Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sounds of the Yucatan (more birding in Mexico)

Sorry for prematurely publishing this last week--inadvertently pushing that enter button will do crazy things sometimes! It's funny, only a few moments before I thought, it would be so easy to accidentally publish before you are done that would suck....doh!!! Anyways, if this got sent to your feed this is indeed the complete posting and whatever went out before was incomplete!

So let's get back to it! One of the things I noticed right away in Mexico was the SOUNDS. Even though I still feel like a total novice when it comes to identifying bird sounds, it was still very apparent to me that the sounds were so different from 'round here.

The most obvious one was the great-tailed grackle, which I put in the first post. I kept wishing I had my iphone with me to record the sounds, and I did on a few occasions. One night I just took this vid just to capture the sounds--not much to see in the video, but you can definitely hear them (along with our friends Adam and Michelle).

I've always wondered how people can identify the mockingbird if it just repeats other birds' songs. By the end of the week I could do it easily. The key is that they repeat each song a few times and then switch to another.
Tropical mockingbirds posted in a tree.
I goofed and cut off the one side of the tree so had to create the end of the branch in Photoshop.
 I don't feel bad about since I'm openly admitting :)
I did manage to get right beside a tropical mockingbird singing away at the pool and I recorded while he went through a very impressive repertoire of songs! Sorry about the music and people in the background--the pool is a busy spot! OK, promise me you will listen to this is AWESOME! No seriously....CLICK ON IT!

I didn't quite get recording of all the birds I was hoping to--the woodpeckers were also particularly vocal. Normally I would have my phone on me, but since I was avoiding roaming, I left it in the safe most of the week.

Anyways, hope you find these little bytes interesting and that they help you to gain the bigger picture and envision the acoustic landscape. Here are the few others I took. I had really hoped to get the morning orchestra--they would all sing at once and it was just awesome. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to it before we left. :( Enjoy!

More coming up!

Adapting to resort life in Mexico! (#193-197)

Ok, I just got back from an amazing trip to Mexico, and I hardly know where to start. And the title of this entry doesn't just refer to me, but to most of the birds featured in this post :)

First thing's first. We went to the Mayan was FANTASTIC. The area has so much to offer--naturally, culturally,'s really ideal all around. I would go back tomorrow if I could. I feel like I still have so much to see there; I certainly didn't exhaust the options. We did the all-inclusive thing, with another (non-birding) couple. I would have loved to devote more time to birding, but we felt like we couldn't just jet off and leave our friends behind, so this is a great excuse to go back there. That time we'll stay somewhere different, and visit the nature preserves, like Sian Ka'an. Coincidentally there was a show on Oasis about Sian Ka'an right when we got back; I PVRed it but haven't had a chance to watch it.

So basically all the birding we did, we did right on our resort or on day trips. That was just fine for me; I still had a great intro to Mexican birds. I still have lots of material to post, so I'm going to try to break it down into bite-size pieces, so it'll be easier for you and for me!

It was total sensory overload when we got there. We hadn't even left the airport and I was looking out the windows searching for birds! On the bus ride to the resort I'd see them perched on the hydro wires, wistfully wishing that the bus could stop so I could get a better look!

It took everything not to go crazy on a bird search the minute we threw the bags in the room. I STILL remember the time we went to Punta Cana and I marvelled at the flock of pelicans that were actively fishing right in front of us on the beach (this was in my pre-birding life). Even then I wanted to get pictures of those magnificent creatures, but I never saw them again, except for one very briefly. So this time around, I would freak out every time I saw something, worried I wouldn't see it again! It's a pain, having to carry around the huge camera all the time, so I took pics of everything even if my p&s was all I had. Got these guys on a walk with Michelle.

#193: Ruddy Turnstone (Spanish: Vuelvepiedras Rojizo); February 14, 2012; Riviera Maya (Barcelo Maya Beach Resort)
ruddy turnstones: Even though they are in non-breeding plumage, markings are pretty distinct.
This is a pretty good example of birds finding ways to thrive in a resort environment. I think at this point I've had my fill of all-inclusives but these guys were hilarious...they would find left-over coconuts on the beach and take turns hopping up and sticking their heads in the hole to get the insides! Brilliant!

This really threw me and I thought it was pretty amusing to see a woodpecker pecking away at a palm tree! I mean, I guess up here you never see those trees, but I suppose it's really the same thing. I sort of always assumed woodpeckers were more of a northern bird, but we saw them almost daily down there.

#194: Golden-fronted woodpecker (Spanish: Carpintero Frentidorado [how awesome is that--"golden-fronted carpenter!]); February 15, 2012; Riviera Maya (Barcelo Maya Beach Resort)

Most days Matt and I would wake up early to get a bird walk in since we knew our friends would not be up for that. The resort was nice and quiet in the morning, but honestly, I'm not sure that the "earlier is better" rule applied there. Seems the birds actually got less skittish as the day went on (did they get into the tequila too?) and the sightings seemed to accelerate a little later in the morning. Anways, one morning we were treated to this mockingbird having a bath in the sprinkler system. Unfortunately I was not at the controls of the camera as I really wanted a shot of the spray coming from the sprinkler with the bird sitting directly in the way. Anyways, it was pretty funny. Glad he found a system that worked :)

#195: Tropical Mockingbird (Spanish: Cenzontle Sureño); February 15, 2012; Riviera Maya (Barcelo Maya Beach Resort) 
One of the most prevalent birds we saw during our stay were the great-tailed grackles. They are pretty much everywhere and make a total ruckus. They were often out, walking around on the manicured grasses of the property, or bullying the other birds.

#196: Great-tailed grackle (Spanish: Zanate Mayor; Clarinero Grande); February 15, 2012; Riviera Maya (Barcelo Maya Beach Resort)
female - giving the stinkeye, seriously

They are pretty mean looking birds--and they are. We saw them bullying other birds--chasing them around and trying to attack their nests.

On the second day we noticed them bullying a dove near the pool and realized that the dove had created a nest in the palm tree where the trunk meets the leaves. The doves are a little different, and have a wicked blue eye patch that isn't that visible until you get a good look. The cooing is similar to here, but you can definitely tell the difference--theirs is a bit more raspy.

#197: White-winged dove (Spanish: Paloma Aliblanca); February 15, 2012; Riviera Maya (Barcelo Maya Beach Resort)

Later on I actually saw a baby dove sitting in one of the nests. it was being so quiet and blended in just perfectly. All week long our friend Michelle (non-birder) kept saying "I don't know how you see those things" lol.
The patterning on this bird's wing matches the pattern on the dry palm leaves almost perfectly!
Well, I think it's time for a break. There's still lots more to come, so check back in the near future!