Family holiday in Playacar at Viva Wyndham Azteca Hotel, which was excellent in ever part, food, accommodation etc.
The Mayan people are friendly and interested in the birds and just a wave and greeting seem to help if you came across anyone in the outback.
Went on a few trips from the hotel, which allowed a little time for birding, e.g. Cancun (speed boat and snorkelling). Coba (walk around ruins and stop on route).
Used moped on trip to Cozumel, (cheap and fun). Taxis used which can be a little expensive if going any distance, but are clean and reliable. Push bikes available at most hotels and they are free.
"A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America"
Steve N G Howell and Sophie Webb
Roger Tory Peterson/Edward L Chalif
"Field Guide to the Birds of North America"
National Geographic Society
17.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
18.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
19.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
20.03.05 Cozumel Island (Circular Tour)
21.03.05 Rest Day Beach
22.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
23.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
23.03.05 Cancun- Airport-Mangroves-Golf Course
24.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone- Highway Area
25.03.05 Coba and Stopping point
26.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone- Highway Area
27.03.05 Puerto Morelos
27.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
28.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
29.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
30.03.05 Playacar- Golf Course- Hotel Zone
As you will no doubt observe I spent a lot of time in and around Playacar area, rising every morning at first light. The birding up to about 9-00am was excellent and it just shows what you can find on your own "local patch". Using a push bike got me to the edges of the town and across the highway where the birding was a little less disturbed by the numerous joggers etc. All in all an excellent area to get to grips with some of Mexico’s more common birds.
Having arrived the night before and feeling fully rested, I began my search for birds at 6-00am. New birds in a new country are always exciting and my first species was Great Tailed Grackle which was displaying and calling. On the beach Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans passed almost constantly, Laughing Gull’s were abundant. Outside the hotel a few Plain Chachalaca called and chased each other around, hirundines hawked over a small pool on the golf course, including:- Vaux`s Swift, Grey Breasted Martin and a few Ridgeway’s Rough Winged Swallow’s. In the forested areas, Masked Tityra, Rose Throated Becard, Clay Coloured Thrush, Rufous Browed Peppershrike, Yellow Winged Tanager and Ovenbird made up the highlights. Various species of oriole seemed to be quite abundant, with Yellow Throated and Hooded Warbler also fairly common. The birds of the more open areas included, Tropical Mockingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Yucatan Jay, Melodious Blackbird, White fronted Parrot and White Winged Dove. In the afternoon a cycle ride to the large golf course pool revealed, Spotted Sandpiper, Olivaceous Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Blue Winged Teal, Black Bellied Whistling Duck, Redhead, Ring Necked Duck, American Coot, Red Billed Pigeon, Mangrove Swallow, Black Catbird and American Redstart.
Early morning start 6-00am around Playacar, watching Green Backed Heron and a solitary White Ibis fly into the large golf course pool area and begin feeding. Two Greater Yellowlegs, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black Headed Trogon and a truly amazing Turquoise Browed Motmot with a few Golden Fronted Woodpeckers also seen in the area. A small wooded area revealed Rufous Breasted Spinetail, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Throated Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart and a very smart Summer Tanager completed the morning bird watch. A late afternoon walk along the beach past the hotels in a southerly direction revealed Aztec Parakeet, Social Flycatcher, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Sandwich Tern, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Double Crested Cormorant and lots of Royal Tern’s passing north.
Going out early and into the outer parts of Playacar/Playa del Carmen was well worth the effort, watching three Yellow Crowned Night Heron’s presumably going to roost, Common and Ruddy Ground Dove and the local Feral Doves were seen. In the more forested area’s a Yucatan Flycatcher and the amazing Boat Billed Flycatcher, Black Headed Saltator and the ever wary Yellow Billed Cacique and Gray Catbird were added. In the smaller bushy areas Yellow, Prothonotary, Black and White and Magnolia Warblers were seen. In the afternoon the large golf course pool held Least Grebe, American White Pelican, Little Blue Heron, Lesser Scaup, Black Necked Stilt, and at least sixty Least sandpiper. In the evening a flock of 100+ Lesser Scaup passed north offshore.
