Sunday 25 June 2023

Yucatan - Day 1 - Tulum to Becan

It had taken a fair bit of time to get out of Cancun airport and collect the car, and then the drive south was also quite slow which meant we had reached Tulum after dark. The bird list I think stood at four, all seen at the Avis depot - Tropical Kingbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Great-tailed Grackle and Grey-breasted Martin. It was time to get started properly!

Ideally I had wanted to stay in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, but had decided - correctly - that it would be too much of a drive that first evening. As a result this meant an early start to get to the bottom of the Camino Vigia Chico which starts on the town's eastern edge. It was very easy to find, all of a sudden a wide urban street just stops, narrows, and then a single lane track heads into the forest. Fantastic! It had just got light, and we were in prime habitat. Our progress down the road was glacial as you might expect, stopping every time we heard calls, or saw movement. There were birds everywhere, but it was nonetheless extremely hard work to pin them down and get positive identification. In five hours we did not even reach 50 species, although we likely saw way more than that we were being quite strict, it was after all only day one and there was plenty of time. 

A Cenote at dawn. Full of frogs and no birds!

Before we left I had printed off a number of eBird checklists for the main sites we were planning on birding, and actually we managed to find a lot of the good stuff that I had been hoping for, including Black CatbirdYucatan Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Orange Oriole and Rose-throated Tanager. There were also good numbers of American Wood Warblers, I am not if they were wintering here on already on their way back and the Yucatan was just a stop-over. It lent a bit of familarity to the proceedings at any rate. The full checklist is here for those interested. I am not entirely how far we got down the track, certainly only a small amount, but the habitat seems very uniform so driving the whole thing seemed unnecessary. In any event we had a very long way to go that day, so even by staying here all morning we were probably already behind schedule. I should also mention that this was a birding trip first and foremost, with photography a distant second, as is almost always the case when visiting an area for the first time. The really big lenses had been left behind and I used what I affectionately call my toy camera to try and photography birds for identification purposes. This is why they are terrible.

Roadside Hawk, a very common raptor

Rose-throated Tanager, a Yucatan endemic

Gartered Trogon

We stopped briefly at Laguna Noh-Bec, but this was vast, and in the middle of the day, very quiet, so we decided to get a few miles behind us until it cooled down. This took us to the Santa Elena border crossing to Belize at Subteniente Lopez, where we hoped to be able to walk across and get a country tick. No dice. There are two bridges and we were turned back at the first as this was apparently one-way, for people crossing into Mexico from Belize. Instead we were directed to the larger bridge but this was for vehicle traffic only and we couldn't take our hire car across. What you can do if you have the time is do it via taxi, but that was too much of a hassle. I made sure to tick a few birds that were definitely on the far side of the Hondo river, and we left it at that and went birding along the shore at Chetamul instead where we added things like Brown Jay, Grey Plover, Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant and Great Blue Heron. As we left the town just before dark for the final leg of our journey a Ringed Kingfisher flew over the car, our 62nd and final bird of the day. The drive to Rio Bec Dreams at Becan was uneventful and we ate somewhere along the way at another truck stop. Straight to bed as we needed another early start to make the access road to Calakmul first thing.

Roadside tacos

Rio Bec Dreams hotel in Becan


  1. I wonder how many of your readers, aside from myself, did a truly mahoosive double-take and read Ivory-billed Woodpecker instead of Woodcreeper...