May 7 - 16, 2010

Map of Chiapas Mexico

We birded Mexico in the southern state of Chiapas, which is next to Guatemala (see map above). To paraphrase a statement by Sarah Palin, we could see Guatamala from our hotel.

We went with VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours). The excellent leader was Hector Gomez de Silva Garza, and the excellent driver was Jorge. Jorge even found a couple of life birds for us. Hector has a Ph.D. in Environmental Biology.

This was our fourth birding trip to Mexico. We birded both the Yucatan and Oaxaca areas in 2001 with Wild Horizons. In 2004, we birded the Copper Canyon with VENT. It was a train trip along the beautiful canyon, and we would get off at different stops, pick up a van, and go birding for a day or so.

Since this was our fourth trip to Mexico, we did not expect to see a lot of life birds. However, there are a number of endemic birds that are only seen in Chiapas. As it turned out, we saw 30 life birds (see below) out of a total of 198 species seen. Not bad considering. Anyway, we got reacquainted with a lot of birds that we had previously seen only once.

The trip started out less than great. We had an 8-hour layover in Mexico City, and finally arrived in Tapachula around midnight, but my luggage did not arrive. My luggage never got on the plane in San Francisco. It arrived at midnight the next night. Fortunately, Hector and Jorge took me to the airport, and handled all the Spanish. The trip was fine after that. Aeromexico gave me $50 for my troubles and worry. Well, better than nothing.

Changing money was an adventure. In Mexico City we received 11.72 Pesos per US dollar, and had we exchanged for US it would have been 12.72. However, coming home the cambio was not in the airport lounge area, and I didn't want to go through customs again. Therefore, I changed the money when I got home, and Travelex wanted 14.7602 Pesos per dollar, PLUS a $5.95 US service charge. I lost about 20%. What a rip-off!

We were 2 nights in Tapachula, one night in Arriaga, 3 nights in Tuxtla Gutierrez (the capital of Chiapas), one night in San Cristobal de las Casas, one night in Comitan de Dominguez, and one night back in Tapachula. We did a circle around the western half of the state of Chiapas (see map), and went from sea level to 7000 feet in search of birds. We had beautiful scenery including the majestic Smidero Canyon, a gorge almost as deep as the Grand Canyon.

We had excellent weather for the first part of the trip, but the last 2-3 days we had rain. We had two rain storms, fortunately while driving, that you would not believe. The rain was the heaviest that I have ever seen. Part of the mountain came down in a small town that we went through, and partially blocked the road. Fortunately the rain really did not interfere with our birding, although it might have made some of the birds hide. We had a tough schedule for us old folks; leave at about 6:30 am (plus/minus), and return about 7:30 pm for dinner at about 8 pm. Needless to say, we were quite tired when we reached home after midnight on the last day.

Nevertheless, it was a great trip with an excellent guide and driver (see pictures below). I kept forgetting to take pictures, and I forgot to note where my pictures were taken.

Our trip was almost a private one. Besides Marion and myself, there was one other birder, Gregory McKeough from Australia. He was a bird photographer with a huge camera. Sometimes this slowed us down, but at another time it helped, e.g., our guide could not identify one bird because he could not see the color of its crown, but the crown was clearly visible in Greg's picture. Greg's great pictures can be viewed at: Greg's Pictures. (Also, check out Greg's Gallery for more pictures.)

        LIFE BIRDS
  White-bellied Chachalaca
  Great Curassow
  Green Parakeet
  Pacific Parakeet
  Pheasant Cuckoo
  Lesser Roadrunner
  Chestnut-collared Swift
  Blue-tailed Hummingbird
  Blue-throated Goldentail
  Slender Sheartail
  Blue-throated Motmot
  Belted Flycatcher
  Black-throated Jay
  Black-capped Swallow
  Giant Wren
  Nava's Wren
  Plain Wren
  White-bellied Wren
  Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush
  Black Robin
  White-throated Thrush
        LIFE BIRDS (cont.)
  Rufous-collared Robin
  Pink-headed Warbler
  Fan-tailed Warbler
  Golden-browed Warbler
  Prevost's Ground-Sparrow
  White-winged Tanager
  Yellow Grosbeak
  Rose-bellied Bunting
  Bar-winged Oriole

  Day 1: 2 Life Birds
  Day 2: 4 Life Birds
  Day 3: 4 Life Birds
  Day 4: 4 Life Birds
  Day 5: 4 Life Birds
  Day 6: 5 Life Birds
  Day 7: 2 Life Birds
  Day 8: 5 Life Birds
  Day 9: 0 Life Birds


Hotel Loma Real, Tapachula

Tapachula from Hotel

Country Side

Statue at Town Entrance

Maid Art

Fountain in Restaurant

Marimba Players at Restaurant

Statue at Town Entrance

Street Shops

Street Shops

Street Shops

Church on a Hill

Marion and Our Birding Van

Chiapa de Corzo

Deep Canyon

Guatemala Tacana Volcano

The Birding Group

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