Published On: Tue, Nov 6th, 2012

Backyard Birding in Merida and Beyond

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Former wildlife/travel photographer Cherie Pittillo is published in books and magazines. Her MS in Biology underscores her love for the outdoors. In September, 2012, Cherie recorded the 44th bird species to visit her Merida backyard in five years. Perhaps this is a surprise in downtown Merida. Join Cherie as she shares information about her backyard birds, as well as places to explore nature in the Yucatan Peninsula. One monthly column features her anecdotes about birding in Merida and beyond while a weekly column identifies either, WHAT BIRD IS THAT? or WHERE IS THAT LOCATION? Contact her:


One of my favorite places to experience nature in Merida is a reclaimed landfill. What?

How could a tortilla factories wastewater dump and city garbage dump capture my interest?

Early Morning Vista from CRIT

This former man-made disturbance is now an unbelievable lake with diverse habitats for various birds and animals. Locals call it the “ex basurero,” which isn’t on any map. Now trees are replanted, rock-lined paths grace the hillside, and several shelters are built. Dotted with tiny, grassy islands, this large freshwater panorama rewards us with a breathtaking view directly across the street from CRIT (Centros de Rehabilitacion Infantil Teleton). Although CRIT is a rehabilitation center, the acronym is used for this birding hotspot.

CRIT Gazebo Early Morning

A thatched-roof, wide-board gazebo invites quiet contemplation while gazing east over the water. Migrating ducks in the winter relish their temporary home. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks fill the air with their whistling, not quacks. Small Least Grebes paddle around their larger neighbors of Green-Winged Teal who look small next to the Northern Shovelers. Black-necked Stilts stand motionless in the shallows on their red legs and appear to reflect on their black, white, and red reflections. Egrets and other wading birds wait patiently as statues for their slippery, fishy meals to swim close to them.

Spotted Sandpipers reign over a smaller pond west of the lake.  Beyond the pond, a wooden bridge connects to a forest where resident songbirds eke out their living. This woodland also welcome warblers, vireos, and other migrants to rest.  All of these wetlands are a critical source of drinking water for both the resident and migratory species.

As I meander slowly, I feel my stresses melt away. This wildness awakens my human spirit. The air seems fresher, the colors brighter and my sense of discovery opens up. When I immerse into this quietness, I become serene. I am renewed. I am at peace. I am grateful.


From Merida Centro, travel west on Calle 59 A. (It’s one way.)

It becomes Av. Jacinto Canek.

Right onto Periferico for 3.7 miles.

At large sign for “Las Americas,” exit right and do a u-turn

At underpass and return to Periferico, the direction you just drove.

Exit at sign “CRIT Yucatan.”

Right turn at bright orange, red, blue building/CRIT.

This former landfill with one lake and two smaller ponds offers a water source and diverse habitats for waterfowl, wading and shore birds, and others.

The lake is in front of the CRIT building entry. Park along the paved road or on top of the hill. Enjoy the vista from the road, then walk along the left side of the lake towards the gazebo. Continue toward the larger trees adjacent to the lake and you will pass a small pond on your left. Cross the bridge and you’ll see a larger pond but it hasn’t recovered from pollutants.

Waterfowl are more abundant during the winter.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Least Grebe Chick

Spotted Sandpiper at CRIT Small Pond

Blue-winged Teal next to lake



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  1. […] the wonderful ongoing photos of Cherie Pittilo of Backyard Birding in Merida in The Yucatan Times Many, many birders and outings in Yucatan, which is really not far […]

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