18th February – 12 March – Two very different sides to Mexico   Leave a comment

I have just returned from a double trip to Mexico, a two separate trips taken back to back.

The first was to the El Triunfo reserve in the southern state of Chiapas, close to the Guatemalan border. This huge area  covers 120,000 hectares of montane forest and is completely undeveloped. For eight days we hiked from the east side of the park to the west, climbing up to 2200m and dropping down to a few hundred metres asl on the Pacific side. We stayed in basic accommodation at the park HQ for four nights and camped for three nights at three separate sites.

It was a small group with just six clients, as well as leader Mark van Beirs we were accompanied by two local birders, Jorge and Amy. As this was a very important landmark for Birdquest, the 10,000th bird species ever to be recorded on one of their tours was expected on this trip, managing director Mark Beaman came along to document the event.

Birding was great, I personally recorded 272 bird species or which 47 were ‘life’ birds. There were many highlights, two of which are shown below, others will follow in due course.

IMG_0081-El-Triunfo

El Triunfo early morning mists over the park HQ. It was wonderful to spend a week in these cool, moss covered montane forests. Apart from the buildings at the HQ we saw no evidence of human activity what so ever, no  sounds from vehicles, planes, no localpeople, even no phone reception.

IMG_0074-Horned-Guan-b

The highlight of the trip came quite early, the first afternoon in fact. El Triunfo is the only accessible location where you can see the bizarre Horned Guan. This huge cracid was found making its deep booming call from a tree top at dusk. It was claimed that this was Birdquest’s 10,000th species but I have a sneaking suspicion that that was actually the unassuming Paltry Tyrannulet!

IMG_0170-Quetzal

Another key bird in the reserve is the Resplendant Quetzal. Birds here have an even longer tail than the better known birds from Costa Rica

The second tour was to the Yucatan peninsula. Mark and I flew to Mexico City and then on to Cancun where we met up with the rest of the group. Compared to El Triunfo, the contrasts in the terrain, habitat, physical effort, birds, group composition and level of isolation from the noise of the 21st century couldn’t have been greater. The Cancun and Cozumel area was particularly noisy, not only were they full of sun seeking tourists but it was the Mardis Gras festival and locals partied well into the night.

IMG_0223-Cozumel-carnival

The boat crossing to Cozumel took far longer than expected due to the large number travelling to the island to partake in Mardi Gras. We didn’t loose much birding time but had to queue for hours in the hot sun. That night the Mardis Gras procession went right past our hotel

IMG_0688-American-Flamingo

At Rio Lagartos on the north coast of the peninsula, we saw a wonderful range of water birds including flocks of beautiful American Flamingos

IMG_0825-Chichen-Itzen

No trip to the Yucatan would be complete without a visit to one of its famous Mayan ruins. Most tourists visit Chichen Itza (shown here) but we also visited Calakmul further south which is even more impressive and also has great birds like Ocellated Turkey and Great Curassow along the access road.

This is only a quick overview of the two tours. I have over a thousand photos to edit but first I must prepare a talk for the Dorset Bird Club AGM in ten days time, so it might take a little while!

 

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