Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Yucatan: Botanical Gardens

As my flight from C
ancun wasn't leaving until late afternoon, I decided to spend part of my last morning in Mexico watching birds, monkeys and iguanas at the Botanical Gardens in Puerto Morelos.

I started exploring the gardens at 9:30 and by 11:00 I had seen only five birds - a Northern Waterthrush, a Great-tailed Grackle and three Yucatan Jays. Not at all what I had been hoping for! No sign of monkeys or iguanas either. On the other hand, I had enjoyed walking the trails, climbing an observation tower, swaying across a hanging bridge in the forest canopy, and seeing some interesting plants.

And I'd admired several smallish lizards and some beautiful moths.

Then, as I walked back towards to the entrance, my luck changed. I had great views of a Laughing Falcon.

Minutes later, a clump of trees in the parking lot became a hive of bird activity. (The same thing had happened in the very same trees when Dee and I had visited the gardens several years earlier.) I spotted Yellow-green Vireos and Hooded Orioles. Then a bird that was new to me - Black-cowled Oriole.

A Magnolia Warbler came next.

A male Scarlet Tanager looked absolutely stunning from the back ...

and another looked almost as good from the side.

Several females were hanging out with the males.

As the birds moved on, a large iguana finally appeared and walked stiffly across the parking area.

By now my taxi-driver was getting impatient but I still had fifteen minutes left of the time we had arranged to spend in the gardens. So just fifteen minutes in which to find a monkey.

I walked twenty yards down the trail from the parking lot, heard a noise above my head, and looked up to see ... a Spider Monkey. He seemed surprised to see me.

He headed down to check me out.

He looked pretty fierce.

However, he must have been in a playful mood because he decided to put on a show for me. He ripped off an 8-foot branch and started moving through the tree twirling the branch like a baton.

Then he launched into a whole routine of branch twirling.

It was quite an exhibition. Unfortunately, it was time for me to head for the taxi and then Cancun airport. I felt rather bad about having to leave in the middle of such a great performance but luckily another Spider Monkey turned up to replace me as an audience. He/She was clearly as impressed as I was.


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