by Andre van Kleunen
Participants of this trip were Jan-Joost Bouwman, AndrBH van Kleunen, and Roland van der Vliet.
In February 1997, we took a three week trip to Southern Mexico including a two day excursion to Tikal, Guatemala. Our daily activities mainly consisted of birdwatching. We wanted to see as many of the Yucatan and Cozumel endemics as possible, but we also visited the lowland rainforest, highlands and pacific slope of Chiapas.
We managed to see all Cozumel endemics (Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Wren and Cozumel Vireo) in the Shan Kanaab reserve, except for the Cozumel Thrasher, which may be almost extinct and couldn't be expected in a one day visit.
We saw all Yucatan (semi-)endemics, except the Yucatan Nightjar; maybe this species moves south in winter. Most Yucatan endemics can be found in the dry forest at Felipe Carrillo Puerto. We found amongst other species, Yucatan Parrot, Yuc. Poorwill, and Yuc. Flycatcher here. The Mexican Sheartail and Yucatan Wren, two Yucatan specialities too, can only be found in the northern area of the peninsula. We were successful for both species in the dry coastal scrub of Celes- tun.
The Usumacinta marshes of Campeche and Tabasco harbour loads of herons, ducks and stilts. We even found three Jabirus and a Southern Lapwing, the latter perhaps a first for Mexico! We were told afterwards the bird had been present here since december '96.
Palenque surely was the most beautiful site of our whole trip. The Mayan ruins in the rainforest form a tremendous scenery. Some specialities were: White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Rufous- breasted Spinetail, Mexican Antthrush, Crimson-collared and Scarlet-rumped Tanager.
The highlands of Chiapas are probably not as good for highland-endemics as the Guatemalan highlands, because a lot of good cloudforest has been cleared and where it still exists, it's rather inaccessible. Nevertheless we found some interesting endemics in the pine-oak forest east of San Christobal de las Casas, e.g. Pink-headed and Crescent-chested Warbler and Black-throated Jay. In the valleys around town we found Black-capped Swallows, Rufous-capped Warbler and White-naped Brushfinch.
Tuxtla GutiBHrrez, the bustling capital of Chiapas, is renown for the Sumidero Canyon, north of the city. In the dry scrubby forest at the end of the road along the canyon we found the rare endemic Belted Flycatcher and a female Red-breasted Chat. The Rosita's Bunting only occurs in a small area on the border of Oaxaca and Chiapas. We found one by luck in the foothills near Tepanatepec.
The pacific slope is a narrow stretch of lowland between the mountains of the Sierra Madre and the Pacific Ocean. The avifauna is completely different from the northern Chiapas lowlands. The most interesting endemic is the Giant Wren which occurs only in the Chiapas part of the Pacific Slope. We found several of them, mostly near streams. Just listen for their turkey-like song.
The village of El Triunfo is situated in the hills of the Sierra Madre. From here we tried to reach real cloudforest higher uphill for a shot at Cabanis' Tanager or even Horned Guan. We didn't succeed locating the good forest and we had to settle for Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Blue-throated Motmot and Blue-crowned Chlorophonia.
The forests of Lagos de Montebello are comparable with the pine-oak forests from the San Christobal area. Some species were easier here, e.g. Unicolored Jay and Slate-colored Solitaire.
Finally we made a two day trip to Tikal, Guatemala. The landscape is lowland rainforest like in the Palenque area, but after having visited Palenque for three days, we were still able to find about 30 new species at Tikal. The Tikal speciality, Ocellated Turkey is almost everywhere on the lawns near the entrance. Some of the most interesting species we found were: King Vulture, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Purple-crowned Fairy, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and White-whiskered Puffbird.
The whole trip provided us with great birding in a lot of different sceneries. We found 421 species. We recommend this trip to every birdwatcher. Southern Mexico has some interes- ting endemics and it's a good start for people who are new to birding in the neotropics. We had relatively little trouble identifying the species and we also saw a substantial number of the species occurring in the area. We imagine this would be harder when you start neotropical birding in e.g. Equador.
