February 27, 2008

Well, I made it to the Ake’ ruins, on Sunday. Though the day was very hot (91 degrees with 38% humidity), and precious little shade was available, the birding was pretty good. Here’s the list. Roadside hawk, Couch’s kingbird, grayish saltator, golden fronted woodpecker, Yucatan woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, melodious blackbird, great black hawk, spot breasted wren, blue grey gnatcatcher, yucatan flycatcher, great crested flycatcher, social flycatcher, boat billed flycatcher, great kiskadee, barred antshrike, cave swallow, vaux’s swift, summer tanager, grey catbird, masked tityra, squirrel cuckoo, and scores of the usual suspects, tropical mockingbirds, white winged doves and ruddy ground doves. Great tailed grackles and groove billed anis were notably absent. On the way home I stopped for water and a snack, stepped outside into a very small patch of shade beside a building and was treated to a pair of green jays, my first sighting ever. One of these days I’m going to record the birds I saw on my trip to Sisal two weeks ago. At the moment I can’t lay my hands on the list, but I know it’s here somewhere.

In the plant department: “Tropical Trees of Mexico”says there are two varieties of Pseudobombax elipticum, one with white stamens and one whose stamens are striking pink. It’s the white one down the street. I passed a pink one at an abandoned hacienda on the way home. The area is lousy with abandoned haciendas, due to the very rapid demise of the sisal industry upon the arrival of nylon rope. It’s a shame, because sisal is a much higher quality rope in my opinion. I read recently, that the large acreages planted to sisal helped to desertify this area, due to lack of foliage. Since the near extinction of that industry, trees are beginning to re-occupy the land and , theoretically, rainfall will increase. There is a (barely) functioning sisal mill (at an abandoned hacienda) practically right inside the Ake’ ruins. Carambola vine. My own name. It’s a plant I saw only twice the entire time we were in Belize. Strolling through the ruins on Sunday I saw dozens of them. Both the fruits I saw in Belize, reminded me of an iguana head. Pointed on one end and rounded on the other, with three flattened (squeezed together skin) ridges along the length. The ones here have many ridges and somewhat resemble starfruit, in shape only. I saw no leaves, but the vines are covered thickly with 1 cm long needles. I chose not to touch them. In Belize, I was told not to even touch the fruit, as it irritates the skin and makes it intensely itchy. I found a dry one on the ground and opened it up–looked like a milkweed pod. Aesclepius? Help me out here if you can. As the days pass here, it becomes more and more apparent that Roystonea regis, the flamboyant tree, much prefers a drier climate. There are many many very large trees here. I saw a craboo tree blooming this morning. Orange and yellow flowers on the same raceme. Very pretty. African tulip trees have been blooming for a couple weeks, anyway, and the aroma of orange jasmine (which also grows into a quite large tree) filled the air as I pedaled through Eklum puebla. For future reference; when biking to Tixkokob, take the Tixpehual turn-off, for a much quieter road.

There is a very tiny puebla around the ruins. As I started back, I stopped for a soft drink at a combination small market/restaurant. They only had Pepsi products. I can’t remember the last time I had a Pepsi–they don’t exist in Belize. Coca Cola has that market sewed up. Coca Cola is the Dean Witter of Belize. Back in Tixkokob, a small town famous for hammock making, but more importantly for it’s lack of restaurants, I found a rather flashy one, called “En Poco de Todo”,( a little of everything).  I had an order of salbutes, three small fried corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage and carrots, pink onion slices, shredded chicken and a slice of avocado. Their home made ‘mexicana’ sauce was very tasty, but watch out! for the picante.

I saw two snakes on this trip, both of them squashed on the road. The first was less than a foot long, and had alternating bands of coral and black. The second was grey with brown globs down its back, and only slightly longer.

I’m going to try and mix in some cenote trips in the coming weeks, as we continue into the dry season and the days become hotter and drier. It would be nice to cool off in a cenote before heading back to town. The Ake’ ruins are southeast of Merida. I had a short bit of headwind in the stretch between Eklum and the ruins, and had a mild tailwind most of the way home. And I needed it.  It was VERY hot out at 3:30.



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