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Yucatan trip 6th - 20th November (1 Viewer)

Marc Suller

Well-known member
Here is my trip report from Yucatan, Mexico. If you would like to see my Photos, please check out my blog and click on the altimara Oriole on the right. Cheers, Sull


For our holiday this year we decided on the Yucatan Peninsular in Mexico which would allow some great birding for me, but also beaches, archaeology and culture to keep my wife entertained. Plan was to pick up a hire car at Cancun airport, spend a week in Tulum, then drive inland to Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Birding was done on the beach, pre breakfast walks around the hotels, and around the Mayan ruins. Birding was best early morning and to a lesser extent, the evening, although it was dark by about 5.30 pm. As birds tended to disappear during the heat of the day, I would advise to bird the ruins as early as possible with the added bonus of avoiding the arrival of the tour groups.
Yucatan has amazing ruins and miles of unspoilt beaches south of Cancun. Driving is safe on good roads although the vicious topes (speedbumps) are a constant annoyance especially around towns and villages. The people were friendly and helpful and we felt safe in all places we visited.
In total, I managed to identify 152 species which exceeded my target of 100. I have only mentioned each species once although some species were seen at several sites visited.

Day 1
Woke up early in the Marriott hotel near Cancun airport and did an hours birding from the window. First birds observed were Great Tailed Grackle, Social flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Mockingbird, Turkey Vulture, Orange Oriole and Hooded Oriole. Picked up the car and drove down to Tulum, settled into the hotel, then drove down to Muyil archaeological site. Walking around the ruins, surrounding woodland and boardwalk through a swampy area we saw a variety of birds : Red throated ant Tanagers, Spot Breasted Wren, Yucatan Vireo, Clay Coloured Thrush, Golden Fronted Woodpecker (common in all sites visited), Cinnamon Hummingbird, Vaux's Swift, Hooded Warbler, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Northern Waterthrush, Barred antshrike, Plain Chachalaca, Grey Necked Wood Rail, White Winged Dove, Black Vulture, Tropical Kingbird, American Redstart and Mangrove Swallow. Back in the car park, a Least Flycatcher was calling at the top of a tree and a bird of prey was perched on a wire that turned out to be an immature Grey Hawk

Day 2
Our B&B, the Posada Luna del Sur, has a nice roof terrace where I could sit and birdwatch before breakfast. On the first morning here, I saw Eurasian Collared Doves, a Baltimore Oriole, Yellow warbler, Melodious Blackbird and 5 Cattle Egrets flying over. Tulum has excellent beaches and we spent the day relaxing in a stretch of beach we had largely to ourselves. Tulum has resisted the urge to build large hotel complexes and only allows small hut like Cabanas with no electricity. The result is miles of beautiful, quiet and unspoilt tropical beaches. Just lying on the sun lounger I watched Royal Terns, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls and Magnificent frigatebirds flying past. Got restless after a while so took a stroll to some rocks where I found Neotropic Cormarants, turnstones, sanderlings and a single Wilson's Plover. Yucatan Jays and Grove Billed anis were in the trees behind the beach.

Day 3
Before breakfast, went for a walk around the town and found an unfinished road heading towards the beach with woodland either side. Bit quiet but saw a White Eyed Vireo (common in all sites), Black Catbirds and a Yellow Throated Warbler (most common warbler of trip). We spent the morning at Tulum archaeological site set in a stunning location next to the sea. Birdwise saw Northern Rough Winged swallows, Grey Breasted Martins, female Canviets Emarald (a tiny hummingbird), Savannah Sparrow, female Blue Black Grassquit and Palm Warbler. Spent the afternoon at the beach, where I added Olive-chested Parakeets and a large flock of white Ibis flying in V-formation.

Day 4
Before the holiday, I had booked the Sunset Tour of the Sian Kaan Bioreserve of mangrove lagoons. Was particularly interested in the final destination known as bird island where various herons, egrets and others are said to go to roost. Our guide picked us up at the B&B at 2.00 pm, drove us along a very bumpy road to the visitor centre from where we jumped onto a boat. Soon, we passed a pair of Ospreys that were attempting to mate, followed by a flock of Red Winged Blackbirds, a par of Common Black Hawks, a White Ibis, a white immature Little Blue Heron, a Great Blue Heron and a few Green Heron. Failed to pick up any crocodiles but did see a Belted Kingfisher.
Bird Island was amazing with thousands of birds arriving in flocks from the surrounding lagoons and mangroves, and we were the only people there. Quickly observed Boat billed Herons, Reddish Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great white egrets, and several Rosette Spoonbills. We then powered back to the centre as darkness fell and the trees filled with 10 million fireflies. Stopped on the way home to watch a Yellow Crowned Night Heron munching on a crab in the cars headlights.

