16th, 19th & 20th December 2018 - Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

For a break before Christmas, I found a cheap flight and headed to Mexico for the first time.  I planned a small itinerary travelling around the Yucatan Peninsula, with a couple of days allocated to birding.  My first full day was spent on a boat tour of a small part of the Sian Ka'an reserve, south of Tulum, on the east coast of the peninsula.  As would be expected, there were many water birds, with Little Blue Heron, Osprey and Magnificent Frigatebird amongst them.  The first lifer of the trip for me was the lovely Couch's Kingbird - similar to the Tropical Kingbird, it was once classed as a subspecies of the latter.

Common Black Hawk
Beautiful view with a Great Egret
5 buses and 2 days of sightseeing later, I arrived at Rio Lagartos, where I was to spend a delightful 24 hours.  The first thing to do (after a couple of beers, a huge plate of ceviche and a lifer in the form of Mexican Sheartail) was to get out in the boat for the afternoon, where we saw a lot of the same species as my boat trip at Sian Ka'an, but it's always a delight to see birds no matter how recently you've last seen them!   Notable additions were Willet and Royal Tern, as well as a lone Reddish Egret.

Mexican Sheartail
Reddish Egret
As we were whizzing along the edge of the water I spotted a falcon shaped blob at the top of a tree a little inland and asked if we could go back.  As we slowly got closer to the spot I thought I had seen, it, I worried it had already flown but we rounded a bush and there was a gorgeous Laughing Falcon, a lifer! 

Laughing Falcon
Yellow-crowned Night-heron

A little further into the area, we stopped at a small jetty and had a wander into the mangroves.  I spotted a Coati (a first for me) and a few smaller birds - Hooded Warbler and American Redstart.  A Morelet's Crocodile lazed next to the boardwalk and I saw my first Yucatan Woodpecker, although it was rather far away!  As we got back into the boat a Boat-billed Heron took flight from just metres away. 

American Flamingo
A point of interest came up during the afternoon boat trip when the Yucatan Nightjar was mentioned in passing - having no access to a car meant I had written off seeing this endemic.  I was informed it was regularly seen around the reserve at night, so the second I hopped off the boat, I signed up for the night boat tour.  

Over beers and quesadillas that evening, I got chatting with a delightful Californian couple who run an organic farm and two friends from Denmark, who sounded like they were having the trip of a lifetime after a semester of study in the USA.  I managed to persuade them all that a nighttime boat trip was exactly what they needed in their lives and after stocking up on more beers in an ice box we headed out on the water.

The two main aims were the nightjar for me and crocs for everyone else.  Within minutes we came across a Yucatan Nightjar and throughout the next couple of hours we probably saw around 10 and were able to get remarkable views (obviously not translated in my photos, because I am an abysmal photographer).  A few distant glimpses of crocodiles were seen (the slightly more aggressive American Crocodile this time), but it took until the last hour to get close enough to see any detail beyond the glare of their eyes in the torchlight.   A family of Racoons foraging, a pair of Black Skimmer and a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron completed the list as we raced back to shore.

Yucatan Nightjar
It was up bright and early the next morning for a delicious breakfast and to have a wander around on land.  Almost straight away there was a lifer in Zenaida Dove, followed by the stunning Yucatan Jay (was too in awe to get a photo, but google it!) and Yucatan Wren in close succession.  Lots of smaller birds were around, with Scrub Euphonia and Canivet's Emerald darting around my head.  After adding plenty more to my list, including the most adorable flock of Yucatan Bobwhite, it was time to hop on another couple of buses to get to Cancun in time for my ridiculous dinner of 20 courses...

Yucatan Wren

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