Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - 24th March - 5th April 2008

Published by Adrian Haagner (20773102 AT student.nwu.ac.za)

Participants: Adrian Haagner, Amanda Haggett-Haagner

Comments

This was a mixed honeymoon and birding trip with focused birding on certain days but binoculars were always in hand and all routes were planned with birds in mind. This was our first trip to the Americas and consequently most birds were completely new to us. Birding resources used in the planning of the trip included Where to watch birds in Mexico by Stephen Webb, Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America by Howell and Webb, Petersen’s field guide to the birds of the US East of the Rockies and some websites. Calls were downloaded from Mangoverde (www.mangoverde.com) for aid in identification.

Itinerary

24 March: Landed Cancun; Birded Barrera Botanical Gardens; Slept Lobo Inn (Tulum)
25 March: Birded Tulum ruins and surrounding beaches and cenotes; Slept Lobo Inn (Tululm)
26 March: Birded Coba ruins and Lake; Slept Lobo Inn (Tululm)
27 March: Birded Tulum beach and Northern entrance road to Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve; Slept Cesiak (Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum)
28 March: Birded Sian ka’an mangroves, Punta Allen road, guided lagoon tour; Slept Cesiak (Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum)
29 March: Birded Muyil ruins, Chumpon entrance road to Sian ka’an to Vigia Chico and Punta playa; Slept Cesiak (Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum)
30 March: Birded Sian ka’an oceanfront and lagoonshore; Slept Cesiak (Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum)
31 March: Birded cross country from east to west coast, Celestun beaches and Mangroves; Slept Eco Paraiso (10km east of Celestun)
1 April: Birded Celestun Biosphere Reserve, town harbour and rubbish dumps, guided tour of Celestun inlet; Slept Eco Paraiso (10km east of Celestun)
2 April: Birded Celestun biosphere by road; Slept Eco Paraiso (10km east of Celestun)
3 April: Birded cross-country from Felipe Carillo Puerto to Merida, Chichen Itza, Slept Genesis Retreat (Ek-balam)
4 April: Birded Rio Lagartos area, Slept Genesis Retreat (Ek-balam)
5 April: Left Cancun

General

We flew in from Johannesburg via Dakar on to Atlanta before boarding another plane to Cancun. Total flying time was 30 hours! We flew Delta airlines, which were the cheapest and we were quite happy with them.

We hired a small car (Hyundai/Dodge Atos) from Caribbean Car Rental, very cheap and efficient. Rental for 12 days, including insurance came to US$385. Roads are not bad but very busy. Signage was good on the main roads, but nonexistent once one leaves the main tourist areas and busier roads. Crazy one-way systems in most towns and most villages are not on any maps.

People are friendly and willing to help, English is widely spoken. We managed to get along with broken Spanish and a phrasebook.

Costs were not too bad in smaller towns, but very excessive around main tourist resorts and attractions. A good meal for 2 in a restaurant amounted to about 450 Pesos. Fuel is cheap but petrol attendants try to get away with short-changing often.

Weather was good and warm, hot at times with the Tulum being constantly windy.

Mosquitoes were terrible everywhere, no amount of repellant or layers of clothing could stave them off completely

Birding

We managed to visit 4 of the prominent birding sites mentioned by Howell, as well as a number of quieter sites. The list total for the trip was 187 species. We confined ourselves to the Northern section of the Peninsula and never traveled more than 400km in a day. Birding was great in the early mornings and the hour before dusk. Nothing much is around between 10am and 4pm except the constant Turkey and Black vultures overhead.