Day 5
We missed breakfast to be at Coba before the 8 am opening as I wanted to check out the nearby lake for spotted rails and Northern Jacanas. No sign of either but did see 2 Ringed Kingfishers, an aningha, and several Pied Billed Grebes. Inside the ruins, that are set amongst jungle saw Black Headed Trogons, a Wood Thrush, 2 Golden Olive Woodpeckers, Brown Jays, Green Breasted Mango (an unusually large hummingbird), a Brown Flycatcher and a Spotted Sandpiper on the pool.
In the afternoon we drove North to the Punta Laguna reserve where you can see wild Howler and Spider monkeys. The locals act as guides who lead you around the reserve in search of them. Our guide spoke little English but made lots of grunts and hoots to try to get a response from the monkeys. Walked around for a bit before spotting some Spider Monkeys with a youngster in tow and then some very noisy Howler Monkeys. During the walk I also saw a Laughing Falcon, Green Backed Sparrow, a stunnng Blue Crowned Motmot, a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, a Yellow Bellied Flycatcher and an Ocellated Turkey.
Whilst watching the sunset from the balcony of the B&B, spotted a female Blue Ground Dove and 3 Greyish Saltators.

Day 6
My wife agreed to a whole mornings birding so started at 6.00 am at the village of Muyil, across the road from the archaeological zone. Birds were everywhere which can be frustrating as it can take me a bit to be satisfied with an identification of a bird that I have only seen in my book (Howell and Webb which is good apart from it's heavy and does not include birds found in the US. I also took Kaufmans guide to the birds of North America). However, in quick succession I identified Ruddy and Common Ground Dove, Magnolia Warbler, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, 3 Keel billed Toucan (only ones of the holiday), Blue bunting, Yellow chested Chat, 2 female Painted buntings (finally managed to see a male on the last day at the botanical gardens at Puerto Morelos), a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (also seen at Chichen Itza). Several Yucatan Parrots flew over squawking, then a Yellow Throated Euphonia, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Yucatan Woodpecker and a Ladder Backed Woodpecker. We then found an area that was good for hummingbirds with White Bellied Hummingbird, Buff Bellied Hummingbird and Wedge Tailed Sabrewing putting in appearances.
We left the village and crossed the road into the car park of the ruins where several Green Jays were causing a disturbance. Venturing into the site we observed 3 Black Headed Saltators, single White Bellied Wren, a Ruddy Woodcreeper, a Yellow Billed Cacique, mangrove Vireo, an Ovenbird, a Long Billed Gnatwren, a Lousiana Waterthrush, Rose-Throated and Grey-Headed Tanagers, and a Stub Tailed Spadebill. A single Least Grebe was diving in the lagoon. Back in the car park, a Squirrel Cuckoo was flying between tree tops.
Tired from the intense mornings birding, spent the rest of the day lazing on the beach. Went for a walk around the town early evening and found 2 Yellow Backed Orioles and a single Chimney Swift.

Day 7
In one hours birding from the roof terrace before breakfast, I added altimara Oriole, 2 Orchard Oriole and a flock of Lesser Goldfinch to my list.
We decided to spend the day snorkelling at the Yal-Ku lagoon so I did not take my binoculars. The lagoon was quiet, warm and had a lot of colourful fish. Spent in the aktun chen caves where the only living things of interest were 2 white faced Coutimundis, a Gray Fox, lots of bats, scorpions, a very scary looking spider, and an even scarier 3 inch long wasp-like insect.
In the evening, a flock of Bronzed Cowbirds flew over the B&B and a Yellow Winged Tanager perched in a tree across the road. A Short Tailed Hawk then soared directly above me for a while before slowly heading off.

