2012 Scarlet Macaw Protection Documentary

Sunday, February 28, 2010

16-19 Feb: Up the Raspa beyond Cushtabani

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay in the updates. It's getting hard to fit everything in; data management, vehicle maintenance, planning, etc, and trying to relax for a few minutes here and there. But here goes...

Brad and I changed the plans for this trip at the last minute. There were some logistical hurdles and we made the call to head up the Raspaculo Branch instead of the Chiquibul Branch as there was some uncertainty regarding pickup and drop off coordination. One of the FCD rangers dropped us off at the Ballerina Rd put in and we headed up the reservoir. Derric Chan, the Chiquibul National Park manager was up river conducting a patrol with the motorboat. We crossed paths on the reservoir and were given a 'lift' to the end of the Raspaculo Branch part of the reservoir. This saved us about 4 hours of paddling...whew!

Charles taking a GPS coordinate (photo by Brad Westrich).

We were able to push quite a ways past the confluence of Raspaculo and Monkeytail Branches, covering 28km before stopping for the night in a low areas. We saw three pairs flying overhead on the way up and heard 2 macaws calling from the camp in the evening. A Tapir came crashing through the camp and slash into the water that night! That'll wake you up...

My home away from home.

Saw 47 macaws on Wednesday. We pushed up through 10.6km of rapids and camped above Cushtabani camp. Had a couple of crocodile encounters to keep things lively.

Misty morning on the Raspaculo Branch.

We began the next day trying to push further up the Raspa but only made it another 1.5 km above our camp before the waterfalls were getting too numerous and dangerous and the habitat began to turn extremely poor. I made the call to turn around and begin our descent.

We found two macaws on a Quamwood near Cushtabani Camp. Then a third macaw appeared from a cavity on the tree.

A group of three macaws checking out a tree.

We made the swifter trip down, covering 13.5km, observing 8 macaws and finding one pair excavating the front of a nest cavity. We observed this pair foraging in a ficus (fig) for about 10 minutes before they flew 75m upstream and perched atop a cavity in a Quamwood tree. One of them immediately began excavating the lower lip of the cavity. They continued this for the duration of our observations.

Breeding pair working on a nest cavity.

We camped again in a low area but had rain that night. This kept me up for quite a while worrying about the water level but it all turned out fine.

Brad checking out the area while grabbing a quick snack.

On Friday the 19th, we covered 29km and observed 12 more macaws. While paddling on the Raspaculo portion of the reservoir we observed a lone macaw perched on a small snag but neither feeding or apparently concerned that we were right there. After a few minutes it flew about 25m away to a dead Quamwood where its mate was sitting in a cavity entrance. Score! Looks like the breeding season is picking up.

Macaws checking out a cavity.

We made our way down the reservoir, spotting a river otter along the way. A successful trip. We continue to find nests well beyond the reservoir.

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