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THE YUCATAN PENINSULA

Wednesday 15th February - Sunday 26th February 2017

Eustace Barnes

Ocellated Turkey (Euscace Barnes)

Ocellated Turkey (Euscace Barnes)

‘Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula; azure skies, azure seas and endless sun kissed beaches. A holiday paradise with the magical ruins of the mystical Mayan culture to visit, if you must drag yourself away from all the fun at the beach’. I read it somewhere, sounded awful. Generally, the sort of place to avoid at all costs but best not prejudge the issue, we wouldn’t want to be thought of as prejudiced. After all, there are always quiet narrow roads that thread through pleasant agricultural landscapes or wild deserts, marshes and forests where one can enjoy the spectacle of nature at work. Well I like to think so. As it happens we did find quite a number of great places and enjoyed a surprising number of wildlife spectacles given the tide of humanity that ebbs and flows through the region, bent on nothing more than getting sunburnt and piling on the pounds. As well as scouring the peninsula for its endemic birdlife, we also visited several impressive ruins of once great Mayan cities set in excellent tracts of dry forest. The birdlife was generally prolific and it was somewhat easy to find all the endemics in short order making the need to revisit the region quite unnecessary. A blessing, some might think.

Highlights, we had a few. Starting almost immediately, we enjoyed a great introduction to the region’s birdlife in the hotel parking lot! The first bird of the tour was Yucatan Jay followed by Yucatan Woodpecker along with a bewildering array of Oriole plumages. Exploring the abandoned housing complexes of Isla Cozumel, we picked up all the endemics, culminating in finding the often elusive Cozumel Wren. Dawn in the deserts south of Rio Lagartos was very birdy, with good views of Yucatan Wren and Mexican Sheartail. The Vigia Chico road produced a spectacular antswarm, at which we found all of our targets species. Our night birding here gave us a Mottled Owl and a couple of Yucatan Poorwills giving a nice highlight ‘bundle’. At Calakmul we saw 33 Ocellated Turkeys, 4 Great Curassows and 5 Thicket Tinamous one morning! A mega ant swarm here gave us spectacular views of Rufous-naped Wood-Rail and Northern Royal Flycatcher amongst a mass of others jostling for poll position.

Yucatan Woodpecker (Eustace Barnes)

Yucatan Woodpecker (Eustace Barnes)