Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cozumel Part 1 (14Apr2019)

Cozumel was super nice but I am not sure I would want to spend too much time there, and we felt one night and full day was perfect.  At least for this introduction to the Yucatan trip.  If I wanted to baste myself with oil and hang out on the beach and go on booze and cruises it would be a perfect place.  In my prep for this trip, I saw a place north of the town that would be good for my morning's birding.  Most of the trip reports I read said something about a golf resort that you can walk the grounds on so I just drove north until the road almost ran out of pavement and saw the entrance to a gated golf course.  I asked the gatekeeper (oddly his name was not Zuul) but he said he did not think I could come in to look for birds and that he was not sure because it was his first day on the job.  I tried to charm him into calling his boss but it was 7am and he was not game to wake the big man (Gozer?) on his first day.  Birding is half about the adventure so I decided to find my own way and headed further down the dirt lane at the end of the road.

It did not take long to start finding Cozumel and Yucatan endemics and in fact I was super pumped in the end that I took the road less traveled.

Yucatan Vireo - looks kind of like a Red-eyed Vireo but with a honker of a bill and the supercilium is wider in front of the eyes.

Yellow Warblers were everywhere and these were the local versions with extra red highlights on the noggin.  They were singing like crazy so I assumed most were breeders.

Bananaquit collecting nesting material - maybe some day this will be a sub-species that is split into full species status.

Tropical Mockingbirds were everywhere.

I am pretty sure this one was a Yucatan Flycatcher but now I can't remember if I heard it to clinch it.  No worries dear reader I did get a confirmed one later in the trip.  The Yucatan Flycatcher is very similar to the Dusky-capped Flycatcher but the Dusky is smaller.

Black Catbirds were also abundant.

White-winged Doves were signing as well as White-tipped although the White-tipped never were seen.

Ruddy Ground Doves were defying gravity and sitting on wires.

A group of Martins were working the sky and I didn't see any dark ones so I called them Gray-breasted Martins.  It is possible they were all female Purple Martins but eBird seems to think Gray-breasted would be more likely.  Anyhow, it is a species I had already so I was not too worried about misidentifying this common bird.

Cozumel Vireo!  This was the only one I saw and I knew I only had one day in Cozumel so it was a huge relief.

Black-whiskered Vireo

Great Kiskadee

I knew this was a new bird for me but it took a little while to ID it.  I am fairly certain it is a Caribbean Elaenia.

Then this one presented itself and I realized I finally had myself a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet.

Tropical Mocker

Another Ruddy

At this point I was running out of time as I promised the family I would be back at the hotel by 9:30 and I wanted to get some breakfast.  I could see some marshy areas and one of my targets was Ruddy Crake but I was totally blind as to where the hot spots would be.  However, after playing a quick song from my downloaded Merlin Bird ID app, I had an immediate reply!  And let me tell you these little birds are LOUD!  I waited thinking the bird would probably never come out and after 10 minutes he popped right out and presented himself for hundreds of photos.  Here are a couple.

 More from the rest of the day in Cozumel will come in a subsequent post.

Dear readers, I know there are a bunch of you because I can see how many hits I have for each post, but I would love to see who you are.  Just in case you didn't know, you can use the "Follow" button on the right hand side in one of the widgets so you don't have to load my URL each time.  I personally follow 10 blogs regularly which I recommend and have listed under favorites.  That way when I log into blogger I can see any new posts under my reading list.  If you don't have a Blogger account then I guess you can't use the follow function.  The other perk if you create a Blogger account (its free) is that you can post comments and I would love to get some more that are not my immediate family although I always love their comments too.  The Blogosphere is kind of like a cold looking pool or lake, it's best to just jump in and then once you do you will not regret it.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Yucatan Day 1 - Cenote Verde Lucero (13Apr2019)

On recommendation from the Jolie Jungle staff we headed to Cenote Verde Lucero on the way to Playa Carmen.  Initially we were hesitant to stop places with all of our stuff in the car but we never really got a bad vibe anywhere and used common sense in never leaving anything of value visible in the car.  Its no different than what I do at home in the states anyhow.  To be honest the only things I care about anyway are my family and my camera and that is always glued to my side except when swimming.

Olive-throated Parakeets ended up being pretty common throughout the trip but at the time we arrived at the Cenote it was hard to get me out of the parking lot.  However, it was warm and cooling off with the kids in the Cenote was super refreshing.  The folks that ran the cenote had set up some zip lines and there were multiple places to jump from the rim into the water.  Unfortunately Melissa did not get footage of my swan dive from the highest jump but she did get a short clip of Luke and I jumping in from one of the smaller jumps.

While the boys played in the water I walked around the cenote drying off and looking for some birds.

Clay-colored Thrushes were common all over the Yucatan.

North American migrants were plentiful including this Summer Tanager.

Blue Bunting was a lifer for me as I missed one in TX.

There were several hard to ID flycatchers flitting about and I tried my best to get some identifiable photos but I am starting to resign myself to the fact that if I really want to have identifiable media I will need to start more sound recording and video.  I decided the above bird was probably an Eastern Wood-Pewee based on long primary projection, lack of eye-ring and dark upper mandible with a darker bill tip.

Flycatching close by was this Pewee which I determined was a Tropical Pewee based on the mostly lighter bill and buffier appearance.  I did here the call notes but I could not be sure which bird the notes were coming from.  However, playing on my app the call notes matched Tropical Pewee which is an expected bird but with migrants pouring through I had to be careful.