Caught the early ferry across to Cozumel Island and hired a moped for the day (don’t forget a credit card and some form of I.D and a driving license) Headed through Cozumel Town pausing to check out any suspicious looking hummingbirds along the way and located Cozumel Emerald. Lots of Black and Turkey Vultures in and around the town area. I headed out to the Hotel Presidente area and quite near to the hotel found a pair of Blue Bunting along with Yucatan Woodpecker. The house in the clearing mentioned in other reports had a male American Redstart, in full plumage, which allowed me to watch this stunning bird down to 6` away. The constant barking of dogs drove me away from what obviously is a good spot! Further on amongst the half built houses Cozumel Vireo was seen, then another quite stunning bird a Bananquit. Yellow Faced Grassquit, Caribbean Dove, Zenaida Dove and finally a Purple Martin swooped down in front of me to take a well earned drink from a small pool near the Hotel Presidente. Out towards Punta Sur a Brown Crested Flycatcher, Olive Sparrows, Green Breasted Mango were seen. At the reserve at Punta Sur I was informed that the terns/noddies had not yet returned so a little walk around the buildings revealed a few Bananquit. The ride up the east coast was one of my many excellent memories of Mexico, mile after mile of white sandy beaches and the Caribbean Sea, not many birds but you can’t have everything. Near to the turn off to the ruins at Santa Rita the other type of Yellow Warbler was seen, Golden Warbler. All in all quite a day on Cozumel but it would be better to stay on the island to get an even earlier start.
Rest day spent on beach, only a couple of Ring Billed gulls out of the ordinary.
Very early start,5-30am into the forested area were Sulphur Rumped Flycatcher, White Tipped Dove,Yellow Throated Vireo, Mangrove Vireo were seen. In the open area’s it seemed like there had been a "fall" of wood warblers with American Redstart, Yellow Throated, Prothonotary,Magnolia,and Hooded Warbler`s present in good numbers along with a good number of the ground loving Ovenbird. The oriole’s present were Hooded, Altamira, Yellow Backed and a single Orange Oriole completed a fine morning’s bird watch.
The late afternoon walk to the large golf course pool revealed Blue Black Grassquit in an area about to be built on. A fine Anhinga along with a Northern Jacana, Black Bellied Plover with lots of hirundines (many more than normal) including many Barn Swallows. On the walk back to our hotel I stopped to look at a small party of Yucatan Jay’s and two Brown Jay’s appeared in a tree at the side of me what luck!
Not many new species in and around Playacar today, except an Eastern Pewee that sat still whilst I checked the identification points! With a supporting cast of Black Throated Green Warbler, Masked Tityra, Turquoise Browed Motmot, Black Headed Trogon, you can’t really feel disappointed. My family and I were going on a boat trip in and around Cancun; we passed the airport and a very interesting area which had a small flock of American Flamingo and a few Roseate Spoonbills. We paused just outside Cancun and saw Herring Gull and the sky was literally filled with Magnificent Frigatebirds. In the mangroves a very obliging Common Black Hawk perched and good close up views obtained. A single dark phase Reddish Egret, a few White Ibis and a light phase Great Blue Heron hunting in the shallows, made up an interesting trip along with the snorkelling and my wife’s new found ability to drive a speedboat!
An Osprey flew over the large inland lake as we were about to set of back to Playacar, and on the way home Roadside Hawk and Hook Billed Kite were seen.
Up at 6.00am and another good birdwatch around the Playacar and highway area, a small flock of birds passed through a small wooded area and as I stood in the clearing, an Ivory Billed Woodcreeper passed by feeding and paying no attention to myself, it was a maximum of 5 feet away, quite stunning bird this one! Plenty of Black Catbirds around along with Rufous Breasted Spinetail, Social Flycatcher, Yellow Billed Cacique and an influx of Orchard Oriole had occurred? Also in amongst the flock of orioles was a Black Cowled Oriole, other birds of note were, Yucatan Vireo, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and a small flock of Indigo Bunting’s made up the forested area bird list, a Louisiana Waterthrush was seen down to 10 feet and all ID points seen, Ovenbird also were seen in larger than normal numbers. Hooded, Magnolia and Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere and the cat’s chorus of Grey Catbirds rounded of the morning’s events.
Went on a trip to Coba stopping at a small refreshment area a couple of miles before the town. In a 15 minute break I managed to see a Northern Cardinal in with a small flock of Bronzed (Red Eyed) Cowbird’s, Zone Tailed Hawk, Groove Billed Ani, Wedge Tailed Sabrewing and Couch`s Kingbird. The ruins at Coba are fascinating and well worth the climb up, for a memorable view, but be very careful coming back down ,not for the faint hearted. In the forest it was a little late and very humid for any good birding, but despite this Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Clay Coloured Thrush, Yucatan Parrot, Tropical Pewee, Aztec Parakeet were seen. The lake, along with its crocodiles, looked promising but Limpkin was completely missed, I had been told by another birder that the species was present but still found Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron,Anhinga,Olivaceous Cormorant, Great Egret and a few Cave Swallows hawking around. Another stop, this time for lunch, with a little time for birding, I saw Boat Billed Flycatcher, Merlin, Caribbean Dove and lots of Black and Turkey Vultures but no sign of the King Vulture that had been reported in the area, all in all an excellent touristy trip.
