Monthly Archives: December 2014

Yellow-throated Warbler

The yellow-throated warbler (Dendroica dominica) is the most common member of the genus Dendroica in the southern United States, where it is known for being a harbinger of spring. It is aptly named for its brilliant plumage, with the bright yellow throat and breast, along with the white patch on the side of the neck, distinguishing this largely blue-grey bird from similar species. Other characteristics of the yellow-throated warbler include a white belly, two white bars on the wing, black streaks along the side, a long black bill and brown legs and feet.

The yellow-throated warbler is a migratory species, and during the winter it is found throughout the Caribbean, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico as far as Texas, and east to the Florida peninsula and the Bahamas. It breeds in the eastern and central United States, where it is found as far north as Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

There are currently no known major threats to the yellow-throated warbler. In fact, this species’ range is currently expanding, possibly due to the restoration of many areas after the effects of large-scale deforestation in the nineteenth century.

The warbler pictured below was seen at Punta Sur, Cozumel, Mexico.


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Tumba del Caracol

Tumba del Caracol

The Celarain lighthouse (Faro de Celarain) sits on the Punta Sur promontory (Punta Celarain) and is part of a nautical museum. Just northeast of it is the Caracol (Tumba del Caracol), a Mayan site dedicated to Ixchel that was built during the post classic period and was built with a dome that was covered in marine shells so that the breeze gave it a special humming sound. It was also built as a special place to advise the local people of the intensity of the wind (one of the first hurricane warning systems). It is located in the cape juxtaposed on the island to that of Punta Molas to the extreme northeast.

The Mayans built it in the 12th century, made from coral stone carved into blocks. The bottom section is no more than 5-6 feet high and the openings were small doors on all four sides. A person had to crawl in and only the priests could do so. They would remain in a prone position while in the little room and pray. The top was flat and on that was the smaller room which really wasn’t a room. Just shaped like one. It also had 1 window on each of the 4 sides. There were 4 shield-like stones, I would say they looked like upside down crusader shields, that were positioned about a foot and a half away from and directly in front of the windows. If you look closely at this picture, you can see the remaining stubble of the one out to the left.
On top of the 2nd smaller room is this mortar dome, and in the dome are 4 rows of holes that go straight up to the top and line up with the windows in the little room. These holes are actually little conch shells with the ends cut off, imbedded in the mortar. It looks like the suckers on the arms of an octopus. Now on top of this dome, they put a large king conch shell, again with the front end cut off and placed facing down. They used dugout canoes to get around the island and when weather was normal, nothing would happen. But if the wind started to pick up and I mean really pick up, like being pushed by an incoming hurricane, the wind would create a back draft of sorts behind these little shields and air would be forced up through the dome, creating a very loud sound similar to a trumpet note. With this structure, the Mayans had one of the first hurricane early warning systems.

Some of the sandy beaches are protected to allow hatching for sea turtles. It also serves to protect the beaches, lagoons, low lying jungle, mangrove swamps, and the coral reefs that surround the area. The total area is approximately 1 square kilometer. Observation towers have been erected at the Columbia lagoon to watch wildlife. Off Punta Sur is the Devil’s Throat scuba area, while in the closer reef visitors can snorkel.

We got to view all of Punta Sur via Cozumel Jeep Excursions – I highly recommend them!

Click on image for larger view


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El Cedral

El Cedral is the oldest Mayan Ruins on Cozumel Island, dating back to 800 A.D.

Once the hub of Maya life on Cozumel, this was the first site found by Spanish explorers in 1518, and the first mass in Mexico was reportedly celebrated here. These days, there’s little evidence of its past glory. It is believed to be hundreds of years old and faint traces of the original paint and stucco are evident. El Cedral is different in shape from the typically small and low structures found on the island, suggesting it was used for major ceremonies. Nearby is a green and white cinderblock church, decorated inside with crosses shrouded in embroidered lace.

During the 1800’s, El Cedral was used as a jail. Today, the area is occupied by a small farm settlement. Every May there is a fair held at this location called Festival de Cedral, with several days and nights filled with traditional ceremonies, dancing, music, bullfights and a cattle show.

On display we found a Mayan Calendar and several depictions of Mayan Gods. If someone can ID them, please comment below!

My trip to El Cedral was via Cozumel Cruise Excursions!


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Faro Celarain Lighthouse

Punta Sur marks the southern point of Cozumel and is part of the Parque Punta Sur, a 247-acre  ecological park that covers the reefs, beaches, lagoons, and low forest of the surrounding area. The reef system is also part of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park.

The Celarain lighthouse (Faro de Celarain) sits on the Punta Sur promontory (Punta Celarain) and is part of a nautical museum.  Built in 1901, this charming lighthouse is a mere babe compared to the nearby ancient Mayan lighthouse, El Caracol. Located on the southernmost tip of the island in the 250-acre Parque Ecoturistico de Punta Sur, Faro de Celarain houses a small museum featuring an exhibit on navigation history, and the lighthouse keeper’s home, as it was when he lived there. The building is open to the public, so you can climb to the top for panoramic views of the coast and nearby environs.

Some of the sandy beaches are protected to allow hatching for sea turtles. Observation towers have been erected at the Columbia lagoon to watch wildlife. Off Punta Sur is the Devil’s Throat scuba diving area, while in the closer reef visitors can snorkel. The dirt road area is accessible to off-road vehicles and allows some tours to access the area as part of a guided excursion. At the end of the dirt road you will find 2 beach clubs, Papito’s Beach Club Restaurant and Bar as well as the Punta Sur Beach Club. Included in the entrance fee to Punta Sur Park is a view overlooking the Colombia Lagoon for bird watching, sightseeing, crocodile observation and more.

My trip to the lighthouse was via Cozumel Cruise Excursions!


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Ring-billed Gull

In most of the northern part of the United States the Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is a winter visitor, less common than the Herring Gull. However, in some inland areas and in the Deep South it is the more numerous of the two species. It often nests in very large colonies; as many as 85,000 pairs nest on a single island in Lake Ontario. By contrast, colonies of Herring Gulls seldom number more than a few score pairs. Mischaracterized as a seagull, this bird readily follows farm plows or scatters over meadows after heavy rains to feast on drowning earthworms.

Today, while out running some errands, I stopped at Morse Park and this Ring-billed Gull posed proudly for me!

Click on image for larger view:


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Tamron Deal

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Great Egret

Formerly known as the “American Egret,” “Common Egret,” “Large Egret,” “White Egret,” “Great White Egret,” and “Great White Heron,” this bird’s official name in North America is now Great Egret. One of the most magnificent of our herons, it has fortunately recovered from historic persecution by plume hunters. But it is still not out of danger: The destruction of wetlands, especially in the West where colonies are few and widely scattered, poses a current threat to these majestic birds. Like the Great Blue Heron, it usually feeds alone, stalking fish, frogs, snakes, and crayfish in shallow water. Each summer many individuals, especially young ones, wander far north of the breeding grounds.

While making a quick run through Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, this afternoon, I spotted a Great Egret who had just caught a fingerling mullet. I was able to get a quick shot off and capture the event before the little mullet disappeared “down the hatch”.

Click on image for larger view.


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