Birds fly, but time flies much faster. It’s been three weeks since my last post here in Ride Into Birdland, and even longer since I had the good fortune of going on an amazing birding trip to the State of Campeche, back in early March. Since then Spring has arrived and birds are busy all over, so I really need to catch up.
I was blessed to visit Campeche for the first time with three very special companions: Maria Andrade, General Director of Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan, Jacqueline Aldana, also a staff member at Pronatura, and my good friend Cherie Pitillo, whom I’ve mentioned many times here in Ride Into Birdland and will continue to do so, always recommending her wonderful Backyard Birding in Merida column (read her latest here).
It was Maria who proposed we follow a route that’s being promoted by the State of Campeche under the name “Rincones de Ensueño – Dzitbalché – Isla Arena”, drawn along six points of interest: the towns of Dzitbalché and Nunkiní, the haciendas Santa Cruz and Tankuché, a wonderful water spot known as El Remate, and our final destination, Isla Arena. Information in English about this beautiful state of the Yucatan Peninsula is available in the official website Campeche Travel.
An interesting aspect of this route is that it combines birding opportunities with views of authentic Campeche communities. During our first day of travel, on the way to Isla Arenas, we made several stops. The following pictures provide a glimpse of what we saw:
Wait, I know what you’re thinking: that’s all fine, but what about the birds? As we kept driving to our destination for the night at Isla Arena, we came across the beautiful spot known as El Remate. We only made a brief stop there, as we had planned to stop again on our return trip, but it was certainly worth a first look. The following images show some of what we found:
Soon it was time to move on toward Isla Arena. We traveled along a straight, narrow road that crosses the wetlands of a Petén ecosystem. The road was mostly deserted, but whenever we came upon a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction one of the two had to park off to the side and let the other vehicle pass, that’s how narrow this road is. In the distance we spotted a very distinctive bird, flying off several times and landing again further up ahead.
We were also amazed by the sheer numbers of Mangrove Swallows (Tachycineta a. Albilinea), flying over the road and perching by the dozens on the power lines alongside it. Another stop enabled me to get a distant shot of some of them, using the mangroves as collective perch and take-off station.
At regular intervals we came upon spots where the road intersects with narrow water channels that pass under it, connecting both sides of the wetlands. These openings also provide great spots to look at the birds, since much of the road is lined on both sides by tall mangroves and other vegetation that block most of the view. Looking through one of these openings, I managed to catch a frame of two birds flying in formation, a great closer for this bird photographer’s happy day.
We finally made it to our destination at Isla Arena, the “Hotel Cabañas Carey”, a lodge that offers several cabins facing the Gulf of Mexico and has become popular amongst sport fishermen. With the final gusts of a cold front coming in the weather was far from ideal, so after a simple dinner we all went to bed early, hoping to get plenty of rest for a promising second day of birding. As the wind howled through the doors and windows of my cabin I looked at the day’s photos on my camera’s LCD screen and charged both its batteries and my own. Our plan for the next morning included an outing by boat, weather permitting. Then, on our trip’s third day, we would take another shot at the wetlands and also stop for a second visit at El Remate as we made our way back towards Merida. In my next post I’ll tell you how it all turned out.