09 January 2017

Cozumel

I woke up early in the pre-dawn. Caroline, tired from our travels from Chicago to Mexico, slept, not wishing to venture out into the low, dry forests of Cozumel to feel the inevitable tropical heat coming later in the day. While I knew the scorching sun was coming, the pre-dawn cool was invigorating. The walk was largely silent, except for a few passing joggers, cars, and a lone Common Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis singing in the woods near the airport.

Cozumel sunrise
Sunrise on Cozumel Island

As the sun rose, I reached a small road cutting through the scrub to the east of the airport. This was my goal: a close, accessible patch of woods from which I could search for Cozumel endemics. As I got my wits about me, Black Catbirds Melapnotila glabrirostris called around me and I luckily had a Cozumel Emerald Chlorostilbon forficatus in an adjacent bush. As the sun continued to rise, I slowly worked my way down the surprisingly busy road, searching the bushes and trees for more Cozumel endemics. Migrant warblers flitted between the treetops, and I surprised a close, roadside White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala. It took my a while to sort out the sounds coming from the trees: this was my first morning of birding in Mexico, and many of these birds were either new for me or birds I had not encountered in several years. It immediately became clear that, for one reason or another, many of the birds were not singing: thus, I had to sort through the calls and shadows as I passed the thick scrubby woods. Despite this drawback, I still lucked upon many species I had been seeking on this Caribbean island. While pishing in warblers, a beautiful Cozumel Vireo Vireo bairdi flew in at eye level, furtively assessing whether or not I was a serious concern. a few steps later, I was able to watch another regional endemic - the Yucatan Vireo Vireo magister - foraging in the sunny leaves across the street.

Knowing that Caroline had wanted to get an early start out of the tourist zones, I cut back through some secondary scrub towards town hoping for more migrants and more birds foraging in the area. My cutback resulted in more warblers, and produced my only Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor of the entire trip. Banaquits Coereba flaveola and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers Polioptila caerulea flitted between patches of scrub, and a large group of Black Vultures Coragyps atratus hesitantly moved from their trash pile as I walked past. As I slowly entered the town, I couldn't help but think about coming back to this island one day, and exploring the interior more. But, on our short schedule, we had places further south to go to, and even more to see.

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