Saturday, 13 October 2012

Cruisin' USA Part one

In 2009 and 2010 we were lucky enough to go on two cruises, firstly to Mexico and secondly to Nassau via  Key West, Florida courtesey of my father in law, Bill on his birthday extravaganzas where he invited the whole family!

In June 2009 the immediate family took a bus from Atlanta to Mobile in Alabama.

Whilst taking this picture a man approached me who had
mistakenly thought I was taking a picture of him and his
drinking buddies in the corner telling me they wouldn't like
it and that I should get outta here - I thought he meant the
gulls and thought he was nuts!

Cruises aren't something I would have normally have thought of going on but being a Naturalist I had a whale of a time and spent most of the time on deck seawatching, occasionally going down to get some food. I was witness to couples seeing their first dolphins. How romantic.

From Mobile Bay to Aitken Island there were hundreds of Brown Pelicans
feeding in the wake of ships as welll as several Caspian and Royal terns

Caspian Tern passing a huge tanker

There were several other birds flying about during the exit from Mobile - White Ibis, White Pelicans and lots of egrets and various types of herons. The activity died somewhat when the ship had passed the large colonies on Aitken Island.

The following day I whilst on deck as we neared the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico I noticed a pod of Short-finned Pilot Whales and then caught a video of an unidentified cetacean which was later identified as a False Killer Whale - nice! Also saw my first Masked Boobies and Sooty Terns and someway out even a flock of Snowy Egrets came flying north. Even though the sea and weather was very calm, there was a curious small storm to the east which later produced a waterspout and through bins it looked very turbulent. Presumably the captain had steered well clear of this by a few miles by the looks of it. Of course all this was going on whilst the other passengers had their "Fun Day at Sea" whooohooo! I stayed on deck even seeing a Peregrine way out to sea on one occasion.

From left: Margie, Captain Bill, Carol, Clarence, Julie and Jenny Baum...
I did go down a bit then...

The following morning I was up a the crack of dawn as we approached the coast of Mexico to get Frigatebirds.....

Once we got to Progreso and walked off the ship we were whisked off to Uxmal ruins by coach. These are historical Mayan ruins set in the heart of a large forest, one of the largest Mayan cities and apparently was home to around 25,000 Maya. The wildlife here was astounding, there were several fast flying colourful butterflies I couldn't even get near with a camera.

Black Iguana
Tropical Mockingbird
Turquoise-browed Motmot
I have to admit there were several species I couldn't identify at the time, especially by sound as I later found out I had the repeated call of a Rufous browed Peppershrike on my recordings. There were also a pair of Masked Tityras in the tree as we approached the ruins, that soon vanished never to be seen again. Also here there was a Lineated Woodpecker, Mottled Owl, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Scrub Euphonias, Rose-throated Becards, Vaux's Swifts, Clay-coloured Robins, Yellow-faced Grassquits.....

Melodious Blackbird
Another Black Iguana
Social Flycatcher
Altamira Oriole
Groove-billed Ani

Great Kiskadee

Cave Swallows
....Long-billed Gnatwren, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Bronzed Cowbirds, Ruddy Ground and White winged Doves, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Golden fronted Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, Great-tailed Grackle and others... fantastic place!

Our next port of call was Cozumel island where we were whisked off in an open top jeep to the south of the island

Here we were driven between a huge lagoon and the beach. The beaches here are closed to protect nesting turtles. There were a few birds here and there, an Osprey perched on a dead tree as was a Magnificent Frigatebird, a Clapper Rail stalked the edge of a brackish pool, a few Least and Royal Terns....

Apparently a real Salt water Croc, it moved and hid right under the walkway
were were on, I always wonder if it was a clockwork croc for the tourists -
Do androids dream of electric crocodiles?
Me and Marg
We then went a bit further where there were some shops (yawn) and a lighthouse (wow) - Punta Sur (Southernmost Point) - here there was a singing Yellow Warbler of the Yucatan race (Golden Warbler) in the scrub and some Boat tailed Grackles and a Bananaquit. But rather quite here on the whole. The area really looked rather battered by recent storm activity. Some beautful coastal plants lined the beaches.

Heres another one of that Croc

Other birds seen here were a Willet with a flock of Black necked Stilts, then we were whisked back to San Miguel de Cozumel and after some refreshments and a walk in intense humidity were were ready to head back

Tropical Kingbird

On the way back on the final day, the sea was so calm I could use the scope and found a few Audubon's Shearwaters and 2 Band-rumped Storm-petrels way out in the Gulf.

Grey, I mean Great Blue Heron

Mobile, Alabama. Yep sireee!

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