BACKYARD BIRDING IN MERIDA, YUCATAN AND BEYOND: *WATER WARS, WARRIORS AND WORRIERS: 23 AVIAN SPECIES, PART 1,

Male Altamira Oriole scouts out all surroundings near water source

Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired”, zoologist, wildlife photographer, and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 56 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her column, published on the 7th and 21st of each month features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and beyond. Contact: all4birdies@gmail.com All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo

During the dry season of the Yucatan, water resources for animals seem limited to freshwater springs, a few park lakes, and the sinkholes (cenotes) that expose the amazing aquifers of this limestone shelf.  Basically the Yucatan lacks surface water.

At several archaeological sites opened to the public, small landscaped plots may be somewhat manicured and frequently watered. Puddles form in exposed limestone rock and birds and other animals search out these resources.

I sat for five hours with my lowered tripod between two shrubs at one of the ruins and photographed some of the passing parade of perchers and others at these watering holes. Several migratory species could have been on their return flight to the US and Canada.

Immediately Clay-colored Thrushes chased their own kind and other species at several small pools.  It seemed the thrushes became tolerant if they bathed in the water. I’ve nicknamed the thrushes the warriors.

Larger Clay-colored Thrush rules the waterhole and threatened the Indigo Bunting
Larger Clay-colored Thrush rules the waterhole and threatened the Indigo Bunting

Another visitor took almost half an hour to approach as it leaped from limb to limb. It rested without a hammock for a bit and then continued its limb-leaping journey. Just as it reached the ground within three feet of the water, I thought how its tail looked like a bushy umbrella. Then visitors walked by and it scampered away. I never saw it return to drink. I classified it as a worrier.

Gray Squirrel scampers through the trees for a half an hour to reach a water source
Gray Squirrel scampers through the trees for a half an hour to reach a water source
The Gray Squirrel doesn't need a hammock to rest
The Gray Squirrel doesn’t need a hammock to rest
Gray Squirrel carries its own sun-brella
Gray Squirrel carries its own sun-brella

Another worrier seemed to be a male Altamira Oriole. Like the squirrel it tiptoed from tree to tree, but it uttered a low “growl”. When it almost arrived at the watering troughs, other birds came and it flew away. This seemed to happen for several hours. Finally, it drank at a small rock.

Male Altamira Oriole scouts out all surroundings near water source
Male Altamira Oriole scouts out all surroundings near water source
Altamira Oriole male bends down to drink water in a rock puddle
Altamira Oriole male bends down to drink water in a rock puddle

Six Gray Catbirds appeared to take turns to drink. One perched nearby and waited until it could take a bath.  If it were the same group, they visited twice during the five hours.

Six Gray Catbirds seem to play cat and mouse while bathing or drinking water.
Six Gray Catbirds seem to play cat and mouse while bathing or drinking water.

Tiny, flitty, flighty birds, like the Red-eyed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, and American Redstart didn’t linger. They gulped quickly and left. While birds drink water, they are vulnerable to predators.

White-eyed Vireo gulped water  quickly after it scouted for safety and then fled
White-eyed Vireo gulped water quickly after it scouted for safety and then fled
Migrant female American Redstart searches for water before departing Yucatan
Migrant female American Redstart searches for water before departing Yucatan
Red-eyed Vireo flits in and out to drink quickly
Red-eyed Vireo flits in and out to drink quickly
Another migrant, the Northern Parula stops by for a quick drink
Another migrant, the Northern Parula stops by for a quick drink

Some species were so quick I never photographed them including the Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Painted Bunting and the Great Kiskadee.

When a small flock of migrants arrived, I loved watching them bathe and drink. Enjoy the photos of the male Indigo Buntings. Stay tuned for the next column to see other thirst quenchers.

Migratory male Indigo Buntings stop by for a communal drink and bath while a Gray Catbird watches
Migratory male Indigo Buntings stop by for a communal drink and bath while a Gray Catbird watches
Indigo Bunting bathes
Indigo Bunting bathes

GO OUTDOORS TO QUENCH YOUR THIRST FOR BEAUTY AND TRANQUILITY.

*Water wars, warriors, and worriers are my own creation as a watcher and are not scientifically accurate descriptions.





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