We took an 11 hour Martinair charter flight to Cancun (Quintana Roo) from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 9.30 a.m. We arrived at Cancun airport at 2 p.m. We had booked a rental-car at Avis in advance. The office is at the airport. Our car, a VW-bug cabrio didn't seem appropriate to the demands of a 3000 km birdtrip: it did not even have a linen top to protect the travellers and their gear from rain or thieves and the trunk wasn't big enough to hold three backpacks. So we decided to take the much more expensive Chevy Swing, which proved to be a decent car for driving long distances.
We found the first Yucatan-endemic behind the Avis-office: an adult male Orange Oriole. This would turn out to be the only one of the whole trip!
We spent the last few hours before dark in the Jardin Botanico de Dr. Alfredo Barrera, along the road Cancun-Playa del Carmen, a few kilometres south of Puerto Morelos. Along the road we saw our one and only Laughing Falcon of our trip in Mexico. In the park we took a trail through dense forest. We didn't find a whole lot of birds. Most interesting were a male Col- lared Trogon, a Ruddy Woodcreeper and three Rose-throated Tanagers.
After a short night in Hotel-city Cancun, we left at 4.15 a.m. to Playa del Carmen for the 5.15 a.m. ferry to Isla de Cozumel, an island off the coast of Quintana Roo with a number of interesting endemics, though it's more famous for its diving-opportunities. We missed this ferry because we adjusted our watches incorrectly to the Mexican time. We had to wait for the next ferry till 7.30 a.m., so in the meantime we did some birding at the beach of Playa del Carmen to get familiar with the more common Mexican species, North-American warblers and seabirds like Magnificent Frigate Birds, Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns. The one hour boat-trip to San Miguel de Cozumel was rather dull. There are really only three species of seabirds here.
We rented bikes in San Miguel. At the city- plaza we found our first Green-breasted Mango (common on Cozumel). Chankanaab recreation park, about seven km south of San Miguel has a botanical garden and this is probably one of the best sites on the island to find the Cozumel-specialities. We took a shadowed track, through dry forest ending at a nursery-garden in the southern part of the park. Cozumel Emerald and Bananaquit are rather common. It took a few hours to find the other endemics: two Cozumel Vireos, two Cozumel Wrens, one Yucatan Vireo, one Black Catbird, one Yucatan Woodpecker, two Stripe-headed Tanagers and two Caribbean Eleania's.
The afternoon was less productive. We decided to take a late-afternoon ferry back to the mainland, after we had added (Yucatan) Vaux Swift and Yellow-faced Grassquit to our list. Of course we weren't counting on Cozumel Thrasher anymore. You must be very lucky to find one. Nobody could tell us about a recent observation. After having feasted on the Mexican specialities "Pollo frito and Cerveza Superior", we drove to the village Coba. The night brought us three Pauraques at a parking next to Lake Coba.
At dawn, we searched for Spotted Rail and Ruddy Crake in the riparian vegetation of Lake Coba. We succeeded to see just the latter. The lake proved to be good for marsh birds, e.g. Limpkin, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. Two Ridgeway's Rough-winged Swallows were also present. The archaeological park Coba is situated close to the lake. It opens at 8.00 a.m. We found our first Turquoise-browed Motmot in a tree at the entrance. In the park, we birded long a path leading to the high temple. We spent a productive morning on this path, resulting in amongst others, one Thicket Tinamou, crossing the path, one Collared Forest-Falcon, two Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls, two Wedge-tailed Sabrewings, two Canivet's Emeralds, one Violaceous and Black-headed Trogon, and one Yucatan Vireo. We found one White-browed Wren outside the park in scrub vegetation.
