The 7th Yucatan Bird Festival 2008 is over.
For the past 7 years there has been a Bird Festival here in the Yucatan, it has grown to what it is now; Conferences, Workshops, Photographic and Drawing Exhibits and Contests, Childrens Events, and a general attempt to educate the public about the birds of the Yucatan and conservation. The BIG deal in all this is the Bird-A-Thon or Xoc ch'ich; this is a bird identification competition. More than that it identifies what birds are here, and if identified by many or few gives an indication of changes in population. Also when new birds come into the region it identifies them and can help monitor how these changes affect the eco-culture here. In fact we, along with another Team identified a Gull that is not supposed to be in this area; a Grey Gull, we at first thought it might be a Heerman's, but the other Team, with high end photographic equipment got a picture and it was proved out as a Grey Gull.
So, You get together a Team, or just register individually and the Committee will put Teams together. You hire a Guide, you arrange for accomodations, pack some snacks...
The Xoc ch'ich started Saturday morning at 5:30AM and ended Sunday morning at 9:30AM. Our Team was prepared, I will not divulge the secrets of our 'plan' but we were in place well before dawn and at the stroke of 5:30, yes, 5:30am we started identifying birds by sound and call, as dawn broke we were fast and furious scribbling down every bird we saw. We had spotters, we had identifiers, we had scribes, we even had our own sherpa/water boy - we were prepared...for everything except the lethargy and exhaustion that hit some of us about 5pm...But we persevered, with a bit of mumbling, then we started chatting and just having a good time, then we got tired again, then we started seeing birds again, then we...
I think, no I'm sure we all enjoyed ourselves, especially now, looking back after getting home Sunday afternoon, having a good soak, and hot meal and a good long rest.
Here we are the night before getting our briefing
Our Team, the T'oh Tweeters were registered as Beginners, because that's what we are - we all enjoy birding, some of us had been out more than others, but we were for the most part all beginners with some to none experience in the field. For me, I enjoy taking my coffee and binoculars out to the pergola and enjoying the birds visiting both my and my neighbors gardens. I also enjoy going out to parks and seashores and watching birds, so you can see, definitly an amateur. Our Guide, Alex Dzib is considered the Best Guide in the Yucatan; we didn't diminish his status, Thank Goodness.
We came in First Place in the Beginners Category; had we been registered in the Classic Category, which included quite a few professional, and extremely serious birders, we would have actually placed 3rd. We identified a toal of 156 birds, which included 10 of the 17 endemics (species found only in the Yucatan); the winning Team in the Classic category, a Team of Professional Guides by-the-way! identified 203 with 12 of the endemics. I wish I could take credit for this windfall win, but I think we had a few Team members who carried the rest of us, not to mention our Guide Alex, who really knows his stuff!
Getting ready to head out into a Preserve to see what we could see