Daily Diary

24th March 2008


We landed in Cancun airport in rain at 12h30. First bird seen from the plane was a Great-tailed grackle, which also turned out to be the most common species seen on the trip. The airport is small and customs went smoothly. We were met by the car hire company who took us to their offices some way from the airport. We then headed south on route 307 and our first stop was the Dr. Alfredo Barrera Botanical Gardens. In an hour and a half we traversed the entire property. Target species were Altamira oriole, Yucatan vireo, Cape May Warbler and Grey-headed tanager. The Yucatan vireos were everywhere, but we dipped on the tanager and warbler. Both Green and Brown Jays were common, with Melodious blackbirds calling constantly from the forest floor. Wrens were numerous, mostly Spot-breasted and Carolina. The paths lead up to a tower from which one can overlook the mangroves and here we saw Wood stork, Great white egret and White ibis coming in to roost. A highlight was the variety of other animals that we saw here too, amongst which were Grey fox, Spider monkeys, and both Black and Green iguana! We only managed 21 species in our time there, eventually leaving half asleep from Jetlag to make for Tulum, where we spent the night.

Birds seen in the Barrera Botanical Gardens

American Redstart Magnificent Frigatebird
Barn Swallow Melodious Blackbird
Black Catbird Spot-breasted Wren
Black Vulture Tropical Kingbird
Black-throated Green Warbler Tropical Mockingbird
Brown Jay Turkey Vulture
Carolina Wren White-winged Dove
Common Yellowthroat Wood Stork
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Yucatan Vireo
Great-tailed Grackle Yucatan Woodpecker (Red-vented)
Green Jay

25 March 2008

Early morning saw us up for a walk down to the Tulum ruins. The ruins only open at 08h00 and once open attract thousands of people every day. Consequently, we decided to bird the surrounds whilst it was still quiet and then head to the beaches once things got too busy. Around the entrance to the ruins we found a pair of nesting Boat-billed flycatchers. The bush along the roads were full of Yellow, Black-throated green, Bland Yellow-throated warblers. Our only Louisiana waterthrush for the trip was seen hopping about a roadside puddle.

At about 09h00 the busloads of tourists start arriving so we headed to the beaches to see what was around. Immediately we saw Brown pelicans dive-bombing the water, and many Magnificent frigatebirds, Royal terns and Sandwich terns. The best birds there were a group of 6 Roseate terns which flew by close inshore and then headed out to sea. Ospreys are a common feature too, heading up and down the beaches to and from feeding grounds and nests. After lunch we headed inland to the Gran Cenote to cool off. The entire Yucatan peninsula is made up of limestone, having retreated from the sea only relatively recently. Resultantly, the surface is very porous and a network of underground rivers connects aquifers. Where the roofs of caves of these rivers have collapsed to expose the river or lake to sunlight, cenotes are formed.

Birds seen in Tulum and immediate surrounds

Barn Swallow Magnificent Frigatebird
Black Vulture Osprey
Boat-billed Flycatcher Roseate Tern
Brown Jay Royal Tern
Brown Pelican Ruddy Turnstone
Couch's Kingbird Sanderling
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Sandwich Tern
Great-tailed Grackle Tropical Mockingbird
Laughing Gull Turkey Vulture
Little Blue Heron Vaux's Swift
Louisiana Waterthrush White-winged Dove
Yellow-throated Warbler

26 March 2008

We left Tulum at 04h30 for Coba, an ancient Mayan ruin site with an adjoining lake. Coba is a well-known birding spot, apparently having gained fame for being an ‘easy’ spot to see Clapper rails. We arrived close to Coba just before sunrise, having only managed to see Ferruginous pygmy-owl in the dark. It was unfortunately a bit windy and we dipped on all nightjars, poorwills and potoos.

The lakeshore was excellent for birding and we quickly spotted Pied-billed and Least Grebes, both Violaceous (Neotropic) and Double-crested cormorants, Darters, Limpkin and Northern Jacana. Many Cliff- and Cave swallows were drinking, interspersed with the odd Purple Martin. We spent some time looking for Ridgway’s rough-winged swallow but lucked out. Birding the lakeshore and people’s gardens delivered many orioles and warblers, parrots and even a painted bunting. Clay-coloured thrushes are common under larger trees and the reedbeds hosted social flycatchers, Bronzed cowbirds, and Red-winged blackbirds.

