I had a chance to spend a few days in the Yucatán Peninsula, and took advantage of it by trying to track down some Yucatán endemics I was missing. I managed to track down most of my targets, with notable misses being Yucatan Parrot, Cozumel Thrasher (expected?), and Cozumel Wren. I missed one other (Ocellated Turkey), but I had seen it on a previous trip to Guatemala. I did not rent a car, but instead used public transportation, which in Mexico is extremely efficient and widespread, if not always exactly on time. I slept in hostels when in towns, and camped when in the forest, and never had any problems. I did not have any playback equipment, but this did not hamper me much, and I was able to imitate Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl calls rather well, which assisted greatly in finding forest birds. I had along Howell and Webb’s Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico, and some scanned pages from Howell’s birdfinding guide, along with the essential Lonely Planet guide. A good knowledge of Spanish also helped greatly.
11 July – Flight into Cancún. Bus to Playa del Carmen.
12 July – Morning ferry to Cozumel Island, back to Playa del Carmen in mid-afternoon. Bus to Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
13 July – All day at Vigia Chico Road, Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
14 July – Morning at Vigia Chico Road. Bus in the afternoon to Merida.
15 July – Bus to Rio Celestún in morning, back to Merida in the mid-afternoon.
16 July – Lazy morning, afternoon spent at Chichen Itza. Late bus to Cancún.
17 July – Flight out of Cancún.
My flight arrived in Cancún at 1600. I got a bus to Playa del Carmen, arriving after dark and found a hotel where I could string a hammock, and went to sleep. Two Yucatan Jays were seen from the bus.
I took the first ferry to Cozumel Island, which didn’t leave until 0800, but only took a half hour to arrive. While waiting for the ferry to arrive, as I thought it came at 0600, there was a good movement of terns flying up the coast, including 37 Sandwich and one Royal. Once I arrived at Cozumel I took a taxi about two kilometres past town along the Carretera Transversal. From here I simply walked along the Carretera and took various side roads through good looking habitat. Birds here included: Black Catbird (very common), Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Vireo, Caribbean Dove, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Golden (Yellow) Warbler, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bananaquit, and Rufous-browed Peppershrike. I took the ferry back to the mainland at 1330, as bird activity slowed down considerably and I wanted to get to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, despite not seeing Cozumel Wren or Thrasher. The bus to Felipe Carrillo Puerto put me in just before dark, so I got some food and water, and took a taxi about 1.5 kilometres along the Vigia Chico Road. The map in Howell helped a lot in communicating where I wished to go. Once the taxi dropped me off I walked down one of the first side tracks into good forest and set up camp a short distance into the forest and off the road, so as not to be found. This was at about km 1.6 on Howell’s map. Once I finished setting up camp I went night birding along the road and the side tracks. A Yucatan Nightjar was flycatching off the ground on the track where I set up camp (the first track to the left in good forest), and multiple Pauraques were along the main road. After hearing a few Yucatan Poorwills calling from the general area of the last semi-open milpa before entering the forest, I finally flushed one from a recently planted corn field. There were also Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls and Mottled Owls calling in the area, but I didn’t make much effort to locate them, as I didn’t have any tapes on me. Overall it was a very successful night of birding.
I was up early and spent all day birding the Vigia Chico Road. I walked from camp (about km 1.6) to just past the side track to the aguada at km 5.0, birding all of the side tracks along the way. Birding was excellent all day, and I relaxed at the aguada for a few hours at midday, but otherwise spend all day birding the road. Birds included: White-browed (Carolina) Wren, Green-backed Sparrow, Yucatan Bobwhite, Bat Falcon, Purple Martin, Canivet’s and White-bellied Emeralds, Yucatan Jay, Mangrove Vireo, Yucatan Woodpecker, White-bellied Wren, Orange Oriole, Thicket Tinamou (heard), Singing Quail (heard), Gray-throated Chat, Greyish Saltator, Rose-throated Tanager, and many typical southeast Mexico rainforest species. I decided not to go night birding this night, due to my success the night before, and a desire to get up early to look for tinamous and quail. A Northern Potoo started calling after dark, but a little distant. It rained sporadically in the afternoon, but never very hard. The Rose-throated Tanager was along a track to the right just past the km 5.0 track to the aguada. The chats were common past the road to the aguada as well, but I didn’t see any further back down the road towards camp. The Bobwhites were in the last milpa (around km 1.5), and the Orange Orioles were near the aguada. There were hundreds of martins moving overhead, but most were too distant to identify. Most that I saw well were Purple, but there were some Gray-breasted.
