Saturday, August 8, 2015

That Sinking Feeling

Northern Bobwhite hanging out in some of my favorite kinds of plants...Agaves and Mother-In-Laws Tongue(or at least a variety of it)
During the week, I had been looking forward to the day trip to El Ocote. There were some very special birds in this area that I had wanted to observe better.  Apparently, there was a huge sinkhole full of nesting Green Parakeets and a pair of Bat Falcons hanging out in this huge crater sized locale. 

The minute we arrived into this area, my heart began to beat quickly.  Was that a Northern Bobwhite I heard?!!!  I scrambled out of the van and was astounded by several of these ground birds casually singing out in the open.  This was a bird I thought I would never see and yet here, this "black headed" subspecies hung out singing its' "BOBWHITE!" song. Things were already looking pretty good.  So many birds were calling from different areas that I didn't know where to begin.  

Boat-tailed Flycatcher
Meanwhile back in the van, our birding group began to drop like flies.  Sometime during dinner the night before, the participants ate or drank something deadly. It literally created a massive $*^t storm. We got up for the trek early in the morning and my beloved Helen, in her most British and polite way, told us that she would not be joining us.  It got Helen!  Meanwhile on the other day trips, the plague began to hit and take out many of the birders in their vans. One man couldn't control himself and ran into the bushes.  Another man crumpled to the ground because he lost his strength.  And yet another, fell madly ill and passed out in the back for the entire trek.  What was going on?! Everything after Wednesday night changed the energy of our tours for the rest of the week.  

Fine-lined Hairstreak, Arawacus sito. Thank you Doug Taron for the ID This butterfly is CRAZY. The "tentacles" at the end of this butterfly kept moving and I thought there was something wrong with the butterfly, but it's a distraction mechanism!!!!!  The head is actually opposite and "moving tentacles" are a distraction for predators.  EPIC BUTTERFLY!

Martin was with us again on the trip and we set out to explore this AMAZING place! I really liked hanging out with this guy. Both of us had the same ideas about where we should focus our attentions.  My life bird at 600 was the Green Parakeet and I still didn't have any decent photo documentation.  But here in the sinkhole, I had an opportunity to see several thousand of them!  Their voices echoed from within the rock walls. 

Couch's Kingbird
I did not have enough time in this location so I had to really pick and choose the birds I wanted to see. If I had the time?  I would have rented a room in one of their stone cabins and spent a week there.  I would have eaten at the restaurant and studied the ancient markings on the inside of the sinkhole's walls. But I only had a couple hours. So time was ticking again. Black-headed Saltator or view the mass of parakeets around the sinkhole?  The sinkhole won.  Thousands of these birds live there and at dawn they create quite the spectacle as they spiral out of the hole. 

The Elf, Microtia elva

I ran up the stairs and stood at the edge looking down.  It was something special. 

"Sinkhole of Parrots" 
While waiting for a flock of Green Parakeets to rise from the pit, I watched an Altamira Oriole hang out in the subtropical vegetation. 

Streak-backed Oriole
Then it began.  The rise. A choir of squawking parakeets circled from below the pit slowly rising in a swirl until they were eye level with our birding scopes and cameras. 

Green Parakeets
Their brilliant green made a dramatic statement against the muted rock face.  

A little abstract bird art.  I was feeling a bit creative in this magical location
Eventually the birds would land and we would get to see them better. 

I felt guilty so I returned back to the van and checked up on our fallen.  Two were feeling better, but the other was out stone cold. Please let him be sleeping. 

Holcosus chaitzami, Taxa Teiidae, Sauria or common name Chaitzam's Ameiva/Not much is known about this lizard
When we arrived back to our hotel that day, we were greeted by lots of unpleasant stories.  One person was escorted to his room because he could not walk.  I heard some people calling it a case of the "turista" while others declared it to be "Montezuma's Revenge."  Either way, I felt terrible for the group.  I also discovered that Helen had returned back home to Britain:(  I never got to say good-bye to her.  Dinner that night was reduced to half and would continue to diminish by Friday night.  For many, their last supper would be spent elsewhere. 

I could not afford to get sick.  These last two days were my biggest days yet.  I had never birded the Pacific lowland habitat and it was the single biggest highlight for me besides this trek to El Ocote.  So I'm already organizing a future trek to these areas again with a trip to Palenque and Belize in mind.  As for the sick? Well I'm happy to report that everyone is feeling better again.  Stay tuned for more....


  1. Hi Chris Oh dear your group were going down like flies. it is terrible to be that far away from home and feeling that awful so I do hope you keep well and area able to continue with this fascinating trip. The butterfly is gorgeous. Seeing the choir of squawking parakeets rise up must have been a wonderful spectacle. Thanks for explainging why you cannot change the balck text to white in comments however here is another suggestion that would not hurt your eyes but would let other =s read them. change the background colour to the paler green and then you can still have black print.

  2. Great post - good to hear that your comrades are recovering - nothing worse! Got wiped out in India once like that - thought I was going to die!!

    Those Parakeets look great.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  3. Hello Chris, Awesome shots of the parakeets. That is a cool sight to see, great post and photos. Happy birding!

  4. awww... what a shame that everybody was so sick. All that way for a lovely holiday and then ..whammo. .... down and out. Bummer.... literally...........

    Glad you go to see some beautiful things..... don't drink the water or even eat an ice cube...or ...maybe are immune to the problem..... you have the correct gut flora and fauna ....

  5. Thank goodness you were spared from that horrible illness. A real vacation-spoiler for those who weren't so lucky. I'm glad you were able to see the parakeets.

  6. So sorry to read about so many of the group becoming so ill - must have been awful for them especially so far from home. Pleased to hear they are recovering.

    The butterflies are so beautiful and am so glad you got to see the parakeets swirling around in their natural habitat - great photos :)

  7. wow, that´s a wonderful place with lots of gems for animals and birds. Loved to see it.Thanks for sharing :)

  8. Sure glad you didn't get struck down by the plague. Seems a stone cabin for a week here would barely be enough. Loved Palenque.


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