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by James Batt


for those who imagined this place ... for the artisans who then created it ... and for those who inspire us to preserve it ...


INTRODUCTION Mayakoba is principally a resort which is home to three of the most celebrated hotels in Mexico, and the only golf course in the country which is host to the PGA Tour during the annual OHL Classic at Mayakoba. The Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Rosewood hotels consistently top the Best Hotels lists, and have become peaceful havens for discerning travellers from around the world. For some guests, a visit is not enough, and there is a growing list of owners of residences within Mayakoba who enjoy the resort as a second home. But this book celebrates an aspect of the development which is sometimes a delightful surprise to naturelovers as they discover the flourishing bird population in the diverse ecosystem. Within the square mile or so which is Mayakoba, we have beach, sand dune, mangrove and jungle, which together provide a natural habitat for a wide variety of species. Visitors to the resort have unrivalled access to all of this, whether it be during a round of golf, on the Nature Trail, which connects the hotels and golf course, the Mayakoba Connection, which is a ferry service running daily throughout the resort, or on one of our special eco-tours by boat. All of the Mayakoba boats are electric-powered and there is an unwritten contract between man and wildlife that if we are quiet and do not disturb them, they will go about their lives permitting us to observe them up close in a way that is almost unique. Recently, Mayakoba has become host to National Geographic Photographers’ Masterclass Weekends, but whether you decide to join one of these with your pro-level camera and lens, or simply bring along your point-and-shoot camera, we think you will be surprised and delighted at what you will find . . .

JRB Earth Day 2014


Tri-coloured Heron

Divine and Right

Mayakoba was crafted from the outset to be an environmentally sensitive creation. From the first visits to the site of the architects and engineers, there were always biologists, and biologists form an integral part of the Mayakoba team to this day. The resulting resort has won awards for its sustainability, but the ample birdlife is a testament to the environmentally-sensitive labours of those who created it.

This book is the result of a happy convergence of hobby and work, but can not be the ‘Bird Book’ for Mayakoba, since there are so many species still to be recorded. It is, however, a record of many of the species guests are most likely to encounter during a visit here. Different seasons mean different species, so come back often to enjoy the entire cast of the’ Birds of Mayakoba’ ! birds of mayakoba

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YUCATAN JAY The flash of blue darting in front of your car as you arrive at Mayakoba is likely to be this endemic Yucatan species. I have chosen this bird to lead off the book as it is something of an iconic sight throughout Mayakoba. Living in often large family groups, rattling away with their distinctive call, their plumage changes with age : at first their feathers are quite white (next page), then they retain the golden eye ring and yellow beak for a year or so before maturity brings a black beak, and no eye ring . . . birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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BOAT-BILLED HERON If the Yucatan Jay is the iconic land-based bird, then this must be the must-see bird from the water. This surprising bird can be viewed during a ride on the Mayakoba Connection ferry, or on one of our ecotours. It inhabits a particular nesting area and it is fascinating to watch the juvenile birds as they mature into adults. It is mostly nocturnal (notice that nature has provided those big eyes), so tends to stay back in the mangroves during bright sunlight. Our colony has grown from a first sighting of two birds two years ago, to something like twenty birds today. The chicks mature very quickly, in a matter of weeks, to adult plumage, so these are definitely a rare and special sighting . . .

birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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Immature Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

HERONS

Bare-throated Tiger Heron birds of mayakoba

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Mayakoba has a bountiful assortment of Herons, but some are not that easy to see. Visitors may expect to encounter Great Blue Herons, Green Herons and Tricoloured Herons during a ride on the waterways, with other species providing an exciting variation when they are visible. These birds are expert fishermen, and it is not unusual to see them wading in the shallow water, expertly grabbing a small fish . . .


Great Blue Heron birds of mayakoba

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GREAT BLUE HERON This huge bird will be spotted from a good distance, but almost invariably, they fly off before one can pass them in a boat. It is the largest wading bird on this continent, and its wingspan can reach six feet. Above, an example of one of these birds drying its wings in the sun . . . a rare behavior not often photographed . . . birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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Adult Green Heron

GREEN HERON A particularly photogenic bird regularly seen in the mangroves around Mayakoba. This bird is one of the very few species which uses tools to catch fish . . . dropping a feather or a leaf on the surface of the water, it waits for a fish to investigate, and quickly grabs its meal. This behavior can regularly be seen at Mayakoba.

