Saturday, April 23, 2016

Birding the Yucatan Part I: Motmots and What-nots at Muyil

[April, 2016. Muyil Archeological Area]

The Muyil area is renowned not only for its Mayan archeological treasures but also its avian ones. A quick glance at eBird shows the wealth of species that may be expected here. This is due in no small part to the area's proximity with Reserva de la Biósfera Sian-Ka'an.

It is customary for this blogger to pre-warn the family that any vacation is subject to incurring a 1-day "birding tax" which involves the blogger's escape to engage in some quality birding time. In this instance, this blogger was fortunate to employ the services of an extraordinary birding guide, conservationist and a true world citizen, Miguel Amar Uribe to explore the birdlife of Muyil. When time is limited, the area and species unfamiliar, the right guide can make the difference between a spectacular birding excursion or a frustrating one. I learnt more, saw more and enjoyed more thanks to Miguel's efforts and knowledge.

We lead with the Motmot:

Turquoise-browed Motmot is one of 9 motmot species found in Central America. They belong to the same family as the Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers and are colorful birds of neotropical forests. The "brows" of the Turquoise-browed Motmot are much like the double crests of the Double-crested Cormorant (but in brilliant blue of course!).

Like Kingfishers and Bee-eaters, Motmots also nest in excavated burrows (the walls of Cenotes or sinkholes are a favored location) and while not sexually dimorphic, the male's tail is longer and is used as a semaphore in visual signaling.

The Masked Tityra is a a striking songbird -- white with a red mask bordered in black.

The female (above) is duller and shows more brown in the plumage. Earlier placed with Tyrant Flycatchers or Cotingas, this species is now placed in the Tityridae.

Bare-throated Tiger Heron is a much more familiar looking species. This sub-adult's cryptically striped plumage betrays the origin of its moniker.

Inca Jay looks like a Green Jay with a yellow iris -- it is considered a separate species. This colorful bird is as loud as its looks.

Trogons are a specialty of the tropics and Muyil did not disappoint -- two species were sighted: Gartered Trogon (above) and Black-headed Trogon (to feature in Part II).

Groove-billed Ani is a familiar species for those who are acquainted with it from Southern Texas where it ranges in the US:

Now, consider the following 2 Orioles:

Both orioles look almost identical -- but the top oriole is the Hooded Oriole and the lower is the Orange Oriole. Note that the Orange Oriole has a straighter bill, orange (not black) back and "handkerchiefs" on the wing (white patches further down from the wing bar). The Orange Oriole is a Yucatan endemic while the Hooded Oriole can be found all the way North into the Southwest US.

Other species included:

Olive-throated Parakeet:


Ruddy-ground Dove:

Red-legged Honeycreeper:

Rose-throated Becard (female and male):

Tropical Pewee:

Yellow-bellied Elaenia:

Yellow-throated Euphonia:

Yucatan Woodpecker (another Yucatan endemic):

Note that extensive yellow around the bill -- it otherwise resembles a smaller version of Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

We conclude this remarkable collection of species with an introduction to Miguel -- the person credited for making this blogger's first excursion into the neotropics successful:

Mexico is the neotropics in the US's own backyard -- and, thanks to the terrific tourist infrastructure of the Mexican Riviera, a trip to the Yucatan holds the prospect of great reward for the intrepid birder.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Birding the Yucatan: An Introduction

[April, 2016. Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico]

Spring Break is the annual ritual that is famous [some would say notorious] for its exercise in rowdy, youthful indulgence enacted with great merriment in warm climes. 

This blogger, in some contradiction to this well established convention, took the family on an "ecotrip" to the Yucatan to not only escape the stubborn winter of Michigan but to also partake of the many delights that the Riviera Maya region has to offer -- including, of course, the area's rich avifauna [in addition to the Mayan archeology and other cultural attractions].

This first post shall serve simply to introduce the reader to the birding locales and a sampling of the species encountered therein. 

Areas birded over the 6 day period:
  • Jardin Botanico (see link here)
  • Muyil and surroundings (more info here)
  • Hacienda Tres Rios (site of the blogger's lodging)
And, without further ado, here are some of the species that will highlight subsequent posts as we attempt to cover the amazing birdlife of the Yucatan peninsula:

First, the stunning Turquoise-browed Motmot seen at Muyil and Chichen Itza:

The endemic Yucatan Jay (observed at Jardin Botanico):

Black-hooded Trogon (Jardin Botanico):

Masked Tityra (Muyil):

And, the cryptic Bare-throated Tiger Heron:

All these birds were Lifers and, while this was not a "birding trip", it underscores the enormous potential for adding a plethora of neotropical species to one's lifelist. Stay tuned!