past the balcony beneath ours at breakneck speed, followed by a falcon! They were only a few feet away from me so I didn’t even need my binoculars to ID it as a falcon. It flew by too fast to determine which species it was, but even so it was my only falcon of the trip, and the only raptor of the trip other than the Ospreys.

I also found a dead dragonfly on my balcony that afternoon – a victim of a window collision, perhaps. It was the first opportunity I’d had to study one up close so I took it. It was a Saddlebags – that much I was able to determine. As I haven’t been able to find a list of the odonata species of Cozumel, I wasn’t able to narrow down the possibilities further.

Saddlebags sp.

Saddlebags sp.

Saddlebags sp.

Saddlebags sp.

I also took some photos of the spectacular sunset:

Sunset over the Yucatan

Sunset over the Yucatan

Sunset over the Yucatan

Sunset over the Yucatan

Friday was our last day in Cozumel. Our flight left at 1:30, so after we had packed up I took my camera for one last walk around the resort. My main goal was to get a better photograph of the male Great-tailed Grackles in the sunshine, but as usual the females were much more cooperative.

Great-tailed Grackle on Fountain

Great-tailed Grackle on Fountain

I spotted one grackle in a palm tree which I took to be a juvenile – it was sitting there very quietly, as though waiting for its mother to come back and feed it.

Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

The only male I found sitting in the sun was this one, perched on top of one of the buildings.

Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

A Laughing Gull was sitting on the dock; I hadn’t seen very many around the resort during our trip, possibly because the beach was usually crowded with people.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

Before going back to my room I stopped at the second floor landing at the end of the building with the open window looking out into the overgrown courtyard. There I found the male White-collared Seedeater again, and this time I got better photos.

White-collared Seedeater

White-collared Seedeater

White-collared Seedeater

White-collared Seedeater

I spotted movement on a tree trunk and was happy to see a lizard sitting there – this was the first lizard species I’d seen other than the iguanas.

Lizard

Lizard

By the time I got back to our room it was time to gather our belongings and head to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to the Yucatan and all of the wonderful birds and wildlife I’d gotten to know over the past week; in addition to the crocodiles, the iguanas and the wonderful tropical birds, we’d also seen bats swooping through the streetlights on the road outside the resort one evening, a dolphin swimming south down the channel fairly close to shore one afternoon, and of course the flying fish on our ferry ride to Playa del Carmen.

Our trip to Mexico was fantastic – everything was so different from what I’m used to in the frozen north that one week was just not enough time to see everything I wanted. Still I’m very happy with what I did see, and was pleased that I was able to identify so many tropical species on my own. Hopefully a return trip is in the near future to see the species and sights that I missed.

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