Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My First Mexican Christmas Bird Count

Eric writes:  I made it back from Mexico on Christmas eve; luckily before any of the heavy snow hit the Midwest.  Now, I am enjoying the snow after having been in 70-80 degree temperatures just a couple days ago.  There will be many stories and pictures to come in the next couple weeks but I will start off with how our trip ended with participating in a Christmas Bird Count in Rio Lagartos, Mexico.  

After travelling by bus through the night we arrived at the bus station in Rio Lagartos around midday.  Ethan had set up a boat trip out into the mangroves as well as a hotel for the two nights we would be spending in Rio Lagartos so we headed to the restaurant that was owned by the same guy, Diego.  We met Diego after eating at the restaurant and he mentioned that the Rio Lagartos CBC would be run on the 23rd.  We changed our plans slightly and were ready to help out.

Magnificent Frigatebirds on the sign for the restaurant-these birds were
incredibly tame.
A few people met at the hotel the morning of the CBC then we made a couple of quick stops while leaving town to go to our first spot.  We were all with Diego, the compiler of the count, as well as two university students that were studying tourism (I believe).  Our first stop was in the San Salvador Ranch area which is on the edge of the mangrove and desert scrub habitats.  We were all hoping to see Yucatan Bobwhite and Lesser Roadrunner which we had missed to that point.  We found both fairly quickly, so from there on all birds were just nice bonuses for our trip.

White-tailed Hawk-our first of the trip
Yucatan Bobwhite-an endemic to the Yucatan, male on the left, female on
the right

We were riding in a van through the morning but switched vehicles for the afternoon.  The front passenger window was not working on the van so it was tough birding from that seat (we had a few other problems with windows on our trip as well).  So, after a quick lunch, we hopped into the back of a pickup truck and were off.  This time we birded the road over to San Felipe which turned out to have many species.  

Birding out of the back of the pickup truck.

We had some great looks at hawks and waterbirds along this road including Common Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk-both of which can be seen in the US.  Some of the nice waterbirds included Limpkin, Least Bittern, and Sora.  We also had some egrets and herons, plenty of Tropical Mockingbirds, Tropical/Couch's Kingbirds, and orioles.

A very cooperative Common Black Hawk.

Our only Limpkin of the whole trip.
After birding this road we birded one more spot-the road out of Rio Lagartos heading inland.  This road turned out to be the road of long tailed birds.  We ended up seeing two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and a Turquoise-browed Motmot-one of my target birds for the Rio Lagartos area.  We also had a couple of nice raptors along this stretch of road, Laughing Falcon and Merlin.  Unfortunately, we had to leave in the early afternoon to catch a bus back to Cancun since we were flying out early the next morning.

More stories to come soon!

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