After weeks and weeks of discussions between a small group of us about going abroad and then the UK government barely putting anywhere on the Green List, we decided we’d try and sneak off for a few weeks. Well the few weeks led to a full month away, with our main destination of a mid-west USA clean-up trip being thwarted as we were not allowed to travel directly into the states. No problem though as we quickly came up with a fortnight’s birding in Mexico and then the rules stated we could enter the USA. Simple!
So we began with a whistle-stop tour of The Yucatan, kicking off in Cozumel Island where we cleaned up with Ruddy Crake, Yucatan Woodpecker, Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Vireo and Western Spindalis. Following an overnight stop we frove right to the south and visited the fabulous Calakmul Mayan ruins, notching up an awesome nightbirding session with Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Middle American Screech-Owl, Northern Potoo and Common Pauraque, with aCentral American Tapir as a bonus. Daytime birding was much more relaxed with 50+ Ocellated Turkeys along the road, a single Great Curassow and Mayan Antthrush. Heading north towards Valladolid we nailed Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Green-backed Sparrow and Rose-throated Tanager. Rio Lagartos was brilliant with Mexican Sheartail, Yucatan Bobwhite, Yucatan Wren, Lesser Roadrunner and Yucatan Gnatcatcher to round off a wonderful 5 days.
Our next area after a couple domestic flights was Chihuahua and more specifically the dry valleys centred around Madeira, with the ultimate prize of a pair of Eared Quetzals performing admirably after giving us more that a few nervous moments. Our other major target bird was more easily found, with several pairs of nesting Thick-billed Parrots seen in the hills. Other birds were numerous and we enjoyed many marvellous mixed feeding flocks containing such delights as Olive and Red-faced Warblers, Mountain and Elegant Trogons and many others. A very bold Whiskered Screech-Owl was the highlight of our night birding session here. A bonus spot of desert birding en-route back to Chihuahua saw us nail a highly unexpected Aztec Rail with chicks, along with Scaled Quail and Greater Roadrunner.
West Mexico is choc-full of great birds and none more so than Tufted Jay. Noteable species are many and varied but include a good selection of Mexican endemics and specialities: Elegant Quail, Military Macaw, Mexican Parrotlet, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Stygian Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Golden-crowned Emerald, Grey-crowned and Golden-cheeked Woodpeckers, Citreoline Trogon, Russet-crowned Motmot, Happy and Sinaloa Wrens, Pine Flycatcher, grey Silky-Flycatcher, Blue Mockingbird, White-striped Woodcreeper, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Golden Vireo, Red-headed Tanager, Yellow Grosbeak, Striped Sparrow, Black-headed Siskin, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, Green-striped Brush-Finch and Hooded Grosbeak.
Our final destination was Baja, California and in our almost 3 days we again cleaned up, seeing Least Storm-Petrel, Yellow-footed Gull, Elf Owl, Baja Pygmy Owl, Common Poorwill, Gilded Flicker, Xantus's Humingbird, Grey Thrasher, California Towhee, Belding's Yellowthroat, California Gnatcatcher, San Lucas Robin, California Scrub Jay and Baird's Junco.
Phew! It was a blast, a crazy journey visiting four distinctly different regions, taking in 7 domestic flights and seeing 326 different species, including at least 44 Mexican endemics.