6 day trip for Edward Hagen
This five night and six day birding trip was designed for Edward Hagen, a well experienced birder who came to the Yucatan Peninsula looking for 18 bird species.
Ed arrived in Merida on May 31 around midday on a cloudy day, I went to pick him up at the airport and that was where our adventure started. We did a short drive to the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula looking for a very secretive bird, the Ruddy Crake (Laterallus ruber). The good thing for us was that I found a great spot for that bird a couple years ago and this one never dissapoints. As soon as we arrived to the spot we got to see not one, but two Ruddy Crakes together! Due to our success we still had some time to do some birding in the afternoon so we went to look for Yucatan Wren, Mexican Sheartail and Yucatan Gnatcatcher. We did see all of them but also, we were lucky enough to come across a small flock of Black-throated Bobwhites walking around the coastal dune.
So after our first afternoon we already had 5 target birds in our pockets, a good start for the trip!
Mexican Sheartail (Doricha eliza) an endemic and endangered species.
The next day, we did another short drive to a place with a combination of pastures and dry forest. We had three target birds to look for that morning. So as we started slowly driving we came across the first target bird of the morning, a couple Orange Orioles (Icterus auratus) were very active singing on top of some small trees. Then we made another stop to try for Yucatan Flycatcher (Myiarchus yucatanensis). We already had two of the three target birds for the morning so Ed told me that he would like to see our Carolina Wren, because this bird is a possible split in the future, so we went and looked for this "White-browed Wren". We certainly came across many of them but none really gave us a good look until I found one singing on top of a dead tree, that was just perfect! Ed said to me "that doesn't look at all like a Carolina Wren, has to be a different species!".
Orange Oriole (Icterus auratus) near Mérida.
So with 2 targets and an extra bird on the list we only needed one more bird, the Gray-throated Chat (Granatellus sallaei). Even though we heard at least two we didn't get to see one so we went to yet another spot where I had it a few weeks ago and luckily for us, the bird was still there!
As we got all of our targets for that day, we decided to drive towards Celestun to try our luck and look for the skulky Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. We spent a good amount of time trying but at last it didn't work out, anyways we got to see some other interesting birds including: Green-breasted Mango, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Common Black Hawk, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Olive-throated Parakeet, Mangrove Vireo.
As we failed to find the Wood-Rail, we decided to try again but now doing a canoe ride inside the mangroves, long story short, we didn't see the bird. Aparently the tide and the recent storms, made a great combination for the bird to find resources and food deep inside the mangrove forests of the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, probably to deep for us to reach any chances of seeing it.
Anyways, once again and after spending a good amount of time birding, we got to see many interesting birds like American Flamingo, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Ruddy Ground Dove, Couch's Kingbird, Mangrove Cuckoo, Boat-billed Heron, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and Mangrove Warbler.
We left Celestun and we drove towards Valladolid, where we would go out once again in the afternoon to try for the hardest birds on the list, the Nightbirds and the Thicket Tinamou.
That night, we came really close to see a Thicket Tinamou but as soon as it was about to come out of the vegetation a truck passed by and scared it and the bird was gone. We changed our attention to the two nightbirds on our list, the Yucatan Nightjar and Yucatan Poorwill. Luck was not on our side that day, as it started raining and we only got to hear the birds from far away. We didn't get any target birds that day, but still had some great birding, some of the highlights of the afternoon include: Lesson's Motmot, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Olivaceus Woodcreeper, Tropical Pewee, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Black Catbird, Olive Sparrow, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and Red-throated Ant-Tanager.
The next morning, we left Valladolid very early and drove for a couple hours to another birding hotspot where we were going to look for four target species. The first one we saw was the Green-backed Sparrow (Arremonops chloronotus) one of the two species in the genus found in the Yucatan Peninsula, they're easily misidentified so you need to have some experience or to study a little bit to separate them from Olive Sparrows. The other target species we found that day were the Mayan Antthrush, Stub-tailed Spadebill and the Wedge-tailed Sabrewing. We got great views of all of them and many other birds including: Scaled Pigeon, Red-billed Pigeon, Squirrel Cuckoo, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Emerald, Roadside Hawk, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Collared Aracari, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Masked Tityra, Royal Flycatcher, Northern Bentbill, Greenish Elaenia, Yucatan Flycatcher, Brown Jay, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, etc.
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing (Pampa curvipennis).
After a very productive morning we started moving to our next stop, Cozumel Island.
We got to the island and we went straight to the birding spot to look for out two target birds, the Cozumel Emerald and the Cozumel Vireo. After a couple hours there, we already had the two birds we needed plus many other cozumel endemics, some of the highlights include: White-crowned Pigeon, Lesser Nighthawk, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Caribbean Elaenia, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Yucatan Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black Catbird, Yellow Warbler (Golden), Bananaquit and Yellow-faced Grassquit.
Cozumel Island Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola caboti).
We returned from the island the next day and in the afternoon we went out again to try for the Thicket Tinamou and the nightbirds. For the first hour we dind't have any luck with the Tinamou and as soon as I was telling Ed that our window for that bird was probably gone while slowly driving on the trail, we came across three Thicket Tinamous! It was truly and unbelievable moment as they gave us some good 20 seconds, probably some of the best views I have ever had of these birds.
It got dark and the weather was way better than the other day, so we tried for the nightbirds and this time we got to actually see them, we finally got the Yucatan Nightjar and the Yucatan Poorwill on the list.
For our last day, as we already had all of our possible target birds and the Wood-Rail was not worth trying again, we had a late breakfast and went back to Merida so Ed, could be on time for his flight back to the US.
At the end of the trip, we managed to pull 17 out of 18 possible target birds and a total of 164 species during that time span.
Written by Luis Trinchan Guerra.