The afternoon became too hot and we started the long ride to Celestun in the northwest of the Yucatan peninsula. We stopped somewhere halfway our destination in the late afternoon, when the temperature had dropped to more reasonable levels, for some birding somewhere halfway our destination. This was rewarded with a Greenish Eleania and another White-browed Wren and some splendid Gray-crowned Yellowthroats. It became too late to drive to Celestun and we decided to stay in Merida for the night.
Rise and shine! We left Merida at 4.45 a.m. We had planned to arrive in the mangroves, a few kilometres south of Celestun at dawn to have the best chances to see the Rufous-necked Wood-rail. It took some time to find the right dirt-road leading to the mangrove-area, but having arrived at the right spot we found the target-species almost immediately. We got a good view of the species, while it was foraging on the mud under the mangroves. The bay was coloured orange/pink by thousands of Caribbean Flamingo's. In the scrub-vegetation, along the dirt-track we found one Mangrove Cuckoo and several Mangrove Vireos.
It was still rather early and the birds were very active so we hurried to the coastal scrub north of Celestun; the well-known site for Yucatan Bobwhite, Mexican Sheartail and Yucatan Wren. Mexican Sheartails often forage on blooming Agaves, so we scanned the many Agaves along the road and one of the first was bingo. Also The Yucatan Wren was very cooperative as well. We easily found three. One of them was collecting nesting materials. While approaching a Yucatan Wren we flushed a flock of app. 15 Yucatan Bobwhites. Unfortunately we didn't get a good view of the birds on the ground, since they continued to fly up on approach.
The saltpans and lagoon north of the village were relatively dull and around midday we decided to head on south in the direction of Palenque, our next destination. The first part of the route, a bad road from Celestun to Chunchucmil across the Yucatan peninsula, leading through dry forest and semi-open areas was good for birds. While driving we saw some Plain Chacalaca's (Yucatan ssp.), Yucatan Jays, Aztec Parakeets and a lot of Vermilion Flycatchers. They are very common in the semi-open areas of Yucatan, Campeche and Tabasco. The route from Campeche to Tabasco follows the coast and you pass some nice small marshes with e.g. Woodstork and Roseate Spoonbill. We arrived at Palenque town at about 21.00h. Although the streetscape was dominated by tourists, it wasn't hard to find affordable accommodation and food.
The archaeological park of Palenque (and its surroundings) is one of the best sites in Mexico to find tropical rainforest-species. The park which has nice Maya-ruins opens only at 8 a.m. and it's hard to talk your way in when you don't speak Spanish. So the first hours after dawn were spent birding along the road between the campsite "Mayabell" and the entrance of the park. The number of species in this forest-edge habitat was overwhelming. Amongst others we saw Keel- billed Toucan, Black-crowned Tityra, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Hermit, Barred Antshrike, Chestnut- headed Ordopendola and the spectacular Crimson-collared, Scarlet-rumped and Golden-hooded Tanagers.
In the park at the far left end of the semi-open area we took a trail leading to a ruin hidden in the forest. We didn't see many birds here, probably because of the crowds of tourists on this trail. Highlights were: Yellow-headed Parrot, Collared Trogon, Swainson's Thrush and an elusive Red-capped Manakin. We only got a glimpse of a blackhawk spec., probably a Greater, but we didn't see enough to make a positive identification. The Mayan temples are interesting from a birders point of view as well. Sitting on top of one, one gets a clear view of the park and the surrounding forest; Ideal to scan the air for raptors. We observed a Black Hawk-Eagle, a Double-toothed Kite and a regularly passing Bat Falcon. After a few hours it became rather boring on the temples and we went back to the town, bought our daily rations of chips and cola and decided to try our luck in the Usumacinta marshes. The best sites are along the road from La Libertad to Emilio Zapata and the Highway 186 east of Emilio Zapata to Escarcega. The impressive numbers of egrets (incl. our only Pinnated Bittern), ibises and Woodstorks alone makes the area worth a visit. Also a Least Grebe, some Aplomado Falcons and Snail-kites are worth mentioning, but the starbirds of the day were without doubt the 2 Jabiru's in moisture meadow at km 174 of route 186.