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A Green Heron prepares to dive in for a meal


Immature Green Heron birds of mayakoba

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TRICOLOURED AND LITTLE BLUE HERON Tricoloured Heron birds of mayakoba

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Tricoloured Herons are distinctive and regularly seen at Mayakoba. The Little Blue is a special treat when we spot one . . .


Tricoloured Heron

Little Blue Heron birds of mayakoba

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ROSEATE SPOONBILL This spectacular bird is a regular visitor to our waters, and provides a wonderful splash of color . . . this bird is no longer considered endangered having recovered to stable numbers following its decimation when the millinery trade found a fashionable use for its feathers, but although it can be locally common, it is still a wonderful sight when seen up close . . .

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birds of mayakoba

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CORMORANTS AND ANHINGAS Cormorants and Anhingas can always be found lining the waterways of Mayakoba. Unlike ducks, they have no oil in their feathers, and therefore must dry their wings after they dive for food. They nest in busy colonies, usually in the mangroves.

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This page : Cormorant behaviour, enjoying a good old splash, swallowing a (still flapping) fish and displaying during the breeding season. Following pages : Anhinga Chicks in the nest, displaying the distinctive breeding plumage, and an Anhinga dries its wings.

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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OL’ BLUE EYES This page and opposite : Look more carefully at these birds, and you will enjoy their bright turquoise eyes. Following pages : A pair of Anhingas at their nest notice the bright blue eye rings during the breeding season, and an Anhinga dries its wings . . .

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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EGRETS Closely related to Herons, sometimes we can see literally dozens of these birds at roost, particularly at sunset. Spot the ‘yellow shoes’ which signal the Snowy Egret. The Great Egret has rebounded from its popularity with the Millinery trade at the turn of the last century . . it is larger than the Snowy Egret, and lacks the yellow ‘shoes’ . . .

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This page : A Great Egret finding a roost as daylight withdraws Opposite : Great Egret. Snowy Egret (with the yellow shoes !) Following pages : Cattle Egrets, Snowy Egrets. birds of mayakoba

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birds of mayakoba

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LIMPKIN

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This special bird has made a home for itself at Mayakoba. It feeds mainly on Apple Snails, empty shells of which can be seen at the water’s edge, signalling that a Limpkin has been feeding there. Limpkins are not Herons or Egrets, in fact they are in a family of their own, and the regular sightings at Mayakoba are often the first time even experienced birders encounter one of these unusual birds. Its beak is specially curved to enable it to extract the meat from the snail shells. It is likely that its name suggested that the bird limps, but in fact it does not, it flicks its tail as it walks, probably giving rise to its name.


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WHITE IBIS This lovely bird can often be seen at the water’s edge, or flying above with its distinctive silhouette. On the opposite page you may see two immature White Ibis, both resting on one leg, as we floated by in one of our electric boats. This symptom of the fact that birds are quite relaxed in our presence can also be seen in many species and there are examples in this book of Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills exhibiting the same behaviour.

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birds of mayakoba

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WOOD STORK birds of mayakoba

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Our largest bird which we see mainly in the summer months. It really is an impressive size, and they sometimes allow quite close inspection. Listed as endangered, it does have a somewhat prehistoric look. Once seen, never forgotten !


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RAILS GALLINULES & COOTS These birds all have large feet to negotiate the marshy areas, and are invariably a delight to see. The easiest way to tell them apart is from their beak shield . . red (Moorhen), orange (Northern Jacana) or white (American Coot). This page : Northern Jacana strutting on the golf course. Opposite page : A flock of American Coots scatters. We enjoy thousands of these birds as they visit during the winter months. Gallinule (or Moorhen to my British friends!), often seen with their hilarious-looking babies, who look like they are wearing sunglasses !

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birds of mayakoba

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Grey-necked Woodrail

Grey-necked Woodrail, perhaps the most attractive bird of Mayakoba, but extremely difficult to see, and a Sora, also hard to see . . . in fact this photograph was taken on the only occasion I have seen one here . . .

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Sora


Grey-necked Woodrail birds of mayakoba

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DUCKS The best time to see ducks is during the winter months, when we have a growing population of Blue-winged Teal. The Least Grebe is an excellent swimmer . . . in the clear waters of Mayakoba, you may see them underwater rivalling the fish . . .

Blue-Winged Teal Launch birds of mayakoba

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Least Grebe

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Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Least Grebe birds of mayakoba

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Blue-Winged Teal birds of mayakoba

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OSPREY These are our resident birds of prey . . . you may see them perched overlooking their feeding grounds, or even taking a fish from the water . . .

