2012 Scarlet Macaw Protection Documentary

Thursday, February 11, 2010

9-10 Feb: That Monkeytail

Brad and I headed out last week on a joint patrol with the park rangers from Friends for Conservation and Development. We loaded up their 18ft motorboat with our gear, threw a couple of kayaks on top, and piled into the empty spots before cruising up the reservoir. Such a huge difference not having to kayak across the length of the reservoir!

Log raft along Blossom Berry Creek

We reached the confluence of the Macal River and Raspaculo Branch by 12:30pm and strategized for our two-day trip. Today (9th) we would visit Blossom Berry Creek and tomorrow we would head up Monkeytail Branch. We reached Blossom Berry Creek around 12:50, unloaded the kayaks and gear and were off by 1pm. The rangers were going to check out nearby trails for illegal activities.

We made out way up the creek and it wasn't too long before we encountered three sturdy log rafts. These were obviously built to transport the xateros across the Macal River and a little way up Blossom Berry Creek. We pushed our way past these and hit the first small rapid with a tree laying across our path; the first of many.

What caught my attention was seeing two shirts laid out to dry. I then smelled smoke...must be a camp nearby. We paused for a nervous five minutes that seemed like fifteen. I didn't see a soul so we crept forward and past the area.

Brad dragging his kayak under a fallen tree.

Continuing up the creek for 2 and a half hours, we saw no signs of people...or macaws. It was pretty quiet. There was some decent habitat but mostly hard kayak dragging. I was thinking of nixing the Blossom Berry for future nest search efforts, but it appears as though there is great habitat much further upstream. Still might be a logistic impossibility but I'll try it out at least once.

We turned back and returned to the 'camp'...approaching cautiously. Out my peripheral vision someone was coming down to the creek. It was Derric, the park manager, with machete in hand. They found a large camp above the creek where we had smelled smoke. Apparently it was quickly abandoned after we passed by. Hmmm.

We loaded up onto the motorboat again at 5pm and headed down the Macal River and up the Raspaculo Branch to camp for the night. Along the way, we observed a single pair of macaws perched on a tree at the river's edge.

FCD park rangers planning their activities around a xatero camp.

After a good night's sleep, we headed up the Raspaculo Branch, stopping at a major camp for legal xate extraction in the forest reserve. The park rangers were checking out the trails in the area to install national park boundary signs to hopefully reduce illegal extraction. The camp was active with 10-12 individuals staying there and about 4 horses. The rangers headed up the trail and Derric took Brad and I upstream, close to the Raspaculo/Monkeytail confluence.

Brad maneuvering up one of the many rapids along Monkeytail Branch.

From there, we unloaded and Brad and I headed about 3 or km up the Monkeytail. That was a brutal haul. Lots of kayak dragging, slick rocks...real ankle biters and shin benders. Beautiful scenery and cool falls, but exhausting work!

Near the turn around point, I heard a couple of macaws calling up ahead. We searched around but couldn't spot them. We headed up another fifteen minutes, had a snack and chilled for a few. Then began the trip back. It wasn't long, around 1pm, before we spotted a group of three scarlet macaws heading downstream. Those were the only macaws we spotted that day.

Nice waterfall along the Monkeytail Branch.

Yup, the way back was much, much easier but still a lot of work. I was trying to head down the left side of the falls in the above picture. Had to get out and line of the kayak. The current caught it and wedged the kayak down into the falls. Eventually I just had to give it a shove and let it go and then climb down the falls and retrieve it. It took in a lot of water so when I hopped onto it it just flipped! Boom! Into the deep water. Had to swim and pull it over to the side, turn it over and climb onto it. It didn't take much dragging before I had to stop and drain the water out.

We had to boogey on down the Monkeytail for the pick up. I could tell we were going to be a little late so we just had to keep pushing hard. I had to drain my kayak again and then keep pushing. Fighting with the rocks and the river I had a different name for the Monkeytail Branch; something more...colorful.

We made it back to the boat around 2:30pm and while draining my kayak I noticed a crack above the bilge hole...man! Going to try slapping on some epoxy. We cruised back down the reservoir and loaded up the jeep and trucks and scattered. Brad and I headed to the ranger station to drop off the kayaks before heading back to town. We were craving some barbeque chicken from Santa Elena, the barbeque capital of Belize. Barbeque and a couple of stouts...mmmm. Good ending.

1 comment:

  1. I love these posts...keep 'em comin'! I didn't know what xateros were so I did a web search and came up with a National Geographic blog post that others may find helpful: blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2009/04/palm-sunday-crosses.html