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Monday, August 23, 2010

Birding Camellones Chontales

In order to find some Chontal Mayan speakers to work with, we had to take a bus out to Nacajuca, and then a taxi or smaller van out to some of the Mayan towns nearby. Our first stop was Tucta, to look up a Chontal guy who was listed in a Mexican publication. As we get off the bus, we find this interesting sign.

Turns out the government had done a big development project in the early 80s, and dug out 30 some canals in order to create farm gardens in the savannah near Tucta. Our possible ethnographic informant wasn't available, but his brother and son took us for a walk through the area.

We were able to get some good Chontal bird names while walking around, and saw some fun birds including Yucatan Jays (including the white-bodied juvenile birds that turn black over the next month or so), Pinnated Bittern, Hook-billed Kite, and Roadside Hawk.

Perhaps the most common bird was Northern Jacana (Chontal: ch'ich'ip, Local Spanish: pispita). We saw them in almost all the canals, including pairs trailed by young chicks. Unfortunately, all I had was my point and shoot and binoculars, so had to settle for some bad digibined shots (baby is the light colored spot behind the adult). BTW, this is an excellent example of how the Spanish bird names in most of the bird books may not help you in dealing with local people--who don't know the "correct" names of birds, but may very well know the birds by their own local names.

Once upon a time the local community wanted to build a tourist facility here, which would include some ecotours of the area. So far that hasn't really happened, but it is an interesting spot and somewhere, under all the water hyacinths, there are even some Manatis swimming around in there!

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