We wanted to do something a little different this year so we took a week before Christmas 2006 to do some bird watching and relaxing. After considering Arizona for a while we decided on Huatulco, Mexico, a Pacific coast area in Oaxaca state. Only Chiapas is further south. We had been to Oaxaca City before, liked it and coveted some of the Christmas birding trips that go there then down to the coast, but local unrest made that unwise. The Pacific coast offered a different habitat as well as some distance from the troubles and we read that this area was being developed but was still unspoiled. All claims turned out to be true. Mexican and other Spanish-speaking tourists outnumber foreigners by 10:1. Coincidentally an article about the area appeared in the Plain Dealer the day we returned. We wanted easy so we took an all-inclusive resort package through Continental Vacations. Continental Express serves a couple of dozen Mexican cities from Houston, eliminating the connection through Mexico City.
Click on map for interactive map at Huatulco Magazine
The Huatulco area consists of 9 bays along a 22 mile stretch of coast between the Copalita and Coyula rivers. All development is planned with two small towns, some areas designated for private housing, some for resorts and much that will remain natural, including a national park and a sea turtle preserve. The map (courtesy of Huatulco Magazine) shows the 5 development areas. The national park extends from the Coyula river (above Bahia de San Agustin) to the river into Bahia de Cacaluta and from the highway to the Pacific Ocean.
Tangolunda Bay from our hotel...
We stayed at the 344 room Barcelo Huatulco Beach Resort, one of only 6 resorts in the area with more than 100 rooms. It is flanked by the 310 room Gala and the beach club of the 135 room Crown Prince, which is located on the inland side of the street. Down the beach, past the golf course and the public beach, is the very exclusive 28 room Quinta Real. Every room has a Jacuzzi and some have their own pool.
The area is actually overbuilt for the amount of tourists it has drawn. Most buildings near the hotels are occupied or are being remodeled for new businesses but many buildings more than a block from the hotels were vacant. We walked on sidewalks to nowhere and one birding trail included a half mile of abandoned road that our guide and his father keep open.
The neighboring Quinta Real has only 28 elegant rooms.
Birdwatching took a backseat only to relaxing and the good food. We were out with our binoculars every day and two mornings we were out early with a guide. Part of the challenge was learning a new digital camera that was an early Christmas present. All photos on this page including the frontpiece photos were taken with it. I wanted a long zoom lens and image stabilizer in the hopes of photographing birds for later identification and I had a bit of beginners luck. While the butterfly and the parrot were at normal distances the orange-breasted bunting and the snowy egret were at 30 and 300 ft respectively.
Above, a sailboat in the bay, an iguana, a ringed kingfisher and a magpie jay.
We saw 29 life birds, many of them endemic to Mexico and a few only to Pacific Coast Mexico. Our guide even got a life bird, the pheasant cuckoo. But the biggest thrill for me was the ocelot. I spotted him in full profile on a limb over 200 ft. away but was only able to get one photo after he reached the dark of his aerial lair. Light struck one eye, but I may be able to improve it later in PhotoShop. For now, here it is:
Remember this is 200 ft away in the shade with a hand held camera. Moral is take more shots.
The ocelot is only one of many protected species in the region, as this sign at the airport reminds;
The view from our back door was dominated by the Crown Pacific hotel, but you can see a glimpse of the mountains in the distance.
Another view of the mountains from the Quinta Real.
Our guide and his father take responsibility for some of the public lands near where they live; clearing trails and planting trees, etc. They plan to dig a well in the dry creek bed here to provide water for the trees.
An abandoned cacique nest on display. Similar to an oriole nest, but the bird is a related to the magpie.
There are two small towns in the area. Santa Cruz (above) has a harbor, beach restaurants and is generally a tourist trap. La Crucecita is the larger town and has a local character once you get a block from the plaza.
ferruginous pygmy owl
Thanks to Rosalinda Castilla of Bahias Plus for arranging transportation and to Cornelio Ramos of Aventuras Huatulco for finding all the great birds.
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