The ruins are in the best areas of forest but only opened at 08h00. The first bird to greet us in the forest was an amazing squirrel cuckoo. We decided to take one of the minor trails leading into the forest away from the ruins and birded until we found a clearing. Here birding was fantastic with Yellow-throated euphonies, American redstarts, Cinnamon hummingbirds, Orioles, Warblers, Jays, Flycatchers and Vireos all joining feeding parties and responding well to my imitation of Ferruginous pygmy-owl.

The ruins themselves are very impressive and one is allowed to climb some of them, which makes a good vantage point for raptors. Apart from the ever-present vultures, we saw Gray hawk and a Great black hawk from the ruins. There are many trails, some leading along the shore of a smaller lake, and those which are most used by the taxis and bicycles. Strangly, the majority of bird life was seen on the busier trail, with both Greyish and Black-headed saltators being noisy and conspicuous. Nicer birds of the undergrowth were Hooded warbler and Northern bentbill, whilst the canopy birds were far more numerous, especially around fruiting Ficus trees. One particular tree held Keel-billed toucan, Turquoise-browed motmot, Violaceous and Black-headed trogons, Brown-headed and White-lored parrots. A surprise bird for the area was Hepatic tanager, which is well out of range according to the distribution maps in Howell and Webb.

Birds seen in and around Coba

Altamira Oriole Hepatic tanager
American Redstart Hooded Oriole
American Robin Hooded Warbler
Anhinga Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Aztec Parakeet Keel-billed Toucan
Baltimore Oriole Least Grebe
Barn Swallow Limpkin
Belted Kingfisher Lineated Woodpecker
Black Catbird Magnolia Warbler
Black Vulture Masked Tityra
Black-and-white Warbler Melodious Blackbird
Black-cowled Oriole Neotropic Cormorant
Black-headed Saltator Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Black-headed Trogon Northern Bentbill
Black-throated Green Warbler Northern Jacana
Boat-billed Flycatcher Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Bronzed Cowbird Orchard Oriole
Brown-hooded Parrot Painted Bunting
Cave Swallow Pied-billed Grebe
Cinnamon Hummingbird Purple Martin
Clay-colored Thrush (Robin) Ruddy Ground-Dove
Cliff Swallow Social Flycatcher
Common Yellowthroat Spot-breasted Wren
Double-crested Cormorant Squirrel Cuckoo
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Summer Tanager
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Tropical Mockingbird
Gray Hawk Turkey Vulture
Grayish Saltator Turquoise-browed Motmot
Great Black-Hawk Violaceous Trogon
Great Blue Heron White Ibis
Great Crested Flycatcher White-bellied Emerald
Great Egret White-eyed Vireo
Great Kiskadee White-winged Dove
Great-tailed Grackle Yellow-billed Cacique
Green Jay Yellow-throated Euphonia
Green Kingfisher Yellow-throated Warbler
Gull-billed Tern Yucatan Vireo
Yucatan Woodpecker (Red-vented)

27, 28, 29, 30 March 2008

We had a leisurely morning around Tulum, not seeing any new species, before driving to Sian ka’an Biosphere Reserve, about 8km south of Tulum beach. This section of the reserve is on a 50km long peninsula that is never more than 100m wide and bounded by the ocean to the east and an enormous lagoon complex to the west. We stayed at Centro Ecologio de Sian Ka’an (CESIAK), a self-proclaimed eco-lodge, where we were very disillusioned by the place. Their website had promised a truly ecologically friendly resort in the heart of the reserve, but turned out to be a money-making resort with superficial ecological sense and worst, it competes directly with cooperatives of local people who live in the reserve and offer guided tours.

