Friday, June 7, 2019

Mayaland (Chichen Itza) - 18-19Apr2019

Our last stop for the Yucatan was the famous UNESCO world heritage site of Chichen Itza.  One misconception about many of these Mayan cities were that they were in their heyday when the Europeans (Spanish) arrived.  However, Chichen Itza was in its prime hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived and was already in a state of decline.

We actually stopped in Valledolid on the way.  Its a fairly large city just to the east of Chichen and much more authentic and interesting than the touristy towns on the coast.  I neglected to take pictures of the town, but I did take a picture of this Zone-tailed Hawk flying over the city.

Once we got to the hotel, and after Melissa and I relieved ourselves of some mexican mudbutt (sorry but I had to include this so you can get a real feel for the experience of the Yucatan) we explored the Mayaland Resort.  I was a little worried it would be like Disneyland but actually I thought it was really well done.  The grounds were gorgeous with some large exotic hardwoods that you don't see in the dry forest.   The huge plus of this hotel is that you have access to the archeological site of Chichen Itza first thing in the morning before the general public and hordes of tourists show up.  I was able to get a good hour in the afternoon which was perfect as the bird activity was just increasing with the sun going down.

Kentucky Warbler

White-crowned Parrot

Great-tailed Grackle

Yellow-winged Tanager

Clay-colored Thrush

Social Flycatcher

Scarlet Tanager

Bronzed Cowbirds

I thought it was strange that the birds were all concentrated in one tree and then I saw why.  A long thin snake fell down from the tree about a foot from me and rapidly slithered away.  I would say it was about 4-5 feet long.

Green Vine Snake

Here is the view of the Mayan Observatory as seen from the front of the Mayaland Hotel.  My iPhone camera sucks for some reason.  It was much more impressive in person.

The next morning we got up early and visited the famous Chichen Itza.

If you get in early enough you will not have to jostle with hordes of tourists and vendors.  Quite an impressive place, although it did not instill awe like Machu Picchu did for me.  I think the street vendors selling cheap plastic tickets definitely took away from the experience.

Jaguar head carvings abounded in the temple sides.

The ball court was super impressive.  The Mayan would play a ball game with a rubber ball that is somewhat similar to Basketball but the main difference is the losers would be sacrificed to the gods.  In the middle of this frame you can see the ring in the stone wall that the players would have to shoot the ball through.

The birds weren't bad either.....

Yucatan Flycatcher - it must have called as I marked this one as definitely a Yucatan.

Yellow-green Vireo

Black-headed Saltator

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Masked Tityra

Yellow-throated Euphonia

Yucatan Flycatcher

Altamira Oriole

Black-headed Saltator

Bronzed Cowbird

Dusky-capped Flycatcher - the guidebooks caution that the Yucatan and Dusky-capped can easily confused, and I can see why especially at a distance.  However, the Dusky-capped is markedly smaller if you see them up close.  This Dusky-capped was much smaller than the Yucatan pictured above.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike!  This was my 1000th seen bird species.

Streaked Flycatcher

Green Jay

Wedge-tailed Sabrewing - I found an awesome tree that was blooming and that the hummers were going crazy for on one of the side trails outside the Mayaland Resort.  I don't think I was supposed to go back there but the birding was epic despite the backlit conditions.

Golden-Olive Woodpecker

Cinnamon Hummingbird

The Observatory shot from the hotel with my crusher.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Black-crowned Tityra female

And the male...

White-Bellied Emerald

Ruby-throated Hummingbird with the flowering tree I was talking about.

Yellow-green Vireo

Grayish Saltator

Golden-Olive WP again.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike again.  They are quite vocal.

We said goodbye to Mayaland and headed to our final hotel which was just a chain hotel a mile from the airport in Cancun.  As luck would have it, a huge migration was happening that evening as the wind was blowing offshore and migrating species were taking flight.  Tons of common northern migrants like Indigo Buntings were streaming overhead and some were stopping to feed in the barren landscape outside the hotel.  I managed to find a couple good local birds too.

Gray Hawk

Morelet's Seedeater

Tropical Mockingbird

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture

My final species for the trip was a lifer!  Lesser Nighthawks were feeding outside the hotel in droves. Note the buffy tones and white bars located further on the wingtips than you would see on Common Nighthawks.  I heard them vocalize too!  Nothing like a Common, in fact it is a little strange how different they sound.

It was a great trip altogether.  I definitely recommend the Yucatan and also recommend getting your own rental car and exploring outside the typical tourist spots.  We never once felt in danger and we never were hassled by the police although I was careful not to speed.  The only negative thing the whole trip was the small case of Montezuma's.  We surmised it was the salad greens they sometimes put on your plate as a garnish.

The flight home was pleasant and our layover in Dallas actually ended up being really nice.  We checked our bags through to ILM and then hopped in an Uber and checked out the city of Grapevine. A very nice town and we had a great lunch and walk around the town.


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