This will be my last trip report for our Yucatan trip. I haven’t covered all the birding I did. Cozumel was a bust birding-wise, mainly for transport reasons. I did see a lifer Black Catbird, and the Magnificent Frigatebirds (and flying fish) from the ferry were cool. The Xel-há ruins northwest of Tulum looked like a great spot, but it was pouring rain when I arrived at 3:00 (until 3:45), and the site closed at 4:00pm. Still, I found a Black-headed Trogon and a lifer Yellow-throated Euphonia.
Muyil: Great Birding Spot, Bad Timing
Muyil is another set of Maya ruins. It is about 20 minutes from Tulum, in the direction of Belize. The eBird hotspot for Muyil has over 300 species. I was pleasantly surprised that my oldest son decide to come with me. This made the trip as much another chance to explore the world with my oldest son as it was to do some birding. We arrived at the site at 3:15 in the afternoon. Despite the time of day, and windy weather, the birding was pretty good. The tall trees around the ruins were full of songbirds. We had 6 species of warbler in the first 15 minutes.
At the back of the ruins is a little wooden hut and the entrance to a 1/2 mile nature trail into a slice of the massive Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Sadly, the ticket man at the hut told us that he was going to shut the gates at each end of the trail in 10 minutes. Apparently, it closes at 4:00pm. He told us we could do the trail, he’d lock the gate behind us, and we could walk back via a dirt road. I was bummed by the news, figuring we’d be rushed down the trail as he followed behind us.
We walked the trail deliberately, but in no hurry. We looked behind us a few times, but never saw the ticket man. I wanted to stand in place and let the birds make themselves known, but that wasn’t in the cards. My son is a rule follower, and didn’t want us to get stuck in-between the gates (if you had seen either “gate” you’d know this wasn’t possible), While the sign along the trail promised a lot of wildlife, we didn’t get so lucky. The wind was picking up as we walked. Still, we saw Masked Tityra, White-eyed Vireo, a Brown Jay, and Yellow-throated Euphonia along the trail. As usual, we heard more birds than we saw.
One awesome attraction is the wooden observation tower halfway between the ruins and the lagoon. It has very steep steps, but seemed super sturdy to me. The tower tops out above the trees. Unfortunately, when we made it to the top, the winds were blowing pretty good, so there wasn’t any canopy bird activity. It had all the makings of awesome bird-viewing, though. I checked my watch – 4:15, and no sign yet of the ticket man. We stayed at the tower, reminiscing about a huge observation tower we climbed in China at a place called Yeyahu.
Eventually, the ticket man came down the trail and we moved on. The trail ends at a big lagoon. On the shore is another observation tower (it was closed because of the wind, or maybe because it was after 4:00). We didn’t see any birds on the water, or explore the shore. Since the trail gate was now closed, we walked back down the promised dirt road. There was a patch of good activity here. I picked up three lifers on the walk: Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Orange Oriole, and my only certain Yucatan Flycatcher sighting of the trip. We stopped at the Oxxo along the highway for cold drinks and snacks before hopping back in the car.
Overall, this is a great spot – diverse habitat in a small space. Our timing wasn’t great, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. The observation tower will be a long-lasting memory.