Anyway, birding around the resort was quite poor, the only habitats being open beaches, palm forest, and the mangrove/lagoon interface, of which the last was best. Birds were similar to Tulum area, but we added Yucatan Jays in the mangroves and Mangrove swallow and Plain Chachalaca on the road down to Punta Allen

We went on one of the guided tours offered by CESIAK, called the ‘Sunset birding cruise’. A rip-off at US$75 per person for a 2-hour talk about how wonderfully ecologically efficient the lodge is, followed by a dubious tour of botany and Mayan culture. We eventually got into boats and headed to a patch of Hummock forest, where we watched Reddish, Great White, Little blue, Snowy and Tri-coloured herons coming in to roost, amongst the odd White ibis and Roseate spoonbill and Brown pelican. The guides got a few of the Id’s wrong and all too soon we were whisked away back to lodge for a mediocre meal. I would not recommend the trip to anyone; you can see all of those birds (and more) from the mangrove edges.

The following day we told one of the locals about our poor tour, and he suggested we head for the little known archaeological site of Muyil, within the biosphere reserve but back out to Tulum and then further south towards Felipe Carrillo Puerto. What a good suggestion that turned out to be. Although the ruins only open at 08h00, there are no barriers to prevent you entering early, as we did, and then paying entrance when the staff pitch up. Collared aracaris, Turquoise-crowed motmots, Parrots, Orioles, etc. all made for an amazing dawn chorus that had us spinning in circles to keep up with the sheer volume of birds perching out at the forest edge. Behind the ruins, there is a patch that leads into some very dense and impressive forest and past a tower that one can climb. The tower is an observation platform of about 45m in height that takes you right into the canopy. From here we had saturated views of Orioles, Yucatan Jays, Black-headed trogons, Saltators, tanagers, Northern cardinals and Yellow-throated euphonies. Unfortunately the wind started picking up by 08h00 and the birding pretty much dried up.

From just south of Muyil, the Chumpon gate to Sian ka’an leads one into the reserve. We tried in vain for about 6 hours to find Ocellated turkey, even heading right down to the coast at Vigia Chico (which is a ghost town by the way, destroyed by a hurricane so don’t entertain ideas as we did of getting any lunch there). The only memorable bird on the way back was a Red-legged honeycreeper.

Birds seen in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

American Redstart Northern Cardinal
Aztec Parakeet Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Barn Swallow Orange Oriole
Belted Kingfisher Osprey
Black Vulture Palm Warbler
Black-bellied Plover Plain Chachalaca
Black-headed Saltator Reddish Egret
Black-headed Trogon Red-legged Honeycreeper
Brown Pelican Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow
Buff-bellied Hummingbird Roseate Spoonbill
Cattle Egret Royal Tern
Collared Aracari Ruddy Turnstone
Common Black-Hawk Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Common Yellowthroat Sanderling
Couch's Kingbird Sandwich Tern
Double-crested Cormorant Snowy Egret
Eastern Kingbird Social Flycatcher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Squirrel Cuckoo
Gray Hawk Tricolored Heron
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat Tropical Kingbird
Grayish Saltator Tropical Mockingbird
Great Blue Heron Turkey Vulture
Great Egret Turquoise-browed Motmot
Great Kiskadee Violaceous Trogon
Greater Yellowlegs White Ibis
Great-tailed Grackle White-eyed Vireo
Green Heron White-tipped Dove
Groove-billed Ani White-winged Dove
Gull-billed Tern Wilson's Plover
Indigo Bunting Yellow Warbler
Laughing Gull Yellow-backed Oriole
Little Blue Heron Yellow-tailed Oriole
Magnificent Frigatebird Yellow-throated Euphonia
Mangrove Swallow Yucatan Jay
Mangrove Warbler Yucatan Woodpecker (Red-vented)

