Saturday, 31st January, 2004

Time ashore - about 5 hours


Huatulco is a fairly unspoilt area consisting of several very scenic bays. Our cruise ship was not originally scheduled to stop here, but this was a substitution for Cartagena in Colombia, which is not considered a safe place anymore.

We were due to dock at Santa Cruz, Huatulco at noon and would sail again at 5pm, which didn't give us very long onshore, but fortunately we docked early, allowing us off the ship by 11:30am. We had decided not to take the cruise's "birdwatching shore excursion", preferring to do our own exploring - we find we usually see more this way! We found a local taxi and negotiated a US$50 rate for the driver to take us on our own trip to the Rio Copalita, which was a few miles east of our docking point in Santa Cruz Bay. On disembarking we had a good start to our birding day, as a Gray Hawk flew over as we were walking down the jetty.

A 15 minute drive along the Boulevard Benito Juarez brought us to our first stop at the Bocana Copalita, a delightful beach area at the mouth of the Rio Copalita. Around the two cantinas there were Great-tailed Grackles and several very colorful, blue, orange and yellow birds, which we identified as Orange-breasted Buntings*. We spent about 30 minutes walking along the beach and back, where we found Snowy and Great Egrets on the edge of the river. Overhead were Turkey and Black Vultures, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Osprey and a Common Black-Hawk*, which we almost missed. It really pays to look carefully at kettles of vultures, as the white tail band was not easily visible without binoculars! Fortunately, I had taken a couple of photos, which helped to verify the identification later.

We found that we couldn't get to the river itself from the beach, so asked our taxi driver, Jesus, to take us further along the road to find a way down to the banks of the Rio Copalita.  About a quarter of a mile after passing a disused waterworks building (where the entrance road was closed), we found a turn to the right, which led down a sandy track to the river.  Our driver parked his taxi in the shade of a large tree, as it was now about 1pm - not the best time of day to be birding, but we had to make to best of the few hours we had off the cruise ship. Jesus accompanied us on our birdwatching walk, probably wondering what this crazy pair of Brits were doing!  He actually proved to have a good eye and pointed out a few birds we hadn't seen.

On the river we saw more Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, White Ibis, Neotropic Cormorants, Spotted Sandpiper and Green Kingfisher. In the scrubby bushes and trees along the sand and gravel banks of this braided river bed, Tropical Kingbirds and Great Kiskadees were common, but we also saw Say's Phoebe, Orchard Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruddy Ground-Doves and American Kestrel.  A Short-tailed Hawk* flew overhead - this one we took photos of as we thought it was a new species for us, and we identified it later with our field guides.  On the opposite river bank we could hear some very noisy birds in the trees, and picked out the bright black and yellow colours of a flock of Mexican Caciques* (sometimes called Yellow-winged Caciques) - a large member of the oriole family and our fourth lifer of the day.

Also seen that afternoon were several species which we just couldn't identity with such fleeting glimpses. These included: a large wren, a pale warbler and an empid flycatcher.

On return to Santa Cruz, we explored a small city park, where there were the usual grackles and Rock Pigeons.  In some large evergreen trees we spotted a Rufous-naped Wren and another of the beautiful Orange-breasted Buntings.  Then on our walk back along the jetty to the cruise ship we saw Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns.

We sailed about 5 pm for our overnight journey up the coast of Mexico for our stop in Acapulco, the next day.

32 species with 4 lifers*

Trip list for the day:

Magnificent Frigatebird
Neotropic Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Common Black-Hawk*
Gray Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk*
American Kestrel
Spotted Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Royal Tern
Rock Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Green Kingfisher
Say's Phoebe
Tropical Kingbird
Great Kiskadee
Rufous-naped Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Orange-breasted Bunting*
Yellow-winged Cacique*
Orchard Oriole
Great-tailed Grackle
Birding from a cruise ship - Jan/Feb 2004

Oaxaca, southern Mexico

text and photography ~ Helen Baines
© 2004 Helen Baines
This page was last updated on: March 25, 2013
since Dec 9th, 04
black iguana
bocana copalita
santa cruz bay
common black-hawk
orange-breasted bunting
rio copalita meeting the ocean
great egret
spotted sandpiper in winter plumage
empidonax flycatcher
snowy egrets & immature white ibis
rio copalita
mexican or yellow-winged cacique
rufous-naped wren
snowy egrets