Another early start, 6.00am, began with Spotted Sandpiper, Louisiana Waterthrush, again down to 8 feet away. In a weedy area near the sewage treatment works a couple of Green Backed Sparrow’s almost pecked at my feet. In the forested area, near a small clearing a Hook Billed Kite landed in a tree only 5 feet from me, I froze and enjoyed eyeball to eyeball contact with the bird for upwards of 30 seconds that was truly unforgettable! A Greenish Elaenia called and a White Browed Wren came into view, quite a job to see this species on your hands and knees, but good fun. Also seen on this day was Rufous Browed Peppershrike, White Collared Seedeater and then a Ruby Throated Hummingbird hovered just in front of me. A few Bank Swallows over the golf course pool.
As way of a change an early morning sea watch was made, I was not disappointed, when four Sooty Tern’s passed north offshore along with two Ring Billed Gull’s on the beach; a party of sixty Royal Tern’s also passed north. A trip to Puerto Morales to the botanical gardens had originally been my idea but it was Sunday and the gardens were closed! Not to be outdone, I had a good walk around the area and saw Lesser Yellow Headed Vulture, Yellow Olive Flycatcher, Dusky Capped Flycatcher, White bellied Wren and Black Headed Saltator. So don’t forget, check when things are open.
Only a couple more early mornings walks left to do around the Playacar area. A small pool on the golf course, nearer to Playa del Carmen, revealed up to twenty terrapins in it. The whole area is very popular with the local Agouti population; these rodents are fairly tolerant of people and are an attractive creature to watch. As I looked over the golf course a creature loped over the fairway, at best I can describe it was like an anteater, it had a snout and had a longish coat, has anybody got any idea’s? The bird of the day was without doubt a Squirrel Cuckoo that sat at the top of a small tree for a full two minutes, what a stunning bird! A few Cinnamon Hummingbirds around this area along with Mangrove Vireo, White Bellied Wren which fed about fifteen feet from the ground, then finally after much searching a Yellow Tailed Oriole. The other species seen of note included, Greenish Elaenia, Black Headed Saltator and a small flock of Indigo Bunting and many Vaux`s Swift over the golf course pool.
In a two hour bird watch around Playacar I managed to see forty-one species with White Eyed Vireo and Yellow Olive Flycatcher the main highlights, until, in amongst the Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow Throated and Yellow Warblers a Prairie Warbler showed itself at a short distance for a full five minutes, another cracking bird. A little later another Yellow Tailed Oriole was seen. Back at the small golf course pool a pair of Least Grebe came close to the shoreline and gave exceptional views, the another Louisiana Waterthrush was seen close up. Just above me in a small bush a Social Flycatcher was busy building its nest.
Up bright and early for my final morning’s birdwatch in this bird rich country and the three Yellow Crowned Night Heron’s going/coming to roost opened up the day’s list. A few Cattle Egrets were seen flying off to their feeding grounds. Close to the Xaman Ha bird sanctuary, four Groove Billed Ani fed on the ground chasing insects only ten feet away, not the nicest looking bird species! A Northern Bentbill showed itself in a small clearing along with a stunning male Rose Breasted Grosbeak. A small party of Yucatan Jay passed through the area. A few Golden Fronted Woodpeckers were also seen. Then, along with seven Prothonotary Warblers, a single Bananaquit , what an array of colour in such small space. A Scarlet Tanager in some form of moult was seen next it looked as though someone had splashed red paint on it, unusual. Prairie Warbler was seen again, now there were two! In my final morning I had seen an amazing seventy species.
In Mexico the only real time to do any birdwatching is the first few hours of daylight. It does get a little better as the sun dies down in the late afternoon though. I did not see or hear any owls or nightjars. Playacar is an excellent place to do some birding with a few trips to other areas just to break it up a bit. I was on a family holiday so I still managed to spend time with them. You can go virtually were you like in pursuit of the birds but, the golf course is well patrolled and is really a private site and yet it is open, just have respect for the golfers! Being on my own most of the time did help me to see more species.
Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus Common
White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos 3 on golf course pool
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occedentalis Common
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus Common
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus Common
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga Fairly common
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magniicens Common
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias Light and dark phases seen
Great Egret Egretta alba Fairly common
Snowy Egret Egretta thula Common
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea 3 golf course pool
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens Mangroves in Cancun
Cattle Egret Bulbulcus ibis Fairly common
Green Heron Butorides virescens Common
Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax violaceus 3, twice over Playacar
White Ibis Eudocimus albus 1 golf course pool
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja Cancun mangroves
American Flamingo Phoenicopterus rubber Cancun mangroves
Black-bellied Whistling Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis Common
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors Common
Redhead Aythya Americana Single,golf course pool
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris 2, golf course pool
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis Common
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus Common
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura Common
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes burrovianus 1, Puerto Morales area
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1, Cancun mangroves
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus 2, Playa del Carmen
Common Black Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus 1, Cancun mangroves
Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris Fairly common
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus Coba area
Merlin Falco columbarius 1, road to Coba
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis ventula Common
American Coot Fulica Americana Common
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola 2, golf course pool
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus Up to 4 on golf course pool
Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa Single on golf course pool
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 2 golf course pool
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularis Common
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Common
Sanderling Calidris alba Common
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla Common
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla Common
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 2 only on beach
Herring Gull Larus argentatus Seen twice on beach
Royal Tern Sterna maxima Common
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Fairly common
Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata 4 heading north
Red-billed Pigeon Columba flavirostris Seen occasionally
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica Common
Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita Cozumel Island
Common Ground Dove Columbina passerine Seen occasionally
Ruddy Ground Dove Columbina talpacoti Common
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi Seen occasionally
Caribbean Dove Leptotila jamiacensis Cozumel Island
Aztec Parakeet Aratinga astec Common
White-fronted Parrot Amazona albifrons Seen occasionally
Yucatan Parrot Amazona xantholora Common
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana Single Playacar
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostirs 4 in Playacar
Vaux`s Swift Chaetura vauxi Common
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus curvipennis Coba
Green Breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii Cozumel Island
Cozumel Emerald Chloristilbon forticatus Cozumel Island
Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila Fairly common
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris Single Playacar
Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus Fairly common
Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa 2 seen Playacar
Yucatan Woodpecker Centurus pygmaeus Seen Coz/Playacar
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Centurus aurifrons Common
Rufous-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis erythrothorax Single,Playacar
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster Single,Playacar
Northern Beardless Tyranulet Camptostoma imberbe Seen occasionally
Greenish Elaenia Myiopagis viridicata Seen occasionally
Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare Single,Playacar
Yellow Olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens Seen twice, Playacar
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher Myiobius sulphureipygius Single,Playacar
Eastern Pewee Contopus virens Single,Playacar
Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus Fairly common
Yucatan Flycatcher Myiarchus yucatanensis Cozumel Island
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer Single, Playacar
Brown-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus Cozumel Island
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus Common
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua Coba area
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similes Common
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus Common
Couch`s Kingbird Tyrannus couchii Coba area
Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae Single, Playacar
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata Seen twice Playacar
Purple Martin Progne subis Cozumel/Playacar
Grey-breasted Martin Prone chalybea Common
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea Fairly common
Ridgeway’s R/W Swallow Stelgidopteryx ridgewayii Seen occasionally
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia Common
Cave Swallow Hirundo fulva Coba area
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common
Brown Jay Cyanocorax morio 2 only,Playacar
Yucatan Jay Cyanocorax yucatanicus Common
White-browed Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus 2 only,Playacar
White-bellied Wren Uropsila leucogastra Single, Playacar
Blue Grey Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea Seen occasionally
Clay-coloured Thrush Turdus grayi Twice seen Playacar
Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis Common
Black Catbird Dumetella glabirostris Common
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus Common
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus Fairly common
Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens Fairly common
Cozumel Vireo Vireo bairdi Cozumel only
Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons Single, Playacar
Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister Single, Playacar
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis Two seen, Playacar
Northern Parula Parula Americana Common
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia Common
Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia Common
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica cornata Single, Playacar
Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens Two seen, Playacar
Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica Common
Prairie Warbler Dendroica discolour Single, Playacar
Black and White Warbler Mniotilta varia Common
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla Fairly common
Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea Seen 3 times, Playacar
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus Common
Louisiana Waterthrush Seiurus motacilla Seen 3 times, Playacar
Common Yellowthroat Geothylypis trichas Common
Hooded Warbler Wilsonia citrina Fairly common
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola Seen Playacar/Cozumel
Yellow-winged Tanager Thraupis abbas Two seen, Playacar
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra Fairly common
Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea Single, Playacar
Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps Common
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis 1 seen in Coba area
Rose Breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus Fairly common
Blue Bunting Cyanocompsa parellina Pair on Cozumel Island
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Common
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus Fairly common
Green-backed Sparrow Arremonops chloronotus Two seen, Playacar
Blue Black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina Two seen, Playacar
White-collared Seedeater Sprophila torqueola Single, Playacar
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivacea Two seen on Cozumel
Melodious Blackbird Dives dives Common
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus Common
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus 12 seen in Coba area
Black-cowled Oriole Icterus dominicensis Seen occasionally
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurious Common
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus Common
Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater Single, Playacar area
Yellow-tailed Oriole Icterus mesomelas Seen occasionally
Orange Oriole Icterus auratus Seen occasionally
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis Fairly common
Yellow Billed Cacique Cacicus melanicterus Seen occasionally