31 March 2008

We left Sian Ka’an at 04h30 to reach Felipe Carillo Puerto (FCP) just after dawn. Howell’s book is invaluable here, especially for finding your way out of town and into the forest, although the birding is excellent in the overgrown agricultural fields. Parrots were constantly flying overhead and we managed to pick out Yucatan Parrot, White-crowned parrot, White-fronted parrot and Aztec Parakeet. The tall dead trees held Masked and Black-crowned tityra, Purple martins, Orioles, Motmots and Woodpeckers, including a nice sighting of Ladder-backed woodpecker. Once into the forest the birding quietened down a bit, but we still managed to see our first Long-billed gnatwren, another Red-legged honeycreeper and then a male Barred antshrike! One of the numerous tracks to the left led down to a small lake, where an immature Snail kite was soaking up the sunlight. We heard Ruddy crake and managed to get good views of both Olive and Green-backed sparrow, as well as White-collared seedeater. We could only spend and hour here, but managed 55 birds, before heading across the peninsula to Celestun.

Birds seen at Felipe Carillo Puerto

Altamira Oriole Northern Cardinal
American Redstart Olive Sparrow
Aztec Parakeet Orange Oriole
Barred Antshrike Orchard Oriole
Black Vulture Purple Martin
Black-crowned Tityra Red-legged Honeycreeper
Black-headed Saltator Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Bobwhite (Yucatan) Ruddy Crake
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Sharp-shinned Hawk
Boat-billed Flycatcher Snail Kite
Bronzed Cowbird Social Flycatcher
Brown Jay Squirrel Cuckoo
Canivet's Emerald Tree Swallow
Caribbean Dove Tropical Kingbird
Common Yellowthroat Tropical Mockingbird
Couch's Kingbird Turkey Vulture
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Turquoise-browed Motmot
Golden-fronted Woodpecker White-bellied Wren
Gray-breasted Martin White-collared Seedeater
Grayish Saltator White-crowned Parrot
Great Crested Flycatcher White-fronted Parrot
Great Kiskadee Yellow-billed Cacique
Great-tailed Grackle Yellow-lored Parrot (Yucatan)
Green-backed Sparrow Yellow-winged Tanager
Groove-billed Ani Yucatan Flycatcher
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Yucatan Jay
Long-billed Gnatwren Yucatan Woodpecker (Red-vented)
Masked Tityra

01&02 April 2008

Puente Celestun made for the most enjoyable part of our trip. Birding was top-notch, our accommodation was excellent, and the guided tours were amongst the best I’ve ever been on. We stayed about 15km east of Celestun town, inside the Celestun Biosphere reserve at a resort called Eco Paraiso. The vegetation is very different to the rest of the peninsula, being scrubby and sparse. Birding on the beach just in front of our chalets was good, with willet, Lesser yellowlegs, American oystercatcher, sanderling, Turnstone, Frigates, Gulls and terns all putting in an appearance. Frigates were so numerous at times that I stopped counting when I reached 70.

The main birding areas we focused on were the mangroves just before the bridge heading into town, the rubbish dump and adjacent saltworks, and the road out to Eco Paraiso.

There is an excellent and very long boardwalk running through the mangroves, with one observation tower which allows uninterrupted views over the mangroves and river. There is a wooden building at the start of the boardwalk, through which one must pass to gain access, but this was always locked and unattended when we were there. The locals advised us to just walk around the building and hop on top the boardwalk on the other side. Bird life in the mangroves was far more varied than I’d expected, with American pygmy-kingfisher, Black and white warbler, Mangrove warbler, Rufous-browed peppershrike, Mangrove vireo, Northern Parula, Bright-rumped attilla and Common yellowthroat all being frequently encountered.

The rubbish dumps were THE spot to find Lesser yellow-headed vultures, with at least 15 individuals on display for as long as you can stand the smells of burning and rotting fish. The beaches and harbour were quite birdy with all of the aforementioned coastal species being present in large numbers, but supplemented with nice flocks of Black skimmer and the odd Black tern and Green heron.