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birds of mayakoba

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VULTURES Nature’s clean-up crew . . . we have two kinds at Mayakoba, the Turkey Vulture (often referred to as a ‘Buzzard’) and the Black-headed Vulture. Let’s face it, these birds have looks only a mother could love !

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birds of mayakoba

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Least Tern

Magnificent Frigate

SHORE BIRDS Brown Pelican birds of mayakoba

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There are plenty of shorebirds, as you might expect, on the beaches of Mayakoba.


Herring Gull birds of mayakoba

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JUNGLE BIRDS The following pages contain pictures of birds which can be found on foot in Mayakoba, especially from the Nature Trail which connects the hotels, and on the golf course. In addition, there are many more small species, such as our Warblers, which can be spotted with the help of a pair of binoculars. Try a stop at our bird-watching tower at the Burrodromo Cenote on the Nature Trail towards the Rosewood Hotel. This page : Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Yucatan sub-species) Opposite page : A Grayish Saltator screams at a Great Kiskadee for stealing its meal !

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birds of mayakoba

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KISKADEE The Great Kiskadee is regularly spotted throughout Mayakoba, but at first sight, is remarkably similar to the Social Flycatcher. There is a slight difference in size, and note the cinnamon-coloured wings on the Kiskadee. You might spot this bird on your balcony or hear its distinctive ‘Kis-ka-dee’ call. This page : Great Kiskadee, flying Great Kiskadee Opposite page : Great Kiskadee chasing a Social Flycatcher while a Grackle looks on, Social Flycatcher.

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birds of mayakoba

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CHACHALACA, MOCKINGBIRD & GRACKLE

You will likely hear the Chachalaca before you see it with its noisy ‘cha-cha-lac’ call in unsynchronized groups. Usually seen in families, it can often be encountered on the Nature Trail. The Great-tailed Grackle is a common sight on the golf course, and in the right light, this bird’s irridescent plumage is spectacular. The Tropical Mockingbird may be monochromatic, but it sings beautifully, and is a fine addition to the Mayakoba flock.

Plain Chachalaca

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Plain Chachalaca feeding young

Plain Chachalaca showing red throat

Tropical Mockingbird

Great-tailed Grackle

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ORIOLES Among the varieties of Orioles seen at Mayakoba, one (the Orange Oriole) is endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula. All provide a delightful splash of yellow in the green branches. This page : Orange Oriole. Next page : Altamira Oriole, Hooded Oriole at nest.

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birds of mayakoba

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RED BIRDS From yellow birds, to red . . . all three of these are hard to see at Mayakoba, but keep an eye out, and you may catch a glimpse of one . . . This page : Northern Cardinal, Summer Tanager Opposite page : Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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birds of mayakoba

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SPOTTED ON THE TRAIL...

Spotted Sandpiper

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Solitary Sandpiper

Black-throated Bobwhite (endemic to the Yucatan)

Black-throated Bobwhite (endemic to the Yucatan)

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Mrs. Hooded Oriole

Rufous-browed Peppershrike

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Groove-billed Ani


Tropical Kingbird

White-fronted Parrot birds of mayakoba

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Turquoise-browed Mot Mot

Black-headed Trogon

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Altamira Oriole


White-eyed Vireo

Yucatan Nightjar (endemic to the Yucatan)

Green Jay

Mangrove Cuckoo

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Yellow-billed Cacique

Scrub Euphonia

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American Redstart

Squirrel Cuckoo


Least Bittern birds of mayakoba

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BIRD WALK This remarkable photograph , taken between the Rosewood and Fairmont hotels, depicts five species of birds (it is completely un-retouched) . . . and there was a Tricoloured Heron ten feet behind the Great Blue which I could not get in to the shot . . . Left to right : Llittle Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill (immature White Ibis behind), White Ibis, Great Blue Heron.

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birds of mayakoba

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INDEX OF BIRDS’ NAMES PAGE(S)

