Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mexico - Rio Lagartos to Cozumel

Jan 30

At dinner the night before, we discovered Les and Carol were ending their Mexico trip this morning and leaving for the airport at about 9:30. They were kind enough to offer us a ride to the airport as our plan had been to bus back to Cancun around then anyway! The car ride was much more enjoyable than the bus, but more on that in a minute.

Rio Lagartos after the rain storm - Phone working again thanks to a charge from Les+Carol!

Since we had some time to kill and had done so well the day before, we slept in a bit, packed up our stuff and went for a walk down the highway south of town. The highway itself actually has some decent habitat, with little wetlands scattered through the scrub forest, and we saw a fair bit! Highlights included plenty of flamingos and other waders, Ruddy Crake, Orange Oriole, Mexican Sheartail and some new birds for the trip such as Wilson's Snipe, Ring-billed Gull, Blue Grosbeak, Blue-winged Teal and Eastern Meadowlark.

Lineated Woodpecker

Deciding we had gone far enough, we wandered back to town and walked along the entire waterfront, picking up Forster's Tern, Merlin and more Mexican Sheartails. This Yucatan near-endemic is probably easiest to see in the town itself, but the only male we saw was at Rancho San Salvador the day previous.

Mexican Sheartail

All too soon it was time to head back to the posada to grab our gear and hop in the car. It was nice to see the road in daylight, and although the birds were a bit thin we picked up Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for the trip. We made a stop in Ek Balam on the way to grab lunch and try to find the archaeological site. We were successful in the lunch department, but never managed to find the ruins. We did bird around the town though, picking up Black-headed Saltator for the trip. Back on the road we made good time to the Cancun airport (Gray Hawk), where we said goodbye to Les and Carol (and thanked them profusely!) and found a bus to Playa del Carmen. After a quick shopping trip for food, a phone charger and some sandals, we got our ferry tickets to Isla Cozumel and waited around to board (Summer Tanager). There were quite a few cruise ships out on the water, with people heading to various Caribbean and Central American destinations for various reasons (some of them pretty interesting...). We arrived on the island shortly after dark, and after checking in at our hostel grabbed a nice dinner and some rest for our early start the next day!

Playa del Carmen from the ferry dock

Running trip total: 153

Jan 31

I don't remember what time we actually got up, but it must have been pretty early as we made it to the abandoned subdivision 8km from our hostel at 6:30am after an uneventful walk! Before leaving for Mexico, I had checked eBird and this seemed like our best bet for maximizing endemic potential during our short stay on the island. This paid off quite well as we picked up all of the endemic species (and most of the endemic subspecies) in only a few hours of wandering the neighbourhood! This doesn't count the Cozumel Thrasher, which in all probability is extinct. I'm not sure what happened here, but it looks like an attempt was made at building a sort of suburb of San Miguel but was given up part way through. The result is that there is an accessible bit of nice forest left, with plenty of trails (roads) to wander around. Highlights here were White-crowned Pigeon, Caribbean Dove, Cozumel Emerald, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yellow-lored Parrot, Caribbean Elaenia, Yucatan Flycatcher, Cozumel Vireo, Yucatan Vireo, Black Catbird and Western Spindalis.

The ubiquitous Black Catbird

A road through the abandoned subdivision

One of the abandoned buildings

As you can tell the island is also home to a number of Caribbean specialties, representing the westernmost part of the range for many, as well as playing host to a number of Yucatan endemics. Unfortunately our hostel required that we check out at noon or pay for an extra day, so we had to cut our time in the neighbourhood short, although considering our success we weren't too worried about this. We made it back in time to check out, grab some lunch and go for a wander around town before catching the afternoon ferry back to Playa del Carmen. Here we were met by my aunt and uncle, who were spending the winter in Playa. It turned out they were hosting some of my other relatives and we had a great evening with awesome food (and maybe a few drinks).

Running trip total: 171

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