The road between Celestun town and Eco paraiso turned out a feast of endemics with many flocks of Yuctana bobwhite, numerous Mexican sheartails and, my favourites, the Yucatan wrens. The wrens were particularly common along the fenceline of the small army camp east of town where they peck for grubs in the rotting fence posts during the early morning. Turquoise-browed motmots are common on signs and telephone lines and White-lored gnatcatchers are very confiding. At dusk, Lesser nighthawks flit about catching insects on the wing. The fenceposts around town are also a good place to look for Brown-crested flycatcher (not to confuse with the sympatric Dusky-capped flycatcher), a bird we found nowhere else on the trip, although the Empidonax group of flycatchers was quite challenging.

The highlight of our entire trip was booking the Celestun inlet tour through Eco paraiso. A guide picked us up at 06h00, showed us a couple of the endemics on the way to the harbour, where we boarded a boat and headed out to sea! This guide was a far cry from the poor guides we’d had at Cesiak. He enlivened the trip with numerous references to ecological phenomena peculiar to the area, natural relationships, the plight of conservation in Mexico, and in-depth workings of the different habitat types. The boat ride took us through the vast rafts of gulls, terns and pelicans and into the inlet of the Rio celestun. We stopped to look at a freshwater spring emerging into the brack lagoon water and embarked at the edge of a fossilized forest. Here we saw a House wren, one of an isolated sub-population that is likely to soon be given full species status, great views of a Clapper rail and a few other goodies. Heading further upstream we started seeing long lines of pink off in the distance, and large pink v’s of Greater flamingos heading towards us. Caspian terns were evident among the smaller Royal terns and we soon started seeing a variety of other waterbirds like Yellow-crowned night heron, Reddish egret, Great blue heron, Great white egret, Tricoloured and Little blue herons. Vast flocks of flamingoes were the order of the day, with the boat being able to get surprisingly close to them. Amongst the thousands of flamingos we also saw Lesser scaup, American coot and Blue-winged teal. A surprise flyover at this point was by a pair of Zone-tailed hawk, easily the rarest raptors that we saw on the trip. Common black hawk were also frequent along the mangrove edges. Our guide took us up a small little inlet where we were absolutely amazed to see a Boat-billed heron taking a nap not 10m from us. As is this wasn’t good enough, we rounded a corner in the narrow mangrove channel, where we disembarked and quietly followed the guide around a raised boardwalk. Right in front of us were two immature Bare-throated tiger-herons. I’ve never seen a more beautiful bird. Apparently they’ve become quite habituated to humans here and I was able to approach to within 5m to take some brilliant photographs. After getting our fill of herons, we took a swim in a freshwater spring, where we also saw Green kingfisher, Prothonatory warbler and a confiding Grey-necked wood rail. We reluctantly left that spot and headed home to an afternoon nap and a quiet evening.

Birds seen in and around Celestun

American Coot Laughing Gull
American Oystercatcher Least Grebe
American Pygmy Kingfisher Lesser Nighthawk
American Redstart Lesser Scaup
Aztec Parakeet Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Lesser Yellowlegs
Barn Swallow Little Blue Heron
Black Skimmer Magnificent Frigatebird
Black Tern Mangrove Swallow
Black Vulture Mangrove Vireo
Black-and-white Warbler Mangrove Warbler
Black-bellied Plover Mexican Sheartail
Black-necked Stilt Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Black-throated Bobwhite (Yucatan) Northern Cardinal
Black-throated Green Warbler Northern Parula
Blue-winged Teal Northern Shoveler
Boat-billed Heron Northern Waterthrush
Bright-rumped Attila Osprey
Brown Pelican Pied-billed Grebe
Brown-crested Flycatcher Plain Chachalaca
Caspian Tern Prothonotary Warbler
Cattle Egret Reddish Egret
Cinnamon Hummingbird Red-winged Blackbird
Clapper Rail Roseate Spoonbill
Common Black-Hawk Royal Tern
Common Ground-Dove Ruddy Ground-Dove
Common Tern Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Common Yellowthroat Sanderling
Double-crested Cormorant Sandwich Tern
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Savannah Sparrow
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Snowy Egret
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Spotted Sandpiper
Golden-olive Woodpecker Tree Swallow
Gray-necked Wood-Rail Tricolored Heron
Great Blue Heron Tropical Kingbird
Great Egret Tropical Mockingbird
Greater Flamingo (American) Turkey Vulture
Great-tailed Grackle Turquoise-browed Motmot
Green Heron Vermilion Flycatcher
Green Jay White Ibis
Green Kingfisher White-lored Gnatcatcher
Groove-billed Ani White-tipped Dove
Herring Gull White-winged Dove
Hooded Warbler Willet
House Wren Yellow Warbler
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Yucatan Wren
Zone-tailed Hawk

