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Akumal , Yucatan Jan 18th - 31st 2011 (1 Viewer)

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Having visited the Playacar resort of Yucatan last year, I returned but based myself further down the Riviera Maya at Akumal. This turned out to be an excellent decision bird-wise and I thought it worth posting my trip here for anyone with a non-birding partner who will be restricted to one hotel rather than on a birding tour.
We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe (can be booked with Thomas Cook or First choice ). The hotel was excellent ,with spacious grounds and a golf course bordering onto forest. The resort is extensive (it's really three hotels where you can eat/drink freely throughout) and has a system of interconnecting little "trams" that helps you get about ,including out to the golf course . It was also very easy and cheap to use local transport to get further afield.
We were put in the "Akumal" section of the resort and on checking in we asked for a room overlooking the jungle.We got a room in block 70 which proved an excellent position for birding from the balcony - but you need to be not on the ground floor ! Block 71 also would have been good.
Will start posting my sightings next ....
 
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cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Ok, my balcony overlooked a stretch of forest with the sea behind. Here's what I saw from there;
Keel-billed toucan
white-fronted parrot
killdeer
squirrel cuckoo
hooded oriole
black cowled oriole
altamira oriole
yellow -backed oriole
magnificent frigatebird
brown pelican
laughing gull
royal tern
american herring gull
long-tailed grackle
golden-fronted woodpecker
yucatan woodpecker
yucatan jay
white-winged dove
tropical mockingbird
tropical kingbird
kiskadee
chacalaca
clay-coloured robin
melodious blackbird
black catbird
yellow-throated warbler
cliff swallow
osprey
orange oriole
summer tanager
grey-headed tanager
roseatte spoonbill
groove-billed ani
cinnamon hummingbird
turkey vulture.

Most of these were seen daily .The ani, hummingbird ,tanagers and toucan were singles
 

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
In the hotel grounds there is an area of mangrove with a watchtower for viewing ,extensive borders and patches of natural habitat , plus the beach,of course ,which enabled me to add the following;
sanderling
turnstone
snowy egret
great white egret
yellow-crowned night heron
little blue heron
grey catbird
wood thrush
buff-bellied hummingbird

But it was over on the golf course that the best birds were seen......
 
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cheshirebirder

Well-known member
It takes about 15 minutes to walk out to the course but you can catch one of the regular trams out there throughout the day. Now ,when I was at Playacar last year ,I had to sneak onto the course because the only way to see anything was basically by tresspassing ! There is no problem here because you can bird from the road system and not go onto the course itself.There are some largish lakes and best of all there are as yet undeveloped areas where you can get into the forest tracks.The area is being developed with condos etc. but certainly at present there are still good birding spots. So,i managed to add the following;
more keel-billed toucans
american coot
pied-billed grebe
ring-neck duck
lesser scaup
black-headed trogon
violaceous trogon
masked tityra
yucatan vireo
mangrove vireo
white-eyed vireo
indigo bunting
blue bunting
social flycatcher
yucatan flycatcher
tropical pewee
rufous-breasted spinetail
double-crested cormorant
anhinga
grey-breasted martin
ridgeways rough-winged swallow
palm warbler
yellow warbler
yellow-rumped warbler
common yellowthroat
american redstart
hooded warbler
magnolia warbler
parula warbler
ivory-billed woodcreeper
bronzed cowbird
yellow-bellied sapsucker
red-billed pigeon
common ground dove
vaux's swift
ovenbird
blue grosbeak
rose-breasted grosbeak
rufous-browed peppershrike
couch's kingbird (learn the song to seperate from tropical!)
grey hawk
black vulture
yellow-throated euphonia
spot-breasted wren
black headed saltator
orchard oriole.

Trips further afield to follow......
 
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cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Coba is a well known Mayan site that is also excellent for birding. It's easy and cheap to get there from Akumal;
Get out onto the main highway (tram or 10 min walk). Flag down a "collectivo" (they are minibuses that trawl up and down the highway) .Tell driver you want putting down at Tulum bus station - fare 25 pesos each.Take 9;10am ADO bus to Coba (75 pesos return ).Bus gets to Coba village about 10am. Return bus is at 3;30 pm (obviously check this !) Gives about the right time to bird and see the ruins- don't forget to climb the big pyramid !Return to Tulum then collectivo back to hotel. Total for journey plus entrance to ruins about 175 pesos = about £10 each !
Around Coba village and lake;
least grebe
anhinga
great blue heron
ringed kingfisher (monster !)
ruddy ground dove
northern bearded tyrannulet
northern waterthrush
yellow-winged tanager
blue-grey tanager
black-headed saltator
white-collared seedeater

In the ruins/forest;
turquoise-browed motmot
boat-billed flycatcher
brown jay
olive sparrow
ovenbird
rufous mourner
stub-tailed spadebill
vaux's swift
 

