Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mexico - Camino Vigia Chico to Belize - Monkey Bay

Feb 3

We were once again up before dawn in order to get some birding done before we had to head back to town. Wandering a little ways up the road and back, packing up our gear and heading out yielded some new species for the trip (Collared Aracari, Black-crowned Tityra, Collared Forest-Falcon, Laughing Falcon, Northern Bentbill, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreeper and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager), mostly species that are at the northern edge of their range here. We also had better looks at a few species from the day before and found an out-of-range Caribbean Dove, which seems to be expanding on the peninsula?

We wished these guys had extra room on their bikes!

With our Vigia Chico list just over 100 species, we hiked back to town where we just barely missed the 8:30 bus and had to wait around at the station until 10 for the next one. Here we picked up our last bird for Mexico (Purple Martin) before boarding the bus to Chetumal.

Random shot of some graffiti in FCP

I should note that up until now we had been avoiding taxis, mainly because they are more expensive than buses/walking, but also because we had heard that they will try to screw you around. Well this definitely happened in Chetumal! Upon arriving to the bus station, we were informed that the buses to Belize City left from another station, a short cab ride away. Our taxi driver ended up dropping us at the main cab station (which, unbeknownst to us, was right next to the bus station), where the other taxi drivers insisted that there was no bus into Belize. After refusing to show us where the bus station was (since we knew their stories to be untrue), we eventually gave up and caught a ride with one of them, which was supposed to take us to Corozal where we could catch a direct bus to Belize City. The taxi driver somehow managed to skip Mexican customs and dropped us off at Belize customs where we were informed we'd have to go back to Mexico to get an exit stamp! Our taxi driver seemed to not understand this so we left him there and started walking back to Mexico. Along the way another taxi driver gave us a free ride to Mexican customs and back to Belize customs after we told him what the other guy had done, which was a nice gesture! We eventually got sorted and made it into Belize, where the bus system is much cheaper than Mexico, but also not nearly as punctual, nice, or fast... We caught the first bus to Belize City, which we were told was an express bus. It turned out to be the milk run bus and took us the entire afternoon to get to Belize City, although we did get to see a good chunk of the Belize countryside and small towns along the way. We eventually did make it to town after dark, and caught a bus to Monkey Bay, arriving around 8pm. Luckily Fiona (the owner) was still up to check us in, and upon discovering that we could have an actual room for about the same price as camping (since camping is charged individually), we abandoned our camping plans and called it a night to the sounds of Vermiculated Screech-Owl and Common Pauraque after a long and hectic day on the road!
Running trip total: 226

Feb 4

It was time to see if our long travel day on the 3rd had paid off! My original plan had been to break up the travel with a stop at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary instead of Monkey Bay WS, but extensive flooding there meant that the local campgrounds weren't taking bookings. Much of Monkey Bay is inaccessible without a guide, but it doesn't really matter as the lodge grounds and a road leading down the edge of the sanctuary provide good birding. Along the road in the morning we turned up a good number of new birds for the trip, highlighted by Gray-chested Dove, Blue Ground-Dove, Great Antshrike, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Yellow-winged Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Yellow-billed Cacique, a locally-rare Shining Honeycreeper, and a number of more common tropical species.

Eye-ringed Flatbill
Yellow-lored Parrot
The track at Monkey Bay

There is a nice restaurant close to the lodge at Monkey Bay, and I think we ate there three times during our stay! While eating lunch we added our only White-tailed Hawk of the trip. At this point my chigger bites were swollen, blistering, itchy and generally rather gross-looking so I spent most of the afternoon relaxing in a hammock, doing some laundry and catching up on the free wi-fi. A short walk around the lodge turned up a few Grace's Warblers and an evening vigil was rewarded with two flyby Yellow-headed Parrots, our main target here! This endangered species is easier to see at Crooked Tree, along with our other target (Jabiru) which went unseen by us for the whole trip.

The view from the hammock
 Yellow-headed Parrots!
Running trip total: 255

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