- Merri-Lee M.
Birds of Cozumel (Part 2): Punta Sur and the Country Club
On our last full day in Cozumel, we rented a car and drove around the island. The shoreline is wild and untamed, and there is very little development along this eastern coast.
Before driving along the coast road, we visited Punta Sur on the tip of Cozumel,
and wandered through the Nature Reserve. Birds were at quite a distance from the viewing platform, and the sun was already high in the sky (opening time is 9 a.m.), so photos were not the best. However, we did see some lovely large water/shore birds, both from the platform and from the tour boat that cruises around a marshy area.
The Reddish Egret has the distinctive habit of “dancing” while foraging for fish. It runs through the air, spins, flaps its wings, and jumps in the air!
The Great Blue Heron is much more sedate and serious-looking!
A small flock of Plovers landed out on a spit of sand, then flew again before we had a chance to identify them. I think this one is a Semipalmated Plover.
Huge pink Roseate Spoonbills flew over, and then landed, and fed by sweeping their large “spoon bills” back and forth through the shallow water. Adult Spoonbills have a darker pink patch on their wings and black markings on their faces. And those bright pink legs.....
The Tricoloured Heron is much smaller than the Spoonbill.
The White Ibis probed the muddy bottom with its long, curved red bill. In this picture, the Ibis is standing behind a Reddish Egret -- kind of looks like a 2-headed bird.
Magnificent Frigatebirds soared overhead and landed in a distant tree, along with some Black Vultures.
An Osprey carried a snake back to its perch. A lone Black-necked Stilt strolled through the shallows, and a Kingfisher dove for fish on the other side of the marsh.
Massive Crocodiles lurked in the freshwater lake until late afternoon, when they made their way through this opening to the salty ocean for the night. The beach is off-limits to people after 4:00 p.m. for good reason!
Later in the afternoon, we drove along the shore, and cut across the island to the Golf Course where we met Raphael, a Biologist who provides guided tours of the grounds. He was very knowledgeable and accommodating, and knew just where to find some wonderful birds. As we walked along the sidewalk just outside the clubhouse, we noticed a small group of young Northern Jacanas hunting for treats in the grass. Check out the huge, long “toes” that enable Jacanas to walk on water plants.
At the first pond, the light was perfect, the birds were willing to pose, and I had a camera! Not often that all the stars align....
When Raphael pointed out the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, they were sitting on the far side of a small pond. However, they made their way into the water, and swam toward us, tipping lazily from time to time to find some late day snacks. The combination of light, colour, reflections, and the abundance of both birds and water plants was awesome.
In the same pond, there was a Common Gallinule;
Northern Jacanas balancing on the reeds, or walking on the numerous lily pads;
and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and Least Grebes. This is the Least Grebe with its thin neck and bill, and distinctive yellow eye.
Along the edge of the pond, our guide called out a Ruddy Crake. Raphael said that he had watched a pair of these little birds right through the nesting process, and that there were now 5 Crakes in this small area. He also said that they knew him, and he may have been right!
Moving to the other side of the course, we saw the birds I had hoped to see --- long-legged Black-necked Stilts. They were very noisy, chattering away to one another as they made their way around the pond and landed on the rocks.
A Black-necked Stilt Posing on the Rocks with a White Ibis
This American Coot was enjoying a mouthful of fresh greens.
A “smiling" female Northern Shoveller floated by with a Least Grebe.
A pair of Common Gallinules was sitting quietly beside a rock.
A Green Heron, with its well-marked feathers, sat waiting on a branch at the water’s edge.
All was fairly still and calm ........ until a Crocodile appeared, and then there was total chaos, as all of the birds squawked and splashed and flew to another area of the lake. There they resumed sitting, fishing or floating as they had been doing before being disturbed. The Crocodile didn’t have a meal this time.
The Cozumel Country Club was one of my favourite spots on the island. Sitting in the little outdoor clubhouse, we watched Bananaquits, Hummingbirds, Golden Warblers, etc. before we even started our tour.
It was about 7 p.m. before we left to head back to the Iberostar after a very full day. On our way back, we drove through the city, past the huge cruise ships and busyness, and back along the western coast to our resort. Although the city caters to tourists, there are many places on the rest of the island that are undeveloped and left in their natural state. One wonders how long it will be so. We are very glad to have visited Cozumel at a time when there is still much undisturbed habitat, and a wealth of bird, plant, and ocean life to enjoy!