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January 1996

by John Penhallurick

In early January, I managed to spend a week in Yucatan (with a friend), and four days at Tikal. We started out at Cozumel. Some of the places recommended in the Supplement to Finding Birds in Mexico are no longer much good. The road to Cedral has been paved, and has a fair amount of traffic, so is not very suitable for birding. Also, the area around the Hotel Presidente is now inaccessible. We birded around the San Gervasio ruins, and also along the many side-tracks along the road in. We also birded the east coast (not much doing) and the woods at the end of the road north on the western side of the island. We got most of the endemics except for the Cozumel Thrasher.

On the maindland, we hired a car in Cancun, and headed down to Coba, where the birding was excellent. Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallows were flying around the lake, and we called up several Ruddy Crakes in the shallow marshes on the other side of the road from the lake as we walked from the Villa Archeologia to the Park entrance. The first bird seen inside was a Turquoise-browed Motmot (the only time we saw it on the entire trip). We drove from Coba to Uxmal in a day, stopping off at Chichen Itza (not much good for birds). Excellent views of Yellow-lored Parrot at Uxmal. From there we headed north to Progreso. White-lored Gnatcatcher was common in the slightly taller scrub. In the low scrub behind the beach houses we found a party of Yucatan Wrens, and saw 1 female plumaged Mexican Sheartail. 100s of Flamingos. Finally, to Rio Lagartos. We had great difficulty getting through Tizimin because the signed roads all run through the central square which was closed for market day. In Rio Lagartos, we stayed in the pictureque Hotel that was strictly out of the Addams family. We birded out towards Los Coronados. Half a dozen Sheartails, but none in male plumageplus assorted Orioles.

At Tikal, Crested Guan was plentiful around the Jungle Lodge, and of course Ocellated Turkeys were all over the place on the periphery of the park.. I saw male and female Orange-breasted Falcons perched on the big dead spar just as you enter the trees on the main track into the ruins. That was the only time I saw them, and a local American guide said that the increasing numbers of Vultures attracted to the pyramids by the rubbish left by Tourists were pushing the Falcons out. I got on to an ant swarm on the first morning, which produced excellent views of Mexican Antthrush (F. moniliger, split from F.analis by Howell & Webb). Also Gray-headed Tanager, Tawny-winged and Ruddy Woodcreepers.

I later called in a Tody Motmot on the track behind Temple V. With the tape, it was easy to call in Scaly-throated Leaf-tosser. I found one bird about 200m down the track to Temple VI from the main track. Incidentally, on the first morning I got blasted with chiggers. I had not put on the repellent that morning because of the plane flight to Flores, and when I could not get into my room at the Jungle Lodge until 1pm went out without repellent.

I birded along the airstrip several times, and also along the very wet path at the end of it. The airstrip was good for Brown-throated Parakeet, Hummingbirds, and also I saw Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. In the low wet forest with an understory of palms along the track at the end of the airstrip, I had Stub-tailed Spadebill(also seen in the Park), male and female Dusky Antbirds, and heard Slaty-breasted Tinamou.

A walk along the track to Uaxactun yielded Thrush-like Schiffornis, White-whiskered Puffbird, male Red-capped and female White-collared Manakins, Russet Antshrike, male Gray-throated Chat and Purple-crowned Fairy.

By this stage I was getting worried about not having seen Great Curassow. I had been told to look on the north-east side of the park, and had searched in that area for several hours each day without success. The American guide suggested that I should look in the area behind the Mundo Perdido. And at last, at 5 pm I found a female roosting in a big tree. To reach the spot, take the path to the Mundo Perdido, go up the steps to a sign to Mundo Perdido and Plaza 7 Templos. Turn to your left and look in the big tree half way down the bank.

On my last morning, I finally found two Yellow-winged Tanagers in a fruiting tree along the edge of the main plaza, and also found Rufous Piha and Rufous Mourner one after the other. The last bird I saw was a nice male White-collared Manakin along the road into Tikal.

I hope to be able to get another two weeks at the same time next year, and am tossing up between Oaxaca and Jalisco or maybe some Caribbean islands.

Good Birding.

John Penhallurick
Office: Faculty of Communication, University of Canberra, PO Box 1, BELCONNEN
Home:86 Bingley Crescent, FRASER, ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA
Snail Mail: U of Canberra address(above) or PO Box 3469, BMDC,BELCONNEN,ACT
Phone: BH 61 6 201 2346
AH 61 6 258 5428

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