Monday, December 15, 2014

The Riviera Maya: Part 4 - Islands of Magnificent Women, Whale Sharks, and Frigatebirds / JULY 27-29 2014

On the final days of our adventures on the Riviera Maya we left the mainland and traveled to Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, where we drove golfcarts, smoked cuban cigars, and enjoyed the island life. We booked an amazing tour swimming with whale sharks in the deep blue. Being in the presence of such an enormous creature in its habitat was one of the wildest experiences I've ever had. On the final day of our trip, I book passage to Isla Contoy National Park, where I was able to observe nesting magnificent frigatebirds in the most tropical location I've ever set foot. I will never forget the week we spent in such an amazing part of the world with such a beautiful and magnificent woman. I'm a lucky guy!

images captured by Emily and I using Canon G12, Lumix DCM-TS5, and i-phone 4
on the ferry to Isla Mujeres
our room at Casa Ixchel

Pelecanus occidentalis
an immature brown pelican
el capitan
headed out into the open Caribbean

deep open ocean

Rhincodon typus
whale shark
This was taken just before I got whacked by its caudal fin :)

Some of the individual sharks had what appeared to be scars from previous propeller injuries. 
I am curious if any of these injuries are connected with the eco-tourism diving industry.

Thank you Nicolas Salvador for helping me take some of the whale shark photos! 
(after I got too sea sick during the dive!)
Fellow adventurers from France!

The gentlemen with Ceviche Tours weren't kidding about their namesake.

Golf-cart island drivin'!

 The Goddess Ixchel 

Mimus gilvus
Tropical Mockingbird 

Punta Sur
(click to embiggen)

approaching Isla Contoy
 double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus)
neotropic cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
and brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Ardea alba
great egret

Leucophaeus atricilla
laughing gull

Fregata magnificens
female magnificent 
Although it was too late in the summer to witness any males with their bright red courtship displays, I saw hundreds of magnificent frigatebirds on Isla Contoy. All the adult frigatebirds I observed on the island were females and I was fortunate enough to see plenty of chicks on the nest. The male magnificent frigatebird abandons its mate and half-grown chick and leaves the breeding colony, presumably to molt and return for another breeding attempt with a different mate. The female cares for the young for over a year. This opportunity for nesting behavior observation of such a fascinating and iconic species was an amazing experience for me to have.

Laguna de las Garzas, swimming with massive tarpon and surrounded by nesting frigatebirds
(click to embiggen)

a very vocal frigatebird chick calls for its mother

a female returns to a begging chick
Eudocimus albus
white ibis

Dendroica petechia
yellow warbler

It was nice to see a familiar face :)

Icterus cucullatus
hooded orioles 

Canthidermis maculata
ocean triggerfish

Hymenocallis sp.
Cordia sebestena
geiger tree

(click to embiggen)

As I looked through my binoculars toward the north end of the island, I could see hundreds of magnificent frigatebirds soaring above the magroves and lagoons in the distance. 
(click to embiggen)

a final dinner in paradise


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