It is well known that Yucatán is a magical land, full of life and color everywhere you turn. It is exactly this fact that, on many occasions, doesn’t let us really see all the beauty that is right in front of us. However, in all reality, if you want to go on wonderful adventures and create new memories you don’t have to travel far; it is very likely that Yucatán has some surprises right where you are right now.
Today I would like to share with you one of the most beautiful experiences I have experienced, where I felt completely disconnected from everything, except nature, without even leaving the city of Mérida.
This adventure is promoted by the group Colectivo Cardenales (Cardinal Collective) which came about during the pandemic lockdown as a way to help people of all ages with their mental health and emotional wellbeing through birdwatching. Their main focus is with people who know nothing about birdwatching; in other words, newbies.
For this adventure we started out with a light breakfast (coffee/juice and toast/fruit, included in the tour) and then proceeded to listen to the explanation about what we were going to do.
If taking pictures of every place you visit is your thing, let me tell you that you will be elated, as at the beginning of the talk there is an explanation about digiscoping, so that you learn to take pictures with your cell phone through the binoculars; don’t worry if you’ve never used binoculars before, or if, like me, you wear glasses; Arturo and Ali are magnificent guides that will help you out at every moment.
The destination chosen for our adventure was the Acuaparque, located in the western part of Merida. I must admit that I was really surprised; I’ve lived my entire life in this city and had been to this park before, but I could have never imagined the enormous amount of birds and other species that live here. Maybe you, dear reader, are more knowledgeable about places where nature abounds (or maybe not), but you might be surprised to discover that even your neighborhood park is home to more surprises and species than you can imagine.
The visit takes about three hours, and while I suggest you wear comfortable clothing and shoes, believe me when I tell you that time flew by. The Acuaparque is a large, diverse park with flat areas, some hills, and a large lake in the middle that attracts a lot of marvelous fauna everyday.
So by now, I imagine you are probably wondering just what kinds of birds we were able to see during our visit; here’s an incomplete list: blue-gray gnatcatchers (Polioptila caerulea), hummingbirds (quite a few), Tricoloured munias (Lonchura malacca), cinnamon-rumped seedeaters (Sporophila torqueola), blue grosbeaks (Passerina caerulea), northern jacanas (Jacana spinosa), white-fronted parrots (Amazona albifrons), various kinds of ospreys, a few woodpeckers, and one that I cannot forget to mention after all the jokes we made about it: the social flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis). You see, its name in Spanish is Luisito Comun (which means “common little Luis”), which we found hilarious. And then we spotted a great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), in Spanish known as Luis Grande (big Luis). I’m sure you can guess how that went. These birds are just a few of what we saw, as we were able to identify more than 25 kinds of birds.
I personally am very thankful to Ali and Arturo, a charming couple that made us feel comfortable right off the bat; they were patient the whole time and I loved their enthusiasm which reflected ours with each sighting. They truly do love what they do and we felt their excitement with each discovery; at one point we were all so excited that we couldn’t wait to see what we were going to discover in the next tree.
When I got home, I stopped for a while and really observed all the nature around my neighborhood. Now, in the mornings, I take a few minutes to listen to the songs of the birds who are saying good morning to me and I imagine that maybe one is a Luisito saying hello.
I truly hoped to have fully conveyed how much I enjoyed this tour and how it made me feel, and that you too will be curious and join one of your own. Ali and Arturo offer half- or full-day trips from Monday to Sunday and will adapt to your needs and schedules.
The rate for birdwatching at the Acuaparque is $650 pesos per person when you reserve directly with them on their website; you can also reserve via AirBnB with special rates when you have a group of three or more people.
But that’s not all! If you really want to leave Merida for some birdwatching, they also have tour options within the state, along the Emerald Coast, to other parks within the city, and more. Alternatively, if you’re interested in observing one specific kind of bird, they are knowledgeable on where to go to spot it and accompany you to help you achieve your goal.
One last tip from me: give yourself some time to enjoy this marvelous experience and to discover hidden places within our city that turn out to be true jewels.
By Arianne Osalde
Yucatecan marketeer with more dreams than what’s healthy to have. Loving every corner of my beloved Yucatán, but waiting each December to enjoy the “heladez” (and presents, really).
Photography by Arianne Osalde, Carlos Guzmán, and Colectivo Cardenales for use in Yucatán Today.
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