ENGLISH NAME

SPANISH NAME

LATIN (SCIENTIFIC) NAME

72,65

Altamira Oriole

Calandria de Altamira

icterus gularis

45

American Coot

Gallareta Americana

fulica americana

74

American Redstart

Pavito Migratorio

setophaga ruticilla

28-29,32-33

Anhinga

Anhinga Americana

anhinga anhinga

14

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Garza Tigre Gorginuda

tigrisoma mexicanum

55

Black Vulture

Zopilote Negro

coragyps atratus

50

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Pijiji Aliblanco

dendrocygna autumnalis

72

Black-headed Trogon

Trogón Cabecinegro

trogon melanocephalus

69

Black-throated Bobwhite

Codorniz Yucateca

colinus nigrogularis

48-51

Blue-winged Teal

Cercata Aliazul

anas discors

10-13

Boat-billed Heron

Garza Cucharon

cochlearius cochlearius

56

Brown Pelican

Pelícano Café

pelecanus occidentalis

37

Cattle Egret

Garza Ganadera

bubulcus ibis

26-27,30-31

Double-crested Cormorant

Cormorán Bicrestado

phalacrocorax auritus

58

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Carpintero Frentidorado

melanerpes aurifrons

15-17,77

Great Blue Heron

Garzón Cenizo

ardea herodias

34-35

Great Egret

Garza Grande

ardea alba

59-61

Great Kiskadee

Luis Grande

pitangus suphuratus

63

Great-tailed Grackle

Zanate

quiscalus mexicanus

18-19

Green Heron

Garza Verde

butorides virescens

73

Green Jay

Chara Verde

cyanocorax yncas


INDEX OF BIRDS’ NAMES PAGE(S)

ENGLISH NAME

SPANISH NAME

LATIN (SCIENTIFIC) NAME

46-47

Grey-necked Wood Rail

Rascón Cuelligris

aramides cajanea

59

Greyish Saltator

Saltator Grisáceo

saltator coerulescens

70

Groove-billed Ani

Garrapatero

crotophaga sulcirostris

57

Herring Gull

Gaviota Argénteas

larus argentatus

65,70

Hooded Oriole

Calandria Cuculada

icterus cucullatus

75

Least Bittern

Avetorito Pantanero

ixobrychus exilis

49-50

Least Grebe

Zambullidor Menor

tachybaptus dominicus

68

Spotted Sandpiper

Playerito Menudo

calidris minutilla

56

Least Tern

Golondrina Marina Minima

sterna antillarum

38-39

Limpkin

Carao

aramus guarauna

21,76

Little Blue Heron

Garza Azul

egretta caerulea

56

Magnificent Frigatebird

Fragata Magnifica

fregata magnificens

73

Mangrove Cuckoo

Cuco Manglero

coccyzus minor

26-27,30-31

Neotropic Cormorant

Cormorán Neoptropical

phalacrocorax brasilianus

66

Northern Cardinal

Cardenal

cardinalis cardinalis

44

Northern Jacana

Jacana Mesoamericana

jacana spinosa

64

Orange Oriole

Calandria Yucateca

icterus auratus

52-53

Osprey

Gavilán Pescador

pandion haliaetus

62-63

Plain Chachalaca

Chachalaca Común

ortalis vetula

67

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Picogrueso Pechirosado

pheucticus ludovicianus

22-25

Roseate Spoonbill

Espátula Rosada

platalea ajaja


INDEX OF BIRDS’ NAMES PAGE(S)

ENGLISH NAME

SPANISH NAME

LATIN (SCIENTIFIC) NAME

70

Rufous-browed Peppershrike

Vireón Cejiruffo

cyclarhis gujinensis

74

Scrub Euphonia

Eufonia Garganta Negra

euphonia affinis

34,36-37

Snowy Egret

Garza Nívea

egretta thula

61

Social Flycatcher

Luis Gregario

myiozetetes simils

69

Solitary Sandpiper

Andarríos Solitario

tringa solitaria

46

Sora

Polluela Sora

porzana carolina

74

Squirrel Cuckoo

Cuco Ardilla

piaya cayana

66

Summer Tanager

Tángara Roja

piranga rubra

20-21

Tricoloured Heron

Garza Tricolor

egretta tricolor

71

Tropical Kingbird

Tirano Tropical

tyrannus melancholicus

63

Tropical Mockingbird

Cenzontle

mimus gilvus

54-55

Turkey Vulture

Buitre Americano

cathartes aura

72

Turquoise-browed Mot Mot

Pájaro Reloj

eumomota superciliosa

40-41

White Ibis

Ibis Blanco

eudomicus albus

73

White-eyed Virio

Vireo Ojiblanco

vireo griseus

71

White-fronted Parrot

Loro Frentiblanco

amazon albifrons

42-43

Wood Stork

Cigüeña Americana

mycteria americana

74

Yellow-billed Cacique

Cacique Picoplata

amblycercus holosericeus

14

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Garza Nocturna Coroniamarilla

nycticorax violacea

6-9

Yucatan Jay

Chara Yucateca

cyanacorax yucatanicus

73

Yucatan Nightjar

Tapacamino huil

caprimulgus badius


Birds of Mayakoba™