700 or Bust – Lifer Countdown

With an obnoxiously loud BEEP BEEP BEEP, my 5:00 am alarm woke me from a deep sleep. The adrenaline instantly kicked in and I was literally jumping out of bed. I was certain that today would bring me lifer species number 700. I was on a return visit to the mystical Yucatan Peninsula, having just visited there a month before. I again requested the services of Amar Aves bird expert, Miguel Amar Uribe and had booked a 6-day tour of the peninsula. Miguel and Claudio Lopez had met me at the Cancun International Airport the night before and we drove to the town of Rio Lagartos to spend the night.

Rio Lagartos Malecón

I opened the door and looked across the street to the malecón and watched the tour boats gently rocking with the water and could hear the waves lap against them. I was sitting at 683 life Birds, with my last lifer being a Green-breasted Mango on the Isla de Cozumel in December of last year (2021). The list of potential life birds in this area was staggering and with visions of exotic hummingbirds, colorful trogons and flamboyant flamingos in my head, I wandered along the malecón, trying to get a sense of just how spectacular the day would be. At 5:30, Miguel, Claudio and I were joined by “Chino” Santiago Contreras and we headed out to explore the nearby forests with plans to return to take a midday boat tour of the bay. Besides being one of the elite birders of the region, Chino would be our skipper for the tour through the Parque Natural Ría Lagartos.

Fast-forward to our arrival back at Rio Lagartos, having just checked off lifers #695 Yucatan Wren and #696 Cinnamon Hummingbird.

Yucatan Wren

We stopped briefly at the hummingbird house on Calle 17 to get a look at dozens of Mexican Sheartails (lifer #697) and Cinnamon Hummingbirds.

Mexican Sheartail (female) and Cinnamon Hummingbird

Mexican Sheartail (male)
Cinnamon Hummingbird

As we boarded Chino’s boat to begin our tour of the bay we had lots of frigatebirds and cormorants and Laughing Gulls flying all around us.

Magnificent Frigatebird

We cruised around the shallow bay adjacent to Rio Lagartos viewing an assortment of shorebirds and herons with a brief view of a Clapper Rail.

American Oystercatcher and Reddish Egret

We continued our slow commute along the banks of the river when Claudio suddenly yells out “Bare-throated Tiger-Heron”! Chino guided the boat skillfully as we floated towards a beautiful bird that acted as if we weren’t there at all. After several dozen photos, we were off in search of my next lifer.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

At this point the bay narrowed to more like a river with vegetation towering along each side. First we heard, and then we saw a Common Black Hawk #699. We got to see and photograph first an immature bird and then an adult. ALMOST TO #700!

Common Black Hawk – Immature
Common Black Hawk – Adult

As we rounded a bend, the landscape opened up and before us in the distance was a score of lifer birds #700, otherwise known as AMERICAN FLAMINGOS.

American Flamingos

Chino was very considerate as to in no way bother these magnificent wonders of nature, but my 500mm lens brought me plenty close enough to get some good photographs.

By this time the sun was starting to get low on the horizon bathing the flamingos in a warm glowing light.

As we headed back towards Rio Lagartos, I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. What a grand adventure, and this was only the first day!

Finally, a big thank you and shout out to the kind folks at Mexico Kan Tours (Facebook Link), Amar Aves (Website Link), Miguel Amar Uribe, Claudio Lopez (Facebook Link) and our skipper “Chino” Santiago Contreras (Facebook Link).

6 thoughts on “700 or Bust – Lifer Countdown”

  1. Congratulations Jim. Getting to 700 is quite an accomplishment. Better head over to Europe as you head toward 800. Sharp and colorful photos.


  2. Jim,
    Great story with magnificent images! The hummingbirds, Magnificent Frigatebird and the American Flamingo with its black primaries in flight were captivating! Rich Brown

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim: just heard, but could not see a bird that landed in a thick oak. Did take a short video that contains the call. Can I email it to naturalreflectionsofthenaturalworlf.com and you could see/hear it and provide ID?


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