The early morning we spent on a trail in the rain forest, close to the waterfall, just across from the museum along the road to the park entrance. We found some rainforest specialities: Chestnut-headed Woodpecker, Blue-crowned Motmot, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Spot-breasted Wren and a skulking Orange-billed Sparrow. On another trail in comparable habitat, behind the parking at the entrance of the park we could cross out Mexican Antthrush on the list of wanted endemics. When the forest grew silent we climbed a temple again and found two splendid White Hawks, circling above the ruins. High in the trees a flock of Red-legged Honeycreepers with one Green Honeycreeper passed. A Great Tinamou was calling in the forest near the entrance. On the way back to town, we tried a dirt road to the left, just across of the waterfalls. After about we came to a bridge over a stream, suitable for Amazon Kingfisher. In our first attempt we found a Ringed Kingfisher and one of two Scrub Euphonia's of the whole trip.
In the afternoon we left for our next destination: the Chiapas' Highlands around San Christobal de las Casas. The road from Palenque to San Christobal via Ocosingo, a near five hours drive, has a bad reputation because of roadblocks by Zapatistas or perhaps local villagers who want to get attention for their economical problems. Indeed we bound a roadblock on our way, but we only had to pay 25 pesos for passage and the atmosphere was anything but hostile. It's not worth to turn around and make a detour of about 500 km. However it may be advisable to keep valuables, like binoculars and cameras out of sight. The drive through the mountains was rather exhausting. Fortunately, the relatively low evening temperatures of San Christobal affected our night's rest in a positive fashion.
One of the San Christobal-specialities, the Pink-headed Warbler can be found at at least two known sites: The Huitepec reserve; a protected relic of cloudforest and at the pine-oak forests along the road to Ocosingo. We tried the second option, because Huitepec only opens at 9 a.m. We took a dirt track, at our righthandside at about two km from the beginning of the road to Ocosingo. We walked uphill and almost immediately found a warbler-flock with about four Pink-headed Warblers, three Crescent-chested, one Golden-browed and one Olive Warbler. Other Highlights were: one Garnet-throated Hummingbird, one Black Thrush, Pine and Tufted Flycatcher and a Chestnut-capped Brushfinch.
In the afternoon we tried to visit Huitepec, but since it was closed we had to make do with some relatively poor birding in the partially deforested hills northwest of San Christobal. Nevertheless some more highland endemics were added to our list: about ten Rufous-collared Thrushes, about 50 Black-capped Swallows and a glimpse of a White-breasted Hawk.
We started our day in a valley east of the San Christobal campsite, where we found two White-naped Brushfinches and about ten Rufous-capped Warblers in scrub vegetation at the bottom of the hills. We tried Huitepec again, late in the morning. It was still closed. We couldn't resist to sneak in, because of the good reputation of the reserve in trip-reports, but a few hours later we returned to the car rather disappointed. Two target species, the Singing Quail and the Blue- and-white Mockingbird were uncooperative. We still had the afternoon to do some useful birding at the Pink-headed site at the Ocosingo-road. We didn't find large flocks of warblers, maybe we had been lucky the day before. We took another track through the forest and found two Black-throated Jays, which were busy throwing Bromelia's out of trees. Definitely a hard to find endemic and a good compensation for our misses in Huitepec. Hereafter, we moved from the cool highlands to the bustling and boiling Chiapas' capital Tuxtla GutieHrrez.
According to a number of trip-reports, the zoo south of the town is good for Great Curassow and Crested Guan. Despite busses busloads of noisy schoolkids which were also visiting the park, we found a lot of birds in the zoo, amongst others about 100 Plain Chacalaca's, Chestnut-collared Swift, Banded and Plain Wren and Yellow-winged Cacique. The zoo is located in rather undisturbed forest in which some enclosures had been made in which the endemic fauna is on display, for instance Horned Guan and Resplendent Quetzal! The two desired big fowl species were very easy to find and tame, often climbing the cages of their locked up brothers and sisters.