Altamira Orioles were common everywhere.  I did not do enough homework before the trip and IDing the various orioles was not easy but I reasoned I could shoot first and ID later.  Now I see that Altamiras are easy to ID when you see an orange shoulder on the wing and prominent white wing bar.

Black-and-whites were common.

At the time I thought this was a lifer but was not sure which.  Turns out it is just a House Wren!

Here is the presumed Tropical Pewee.  Note the medium primary projection (wing tip extension from the rest of the wing feathers) and the mostly lighter bill.

Olive-throated Parakeet.

A couple of Spider Monkeys were hanging out the barbeque area where a local family was having lunch.  It was obvious these monkeys were regulars and have learned to get handouts.  However, it offered me good opportunities to get close and personal with a species I previously only saw through treetops.

The family left a cup with Coke sitting around and this cheeky monkey quickly came down and grabbed the cup and chugged the Coke.

Eastern Wood-Pewee - note the longer projection and darker upper mandible.

Gartered Trogon!

Tropical Pewee

Blue Bunting on a Pineapple plant!

Our next stop was Playa Carmen where we dropped off our rental car in a parking lot and headed to the passenger ferry for Cozumel.  This was probably the only part of the trip that made me nervous.  Upon arrival at the ferry terminal we got in a huge line and waited for over an hour all the while watching the ferries getting tossed all over in huge waves breaking up against the docks.  In the states, they never would have ran the ferries because of the waves but in Mexico this seemed to be normal.  The boats would pull up the dock and get tossed around making a horrible sound every time the side of the boat rubbed up against the dock and the gangplank for entry and exit onto the boat was practically falling into the water every 5 minutes with 6 guys trying to hold it into place.  They would shout for passengers to run across the gangplank in between waves and then tell people to stop when a wave came.  Once finally on the boat the crew passed around barf bags but luckily no one seemed to get sick.

If it was just me, I would have never been nervous but when you have precious cargo like these two guys it definitely frazzled me.

After a 45 minute ride to Cozumel we quickly found our rental car place (interestingly enough called ISiS after the god) and checked in to our harbor side boutique hotel (Casa Mexicana) which was really nice and in the center of town with a great view over the harbor and the many swallows and frigate birds.  Dinner at a taqueria was good but I have to say that we never got tacos better than the fish tacos at Savorez back in Wilmington.

Next installment - Cozumel!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Yucatan Day 1 (13Apr2019)

Melissa has always wanted to go so the famous Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan peninsula so when shopping for plane fares for our Easter break with the kids, I plugged in some comparisons with some other destinations and it came out being way cheaper than some of the other choices.  The other big bonus was direct flights to Cancun from Charlotte.  Before I knew it, spring break was upon us and off we went.

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon on the 12th and spent an hour driving to our first stop which was a place called Jolie Jungle.  JJ was was in the middle of nowhere south of Cancun and a good ways inland.  It was run by a Frenchman and his local wife and was a bit strange because the only visitors other than us was the Mexican military.  About 12 guys from the military were hanging out at the pool when we arrived so the kids felt weird about joining them.  However, they were nice and it seemed the family that runs the place likes them around as it discourages some of the extortion that some places in the Yucatan face.  Although I tried some half hearted night birding, the true birding did not start until the next morning.

A couple tips when visiting the Yucatan for a birding trip:
1. Download the Merlin Bird ID App and preload the Yucatan package.  It makes it easy to check what the local birds are and check the calls and songs.
2. Download the complete Maps of the Yucatan on GoogleMaps so you can navigate around without needing WiFi.  We were able to navigate everywhere without being online everywhere we went.

First good bird in the still dark was a Middle American Screech-owl which did not cooperate for photos but it did fly around us a bit.

This Woodcreeper had me a little confused but I finally IDed it as an Ivory-billed.  The bill was the right color but seemed a bit short to me.  However, I saw another later and the other ones found in this area look totally different.

Ant-tanagers were abundant and brazen but tend to stay in the shadows so good clear shots were hard to come by.  This was the Red-throated which has a more contrasting face and throat.  It seemed the Red-crowned stayed higher in the trees and none of the photos came out good.

The Spot-breasted Wren is a skulking son of a gun so I never managed a good unobstructed shot.

Squirrel Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cacique - a long overdue lifer for me.  Strange for a blackbird in that it skulks through the jungle.

Masked Tityra - seen plenty of these in CR.

Black-headed Trogon - not too many possibilities for Trogons in the Yucatan so ID was easy peasy.

Here is another Ivory-billed Woodcreeper with the expected longer bill.

Bright-rumped Attila - never came out for a proper crushing.

Butterfly IDs will come later.... Anyone have a guess?

Female Red-throated Ant-tanager.

Tropical Gnatcatcher

There was a ton of common migrating warblers with BT Greens and Magnolias being the most prevalent but I was focusing on the Yucatan specialties.

This close-up of a Red-throated Ant-tanager female really shows the contrasting throat.

Groove-billed Ani.

Yucatan Woodpecker!  The area around the bill base looks like it is dipped in yolk.  There are a ton of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers around but I had no trouble differentiating as the Yucatan WP is much cuter and less gregarious.

Northern Barred-Woodcreeper.

We only stayed one night at Jolie Jungle so before lunch we set off for our first foray at one of the famous Cenotes.  Per Wiki:  "cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucat√°n Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings."

The folks at Jolie Jungle recommended Cenote Verde Lucero as you can jump and zipline into the refreshing pool.  It was awesome!! I will save those pics for the next post.  Cheers.