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
The hotel also runs a reserve at the back of the golf course with trails and a canopy watchtower.Unfortunately , it's only possible to visit this by a guided appointment - you make a booking at the front desk of the hotel.It is free (donation expected) and worth a visit.The guide is pleasant and knows the regular birds; it's just a shame you can't visit independantly.Saw toucan and trogan on my visit.
There is a well known touristy site ,Aktun Chen ,also very close.If you ask at the front desk,they will give you a free taxi voucher to get you there. Supposed to be motmot and oscellated turkey there.I didn't bother because being a tourist site the charges to get in (for caves ,zip wires etc.) seemed too high to warrant the visit bird-wise.
Also visited Tulum ruins ( 50 pesos return via collectivo ) and Muyil ruins . The latter is the better birding spot but more expensive to reach because you need to use a taxi from Tulum.There is a boardwalk through the mangroves plus a watchtower (hope you don't suffer from vertigo!).We visited pm ,so obviosly not the best for birding - had wood thrush,clapper rail etc. Others have done much better than that -check out other reports if you're interested.
 

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
So, I had a thoroughly good time and would recommend the Gran Bahia both as a hotel and as a destination for anyone looking for a winter sun birding break based on a package. The locals are very friendly and it's a safe area to visit. Even after visiting Playacar last year , I managed over 30 new birds.
What did I miss ? Well, there were few hummingbirds around at this time of year.Also ,apart from the vultures, I saw very few raptors ( did get laughing falcon on the way to the airport !).Also , dipped on yucatan parrot .Saw plenty of white fronted - I'd be surprised if they aren't there because they were in Playacar last year.
Hope this report is of use and encourages you to go.
Cheers , Bill Turner
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
It seems a very easy way to get a stack of great birds - I enjoyed seeing Magnificent Frigatebird and Laughing Gull alongside toucans on your balcony list - that can't be too common!

Cheers
Mike
 

Hamhed

Well-known member
There is a well known touristy site ,Aktun Chen ,also very close.If you ask at the front desk,they will give you a free taxi voucher to get you there. Supposed to be motmot and oscellated turkey there.I didn't bother because being a tourist site the charges to get in (for caves ,zip wires etc.) seemed too high to warrant the visit bird-wise.

Hi, Bill - Enjoying the report; thanks for posting. We went to Aktun Chen for its main attraction which is the cave system. We had little time to bird but saw Becards, Oc. Turkeys, and some others. You did well to avoid it if the main focus was birding.

Re Muyil, we also birded in the afternoon on our first visit, did the swamp jungle trail, including the tower with the ladder-like "stairs", but saw few birds. It was on our early morning stop the following year that we did so well. No ant swarms for you? We were lucky to find several, which made the visit memorable.

Good that you got to Coba. I'm surprised you didn't see Oc. Turkeys there. We watched them cross the trails in between groups of tourists, seemingly acclimated to people.

For us in the US, Cancun a cheap flight to tropical birding, ruins and great snorkeling and we're likely to do it again.

Steve
 

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Steve, the only ant-swarm I came across was in the woods around the golf course. It was amazing to stand on one spot and watch the variety of birds it attracted - both catbirds,warblers,flycatchers,mockingbirds etc.
Best spot at Coba was when I heard a bird in the woods that turned out to be the spadebill,but in watching it I had motmot,woodcreeper and mourner all in view together ! Moments like that are what it's all about.
The Yucatan is a great place to visit - much nearer for you folks ,but still very easy for us Europeans with all the available package deals.
 

Hamhed

Well-known member
Steve, the only ant-swarm I came across was in the woods around the golf course. It was amazing to stand on one spot and watch the variety of birds it attracted - both catbirds,warblers,flycatchers,mockingbirds etc.
Best spot at Coba was when I heard a bird in the woods that turned out to be the spadebill,but in watching it I had motmot,woodcreeper and mourner all in view together ! Moments like that are what it's all about.
The Yucatan is a great place to visit - much nearer for you folks ,but still very easy for us Europeans with all the available package deals.


We looked for but somehow failed to find the golf course!

I think ant swarms probably produce equal excitement in birders and birds. We had several swarms at Coba; we weren't expecting any raptors but this Roadside Hawk was attending one. Did you see Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers or Gray-headed Tanagers at the swarm? We eventually learned those sounds were an alert that a possible swarm was taking place.

Steve
 

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cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Sadly ,I saw no ant-tanagers at all,Steve , but there was a grey-headed tanager at the golf course swarm. I should have payed more attention to the calls.The only calls/song I made an effort to learn before the trip was Couch's and Tropical kingbirds,so I had a chance to seperate them !
The golf course is on the opposite side of the main highway from the Gran Bahia in Akumal.If you aren't staying at the hotel it's probably tricky to access (security on the entrances),but I reckon you could get round that by visiting the hotel first (there is an access overpass across the main highway.)
It's an excellent spot for anyone looking for the toucan - they seem to always be around the lake area just through the main golf course entrance (huge walled archway)
Bill.
 

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