Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mexico - Playa del Carmen to Camino Vigia Chico

Feb 1

Having gotten into a bit of a routine at this point, we were up a little early and went for a wander around town, checking out my aunt and uncles' neighbourhood. This mostly turned up the expected common species, but held a few surprises including our first Plain Chachalacas of the trip along with Yellow-lored Parrot and Orange Oriole.

The beach near my aunt and uncles' place

After an early lunch we headed to the bus station to catch our bus to Felipe Carillo Puerto, where we stocked up on supplies, grabbed an early dinner and began the trek out to the famous Camino Vigia Chico. This is a little-travelled road which heads through a variety of habitats (forest, farmland, scrub, some small lakes) on its way to the Sian-Ka'an reserve. Carrying all of our gear as well as a few days' worth of supplies (food, water, etc) in the late afternoon heat wasn't all that fun but it was well worth the effort when we arrived! Along the road we had Blue Bunting, Yucatan Flycatcher, Canivet's Emerald and some Red-throated Ant-Tanagers while looking for a campsite. We eventually found a trail leading to a small clearing that wasn't visible from the road and didn't seem too well-travelled, so we pitched our tents, had a snack and went looking for night birds. We did pretty well on this front, hearing Yucatan Poorwill and Yucatan Nightjar along with a Northern Potoo before calling it a night.

Heading down the Camino Vigia Chico
Running trip total: 177

Feb 2

We were up before dawn, and hearing Yucatan Poorwill from inside my tent I knew it would be a good day! I will let the eBird checklist at the end do the talking for me on this front and just say that we picked up a good number of the Yucatan endemics (including our few remaining targets) along with getting our first taste of real tropical birding. Some of the main highlights were Singing Quail, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Gray-throated Chat and Rose-throated Tanager. We spent a solid 14 hours walking the road - the morning was spent wandering about 7km further in from our campsite and after lunch we walked most of the way back to the outskirts of town. I also had a chance to test out my Lifestraw water filter by drinking out of one of the little lakes at lunch. It seemed to work fine, I didn't get sick, and I subsequently used it to drink from at least one natural water source (usually more) in every country I visited (except Guatemala, I forgot to do it there...).

Taking a lunch break along the road

These kids were catching minnows in one of the small lakes

 In the late afternoon we spotted another pair of birders and went over to say hi and see what they had seen. It turned out that Josh and Kathy were stopping at the road for a few days as part of a MUCH larger trip. I had thought that my 7 weeks of travelling Central America was a bit nuts already but they had left home the previous June and ended up spending a little over a year in Central America, and are now trekking through South America - their exploits can be found at After chatting for a bit about our respective adventures and what birds we'd seen, they invited us for dinner and a beer (and a much-needed water bottle refill, thanks guys!!), after which we did some night birding. We got good looks at Yucatan Poorwill and Vermiculated Screech-Owl, but the Yucatan Nightjar proved elusive and we had it as a heard-only along with Northern Potoo and Mottled Owl. It turned out later that we all picked up a huge number of chiggers while wandering through the bush at night after various birds - not recommended! I feel like I should also mention at this point that we had left our tents up with most of our gear inside so that we could travel light during our hike down the road and back. We came back to find our tents still there, untouched, with everything still inside - I wouldn't necessarily recommend this but the road seems pretty safe, and the further in you go the fewer people you will encounter, although it would be a giant pain to hike that far in with all of your gear!

Wedge-tailed Sabrewing
Running trip total: 216

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