Afterwards we were informed by Steve Howell that the birds aren't tickable because they are excess birds of the Zoo which didn't fit in the cages. Also odd was the observation of some Orange-fronted Parakeets. According to Howell and Webb, (1995) they only occur west of the Sierra Madre in the so-called Pacific slope. After the zoo we tried the river Grijalva at the bridge of Chiapas de Corzo. From here you can rent a boat for a nice trip in the Sumidero Canyon, possibly good for kingfishers and Collared Plover. We tried spotting them from the bridge, but in vain.
In the afternoon we had a look from the upper side of the canyon, north of Tuxtla. A road leads to about four watch-out points (miradors) along the canyon. It was hot and bird-activity was low. We decided to spend some time at the last mirador, watching the beautiful Slender Sheartails. When the temperature dropped to a more agreeable degree, we walked to the last mirador but one. In the dry scrub/forest along the road we found Northern Bobwhite, Beryline Hummingbird and Chestnut-capped Warbler. At the last mirador but one we found a female Red-breasted Chat.
Early morning birding on the road between the last an last mirador but one was rewarded with some great views of the rare Belted Flycatcher, a Fan-tailed Warbler and an Azure-crowned Hummingbird. At about 9.30 a.m. we took seats at the restaurant and prepared for the Greater Swallow-tailed Swifts which should appear above the canyon at 10.00 a.m. At noon we were bored by the White-chinned Swifts and the Black Vultures. We gave up and departed for Puerto Arista at the Pacific Ocean. By luck, we found a Rosita's Bunting, along road 190 in the foothills 13 km east of Tepanatepec. We hurried to reach the site of Giant Wren before dark, but the turn-off to Puerto Arista was apparently closed by the army and we had to make a detour of about 100 km. This detour made it impossible to reach the wren site before dark and we finished our ride in Arriaga, about an hours drive from Puerto Arista.
In the early morning, we parked our car at the junction to Bocca de Ceilo just outside Puerto Arista. We found two territorial Giant Wrens and some Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters. Actually the junction is a crossing, a dirt road to the north leads to a nice lagoon, with extensive mudflats. We observed a lot of shorebirds and waterfowl. We also found some more Giant Wrens in this area. In the afternoon we found even more birds in the Mapastepec area. We tried to find a road to the so-called Microwave valley, just north of Mapastepec, for White-bellied Chacalaca and Prevost's Groundsparrow, but our directions were rather indefinite. In our frustration we tried another valley at random, without success, only four Green-breasted Mango's and at least one Yellow-naped Parrot were seen.
The day of attempt at the Chiapas' starbirds, the Horned Guan and the Cabanis' Tanager. The cloudforest at El Triunfo is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to find these major endemics. It's a real problem to visit El Triunfo on your own. You'd better arrange for a local guide in advance or if you have some money to spend, take an organized tour. We don't have a lot of money and we booked this trip too short in advance to find a local guide, therefore we decided to try to reach the cloudforest on our own, in just one day. We know of someone who tried this way too, and managed to see the tanager, Resplendent Quetzal and some more interesting cloudforest-endemics (not the Guan). We drove to the village El Triunfo by car. From the far end of the village a dirt-road leads to small villages on the ridges of the mountains. You need a four-wheel-drive for this road or park your car and hike, as we did.
The valley along this road is very good for birds, amongst others Blue-tailed Hummingbird. At about 7.30 a.m. we were able to hitch a ride with a pick-up truck with some locals. We drove uphill and passed two small villages. The truck stopped in the third. It looked like it was impossible to get any higher directly. We tried a forest near the village. It didn't look like real cloud-forest. We had to be content with a heard-only Blue-throated Motmot and a Blue-hooded Euphonia in the village. Either our directions were incomplete or we had missed a turnoff. We didn't have detailed maps either. The only thing we could do was hoping our targets would come downhill in winter. Actually, concerning the guan, these rumours go around. In the afternoon we walked downhill back to the first village along the road. We found some interesting species: one White-breasted Hawk, two White Hawks and two Blue-crowned Chlorophonia's. We bought some refreshments in the first village. After being well observed by the locals, we got a ride to the village of El Triunfo. We had still a full drive schedule ahead of us for the last 10 days. We decided to spend no extra time here, but we'll be back!
