Tag: Yucatan (Page 1 of 2)

Yucatan, Mexico #4 – Birding Muyil

Maya Ruins Muyil


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.

Black-headed Trogon Muyil

Black-headed Trogon

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.

Muyil Sian Ka'an

A promising sign, but we did not see any of these animals

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.

Muyil Observation Tower

Observation Tower along trail, lagoon in distance

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.


Ruddy Ground-dove Muyil

Ruddy Ground-dove

Yucatan, Mexico #3 – Birding Tulum

Yucatan Jay Tulum

The endemic, and ubiquitous, Yucatan Jay

Aldea Zama: Birds Around our Tulum Condo

We spent the middle of our Yucatan trip in and around Tulum. It’s a former hidden eco-chic getaway that now suffers from its own success. Posh (i.e. WAY-overpriced) hotels and chic-ly named condominiums dominate. The visitors are a bunch of broke ravers and DJ aficionados alongside hedge fund bros in white linen and yoga ladies on bikes. Tulum itself is not a birding hotspot. Still, there’s beauty and adventure to be had. There are several sets of ruins within a short drive (Coba and Muyil). Tulum has beachfront ruins. The amazing-looking Sian Ka’an Preserve is near. The highlight of the area for us was, by far, the cenotes – limestone sinkholes filled with crystal clear water. Some are great for snorkeling. Others offer scuba diving. Tankatch Ha, near Coba, is a cave almost 100 feet down from the surface, and has a platform for jumping in (highly recommended). The cenotes are unique, dazzling, and magical. Don’t miss them. And the beach is nice if that’s your jam.

We stayed in a rental in an area known as Aldea Zama. It’s a big flat area of jungle between town and the beach that has turned into a theme park of condominium complexes. Don’t get me wrong – we loved having air conditioning, a kitchen and a couch, and a nice swimming pool outside our door for our five night stay. When a couple family members felt sick for a couple of days, the condo was a trip saver. And all the buildings and construction sites provided a lot of jungle edge that gave me a chance to find some birds. On various morning and afternoon walks, I picked up eight lifers: the ubiquitous Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Vireo, Scrub Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-lored Parrot, and Olive-throated Parakeet. I never found any big or mixed flocks, though.

Melodious Blackbird Tulum

Melodious Blackbird

Green Jay Tulum

Green Jay

Olive-throated Parakeet Tulum

Olive-throated Parakeet

Yellow-fronted Parrot Tulum

Yellow-lored Parrot

Black-cowled Oriole Tulum

Black-cowled Oriole

Yucatan Vireo Tulum

Yucatan Vireo

Social Flycatchers and Masked Tityra were regulars on snags, while Roadside Hawk preferred mid-level cover.


Tulum Ruins

One day, the boys and I headed to the beachfront ruins in Tulum. It’s a popular tourist destination, so unlike the bigger and better ruins at Coba, or the awesome birdiness of empty Muyil, there is a line to stand in. Happily, a family of pretty tame coati provided free entertainment. It was super windy (not unusual during January from what I’m told). The iguanas didn’t seem to mind, but it kept the bird activity down. Don’t expect a big list here.  

Yellow-throated Warbler makes ID easy

Beachfront ruins at Tulum

Tulum beach ruins

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