Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Tag

2014 – what a great year!   Leave a comment

2014 has been a great year, full of foreign travel, great birding/ringing and social events. Fortunately there have been no serious issues, so the year has passed without major problems.

This post just summarises some of the highlights; more photos and discussion of each subject can be found on the blog.

During the year the companionship of my family (see the Christmas photo below) and my many friends (be they from school or university days, or birders and ringers here at home or people I have met on foreign trips) has greatly added to the quality of life. There have been a number of social events and musical concerts, many of which I have illustrated on this site.


IMG_4075 unwrapping presents

When at home much of my time has been taken up with bird ringing, either around Poole or at Durlston Country Park. We have ringed well over 5000 birds in this area and have amassed a lot of useful data. We have been notified of lots of interesting recoveries some of which I intend to post here in due course. The photo shows a male Bearded Tit photographed at Lytchett Bay.

IMG_1303 beardie

British birding and twitching has taken a bit of a back seat this year. I recorded 223 species in the UK, quite a bit less than usual and most of my birding has been following up other peoples sightings. I have only added one species to my British list – this Baikal Teal seen in Cambridgeshire in March, one to my Dorset list – a Hooded Crow on Portland and one to my Poole Harbour list – a Great White Egret.

IMG_1272 Baikal Teal

Foreign travel has dominated the year. I did eight tours through the year, although this was just seven trips from home as two were taken back to back, and birded in eleven different countries. I recorded 1515 species in total and had 199 life birds. This brings my life list to 7870 following the IOC checklist or 74.5% of the world’s birds. According to the ‘list of lists’ on the Surfbirds website this gives me the 27th highest life in the world, but I know that there are quite a number of birders who do not submit their lists and think I’m more like 50th in the world. Even so, I consider that to be a great achievement and well worth the cost and physical effort involved, and although it hasn’t required much skill on my part, as I have mainly seen these birds on guided tours, I am very pleased to have progressed so far.

For each tour taken in 2014 I have included two photos below, one of the scenery and one of a notable  species.

The first trip was in February to Oman to search for the newly described Omani Owl, wonderful scenery, although long hours were spent in the dark before we eventually got good views. No photos were obtained of the owl so I have included a shot of two critically endangered Sociable Lapwings that were also seen on the tour.





In March I did two trips to Mexico back to back. The first was to the delightful El Triunfo cloud forest reserve in Chiapas. The first photo shows dawn at the clearing where we stayed, the second the incredible Horned Guan, which was the 10,000th bird species Birdquest had seen on their tours.

IMG_0176 El triunfo



The second Mexico tour was to the Yucatan where we enjoyed the Mardi Gras festival and climbed to the top of some Mayan ruins as well as some stunning birds like the Ocellated Turkey.

IMG_1084 Anne and Martin at Calakmul

IMG_1033 Ocellated Turkey


The most varied trip and in some ways the most enjoyable was the drive from North Carolina to the Canadian border that Margaret and I did in May/June. We enjoyed birding in southern woodland and the Appalachians, did pelagic trips off Cape Hatteras, went sightseeing in Washington and New York, birded in the boreal forests of New Hampshire and the coast of Maine as well as visiting a number of friends. I have yet to edit all these photos so I there should be more posts from this most photogenic trip still to come. Below – the Statue of Liberty and a Black Bear seen in North Carolina.

IMG_0094 Statue of Liberty

IMG_0210 Black Bear


In May/June I had another great trip, this time to Borneo. One of the highlights was seeing the last bird family for my list, Bornean Bristlehead, but the four new species of Pitta came a close second. There was a really good selection of mammals too. The photos show dawn at Danum Valley and Blue-banded Pitta.

P1120162 Danum

P1120091 Blue-banded Pitta2


In late August my friend Roger and I had a week in the Azores concentrating on pelagic trips off the island of Graciosa. The highlight for me was seeing two new species of storm-petrel, Monteiro’s and Swinhoe’s The former is shown below along with storm clouds off the coast of Graciosa.


IMG_5609 Monteiro's SP


The longest and hardest tip of the year was to northern Madagascar and the Comoros in September/October.  Good birds and mammals abounded but roads were poor in places, transport unreliable, journeys were long and accommodation was variable. The photos below shows sunset over Lake Kincloy, the site of the rare Sakhalava Rail, but the bird of the trip was the wonderful Helmeted Vanga seen earlier on the trip on the Masoala Peninsula.

IMG_0759 Kincloy Sunset

IMG_0329 Helmet Vanga


The final trip in November/December was to southern Argentina. This highly scenic trip was most enjoyable and produced some great birds. The photos show the Moreno Glacier in Glacier National Park and the critically endangered Hooded Grebe. I have still to upload the final installment of this trip but will be on this blog within a few days.