Day 8
Waved goodbye to Tulum and drove to Chichen itza where we were booked into the aquaelogical hotel. Dumped the luggage in the rooms and went for a walk in the (small) gardens. A stunning male Summer Tanager was showing well and a Zone Tailed Hawk drifted by. Took lunch in the Hacienda Chichen that is said to be good for birds. A brief walk in the gardens gave views of a Turquoise Browed Motmot, Masked Tityra, Rufous Browed Peppershrike, a White Tipped Dove and a female Blue Grosbeak. Went to the light show in the evening which I thought would be tacky but involve lasers and fireworks but instead was just tacky.

Day 9
Got to the ruins at opening time which were impressive but the birding was a bit slow. Did manage to see White Fronted Parrot, Mourning Dove, Gray Headed Dove and a female Indigo Bunting. In the afternoon, wife had an appointment with a Mayan Pedicure so I walked around the Hacienda gardens but did not add any species to my list.

Day 10
Left Chichen Itza and embarked on the 3 hour drive down to Saint Elena near Uxmal archaeological zone. We were booked into the Flycatcher Inn set in a tranquil tropical garden. Felt a bit rough on arrival so spent the rest of the day on the terrace with wife who had fallen in love with a locally made hammock (one of which we have brought home).

Day 11
Took an early morning stroll around the gardens where I spotted a Grey Cheeked Thrush, and heard the distinctive meowing of the Grey Catbird (finally managed to catch a glimpse the next day after following the meowing up and down a line of shrubs for some time. Following breakfast we took in the splendour of the Uxmal ruins although it was a very hot and humid day. Cave Swallow numbered in the hundreds and were nesting inside some of the ruins. Walked through a small wooded valley where several hummingbirds were busy feeding and a Tropical Peewee was perched. Stopped of at Suyil on the Puuc trail as it was recommended as a lovely work though semi deciduous woodland. Glad we went as it was full of hummingbirds, parrots and we saw are only 9 banded armadillos of the trip
Day 12
Spent the day at Celestun reserve on the Gulf Coast, a large expanse of salt lagoons and mangroves famous for flamingoes. We hired a boat from the beach via the fisherman's cooperative rather than the 'official tours' as recommended to us. To get to the flamingoes you have to travel a few miles up the coast to the mouth of the lagoon and then travel all the way back. The first part of the trip gave good views of Double Breasted Cormorants and a single Black Skimmer. Travelling back up the lagoon we eventually found a large flock of the Caribbean Flamingoes and to my excitement a pair of Wood Stork. The next stage of the trip took us through a channel in the mangrove and a fresh water spring board walk where wife pointed out a small bird – a pygmy kingfisher.

Day 13
On my pre breakfast stroll, I could here a songbird at the top of a tall tree. Took a while to find it – a Scrub Euphonia. This was followed by several White Crowned Parrots. The last night of the holiday, we had booked into the Posada el Moro in Puerto Morelos. The drive took 4.5 hours using the Merida-Cancun highway that is very expensive but virtually void of traffic (and no speedbumps).
My wife has been very accommodating with my birdwatching so I suggested an evening shopping at Playa Del Carmen.

Day 14.
Beside the road leading into the town, there was a series of lagoons with a two viewing points. So, I got up early and drove the short distance (later regretted as a huge queue of traffic had developed for the morning celebrations of the revolution) to the viewpoints. Lots of American Coots were on scattered across the lagoon before coming together in a mass huddle. We had planned to go snorkelling on the reef, but the sea looked a bit rough. Instead, we explored the Dr Alfredo Barrera botanical gardens where I saw an Ivory Billed Woodcreeper, a Black and White Warbler and lots of Black Throated Green Warblers.
Drove back to the airport, keeping an eye out for roadside hawks, that were supposed to be common. Plane journey back was overnight and as usual everybody seemed to sleep through the flight apart from me and the crew.

