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Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico

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Old Wednesday 11th August 2004, 22:01   #1
Dave B Smith
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Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico

Aug 04

Last week I planned a last minute bird watching trip to the coastal fishing village of Celestun. I had been there 4 years ago to see the Flamingos but didn’t do any proper “birding” so felt I needed a return. I used two very good birding references for planning the trip: S. Howell’s ‘Bird finding Guide to Mexico’ and a web page 'Birds of Celestun' hosted by the guide I used, David Becab.

First, I called all the hotels in town and everyone was full! Then I got in touch with a local birding guide and he assured me he could find a room so to come on down. So the adventure began…
Saturday morning I left at daylight for the 6 hour drive up to the top of the Yucatan. To make the trip a little more interesting, I took the back road (old hwy 180) from Campeche to Halacho. From there the road stayed decent till just past Santa Maria Acu. Both Halacho and Santa Maria were fairly small, quaint towns. Then the road reduced down to one lane (with occasional wide spots for oncoming traffic to pass) and had one 30 km stretch of pure potholes that took an hour to navigate (and not one other vehicle this entire stretch). I arrived in Celestun at 1:30 and met the guide in the Palapa Restaurant for lunch (excellent seafood). At 3 PM, after checking into a hotel where he had managed to reserve a room for me, we started out with the shore birds. We drove along the Beach scanning the flocks of Laughing Gulls and Sandwich Terns looking for any unusual birds in the groups. No luck there. Then on to the dump where we picked up our first endemic, the Yucatan Wren. We continued on and went past some salt water ponds and had lots of shorebirds where I managed another lifer, Pectoral Sandpiper. We crossed back through town and headed out to the coastal scrub habitat looking for another endem, the Mexican Sheartail. We found Purple Martins, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow (endemic ssp of Northern), some great close up views of Yucatan Bobwhite, a perched Lesser Nighthawk, several hummingbird species and then my target, a female Mexican Sheartail. I saw her dart across the road and perch, and then fly down to her nest! We had great close views as she sat on her nest. We only got glimpses of the male.
It was now late afternoon so we went to the bridge to look for another target specie, the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. We saw Flamingos from the bridge (although the summer flock is much smaller than the wintering flocks) and then started walking the roadside edge looking for the rails. No luck with this one tonight, nor the next morning when we tried again.

At dusk we called it a day and I cleaned up and went out to eat. Then back in my room for a good night’s sleep, NOT. Just as I was dozing off, the AC went out. Now it’s pretty warm in the Yucatan this time of year so I was going to miss the air. I turned on a ceiling fan and opened the windows for a breeze. That’s when I realized I was right across the street from the town’s only discotheque! They blared music till 3 AM which didn’t stop me sleeping, but did interrupt it a bit.

Next morning we got started again at daylight looking for our rail. From there we birded a number of roadside spots that were thick with both birds and bugs. Bring plenty of repellent if you go. We found Yellow-backed, Altamira, and Hooded Orioles as well as Yucatan and Green Jays right off. We tried several “Petenes” and heard lots but couldn’t see much. We then went on to a freshwater pond where I managed to find another target bird, Ruddy Crake. That made my day as I have been looking for it for quite some time. And then a littler further down the highway the guide pished up several little birds including White-lored Gnatcatcher, Common Tody Flycatcher, and Yellow-throated Euphonia. At noon, it was getting hot and very slow bird wise so we called it a day and I started my long drive home.

For just one full day birding, it was a very successful trip. I ended up with 88 species of which 8 were lifers (*) and two more were new subspecies. The guide was excellent and I would highly recommend him. Following is the full bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Black-throated (Yucatan) Bobwhite
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Magnificent Frigatebird
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Greater Flamingo
Great Black-Hawk
Ruddy Crake *
Common Moorhen
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Northern Jacana
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper *
Stilt Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Red-billed Pigeon
White-winged Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Olive-throated Parakeet
Groove-billed Ani
Lesser Nighthawk
Vaux's Swift *
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Mexican Sheartail *
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Turquoise-browed Motmot
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Red-vented Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Common Tody-Flycatcher *
Least Flycatcher *
Vermilion Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird
Yellow-green Vireo
Green Jay
Yucatan Jay
Purple Martin *
Northern (Ridgway's) Rough-winged Swallow
Cave Swallow
Yucatan Wren *
Carolina (White-browed) Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
White-lored Gnatcatcher
Black Catbird
Tropical Mockingbird
Yellow Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Blue-black Grassquit
White-collared Seedeater
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Yellow-backed Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Scrub Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
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Old Thursday 12th August 2004, 01:09   #2
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Dave that sounds like a great outing.Plus you got the sheartails!!!
who was your guide?
-stephen bahr
-Stephen , New Jersey, USA
Lifelist: #651 Pileated Woodpecker #652 Red Pharalope #653 Buff-breasted Sandpiper
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Old Thursday 12th August 2004, 01:33   #3
Dave B Smith
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David Becab was the guide and he was very good. In the first paragraph above, I put a link to his web page. From the two references I used, a person could probably get most of these without a guide, but I'm sure I got a good few more with David that I would have alone. Celestun is a great little place.
Dave Smith

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Old Thursday 12th August 2004, 22:51   #4
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I'm glad you liked Celestun. I was there 2 years ago for a few days and suffered quite bady in the heat, but cooled down with a dip in the Gulf. A website I put together has a page about Celestun. Dave, I hope, has already seen it.
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