Its been my dad's dream for quite a long time to take his family down to Oaxaca for Christmas and this year we finally made this dream a reality. We boarded our plane in Denver on December 17th and approximately 8 or 9 hours later we landed in Oaxaca City (after a layover in Mexico City). Despite the fact that we had to get up at an unseemly hour in the morning for our first day of Spanish school (the same program we went to during our last visit to Oaxaca), me, Teslin, and our dad decided to visit a local market before going to bed at 1:30am. Ouch.
|Instituto Cultural Oaxaca (our Spanish school for two weeks)|
There's not much to tell about the Spanish school: it was loads of fun, and I learned a good deal of things, and reviewed some Spanish I already knew. My sister, mother, and I spent two weeks studying here, and my sister and I went to classes from 9:00am-12:00pm, while my mom took morning classes along with a private afternoon class. In the afternoons, we would all go eat at one of the restaurants near the school and in the evenings we would often walk down to the Zocalo (a large plaza). The food was amazing, and often very inexpensive, and the culture was similar to how I remembered it five years ago; but busier and with less street musicians.
On Christmas Eve we joined some of our fellow I.C.O classmates and ate at a wonderful rooftop restaurant a couple blocks off the Zocalo. Along with some yummy food, we were treated to multiple church processions and bands parading down the street near the restaurant. I can easily say that this was one of the most unique Christmas Eve's that I've ever experienced.
|Santo Domingo Church|
After two weeks of eating way too much, doing Spanish school, and walking around Oaxaca, we hooked up with a local bird guide with the name of Roque Antonio (I'll leave a link to his site on the bottom of this post). We had birded with him on our last visit to Oaxaca and had a great time, so we thought that we might as well bird with him again! He picked us up from our apartment in Oaxaca City early on the morning of December 30 and we started the long drive from Oaxaca to Palenque. Along the way, we stopped at numerous stops along the road, and saw lots of interesting birds (plus dozens of new life birds for me). We drove through various habitats and ecosystems, and ascended up to almost 3,000 meters, before dropping down again to about sea-level. Some of the primary habitats we traveled through were high desert, pine forest, cloud forest, and mixed rainforest. The diversity of birds was very impressive, especially at a couple particular pull-outs.
After a day of very productive and interesting birding, we spent then night in Tuxtepec, a city in eastern Oaxaca, near Tabasco. We all had a good nights rest, and then got up early again the next morning and continued on to Palenque. Along the way, we stopped a few pull-outs by the road and looked for waterbirds and raptors in the lowlands through Tabasco and western Chiapas. The birding was a bit slower than the previous day, but we still saw a couple specialties, including Pinnated Bittern and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (both life birds). We reached Palenque in very good time, arriving at about 1:30pm, and were able to sign into our hotel soon after arriving. That afternoon we birded a bit south of Palenque, and then had an early night. I almost forgot it was New Year's Eve until I had just about fallen asleep!
The next few days we birded around Palenque-at the ruins and on the road- and drove east of Palenque all the way to the Campeche border. We saw many birds we had seen before in our last visit here, but also lots of new ones. Some highlights included Double-striped Thick-knee, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Gartered and Black-headed Trogon, Black-collared Hawk, Long-billed Gnatwren, and White-collared Manakin.
|Me and Roque (our guide)|
On the last couple days of our trip, my dad and I went down to Bonampak with Roque. Teslin and my mom opted to stay at Palenque and vegetate by the pool at our hotel. :p
The drive down to Bonampak took about two hours, and we stayed at the same exact place that we camped during my family's yearlong trip. Its still a beautiful spot, with a river running right by the campground. We stayed in one of the new cabins that had been built since our last visit. That afternoon, and the next morning, we walked along the road near the campground, and walked along the road going into the ruins. The weather was similar to that in Palenque, but a bit dryer and hotter. We saw many birds, and most of them new as well. Green Honeycreeper, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcer, Barred Antshrike, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Blue-black Grosbeak were just some of the specialties we saw.
|Golden-hooded Tanager (hard to see, near the middle; green back)|
|Scarlet Macaws (but tame, alas)|
And that's that! It was great to return to Mexico and see all the places we visited on our trip, and even more enjoyable because of our great birding guide, Roque. If you're reading this Roque, thank you so much!
Here's the link to Roque's website, as promised: http://www.mexonline.com/oaxacabirdingtours.htm