More than 400 species, 29 hours of competition between teams of all ages, cultural experiences, and ecotourism all in an Area of Voluntary Conservation, plus a food fest and unique lodgings. That’s how the 2022 Xoc Ch’ich Birding Marathon is marking the end of the 21st edition of the Toh Bird Festival. Are you going to miss out on this grand adventure?
Xoc comes from the Maya word “Xook,” which means “to count;” Ch’ich comes from Ch’íich, which is “bird.” That’s the heart of this bird-counting event during which we’ll participate watching, enjoying, and preserving Yucatán’s biodiversity. Between November 18 and 20, the marathon will be based out of San Manuel Environmental Management Unit in El Cuyo, Tizimin, just three hours from Mérida.
I spoke with the biologist Karla Pantoja Isaac, coordinator of the many projects that the Sustainable Tourism Program at Pronatura Península de Yucatán, A.C. carries out alongside several government institutions and private initiative groups. “When you enjoy and get to know something, you’re motivated to preserve it. We are hoping that birdwatching tourism will increase in our state and become one of its main attractions,” says Karla, who also mentioned that there has been a major increase in this activity since its beginning in 2002.
As of today, in Yucatán, there is a registry of approximately 450 species of birds, of which nearly 200 can be considered migratory. That’s how important Yucatán is: not only is this area an ecological niche for local species, but also for many coming from the north and the south. Some birds, for example, come to Yucatán to mate. Karla also mentioned that the diversity of the Yucatecan ecosystems is immense: savanna, low jungle, deciduous, mangroves, coasts, and coastal dunes. “In each of these habitats, you will find distinct types of birds.”
Photographers and both expert and novice birdwatchers can let loose and take flight in the Marathon’s two categories: Classic, ideal for those who know the long routes and species, and Beginner, a perfect introduction to nature photography. Teams can be made up of four to eight people, with no age restrictions, accompanied by a guide.
Both categories will have a winners’ podium. The teams who sight and register the most species will be awarded beautifully handcrafted wooden statues inspired by Yucatán’s endemic birds, made by local artisans.
The shapes, colors, and movements that you will see are incredible beyond belief. The delicate beak of the anhinga or snakebird, the yellow royal crest of the northern jacana, the perfect camouflage of the blue-gray gnatcatcher, the red summer tanager, and the solitary sandpiper are sights you should definitely see with your own eyes.
For an investment of $250 pesos (12 US dollars) per person for foreigners and $150 pesos (8 US dollars) for Mexican nationals and students, you will receive an official cap and t-shirt, plus an official listing of the Yucatán birds, plus breakfast at the closing. Lodging, transportation, and guides are each person’s responsibility.
The marathon begins officially at 5:00 AM on November 19 and ends at 10:00 AM on Sunday, November 20. On Friday, November 18, the rules will be read and all questions will be answered on Facebook on the page “Festival de las Aves Toh.”
But that’s not all! On November 17, also in El Cuyo, the first environmental Rally “Flying with the Birds” will be held, with challenges for intrepid children and adults. Look for informative flyers with more details about registration, food offerings, and lodging at www.festivalavesyucatan.com You can also call 999 988 44 36 Ext. 113 or email [email protected] for more information.
By Dave S. Mayoral
Dave Mayoral (1998) thinks it’s difficult to write in the third person without laughing in the attempt, but his background in Modern Language and Literature, Contemporary Art History, and Cultural Management tends to help him a lot…
Photography by Alfredo Dorantes, Edwin Alcocer, and Elena Moguel for its use in Yucatán Today.
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