[Tweeters] Warm weather getaway Chiapas birding tour Dec 1-18

Gary A Kelsberg kelsberg at uw.edu
Sun Dec 19 08:59:36 PST 2021

Chiapas birding tour Dec 1-18, 2021
Our group of 5 Seattle-area birders just returned from a wonderful birding tour of Chiapas, Mexico. We encountered 352 species, many of them fantastic lifers, with our superb guide, Eric Antonio Martinez (www.mexico-birding.com<http://www.mexico-birding.com/>). We visited a wide variety of habitats and culturally significant locations, starting with the wetlands near Palenque (including birding the ruins with their famous Bat Falcons atop the pyramids), moving to jungle lowlands where we stayed with a Mayan family in thatched cabins in Lacanja and walked into Bonampak, (parrots and trogons amid ruins with bright 1200 year old frescoes), then to Frontera Corazol to bird the Usamacinta River by boat, visiting the ruins of Yaxchilan at dawn for a magical experience. We had the entire site to ourselves for hours, with little bats roosting in the ruins, many amazing birds feeding in the fruiting trees at eye level from out perch on a pyramid, and lunch at the former research station where we saw King Vultures overhead.
We next went to Guacamaya for Scarlet Macaws, more river birding by boat, and a jungle walk with two Mayan guides, staying in thatched cabins on stilts. Then up into the highlands near Huixtla for Pink-headed Warbler and others, and to the tiny communal Maam village of Benito Juarez El Plan at 5,000 feet to start our climb up the Tacana Volcano to about 9,000 feet to see the Horned Guan and Respendent Quetzal (along with ten porters, four local guides, and two cooks hired from the town, which ensures safe ecotourism and monitors the Horned Guan population). The trails were steep and challenging for me (67 years old and overweight) but the guides were patient and we had rewarding looks at the incredible guan and quetzal, among other high-altitude cloud forest birds. We camped high on the volcano with good food after half the climb, then set out before dawn by headlamp to reach the guan habitat. Before and afterwards we stayed (and ate) in relative luxury in Union Juarez.
From there we went to the coast and birded the red mangroves in a brackish river near Mapastepec, before heading to the dry savannahs near Arriaga (many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Dickcissels on migration). We finished in the drier highlands near San Cristobal de las Casas and the Sumidero Canyon near Tuxtla Gutierrez. We included two nights of owling as well.
We traveled by 9-passenger air-conditioned van, doing much of our birding from the van in short hikes. Our driver, Ramón, was safe (and patient). Our guide is one of the premier Mexican guides, with incredible ears and bird finding skills. He was constantly professional, thoughtful, and encyclopedic in his knowledge of birds and the local environment. He seemed tireless, answering our questions and keeping in excellent humor (he is fluent, and funny, in English, Spanish, and Zapotec). This is our second trip with Eric and I heartily recommend him!

Gary Kelsberg
kelsberg at yew dot Washington dot edu
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