Species List
1.Least Grebe
2.Pied Billed Grebe
3.Plain Chachalaca
4.Ocellated Turkey
5.Caribbean Flamingo
6.Brown Pelican
7.Double Crested Cormorant
8.Neotropic Cormorant
10.Magnificent Frigatebird
11.Great Blue Heron
12.Great Egret
13.Snowy Egret
14.Little Blue Heron
15.Tricoloured Heron
16.Reddish Egret
17.Cattle Egret
18.Boat Billed Heron
19.Green Heron
20.Yellow Crowned Night Heron
21.White Ibis
22.Roseate Spoonbill
23.Wood Stork
24.Black Vulture
25.Turkey Vulture
27.Gray Hawk
28.Common Black Hawk
29.Short Tailed Hawk
30.Zone Tailed Hawk
31.Laughing Falcon
32.Gray necked Wood Rail
33.American Coot
34.Wilsons Plover
35.Spotted Sandpiper
36.Ruddy Turnstone
38.Laughing Gull
39.Royal Tern
40.Black Skimmer
41.Eurasian Collared Dove
42.White Winged Dove
43.Mourning Dove
44.Common Ground Dove
45.Ruddy Ground Dove
46.White Tipped Dove
47.Gray headed Dove
48.Olive Throated Parakeet
49.White Crowned Parrot
50.White Fronted Parrot
51.Yucatan Parrot
52.Squirrel Cuckoo
53.Groove Billed Ani
54.Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
55.Chimney Swift
56.Vaux`s Swift
57.Wedge Tailed Sabrewing
58.Green Breasted Mango
59.Canivets Emerald
60.White Bellied Emerald
61.Buff Bellied Hummingbird
62.Cinnamon Hummingbird
63.Black Headed Trogon
64.Blue Crowned Motmot
65.Turquoise Browed Motmot
66.Ringed Kingfisher
67.Belted kingfisher
68.Pygmy Kingfisher
69.Yucatan Woodpecker
70.Golden Fronted Woodpecker
71.Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
72.Ladder Backed Woodpecker
73.Golden Olive Woodpecker
74.Ruddy Woodcreeper
75.Olivaceous Woodcreeper
76.Ivory Billed Woodcreeper
77.Barred antshrike
78.Stub Tailed Spadebill
79.Tropical Pewee
80.Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
81.Least Flycatcher
82.Brown Capped Flycatcher
83.Great Kiskadee
84.Boat Billed Flycatcher
85.Social Flycatcher
86.Tropical Kingbird
87.Couch`s Kingbird
88.Masked Tityra
89.White eyed Vireo
90.Mangrove Vireo
91.Yucatan Vireo
92.Rufous Browed Peppershrike
93.Green Jay
94.Yucatan Jay
95.Brown Jay
96.Northern Rough Winged Swallow
97.Vaux's Swift
98.Mangrove Swallow
99.Cave Swallow
100.Spot Breasted Wren
101.White Bellied Wren
102.Long Billed Gnatwren
103.Blue Grey Gnatcatcher
104.Wood Thrush
105.Gray Cheeked Thrush
106.Clay Coloured Thrush
107.Grey Catbird
108.Black Catbird
109.Tropical Mockingbird
110.Yellow Warbler
111.Magnolia Warbler
112.Black Throated Green Warbler
113.Yellow Throated warbler
114.Palm Warbler
115.Black and White Warbler
116.American Redstart
118.Northern Waterthrush
119.Louisiana Waterthrush
120.Common Yellowthroat
121.Hooded Warbler
122.Yellow Breasted Chat
123.Yellow Winged Tananger
124.Gray Headed Tanager
125.Red Throated ant Tanager
126.Rose Throated Tanager
127.Summer Tanager
128.Black Headed Saltator
129.Grayish Saltator
130.Blue Black Grassquit
131.Green Backed Sparrow
132.Savannah Sparrow
133.Northern Cardinal
134.Rose Breasted Grosbeak
135.Blue Bunting
136.Indigo Bunting
137.Painted Bunting
138.Red Winged Blackbird
139.Melodious Blackbird
140.Great Tailed Grackle
141.Bronzed Cowbird
142.Black Cowled Oriole
143.Orchard Oriole
144.Hooded Oriole
145.Yellow Backed Oriole
146.Orange Oriole
147.Altamira Oriole
148.Baltimore Oriole
149.Yellow Billed Cacique
150.Scrub Euphonia
151.Yellow Throated Euphonia
152.Lesser Goldfinch
Thanks for the report, Marc. We were in the area last January in Playacar and are returning this Jan but staying nearer Tulum. Muyil looks worth a visit and will def. check out Coba this time.
Tulum is a great place for holidays. Muyil was the best place for birding I went to. There is a boardwalk through the swampy area for a small fee but it is well worth it. Watch out for army ants though : if you stop in their path they will stream up your leg (nearly happened to me a couple of times).

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