Tuesday 27 June 2023

Yucatan - Day 3 - Becan to Buenavista - Hormiguero and Kohunlich

The trip list stood at exactly 100 after two days of birding interspersed with driving - we had already covered half the distance that we had planned, and thus the return, spread over three days, could be a little more relaxed. We started the day at another Mayan site, Hormiguero. This is just south of Xpujil, and the entrance road has pretty good birding. As you approach there is a small pond on your left hand side, and a bit of time here added a Solitary Sandpiper on the margins, a group of five Blue Ground Dove, some Blue-winged Teal, an American Moorhen and a Great Blue Heron and a Belted Kingfisher amongst other things. Only a short distance away a more open area just before the ruins started proved extremely birdy - a group of eight Collared Aracari suprised us by flying over the road, White-throated Parrots too, and overhead a Vaux's Swift cruised around. A pair of Blue Buntings were feeding in the weedy margins, a world lifer, just like that.

Bat Falcon. A shame I missed the Toucan!

The ruins themselves were excellent, and we were the only visitors (there is no entrance fee). A Masked Tityra was near the car park, as well as two Clay-coloured Thrush. A distant Parrot at the top of the tree proved on closer inspection to be a White-Crowned Parrot, and close to the largest structure a Keel-Billed Toucan flew over a perched Bat Falcon - pretty monster! There were at least four Black-headed Trogon's and generally this was just a really productive little site.

Roadside Hawk, Hormiguero

We drove the access road out very slowly, stopping where we saw or heard activity. One of these stops flushed eight Singing Quail from the verge, and there were a couple of Yellow-billed Cacique knocking around. Once again American Wood Warblers were numerous - Black-and-White Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart. Where the entrace track meets the proper road there is a small amount of agriculture, and around these fields we found Wood Thrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Blue-black Grassquit, and both Black-headed and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator. Two huge and distant raptors resolved themselves into King Vultures and a flock of 15 Olive-throated Parakeet flew over and landed briefly to feed. All this and it was only just past 9am.

Olive-throated Parakeet

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Back towards Xupjil we noticed some shallow pans we had missed on the way down - Least Sandpiper, three Killdeer, five Cattle Egret, a Pied-billed Grebe and two more Solitary Sandpiper. We were on fire! Back in Xupjil we elected to try a spot we had seen on eBird, the Maya Balam Hotel. This is a non-descript building on a residential street, but there were a number of fruiting and flowering trees which held a selection of good birds. I cannot remember now what drew us to this hotel - whatever it was we did not see it - but the birds we did see were terrific! Four species of Oriole (Black-cowled, Orchard, Hooded and Baltimore), three Yellow-winged Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, and five Yellow-throated Euphonia made for some great birding. We checked the Laguna which had a handful of hirundines and a Little Blue Heron before reluctantly heading east and back towards Chetamul.

Snail Kite

Grey Hawk

We stopped frequently where the habitat looked good, often where there was a little water. In this way we added Northern Jacana, Wilson's Snipe, a Grey Hawk, Rose-throated Becard and Morelet's Seedeater at what were basically 'nothing' spots by the side of the main road. A larger water body 4km to the west of Nicolas Bravo was even more productive, with Limpkin, Green Heron, a Snail Kite, and multiple commoner birds. 


We were in no particular hurry, but as ever we were not making as much progress east as we had planned and so didn't arrive at the Kohunlich ruins until 2.30pm. These are some more impressive and extensive ruins - requiring a ticket - and more manicured than Calakmul. There was even a guided tour in progress, but this proved no impediment to good birding even though it was quiet in the middle of the day. One particular flowering tree held a good number of Yellow-throated Euphonia, and also a pair or Red-capped Manakin. Pale-billed Woodpecker was a new one for the trip, good views in a huge tree. The highlight from my persepective was a Royal Flycatcher along a shady path, a bird Mick had glimpsed along the Camino Vigia Chico but that I had missed. Loads more American Warblers here - the Yucatan is essentially crawling with them at this time of year. We spent the rest of the afternoon around this area before driving east and then north to Buenavista, where I had booked a hotel for the night. It had been a great day of fairly relaxed birding, and the trip list now stood at 141 after three days.
Royal Flycatcher

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