IMG_3559 Glacier NP

IMG_3885 Hooded Grebes


All of these trips are illustrated in more detail on the blog. Feel free to scroll back through the year. Happy New Year – here’s to a successful and enjoyable 2015.

Posted January 3, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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19th – 28th February 2014 – El Triunfo National Park, Chiapas, Mexico   Leave a comment

When I returned from Mexico I uploaded a short summery of the trip to my blog. Having now edited all the pictures I am now uploading a batch from the first part of the trip: El Triunfo National Park in the state of Chiapas.

Photos of the two key birds of the area, the Horned Guan and Resplendant Quetzal, have already been uploaded in March.

IMG_0008 Sumidero Canyon

Our tour started at the scenic Sumidero Canyon near to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. In the afternoon we drove to Galtnango, a small town within striking distance of El Triunfo.


On route we picked up a number of widespread birds for the trip list, including some distant, gulls, herons and pelicans on this reservoir.

IMG_0061 Laughing Falcon

The following morning we drove to the base of the trail that leads up the Atlantic slope of El Triunfo, seeing many good birds, including this Laughing Falcon on route.


About midday started the long climb to the park HQ, it was a 12km hike and a 730 m climb, pretty tiring but not too bad at a slow birding pace. With the exception of the park buildings, this was the last view we were to have of human habitation or activity for the next week.



All our luggage and food went up on horseback.

IMG_0071 Singing Quail

We were very lucky to get such good views of this Singing Quail.



Our excellent local guides, Amy and Jorge and the El Triunfo HQ. We were able to stay in dormitory accommodation for our four nights here.


IMG_0176 El triunfo

Each morning the rising sun illuminated overnight mist in the clearing.



Usually walking the trails was quite easy, but there were some obstacles!


IMG_0142 WF Quail-dove

Extraordinarily shy, we had given up hope of seeing White-faced Quail-dove until one was found visiting the compost heap at the back of the kitchen, but it still took a couple of hours of patient observation before it put in an appearance.

IMG_0109 Emerald Toucanet

Emerald Toucanet has been split into five species, the nominate form in Mexico keeps the original English name.


IMG_0189 Fulvous Owl

We had great views of the endemic and very localised Fulvous Owl at night but struggled to get decent photos. Fortunately we came across this obliging individual in the daytime a few days later.



IMG_0104 El Triunfo

Trees draped in moss and bromeliads (air plants) typify these cool mountain forests.



After three full days on the Atlantic side of the park we said goodbye at dawn and climbed another 150m to the Continental Divide and started our decent of the Pacific slope …


… where we were immediately plunged into dense cloud and so missed out on views of the distant Pacific Ocean.


IMG_0261 Gartered Trogon

A male Gartered Trogon


IMG_0207 El Triunfo

Eventually we dropped below the cloud. The slopes are not deforested by locals but by the regular landslides that occur on these precipitous ridges.



IMG_0198 Tody Motmot

The diminutive Tody Motmot is a rare inhabitant of the Pacific slope. Other great birds included the little known Cabanis Tanager, Long-tailed Manakin and …


IMG_0267 Yellow-winged Tanager

… this Yellow-winged Tanager caught having an early morning stretch



On the Pacific slope we had to camp at three different sites on consecutive nights. On the left is Bob Higbie from North Carolina who has been visiting Mexico since the early sixties. Mark van Beirs (right) was the tour leader and Birdquest managing director Mark Beaman (standing) came along to document the 10,000 species for the Birdquest life list.

IMG_0296 Crossing river

On the last morning we left the camp, crossed the river and walked along fairly open ground to our transport. we were back in ‘civilisation’. Much of the rest of the day was spent birding in open habitat and farmland scrub as we made our way back to Tuxtla Guttierez.


IMG_0299 Grey Hawk

Several Grey Hawks were seen over the open areas.


IMG_0303 Wren

Giant Wrens lived up to their name

IMG_0309 Rosita's Bunting

The exquisite Rosita’s (or Rose-bellied) Bunting was a life bird for me but it didn’t pose well for photos.

IMG_0331 Orange=breasted Bunting

Female Orange-breasted Buntings were pretty enough ….

IMG_0328 Orange-breasted Bunting

… but the males were just mind blowing!

After an excellent days birding we over-nighted in Tuxtla before heading to the airport, most of the group flew home, but Mark van Beirs, Riita and myself flew to Mexico City and then on to Cancun for the second part of our trip – the Yucatan peninsula.

El Triunfo had been a truly excellent place to go birding, great birds, great scenery and great company. The hiking and camping was quite tiring but it was a price well worth paying for such an excellent trip


Posted April 16, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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!