Birding the Americas Trip
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MEXICO -- CHIAPAS
21 - 30 December 2004
by Barron Stuart Levine
Kate Tillotson and I had a fabulous nine day trip to Chiapas. We
were able to combine a lot of birding with sightseeing and some
cultural events. We has absolutely zero problems with security (for
those of you are concerned). The few military checkpoints we saw waved
us through with nary a stoppage.
Our first stop was at Tuxtla Gutierrez. We visited Sumidero Canyon
twice, The Tuxtla zoo, and the grounds of the Camino Real Hotel. All 3
sites were very good considering the time of the year. One BELTED
FLYCATCHER was seen at the site mentioned in Howell. We stayed at the
nice Hotel Arecas (Best Western) for a pricey $60. Nice in that you can
get in and out of town easily. I would not recommend staying in the
city center (cheaper), but a bear to get out of due to congestion.
Birdchatters Doris and John Waud, who are living in Tuxtla for the
year, invited us to join them for an evening at Las Pinchachas
Restaurant. A really wonderful place that has traditional dancing and
food. Thanks again Doris and John.
Out of Tuxtla we headed for Arriaga (Hotel Ik-Lumaal decent enough for
$20) and Puerto Arista. We spent 3 hours the first afternoon and 1/2
hour the next morning before we saw GIANT WRENS near the junction of
190 and Boca de Cielo Road. Had a nice experience with a man who lives
in the first house north of the Boca de Cielo Road at the junction of
190. He invited us into his backyard to see a pair of nesting LINNEATED
WOODPECKERS and to talk about birds. He hunts them as well as admiring
them, by the way. He was very friendly and let us park our car in his
driveway while we birded the area. We then went across the junction and
birded the lagoon mentioned in Howell. It was hopping. Easier access
would be to go north on 190 to the first left hand turn. That would
allow you to bypass the village. You could also take the next road
north if you want to try the other side of the lagoon. From there we
headed back toward Tuxtla easily finding ROSITA'S BUNTING in the steep
turns of the gallery forest.
Our next stop was the wonderous San Cristobal (the so-so Media Luna
overpriced at $35). S.C. is as great a good place as we have visited in
Mexico. Very cold mornings and evenings at this time of the year
though. Here we birded the Ocosingo Road site (mentioned in Howell) and
PINK-HEADED WARBLERS were very present here and many other roadside
spots nearby. An UNSPOTTED SAW-WHET OWL was great fun to see at 5 one
morning. We birded a very quiet Cerro Huitepec one afternoon and tried
the microonda tower on the other side of the mountain the next morning.
Not much there as it was cold, windy and foggy. Best directions to the
tower are to take the road that goes off to the right (if you're
heading from SC-Tuxtla on the main highway) at kilometer 78. There will
be 4 yellow arrow signs at this junction. Then you'll pass a small
village and in a short while, you'll see a road heading off to your
left signed microondas Huitepec II. It's actually a 2 tracked cement
driveway that takes you a few miles up to the tower.
In town don't miss the world class Amber Museum and make sure you visit
the village of Chamula on a Sunday morning. Contrary to what you might
have read, you can do this on your own, but make sure you don't take
pictures. The locals view this as stealing their souls and will attack
you and either take your camera, or rip out the film. Serious stuff.
Ocosingo was our next destination with a stop along the Chanal Road to
look for BLACK-THROATED JAYS. We eventually found the jays in a small
viallage off to the south side of the road. A very shy and curious
group of women followed our every movement. Made for a very unique
experience. In Ocosingo we stayed at the Hotel Central. Fine location
and at $18, with a parking garage included, just about right. We
ventured to the picturesque Tonina ruins for both late afternoon and
early morning birding. One of the truly lovely places we have seen in
Mexico. Birding is good at the ruins and is excellent along the road
out to the ruins. Particularly nice is a bridge over a small river. The
road is now paved all the way to the ruins.
We were fortunate to have a local turn on to a shortcut to our next
destination-Comitan. We took a road through Altamirano that was birdy
throughout. We got tricked by a hummer that had it's head covered in
pollen. Thought we had seen a bird that hadn't been documented before.
Pretty dodgey. We used Comitan (Posada Virrey, not very good for $33)as
a base to explore the Montebello area. This area has been greatly
degraded and I would not recommend it unless you are looking for
specific species. Here we did find UNICOLORD JAY and PREVOST'S
GROUND-SPARROW at the Howell location. Interesting was a field in the
general vicinity that had over 200 Lincoln's Sparrows. The lakes by the
way are picturesque.
On our way back to Tuxtla we stopped at the wondrous El Chiflon
Cascade. At 11 in the morning the butterflies abounded. I'm guessing
the birding would be very good earlier. This is a place well worth
Below is a list of all birds seen.
Thanks to Howard Pine, Kraig and Kathy Kemper, Marcus Roening, Bob
Sundstrom and all trip reports that made our journey so great.
Am. White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Long Billed Curlew
Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl
Great Swallow-Tailed Swift
Ridgway's Roughwing Swallow
Southern House Wren
B-Throated Blue Warbler
B/Throated Green Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Chiapas Y-Eyed Junco
Barron Stuart Levine
Newport High School
4333 S.E. Factoria Blvd.