This year for Spring Break, my family and I went to the Yucatan Peninsula (the state of Quintana Roo in particular) in Mexico. It was a fairly long trip with a lot of birding interspersed with other activities so I am just going to give you the highlights.
One of the highlights was going birding a botanical garden about 10 minutes up the road from where I was staying. Besides having some cool birds, this botanical garden also has a large number of spider monkeys. On the first trip we took the gardens we got very good looks at a group of these monkeys in the trees above us.
Also where the spider monkeys were was some sort of bat (if anyone knows what species it is post in the comments).
Another highlight from the botanical garden was on the second trip we made there. A man walked by me, saw my binoculars, and asked me, in Spanish, if I was watching birds (I don’t speak Spanish but he mimed using binoculars and said aves so I figured it out). We then pointed into a nearby tree, said something else in Spanish, and then said “trogon.” I followed where he was pointing and sure enough, there was a black-headed trogon! I have wanted to see a trogon for a long time and black-headed trogons were one of my most wanted birds I was hoping to see in Mexico. The man then gestured for me to follow and led me to an open space in the garden. There he proceeded to imitate a ferruginous pygmy owl. It wasn’t long before the owl itself flew to an exposed tree branch and started calling. After we got good looks at the owl, the man started to tell us things about the birds in the area. It was actually quite cool, using my dad’s limited Spanish, use of hand motions, and Google translate, we were actually able to understand each other quite well.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
The great thing about the hotel we were staying at is that the grounds were actually quite productive for birding. There were lots of tropical mockingbirds, plain chacalacas, social flycatchers, great ksikadees, orioles of numerous species, and Yucatan jays (definitely my most wanted species) on the grounds as well as many more birds.
Plain Chacalaca Trying to Blend in
Another highlight of my time in Mexico was going to the Coba Ruins. Besides being fantastic Mayan ruins, there are also a lot of birds at Coba. One of the first that we saw were clay-colored thrush. This is a bird I have seen before in Texas but it was cool seeing them in the Yucatan as they are a lot more common and behave quite differently.
Not long after we saw the thrush we found a gartered trogon which flew in and landed quite close to us in a tree. It took us a minute to realize that it had a fledgling sitting on the ground (which explained why it wasn’t flying off)!!
After that, we continued to tour the ruins looking for birds as we did so. We saw many birds, almost all of which were lifers for me. The high points were getting to see a calling black-headed trogon quite close to us, seeing three smoky-brown woodpeckers, listening to the awesome call of the yellow-olive flycatcher, finding a white-bellied emerald on a nest, watching a gartered trogon eating termites out of a nest, seeing stunning looks at a roadside hawk, and finding a ruddy woodcreeper. The only low point was getting an allergic reaction from the same kind of tree the woodpeckers were on…
Gartered Trogon Eating Termites
White-bellied Emerald (Taken from a respectful distance with a 500mm lens)
The final place that we went birding while we were in the Yucatan was near the small town of Fellipe Carillo Puerto. There is a road that runs out of this town which has very good forest birding.
On the drive in, we saw a tree on the side of the road with a large number of collared aricaris in it. We pulled over and scanned through the tree with binoculars. As we were scanning, two keel-billed toucans and a few brown jays flew in! Both toucan species were birds that I had been really hoping to see so I was quite excited when we actually got to see them.
Three Collared Aricaris
We eventually got to the town and had just entered into good birding habitat when a turquoise-browed motmot flew across the road briefly before taunting us by call just out of sight in the trees. Not long after that, we came across a flock of black-headed saltators as well as two masked tityras.
Further down the road we came across a mixed flock of mostly neotropical migrants that I am familiar with from PA. However, we did manage to find plain xenops, green-backed sparrow, and spot-breasted wren mixed in. Further down the road was pretty quite but it was still nice to be out in such a scenic, pretty setting.
Later that day as we drove back towards our hotel, we had to stop by Subway to see if it was any different in Mexico. It was surprisingly similar to any American Subway I have ever been in and I was able to enjoy a lovely 22 Peso 30 Centimeter as we drove back towards where we were staying.
Overall, it was a lovely trip with lots of cool birds, good food, friendly people, and great scenery. I definitely recommend the Yucatan to anyone looking for a good place to bird in Mexico, especially if you can get to some of the more remote and southern areas (which I wasn’t able to).