03&04 April 2008

We reluctantly left Celestun to spend a days as tourists in the city of Merida before heading on to take in Chichen Itza. Birding at Chichen itza was good, despite the huge crowds. Birding was not the main focus here, but we did get Tanagers, Saltators, Ferruginous pygmy-owl, Motmots and a few Warblers.

After Chichen Itza we took the main cuota or toll road towards Ek Balam, a small village of hammock weavers where we were to spend the following 2 nights at Genesis Retreat. The accommodation was basic and comfortable, with the gardens being full of Black catbirds, another of the Yucatan endemics.

The 4th saw us heading to Rio Lagartos, about 80km to the north of Ek balam, to try and pick up some more waterbirds and endemics. En route, we saw a few Crested caracaras in the farmlands, whilst keenly keeping our eyes open for Lesser roadrunner, a bird that unfortunately eluded us.

Rio lagartos itself is not great for birding but we quickly headed east out of town towards the saltworks. Hordes of locals accost you in town, trying to set you on a trip to see the flamingos. Having seen them 2 days earlier we decided to concentrate on birds from the shore. On the way to the saltworks we saw a few small flocks of Blue-black grassquits in ttransitional plumage, and our only Mangrove cuckoo of the trip. The flat areas here were full of American kestrels and the indigenous scrub also held Mexican sheartail, Yucatan bobwhite, Ruby-throated hummingbird, Yucatan wren andanother special, Zenaida dove.

The saltworks were incredibly productive, but contrary to Howell’s guide, access is no longer allowed. We snuck in on a back road and managed to drive around before we felt too uncomfortable about trespassing and left. During the 20-odd minutes we did get to see Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Semipalmated and Spotted sandpiper, Wilson’s, Snowy and Semipalmated plover. Gullbilled terns were common and we also a single Least tern amongst the more numerous Black terns. Heading back towards town we found a road heading out to a pier, which was covered in roosting Black skimmer and laughing gulls.

Again, we sadly bid a great birding spot farewell and headed home, this time for good.

The following morning we had to leave Ek-balam at 03h00 to catch our 07h00 flight from Cancun and en route added Yucatan nightjar to the list as our final bird

Birds seen in Rio Lagartos and surrounds

American Coot Magnificent Frigatebird
American Kestrel Mangrove Cuckoo
Aztec Parakeet Mexican Sheartail
Belted Kingfisher Neotropic Cormorant
Black Catbird Northern Jacana
Black Skimmer Osprey
Black Tern Plain Chachalaca
Black Vulture Purple Martin
Black-bellied Plover Royal Tern
Black-necked Stilt Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-throated Bobwhite (Yucatan) Ruddy Ground-Dove
Blue-black Grassquit Sandwich Tern
Brown Pelican Semipalmated Plover
Cattle Egret Semipalmated Sandpiper
Cinnamon Hummingbird Snowy Egret
Couch's Kingbird Snowy Plover
Crested Caracara Spotted Sandpiper
Double-crested Cormorant Stilt Sandpiper
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Tropical Mockingbird
Great Blue Heron Turkey Vulture
Great Egret White Ibis
Greater Flamingo (American) White-winged Dove
Great-tailed Grackle Wilson's Plover
Groove-billed Ani Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Gull-billed Tern Yellow-lored Parrot (Yucatan)
Laughing Gull Yucatan Nightjar
Least Tern Yucatan Wren
Lesser Yellowlegs Zenaida Dove

