Three Halfdays Birding-Northern Yucatan
This three half day birding tour was specially designed for Jane Crawford an old friend from the Crooked Tree area in Belize. Since Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula are very similar, we decided to focus on the northern part of the Yucatan state, which is a great area for migratory species but also home to some very restricted endemics such as the Yucatan Wren, Yucatan Gnatcatcher and Mexican Sheartail.
On the first day, we drove to a road with ranches and dry forests just 15 minutes away from Mérida, this combination of the two habitats is great for a wide variety of species. In just about an hour birding there we got 44 species, some of the highlights included: Plain Chachalaca, Black-throated Bobwhite, Groove-billed Ani, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yucatan Woodpecker, White-fronted Parrot, Olive-throated Parakeet, Rose-throated Becard, Mangrove Vireo, Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Gnatcatcher, Scrub Euphonia, Olive Sparrow, Orange Oriole, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator.
After our first stop, we moved to the coast in the look for the endemic and endangered Mexican Sheartail. Fortunately for us, I have found a perch for this bird a couple weeks ago, so we just went straight to that place and there it was, a beautiful male Mexican Sheartail. While the Sheartail was the star of the show, we also came across some other cool birds like: Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Turnstone, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, a leucistic Brown Pelican, Tropical Kingbird, Yucatan Wren, Mangrove Warbler.
Male Mexican Sheartail (Doricha eliza) feeding on cactus flowers.
After our visit to the coast, on the way back to Mérida, we made a stop at one of the Ecological parks of the city to add some more birds to the list. Some of the highlights included: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Least Grebe, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Great Egret, Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, House Wren, Bronzed Cowbird, Melodious Blackbird, Yellow Warbler and Blue-gray Tanager.
For the second day, we left Mérida around 5:30 am for a 1 hour drive towards Celestún. Before actually going into Celestún we made a stop on a road with dry forests and some ranches on the way where we added some species to the list like: Hooded Oriole, Yellow-faced Grassquit and Black-headed Saltator.
When we arrived in Celestún, we made a quick stop at the information center, there, we spotted about 75 American Flamingos and some other cool birds like Cinnamon Hummingbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, White Ibis, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Olive-throated Parakeet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Altamira Oriole, Northern Waterthrush and both subspecies of Yellow Warbler (Mangrove and Northern).
Then another stop at a big mudflat where we added birds like Blue-winged Teal, Greater Yellowlegs, Neotropic Cormorant, American White Pelican, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret, Green Heron and Green Kingfisher.
After that, we went to check on the harbor, there weren’t many birds but still managed to spot a Yucatan Gnatcatcher, some Savannah Sparrows and a couple Palm Warblers.
We moved to the Campeche side of Celestun since this place is right in the border between two states in the Peninsula. It was still the same kind of habitat but in a less visited area. Highlights included: Common Ground Dove, Mexican Sheartail, Anhinga, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Couch’s Kingbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Mangrove Swallow, Yucatan Gnatcatcher, Yucatan Wren, House Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Bronzed Cowbird, Hooded Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Cardinal.
A pair of Yucatan Wrens (Campylorhynchus yucatanicus) in Celestún.
Before leaving Celestun, we did a little extra birding on the Yucatan side, just checking some estuaries and some other good areas. We came across some really interesting birds like Canivet’s Emerald, Wilson’s Phalarope, Whimbrel, Crane Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Yucatan Gnatcatcher, Yucatan Wren and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator but definitely the icing on the cake was a perched Hook-billed Kite that posed for us for about 5 minutes, we took several pictures from the car window!
Hook-billed Kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus) cleaning its beak after a nice meal.
After that we went back to Mérida.
For our last day, we went to Sisal, one of the many great spots for birding just one hour away from Mérida. We arrived there at sunrise and with our first stop at the beach we picked up a few shorebirds and gulls, including: Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Magnificent Frigatebird and a Mangrove Warbler.
Then we did a little circuit walking around the mangroves, coastal dune and estuaries for about 2 km in a couple hours, it was a very productive spot as we picked up 69 species. Highlights included: Northern Shoveler, American Flamingo (about 800), Common Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Mexican Sheartail, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail Black , Black-necked Stilt, Whimbler, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Lesson’s Motmot, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Ringed Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Yucatan Jay, Mangrove Swallow, Yucatan Wren, Gray Catbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Northern Cardinal.
Turquoise-browed Motmots (Eumomota superciliosa).
After a very productive start, we made a couple stops on a few different habitats to pick up some other species. Some of the highlights from the rest of the trip include: Plain Chachalaca, Black-throated Bobwhite, Solitary Sandpiper, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Zone-tailed Hawk, Yucatan Gnatcatcher, Yellow-billed Cacique, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler.
We returned to Mérida and that was the end of the trip for us. On three halfdays we managed to get 134 different bird species with endemics, resident and migratory birds.
I want to thank Dr. Jane Crawford for choosing Yucatan Birding Tours for both of her birding trips in the Yucatan Peninsula!
Written by Luis Trinchan Guerra