2012 Scarlet Macaw Protection Documentary

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb 3-5: Peñon de Buena Vista

Brad and I headed over to Guatemala this past Wednesday to visit more nest locations being monitored by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Guatemala. We initially planned for a week of data collection but had to pare it down to 3 days due to scheduling issues.

Charles concentrating on the...road. What road?

We headed down the bumpy road to the Mayan village of Paso Caballo around midday and picked up a couple of the WCS crew members. Then cut across the fútbol field and headed north along a crazy road with steep, steep hills going up and down, up and down...1st gear in 4 low, and unidentifiable roads. Love the Jeep; keep rollin!

Sunrise at the overlook (left). Looking the other way in the afternoon.

We arrived at the field station late afternoon/early evening, met the guys who were already there and unloaded our gear. Set up our tent hammocks before dark came upon us and then noticed that several of the fellas had meandered away from the field station down this road-lined trail. So, I grabbed my camera and headed down the winding path. I could see an opening ahead. The trail popped out from the canopy and an expanse opened up. Wow! We were perched atop some amazing cliffs overlooking an expansive wetland system below. Red-lored parrots were flying from the uplands down into forest below for the night.

We ate dinner and went to bed early. During the night both Brad and I awoke to the sound of a large...cat calling with this loud and raspy meow. Yikes! Crazy dreams that night.

Brad, Samuel, Antonio, Pedro and Jerry. Jerry shooting a line over the tree.

View from the nest...looks farther from up here! Charles descending down the rope.

We visited 5 nests the next day. All really easy hike to and climb...very accessible nests. No crazy maneuvering required. We had to skip one nest due to killer bees. No sight of macaws around yet. The last nest of the day required us to drive down the road. We took the whole crew (some folks were helping us with the nests and some were out looking for falcon nests) to the last nest. Why? Then we arrived...ahhh, it was an active xatero area in a forest concession. In fact, this particular nest had been poached every year. Xateros harvest a palm called xate which is used in the US and Europe in floral arrangements. In fact, the illegal harvesting of this palm in Belize by Guatemalans is at the heart of a natural resource and political problem in the Chiquibul Forest or Belize bordering Guatemala.

Inside of a Scarlet Macaw cavity

All this said, the last nest was no problem. Brad climbed it with ease, collected the data quick, quick as they say in Belize and we headed back to the station.

We grabbed a couple of Gallos each from the Jeep. Nothin like a few brews, 'cowboy cold' to borrow a phrase from Mr. Burkett back in NM. Headed back out to the overlook to chill for the evening. It was such an awesome transition in the evening. As the sun went down, the herons went to roost, laughing falcons sang their last chorus and the paraques began their nightly nightjar calls. Then a mottled owl could be heard in the distance. The edge of twilight lit up wetland ponds amongst the darkness; mirrors of light.

We chatted into the night, watching the occasional bat or owl fly in close and away. Then our stomachs called us in for the evening to drift lazily to the open kitchen for some fresh tortillas and...

We awoke early and had corn flakes and coffee in the darkness before heading out for the morning. Today we visited a single nest which required hiking an hour and a half at a good clip along an old forest road now overgrown with trees at different points. What a road! Crazy steepness. No walking around hills for these folks. Straight up, straight down. The climbing gear begins to weigh ya down. Whew! The walk back was worse; a little warmer, a little more sun and after climbing and measuring that nest. Just had to keep sucking that water down. I don't think I've sweat like that in a while. Soaked head to toe...completely. Sweat in my eyes! Guess I'm still more used to working in the desert where your sweat evaporates quick.

The steepness of the hills, some never ending, took me back to hike Kristi and I did in the Gila this past autumn. After floating from the Gila Hotsprings campground to the confluence of the Gila River and Sapillo Creek, we stayed the night and then packed out our inflatable kayak and camping gear. The trail out required a ten mile hike starting out with a 1000' ascent before hiking over hill after hill at each side drainage. The hiking guide for this was hilarious; the writer states at one point '...and after descending 300 feet, gird your loins for the next 500' climb...' So before every climb we'd cry out ,'Gird yer loins!'. Ah, good times.

Brad walking back from the long nest. Gassing up the Jeep before heading out.

After dragging ourselves back into the station, we relaxed for a few minutes in the shade before loading up our gear and heading back out the same crazy hilly road. Wasn't fifteen minutes before some branch slashed the sidewall of my right rear tire. Pssshhhhh, flop flop flop. Okay, ten minutes and on the road again.

We stopped in Paso Caballo to drop off Chus and pick up Antonio's wife and their sick child. He might have asthma, which would be a problem out there. It was a long and quick trip back to town. After dropping them off at the hospital, I picked up a new tire; no doubt at a cheaper price than could have been found in Belize.

Brad and I hit the road, of course not forgetting to grab some of that good Guatemalan coffee, and arrived back at the Belize border just after dark. I noticed that the lights in my instrument panel of the Jeep weren't working...hmmm. Yesterday, I also discovered that the rear lights weren't working either. Fuses kept blowing but I was able to isolate the short circuit after a day. Hate the electrical problems!! But the Jeep is running again...for now!

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