Species Lists

Altamira Oriole
American Coot
American Kestrel
American Oystercatcher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
American Redstart
American Robin
Anhinga
Aztec Parakeet (Olive-throated)
Baltimore Oriole
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Barn Swallow
Barred Antshrike
Belted Kingfisher
Black Catbird
Black Skimmer
Black Tern
Black Vulture
Black-and-white Warbler
Black-bellied Plover
Black-cowled Oriole
Black-crowned Tityra
Black-headed Saltator
Black-headed Trogon
Black-necked Stilt
Black-throated Bobwhite (Yucatan)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blue-black Grassquit
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-winged Teal
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Boat-billed Heron
Bright-rumped Attila
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown Jay
Brown Pelican
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Brown-hooded Parrot
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Canivet's Emerald (Fork-tailed)
Caribbean Dove
Carolina Wren
Caspian Tern
Cattle Egret
Cave Swallow
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Clapper Rail
Clay-colored Thrush (Robin)
Cliff Swallow
Collared Aracari
Common Black-Hawk
Common Ground-Dove
Common Tern
Common Yellowthroat
Couch's Kingbird
Crested Caracara
Double-crested Cormorant
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Gray Hawk
Gray-breasted Martin
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Grayish Saltator
Gray-necked Wood-Rail
Great Black-Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Egret
Great Kiskadee
Greater Flamingo (American)
Greater Yellowlegs
Great-tailed Grackle
Green Heron
Green Jay
Green Kingfisher
Green-backed Sparrow
Groove-billed Ani
Gull-billed Tern
Hepatic tanager
Herring Gull
Hooded Oriole
Hooded Warbler
House Wren
Indigo Bunting
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Keel-billed Toucan
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Laughing Gull
Least Grebe
Least Tern
Lesser Nighthawk
Lesser Scaup
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Lesser Yellowlegs
Limpkin
Lineated Woodpecker
Little Blue Heron
Long-billed Gnatwren
Louisiana Waterthrush
Magnificent Frigatebird
Magnolia Warbler
Mangrove Cuckoo
Mangrove Swallow
Mangrove Vireo
Mangrove Warbler
Masked Tityra
Melodious Blackbird
Mexican Sheartail
Neotropic Cormorant
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Northern Bentbill
Northern Cardinal
Northern Jacana
Northern Parula
Northern Shoveler
Northern Waterthrush
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Olive Sparrow
Orange Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Osprey
Painted Bunting
Palm Warbler
Pied-billed Grebe
Plain Chachalaca
Prothonotary Warbler
Purple Martin
Reddish Egret
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Red-winged Blackbird
Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow
Rock Pigeon
Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Tern
Royal Tern
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruddy Crake
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Ruddy Turnstone
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Sanderling
Sandwich Tern
Savannah Sparrow
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Snail Kite
Snowy Egret
Snowy Plover
Social Flycatcher
Spot-breasted Wren
Spotted Sandpiper
Squirrel Cuckoo
Stilt Sandpiper
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Summer Tanager
Tree Swallow
Tricolored Heron
Tropical Kingbird
Tropical Mockingbird
Turkey Vulture
Turquoise-browed Motmot
Vaux's Swift
Vermilion Flycatcher
Violaceous Trogon
White Ibis
White-bellied Emerald
White-bellied Wren
White-collared Seedeater
White-crowned Parrot
White-eyed Vireo
White-fronted Parrot
White-lored Gnatcatcher
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Willet
Wilson's Plover
Wood Stork
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-backed Oriole
Yellow-billed Cacique
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-lored Parrot (Yucatan)
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-winged Tanager
Yucatan Flycatcher
Yucatan Jay
Yucatan Nightjar
Yucatan Vireo
Yucatan Woodpecker (Red-vented)
Yucatan Wren
Zenaida Dove
Zone-tailed Hawk