I was up before dawn and walking the road looking for quail and tinamous along the road, but without luck. My main target for the day was Yucatan Parrot, as the only parrots that I saw the day before were silhouettes, but I was never able to find any. I only made it about a kilometre down the road before heading back to break camp and head back to Felipe Carrillo Puerto around 1030. Birds along the road that morning included: Yellow-tailed Oriole, Scaled Pigeon, Yucatan Bobwhite, Rose-throated Tanager, Yucatan Woodpecker, and White-browed (Carolina) Wren. Once I got back to town I ate lunch and then caught a bus to Valladolid and then Merida, arriving just before dark. I checked into the Nomadas Hostel a few blocks north of the zocaló, and then headed downtown to see the city and get some dinner.
I took the 0600 bus to Rio Celestún, which put me in at about 0800. I walked north along the beach along the road described in Howell, and the birding was great even before I left town. I never even made it to the army camp he described just outside of town, partly because I saw all of my targets before I got outside of town, and also because the mosquitos were horrendous in the thorn scrub. Mexican Sheartails were common, especially at flowering trees around the houses, and I ended up seeing seven of this beautiful hummingbird, including good looks at a few males. In patches of thorn scrub near the edge of town I found: Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Yucatan Wren, Yucatan Bobwhite (common), and Yucatan Flycatcher. I then walked down the beach through town and checked the pier and the harbour mouth before walking back down the roads into town for lunch and a piña colada, after which I caught the 1300 bus back to Merida. Birds along the beach and the harbour included: Sandwich and Royal Terns, Black Skimmer, Willet, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (large flock of vultures in the air around the harbour mouth), White Ibis, Green Heron, and Mangrove Swallow. A single Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallow was in town.
Today I played tourist and took the 1000 bus to Chichen Itza, arriving around 1300, and I stayed until they closed at 1700. Despite the crowds, the ruins were still spectacular, and I was able to find some birds. Cave Swallows and Turquoise-browed Motmots were common everywhere, especially at the Cenote Sagrado and Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallows were breeding on the Edificio de las Monjas. I was also able to scare up a few flocks with pygmy-owl calls along small forest trails away from people that included Canivet’s Emerald, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, White-breasted Wren, and Greyish Saltator. I then took a bus to Cancun that put me in after dark, and checked into a hostel near the bus terminal.
No birding today, but an adult Orange Oriole on my way to the airport was a nice departing gift.
Thicket Tinamou – Multiple birds heard at Vigia Chico Road
Brown Pelican – Common at Celestún
Double-crested Cormorant – Common at Celestún
Neotropic Cormorant – Common at Celestún
Magnificent Frigatebird – Common coastally
Great Blue Heron – 1 at Celestún
Snowy Egret – Celestún and Playa del Carmen
Green Heron – 2 at Celestún
White Ibis – Many at Celestún Harbor mouth
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck – 1 from bus en route to Celestún
Black Vulture – Common everywhere
Turkey Vulture – Common everywhere
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture – 4 at Celestún dump
Grey Hawk – Singles at Vigia Chico Road
Roadside Hawk – 1 at Vigia Chico Road
Short-tailed Hawk – 1 at Vigia Chico Road
Bat Falcon – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Plain Chachalaca – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Singing Quail - Multiple birds heard at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Bobwhite – 3 seen at Vigia Chico Road. Many heard in thorn scrub at Celestún, and one covey flushed.
Willet – 2 at Celestún
Ruddy Turnstone – 4 at Playa del Carmen
Laughing Gull – A few at Playa del Carmen and common at Celestún
Royal Tern – 1 at Playa del Carmen and 10 at Celestún
Sandwich Tern – Small movement flying by at Playa del Carmen. 9 at Celestún.
Black Tern – 1 basic adult at the aguada at km 5.0 on Vigia Chico Road
Black Skimmer – 3 at Celestún
Rock Pigeon – Common in towns
Scaled Pigeon – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Red-billed Pigeon – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Eurasian Collared-Dove – 1 at Celestún. Many in Cancún
White-winged Dove – Common everywhere
Common Ground-Dove – Common at Celestún
Ruddy Ground-Dove – Common everywhere
Blue Ground-Dove – 2 on a small forest track at Vigia Chico Road
White-tipped Dove – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Caribbean Dove – 4 on Cozumel
Aztec Parakeet – Single at Vigia Chico Road. 6 at Celestún
Amazona sp – A silhouetted flock of 15 at Vigia Chico Road
Mangrove Cuckoo – 3 at Cozumel
Squirrel Cuckoo – 4 at Vigia Chico Road
Groove-billed Ani – Common in disturbed areas
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl – Multiples seen and heard each day at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Mottled Owl – 1 heard at Vigia Chico Road
Pauraque – 3 seen and heard at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Poorwill - 1 seen and 2 heard at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Nightjar - 1 seen and heard at Vigia Chico Road
Northern Potoo – 1 heard at Vigia Chico Road
Vaux's Swift – Common most days
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Green-breasted Mango – 3 at Cozumel
Canivet's Emerald – 1 at Vigia Chico Road. 2 at Chichen Itza.
