Playing catch-up once again on the blog. Sooo much to do between field visits.
One the 1st of May, Kristi drove us down to the Chiquibul Branch. We picked up two FCD rangers (Larry and Quiros) to help provide an escort. It takes one and a half hours to drive from where we live in San Ignacio to the ranger base located on the north end of the Chiquibul Forest. It then takes an additional hour and a half of driving down some fairly gnarled roads to reach the Chiquibul Branch. We usually put in at a historic camp called Bordel Camp which is now being used by gold miners. We then have to kayak downstream to visit the one nest we’ve found along this river. However, on this trip we decided to cut off some time and put in at Natural Arch due to recent road improvements (mainly due to the road finally drying up as we reach the heart of the dry season).
Driving down to the Natural Arch
The trip in was great. We saw curassows and macaws foraging at Christina Camp. But then as we got closer to Natural Arch the jeep began to exhibit some problems operating at low speeds. Mainly there was a rubbing vibration. Couldn’t find any obvious cause to the problem. I had nailed a couple of good rocks the road. On top of that, the starter had begun to act up.
Facing a dilemma of whether to head out or do the field work.
After navigating the last part of the road, which was somewhat tricky with serious jeep-eating ruts that are difficult to see in the tall grass (that’s when having the rangers helped A LOT as they knew where to drive), we ascended a steep rocky incline and parked atop Natural Arch. Now the dilemma. We are way back in the Chiquibul and we’re going to need an extraction the next day using the jeep. The rangers don’t have a reliable vehicle, much less the authorization from my on and off again collaborators, to come get us. On top of that, the radio communication is bad back there and I was worried about the Jeep breaking down and leaving Kristi stranded out there (granted the rangers were there but still…). After agonizing for 10 minutes I decided to go for it.
Larry and myself carrying down a kayak to the river.
Kristi and the Rangers assisted with carrying our bags and kayaks down the steep trail to the base of the arch. This was Kristi’s first visit to Natural Arch so that was cool; it’s such an amazing feature. After a few minutes of arranging gear and saying our goodbyes we heading downstream.
Brad and I getting our gear in order (photo by Kristi Drexler).
On the way down we pulled up right next to a Tapir and spooked it causing it to bolt through the near shore. Also had our first Morelet's crocodile on the Chiquibul Branch at the same spot.
The nest tree at the top of a dead Ceiba.
We reached the nest by 1pm and made our way to the nest, bags and machetes in hand. As we approached, the female climbed out to observe us. Our planned strategy was going to be to climb up the back side utilizing the one live branch left on the tree. However, upon arriving we were shocked to see the live branch and that back section of the tree had torn away from the tree and plummeted. Shoot! Unlike last time, the female took off and watched us with concern from a distance. The egg(s) must have hatched.
We made it back up to Natural Arch and spent a beautiful evening and night camping just below the Natural Arch. We stayed up late relaxing in the coolness of the night. The stars were amazing; we could even see a few peeking under the arch.
The Natural Arch from our campsite.
Brad writing in his journal at camp.
The next morning we continued upstream towards Bordel Camp. Made a side trip up Smokey Branch for half a kilometer but no activity. An interesting area this lower Chiquibul Branch is. One nest but no additional macaw activity…none. Reached the camp well before the anticipated pick up time so we relaxed in the river even getting in a short nap while half submerged. Occasionally would watch the small tetras, swordtails and two-spot live bearers swimming me.
Napping at the take out (photo by Brad Westrich).
Kristi arrived in the afternoon bearing BBQ and cold beer. Kristi rocks! Relaxed for a bit before heading out of the Chiquibul. Stayed the night on the way back to town at Barton Creek Outpost to hang out with our friends (and long lost relatives…very long lost) Jim and Jackie Britt. Such a good feel to the place…very chill. A good end to the trip.