The morning was spent travelling to Lagos de Montebello. At a river close to Amatenango we saw our only Green Kingfisher. When we arrived at Lagos de Montebello it was drizzling. We had a nutritious breakfast at La Orquidea. In the afternoon the weather improved and we visited the park's pine-forest. We heard possible Unicolored Jays everywhere, but it took a while before we saw them, high up in the pines. Other interesting species here were Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Common Bush-Tanager, some White-naped Brush- finches and Black-headed Siskin. In the late afternoon we tried a remnant piece of cloud-forest with little chance on Resplendent Quetzal. We found Slate-colored Solitaire, White-breasted Wood-Wren and Green-throated Mountain Gem.
We wanted to spend the night in the cabanas of La Orquidea close to the park, but there was no room left and we drive to Comitan de Dominguez.
We were content with the Montebello results and decided not to go back. We drove to Palenque via San Christobal las Casas. We made a birding stop in the hills north of San Christobal in Blue-and-White Mockingbird habitat and at the still closed Huitepec reserve and got even more frustrated. This was our last desperate attempt at the Blue-and-white Mockingbird, a bird present in all trip-reports we saw. Onwards to Palenque the road was blocked in the same village as the week before. We paid our 25 pesos and continued. In the next village we saw a bunch of armed policemen in trucks. This probably meant an unpleasant finish of the blockade. Some late afternoon birding along the road to the Palenque park produced two Rufous- breasted Spinetails and one Dusky Antbird.
Palenque revisited, little new species, only Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and our only Chestnut-sided Warbler. We made a visit to the river again. This time we found two Amazon Kingfishers.
We left for Chetumal around noon, via the Usumacinta Marshes. We wanted a second attempt at the Black-collared Hawk and the Grassland Yellow-Finch, but without success. We did better at turnoff to San Elpidio at km 174 of route 186. The swampy meadows and some flooded fields were excellent for shorebirds and ducks. We found another Jabiru and one Gadwall in the huge flocks of Blue-winged Teals and Shovelers. Also worth mentioning were about ten Stilt and two Pectoral Sandpipers. And last but not least we were struck by lightning when we saw a pale lapwing, passing through our binocular view. It was a Southern Lapwing, a species from South-America and probably a first for Mexico! We made pictures and described the bird. We were told afterwards that the bird had been present here since early december '96. Nevertheless it was a nice surprise. Onwards to Chetumal we passed Laguna Silvituc, a large, rather birdless lake, although we did find our only Fulvous Whistling Ducks and Purple Gallinules here.
We arranged the minibus for Tikal in the morning. This bus left at 12.30 p.m., before this we did some poor birding outside Chetumal in dry woodland. Black-cowled Oriole was the only new species for the list. The route via Belize and a horrible unpaved road from the Guatemalan border to Flores, near Tikal, took almost eight hours. It was rather expensive, compared to Mexican standards: 30 US$ one-way trip. Naturally, the hotels in Flores where we were dropped weren't cheap either, but then again, we had been staying in very affordable places in Mexico as well.
We took a bus to Tikal at 4.00 a.m. (has to be pre-arranged in the hotel) and we arrived at the park entrance at about 5.30 a.m. We wanted to arrange accommodation for the night and to drop of our luggage. This wasn't possible at this hour. Some friendly american/german tourists were prepared to keep an eye on our luggage and we could start some exciting birding. Notwithstanding the high costs, compared to e.g. Palenque this park is certainly worth a visit. The species composition is rather different from the lowland rainforest in Palenque. We were able to add 30 new species to our list during a two days visit.
