23-24 December 2013
We had planned to visit the city of Campeche, a world heritage site on the distinctly less touristy west coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, but our plans were foiled. Our camping Mexico book showed three RV parks around Campeche, but the first one we stopped at (Club Nautica RV Park) was a bit too expensive for an RV Park so we decided to try the other ones. We navigated our way around the outskirts of Campeche searching for the other two parks, but both The New Samula Trailer Park and trailer park at the water park were closed. It was getting late and we needed to find a place to stay for the night. We searched for reasonable hotels around Campeche that had parking but could not find one that had space or reasonable rates, so we decided to keep going north. Randomly Josh found a hotel that was just what we were looking for in Calkini. We had no idea what was in Calkini but thought we would just spend the night and move on. We stayed at Hotel Mayt and it was one of the nicest hotels we’ve been in on the trip and was quite inexpensive and a nice relaxing way to catch up on sleep after a week or more of busy travel and birding every day. As we drove into Calkini we saw a few signs for Isla Arena and asked the hotel owner what was out there. He said there was a nice beach out there, so we did a bit more research that night and stumbled across someone’s blog post about this spectacular board walk on the road to Isla Arena, so we decided to head out there in the morning.
The drive out to Isla Arena passes through fields, scrub, wetlands, and miles of mangroves. We stopped at a few spots along the road to try for a few rail species. It turns out that the road to Isla Arena is a great spot for the Spotted Rail. We heard several Spotted Rails calling and got great looks at one individual. Try stopping at any spot along the road that has inundated cattails that you can actually see into. We had success at these two spots (20.52984,-90.3434 and 20.53077,-90.34918). The Spotted Rail is rather an unimaginable rail with its bright yellow green bill and red legs.
There is an amazing boardwalk out into the mangroves at El Remate along the road to Isla Arena. There is a small entrance fee to walk the boardwalk, but it is well worth it. Great Egrets were roosting in large numbers and making a racket as we entered, Bare-throated Tiger Herons crept through the mangroves, and several migrant warblers flitted through the understory. The boardwalk ends at an amphitheater and small pond where you can sit and enjoy the sounds of nature.
While we were walking along the boardwalk scanning for American Pygmy Kingfishers (which have been reported there) we heard a lot of crashing in the canopy. I thought “Oh that must just be a group of Green Jays” but when I put my binoculars up I saw two Crested Guans! Not a species either one of us was expecting to see, in a mangrove/swamp forest nonetheless. Crested Guans are normally found in forested habitats ranging from semi-humid to evergreen forests. Although our sighting is outside of the published range for this species others have reported Crested Guans as far north as Rio Largartos in the state of Yucatan.
After El Remate the road passes through more open mangroves where you can see American Flamingos and other waders (Wood Stork, Little Blue Heron, and Tricolored Heron). There is not much to do on Isla Arena once you are there (not always a bad thing), but there is a nice restaurant with cabanas run by a group of kids trying to start up ecotourism in their community.
If you are passing through the area or are looking for a Spotted Rail take a drive to Isla Arena.