Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the July 24, 2011 Newsletter issued from Mayan Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México
BIRDLESS BEACH, BIRDLESS FLATS

During the Northern winter the beach here in the southeastern Yucatán stays busy with Laughing, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, and Royal, Caspian, Sandwich, Forster's and Gull-billed Gulls. Of plovers there are the Snowy, Wilson's, Semipalmated, and the Killdeer. There are Willets, Red Knots, Whimbrels, Sanderlings, and Ruddy Turnstones, and among the sandpipers are the Spotted, Western, Least, and also dowitchers and snipes, and other long-legged, beach and shallows- loving species passing through only during spring and fall migration.

Thing is, nearly all the above species are listed as winter visitors for this part of the world. Wilson's Plovers are permanent residents, but they seldom show up here. In fact, right now -- too late for spring migration and too early for fall migration -- there's blessed little for birders to see along our beaches and in shallows and flats.

You see Magnificent Frigatebirds, a few Brown Pelicans and an occasional Royal Tern. Sometimes pairs of fast-flying boobies with tapered tails and very long, slender, bent wings speed by but I can't see which species they are. A few weeks ago we found that dying Red-footed Booby at the rocky point just below us, so maybe they're Red-footeds.

In general, the absence of birds in seemingly biologically rich environments is astonishing. Horizon-to-horizon heaps of moldering seaweed wash up along shore work with those plump springtails we looked at awhile back, so why aren't sandpipers and plovers probing those heaps with their long bills, feeding on springtails? The Turtlegrass shallows at low tied are perfect hunting grounds for long-legged herons and egrets stalking small fish, but none are to be seen there. Why not?

Well, clearly species migrate away from this area during the sumer, but why didn't species evolve taking advantage of these rich feeding grounds available here right now?

One answer I can come up with, by guessing, is that it's a dangerous strategy for any species to nest in an area so vulnerable to hurricanes.