Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mexico and Belize: a slightly different tropical adventure. Pt II

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Our couple of days on Cozumel were more than successful. We bagged not only the two endemic species, but also a few of the endemic subspecies.

Before, I go on, I should mention a quick note on the pronunciation.  In English, many people pronounce it "cah-zu-mel".  In Spanish, the "O" is always long, and locally, it is pronounced "co-zoo-mel" with the long "O" and the accent on the first syllable.

But back to my story...

We arose early, just before sunrise, and headed straight to an abandoned suburb of the town that was never developed. This made it easier to traverse the rather thick scrub habitat. On the way, we picked up a couple endemic Cozumel Emeralds:

As is typical of abandoned areas, there was trash strewn everywhere. Everything you could think of was strewn on both sides of every path. We picked our way along while keeping an eye out for birds.
Black Vultures were common, sitting up in the open letting the morning sun warm their feathers.

As we walked, suddenly, a lone Roadside Hawk sailed over low and kept going out of sight. Unfortunately, it was the only one to grace our presence during our time there. The subspecies is endemic to the island.

We picked our way through Grassquits, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and tons of White-eyed Vireos in search of our quarry.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 
Gnatcatchers were fairly prevalent on the island and the Yucatan endemic Black Catbird was so ridiculously common as to be almost not worth mentioning... Ok, just kidding, they're pretty awesome:

Black Catbird
It was interesting to see them right next to their cousins, Grey Catbirds, which were almost as common:

Grey Catbird

Fortunately, birding on Cozumel isn't terribly difficult and the endemics are common and we quickly turned up the other endemic species, Cozumel Vireo:

Cozumel Vireo

Bananaquits were also present in decent numbers

It's always interesting to see the regional geographic variation in this species. The colors and patterns change with some regularity.

Here's a few examples of three subspecies in the same general area, separated only by water that look different from the ones on Cozumel:

That evening, we went looking for nightjars. We didn't fail, but came up with only Paraque, which is common in the southern part of Texas. Ethan did manage to get an awesome, point-blank recording of it though.


Our second day of birding (morning really as we took off after birding for a few hours) on Cozumel landed us a much wanted endemic subspecies:

Cozumel Western Spindalis 
Stripe-headed Tanager is a fairly strictly caribbean species and was recently (I say recently, but I don't remember exactly when) split into a few species and renamed Spindalis.  The one that occurs on Cozumel is Western Spindalis. It's a bird I've been wanting to find in Florida for some years now and I was happy to finally see one, albeit in Mexico.

Generally, flycatchers were hard to come by on the island, but I did manage a nice photo of this Caribbean Elaenia:

Caribbean Elaenia

After spending a few hours birding, we hopped it back to the docks and caught the next ferry back to the mainland.  No band this time, but we did have another pleasant cruise across the ten miles of unbelievably blue water.

Arriving back at the mainland, we hopped aboard the next bus to Felipe Carrillo Puerto (often known simply as Puerto Carrillo among the locals).  Arriving in town just about mid-afternoon, we we stopped in at a local Super (supermarket) to stock up on supplies and were stymied by a burst of rain that left us sheltering under the supermarket's roof almost until sunset.

It's interesting who you meet and talk to when you travel.  As we were waiting for the rain to stop, a european guy biked up and parked. It turned out that he was a few days into an epic bike (I mean bicycle) trip that would take him all the way from Cancun to Tierra Del Fuego.  I love traveling, but I can't say I'm quite that ambitious. He didn't speak much english or spanish, so hopefully he's getting along somewhere, probably in Guatemala by now.

As evening came, the rain stopped and we finally ventured to hail a taxi to the edge of town at the start of the world-famous Vigia Chico Road.  This road starts in Puerto Carrillo and ends in the Caribbean Sea, traversing its way through the famous Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.  Without a car, we didn't make it as far as the reserve, but had the taxi drop us at the edge of town where we grabbed our gear and hiked down the road for a couple miles until we found a secluded, hidden milpe just off the road where we could pitch camp for the night.

It was a slightly sketchy spot, but it was secluded and proved to be pretty decent birding.
As we settled in for the night, a Collared Forest-falcon called in the distance and Thicket Tinamous sent their harmonic humming laconically languishing through the evening air.

In my next post, I will cover our two days on Vigia Chico Road and our long bus ride to Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve in Belize.

Til next time, Happy Birding!

1 comment:

troutbirder said...

15Very fascinating. Wish I could go there sometime...:)