This report is about the 2 places in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Palenque and Bonampak. The 2 locations are some of the best birding spots I’ve been to on our trip. Both spots have a huge diversity of pajáros including honeycreepers, euphonias, tanagers, toucans, parrots, hawks, and lots more. I have had a great time exploring around Bonampak and Palenque with our friends from Oaxaca, Esteban and Susan.
Palenque is famous for its Mayan ruins and jungle. Most people go to Palenque for the ruins but some people (like me for instance) go for Howler Monkeys, birds and other fauna. Palenque is in the state of Chiapas, in the southeastern jungle next to the border with Guatemala. That is partly why there are so many different species of birds and mammals. I didn’t see too many mammals, but Sue and I did see some large animals lumbering around in the brush just out of view. We could hear Howler Monkeys in the distance and saw them across the road from where we were camping. The Groove-billed Anis also made a racket in the underbrush and were almost as loud as the lizards and other beasts! There are also lots of interesting flora, butterflies, and insects.
On our first night in Palenque, Sue showed me the birds around the campground we were staying at (the Mayabell hotel). I was amazed how many birds there were just in the campground! Right at Sue’s camper we saw Red-capped Manakins, Black-headed Trogons, Yellow-winged Tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreepers, as well as Long-tailed Hermits, and Violet Sabrewings (hummingbirds). Each morning the Brown Jays woke me up at five-thirty and wouldn’t stop making a racket until evening! They were probably the noisiest birds in the place and the most annoying! They mimicked parrots and other birds so that it was confusing to figure out which was a Brown Jay and what was another bird!
Other then birds, Palenque has an interesting history. The area had its first inhabitants around 100 B.C. and it flourished from 600 to 700 A.D. One of the most famous rulers of the area was Pakal. The city grew under Pakal and stayed strong for a long time. During Pakal’s time, many plazas and other buildings were built, including Pakal’s own mausoleum. Most of the buildings from 600 A.D. are still intact and you can look at them in town (I didn’t) or go to the old ruins in the jungle. Palenque is also a great birding spot. On any given day, you could probably record more then 25 species and a lot of endemics. I saw 19 life birds in Palenque and 22 species in all. Overall, in Bonampak I saw more species then in Palenque.
Like Palenque, Bonampak is an ancient town (although, not as old as Palenque) and has a Mayan history. Outsiders did not discover Bonampak until 1946 (not including the Mayans who lived there) because the town lay in the middle of the jungle and not many people wanted to venture into the unknown forest (I probably would have risked it and explored the rain forest). The ruins there are very interesting (I went myself) and have good birds too. We (me, dad, mom, Teslin, and our friends Steve and Susan) walked up the steps to the top of the ruins and Susan and I birded around the top area. We didn’t see much there so we all went on a hike off a plane airstrip and I saw tons of new birds on that walk. Of the birds I saw, my favorite was the noisy Barred Antshrikes who wiggled their whole body when they called and made a weird noise at the end like a whining baby! I also saw Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Grey-collared Becard, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, and several other new birds.
There is also great birding on the road next to the campground we are staying at. Susan and I go out almost every morning on the road and we have had together, more than 30 new birds! For instance, this morning we went out and saw 4 new birds, the Great Antshrike (in Spanish, Batará Grande), Grey-breasted Martin (Martín Pechigrís), Smoky-brown Woodpecker (Carpintero Café), and a Bananaquit (Platanero; Reinita Mielera)! I also saw a migrant: a Blue-winged Warbler (Chipe Aliazul). In all, I have seen 78 species in Bonampak and about 30 life birds!!!
¡Adiós mis amigos!
¡Todavía soy pajarísto!
And for people who don’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about, I just wrote: good-bye my friends, see you later, I am still a birder.