Cozumel Emerald – 6 at Cozumel
White-bellied Emerald – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Buff-bellied Hummingbird – 3 at Vigia Chico Road first day. 1 on second day.
Cinnamon Hummingbird – 2 at Celestún
Mexican Sheartail – 7 at Celestún
Black-headed Trogon – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Violaceous Trogon – 5 at Vigia Chico Road
Turquoise-browed Motmot – 1 at Celestún. Abundant at Chichen Itza.
Keel-billed Toucan – Heard at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Woodpecker – Multiples at Cozumel and Vigia Chico Road
Golden-fronted Woodpecker – Common at most locations
Ladder-backed Woodpecker – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Celestún.
Golden-olive Woodpecker – 5 at Vigia Chico Road
Pale-billed Woodpecker – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Olivaceous Woodcreeper – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Barred Antshrike – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet – 1 at Vigia Chico Road
Greenish Elaenia – 4 at Vigia Chico Road
Caribbean Elaenia – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Yellow-bellied Elaenia – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Celestún
Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Yellow-olive Flycatcher – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Tropical Pewee – Singles at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Flycatcher – 2 at Cozumel. 1 at Celestún.
Dusky-capped Flycatcher – Common at Cozumel and Vigia Chico Road
Brown-crested Flycatcher – Multiples at Cozumel, Vigia Chico Road, and Celestún
Great Kiskadee – Fairly common around disturbed areas
Boat-billed Flycatcher – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Social Flycatcher – Common at most locations
Streaked Flycatcher – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Piratic Flycatcher – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Tropical Kingbird – Common at most locations
Couch's Kingbird – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Rose-throated Becard – Pairs at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Masked Tityra – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Purple Martin – 20 individuals were part of a large movement of martins at Vigia Chico Road, most of which went unidentified, but were likely purples.
Grey-breasted Martin – 3 at Vigia Chico Road. See above.
Martin sp – 107 at Vigia Chico Road. See above.
Mangrove Swallow – Abundant at Celestún
Ridgeway's Rough-winged Swallow – 1 at Celestún. 4 at Chichen Itza.
Cave Swallow – Common in towns. Abundant at Chichen Itza.
Barn Swallow – 3 at Celestún were likely early southbound migrants
Brown Jay – Common and conspicuous at Vigia Chico Road
Yucatan Jay – 2 from bus to Playa del Carmen. 2 at Vigia Chico Road.
Yucatan Wren – 3 at Celestún
Spot-breasted Wren – Common at Vigia Chico Road
White-browed (Carolina) Wren – Common at Vigia Chico Road
White-bellied Wren – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Southern House Wren – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher – Common at Cozumel, Vigia Chico Road, and Chichen Itza
White-lored Gnatcatcher – 4 at Celestún
Clay-colored Thrush – Common at most locations
Black Catbird – Common and conspicuous at Cozumel
Tropical Mockingbird – Common at most locations
Mangrove Vireo – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Cozumel Vireo – 5 at Cozumel
Yellow-green Vireo – The most common bird at Vigia Chico Road. Multiples at Chichen Itza.
Yucatan Vireo – Common at Cozumel
Lesser Greenlet – 4 at Vigia Chico Road
Rufous-browed Peppershrike – 1 at Cozumel. Multiples at Vigia Chico Road.
Golden (Yellow) Warbler – Common at Cozumel
Grey-throated Chat – 8 at Vigia Chico Road
Bananaquit – Common at Cozumel
Red-legged Honeycreeper – 5 at Vigia Chico Road
Scrub Euphonia – 1 female at Vigia Chico Road
Yellow-throated Euphonia – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Red-throated Ant-Tanager – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Rose-throated Manager – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Greyish Saltador – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road, Celestún, and Chichen Itza
Black-headed Saltador – Common at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Northern Cardinal – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road
Blue Bunting – 1 male at Vigia Chico Road
Olive Sparrow – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Green-backed Sparrow – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Blue-black Grassquit – Common at Vigia Chico Road
White-collared Seedeater – Common at Vigia Chico Road
Yellow-faced Grassquit – Common at Vigia Chico Road and Cozumel
Red-winged Blackbird – 1 from bus near Celestún
Melodius Blackbird – Common at Vigia Chico Road and Chichen Itza
Great-tailed Grackle – Common at most locations
Bronzed Cowbird – 3 at Vigia Chico Road
Hooded Oriole – Multiples at Vigia Chico Road and Celestún
Yellow-tailed Oriole – 2 at Vigia Chico Road
Orange Oriole – 2 at Vigia Chico Road. 1 en route to Cancún airport.
Altamira Oriole – 1 at Vigia Chico Road. 2 at Chichen Itza.
Lesser Goldfinch – 2 at Cozumel
Total: 139 species