Soon after dawn dozens of Ocellated Turkeys appeared on the campsite. It's almost impossible to avoid this species here. In the park we took a track to the so-called Temple of the In- scriptions; this track was rather quiet. We saw a lot of birds, amongst others: Short-billed Pigeon, Eye-ringed Flat- bill, White-bellied Wren, Plain Antvireo, Olive-backed Euphonia and the bonus was a gorgeous Tody Motmot. We arranged accommodation: a rented tent on the campsite. On the campsite we found a Purple-crowned Fairy, surely the most beautiful hummer of the trip. A very high soaring Kingvulture was only a very good tick.
Next we went to the Gran Plaza; a group of temples. A pair of Orange-breasted Falcons bred on one of them last year. A Great Curassow ran across the track so this species was saved for the list, at least for two of us. We spent some time on a temple on the Gran Plaza for raptors, but in vain, it started raining. The afternoon produced three tame Crested Guans, a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher and a Red-capped Manakin.
It was a rainy but productive day. Along the old air-strip we found two Scaled Pigeons, Purple-crowned Fairy, Long-billed Gnatwren, Green-backed Sparrow, Giant Cowbird and two lovely Red-capped Manakins. In the park we took the same track as yesterday. The birding was great. After the rain had stopped we found flocks of birds everywhere. Highlights were Slate- tailed Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, three White-whiskered Puffbirds, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher and good views of a Great Tinamou. A Hook-billed Kite flew over at the campsite. At 5.00 p.m. we took a bus to Flores and arranged a ticket for Chetumal for the next day. We think every new day in Tikal is good for some new species, but we needed to return to Yucatan finish our endemics quest.
The bus to Chetumal left early, at 5.00 a.m.. We arrived at the Chetumal busstation at 1.00 p.m., had a meal downtown and left for Felipe Carrillo Puerto, about 150 km to the north. The dirt-road from Felipe to Vigia Chico is supposed to be The ultimate site to see most Yucatan endemics. Although the habitat; dry forest and semi-open areas doesn't look very exciting. This habitat can be found almost anywhere on the Yucatan peninsula and so should the endemics in our opinion. Nevertheless we didn't take any chances and also tried this track. In the late afternoon we were succeeded for Yucatan Parrot and Yucatan Flycatcher. In the evening we tried Yucatan Poorwill on the same track. We heard one in a tree and saw its eyes reflecting.
We walked a few kilometres along the track to Vigia Chico and found a passing Grey-headed Kite, some Gray-throated Chats, Bright-rumped Attila, Yellow-billed Cacique, and some more Yucatan endemics. We spent the afternoon on the coastal track from Tulum to Punta Allen in the Shan Ka'an reserve. We found Mangrove Warbler, of course in the mangroves and our second Black Catbird. On the way back we found our only Common Black Hawk, perched on a fence.
Felipe yielded about the same as yesterday. We decided to go to the northern edge of the peninsula to Rio Lagartos. We wanted to try for Collared Plover and some Caribbean stuff. The village and its surroundings were dull. We took a track east to los Coloradas. We found some Zenaida Doves in the coastal scrub. Close to Los Coloradas we found an extensive saltpan area with some interesting shorebirds. We found 39 Wilson Phalaropes, two Red-necked Phalaropes, two Snowy Plovers and a lot of Flamingo's. In the evening, we tried Yucatan Nightjar in dry open area close to Rio Lagartos, without success.
We went to the saltpans again and saw besides the species we also saw yesterday, some Piping Plovers, two Wilson's Plovers and two American Pipits. Along the track to los Coloradas we saw a Crane Hawk. The bird showed its characteristic way of foraging: pulling a mouse out of a hole in a tree with its elastic leg. At 10.30 a.m. we had to leave. We had to drive about 250 km to Cancun to catch our 3.45 p.m. plane back to Holland.
Andre van Kleunen
3705 ZE Zeist