Day 11: Rio Lagartos - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

January 10, 2023

Day 11: Rio Lagartos

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We had Diego queued up to set off at 6:30 a.m.  When we strolled out at 6:15 we already had the benefit of the dawn light. Once again we noticed that while the town seems poor, it is easy to take a photo that looks quite nice, like the two below:

On the way to Diego's
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Diego's restaurant is down at the end.
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At the restaurant we immediately had some nice harbour type views. We were to see a lot more like this as we set out in the boat, and also when we returned, 3 1/2 hours later.

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? Great Blue Heron
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Keith KleinYellow crowned night heron.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinOh, of course. I didn’t look that closely at it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this bird before. They don’t make it into the western half of the country.
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At the restaurant, Diego IV whipped up a high quality coffee, and set about answering my questions about where we were going. He had a teacher's style pointer stick and wall map, which is actually a very effective system. Glare in the room prevented a good photograph of the map, so I would recommend checking out the track map above, to understand what this was going to be all about.

The map on the wall.
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 Rio Lagartos town sits on the inland edge of what is essentially an estuary. The water in front of the town "runs" about 15 kms to the west, before exiting to the Gulf of Mexico at the fishing village of San Felipe. However, directly opposite Rio Lagartos there is a channel to the Gulf that was opened to give deep water fishers faster access. The estuary also extends about 65 km to the east, notably passing the salt works at Los Colorados that are a favourite spot for flamingos, to finally end at El Cuyo.  Saying that the water "runs" and that this is an estuary is not quite in the traditional sense. There is no "river" called the Lagartos. Rather, fresh water is entering the estuary from upwellings from underground cenotes under the water. These are all connected to all the cenotes and underground rivers of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Diego said that the Mayans would use bamboo tubes to draw fresh water from these wells below the salty water!

All in all it makes for an insanely interesting ecological zone. The shores are lined with mangroves, and the area supports more than 400 species of birds, not to mention saltwater crocodiles, some freshwater crocodiles, racoons, and others.

Offshore from  the town there are interesting things to see, like the town itself, and the boats anchored offshore.

Pelicans are the crew of this boat.
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The town extends for about 1/2 km like this.
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Here is another "pelican crew"!
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But this boat is controlled by cormorants.
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Flamingos turn their bright pink from years (more than two years) of eating pink shrimp. Until they are old enough to have done that, they are whitish to pinkish. The area directly off Rio Lagartos town is favoured by young flamingos, who consequently are not so bright. Brighter ones are down by the salt flats. Something we had not known about is that the salt works are privately owned, and they have closed off access to boats from the town since we were last here in 2018. Instead they seem to offer tours from further east, opposite the salt works, the "pink lakes".  We don't know when this was done, but it would seem to be a heavy blow to tour operators out of the town. It also seems that touring the pink lakes is mainly run for busses out of the surrounding bigger cities. Sucks!

A group of young flamingos - notice the pale colour.
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This large White Pelican likes to hang out with the flamingo youths.
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Flamingos are as interesting in flight as when standing around. See the pinker one?
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These two are not fighting, says Diego, just playing, in preparation for mating displays when they are old enough.
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It's interesting to watch the flamingos scratching at the bottom to stir up shrimp, but this posture is something else, they are resting. They really look like choreographed dancers!
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In lots of places the estuary is only a foot deep. Diego sometimes just hopped out and towed the boat. Other times he ran the motor with the prop almost at the surface. There also existed deep channels, for booting along.
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He is fishing by rod for sea trout, the fish Dodie had last night at supper.
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The Blue Heron is a very common sight.
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Some pinker flamingos in these pictures.
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Great blue heron.
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Great Egret
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Shooting along a channel, being in the wind from the boat was really pleasant!
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Ibis - not the European hotel chain!
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Anhinga drying his wings
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Anhinga, front view. Notice the straight pointy bill. Cormorants look similar but have a hooked bill.
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Green Heron
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Our first crocodile. Note the mangrove roots. Shorter thicker ones like this are from younger trees.
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He's watching me! In fact Diego said the obvious - it would not be advisable to swim in this area.
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These longer thinner mangrove roots are from taller older trees.
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The mangroves are critical to the system here, but there were areas of dead ones, killed by flooding and wind from hurricanes. 

Healthy mangroves
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A Cormorant and a Pelican
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? an Ibis, Stork, and a mystery hawk
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Mystery hawk?
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like a falcon. Maybe a peregrine falcon?

https://ebird.org/species/perfal
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltMaybe. It’s not quite a good enough photo to be sure, but I’m thinking it’s a laughing falcon from its mask like facial pattern. Note the white around the front of its head.
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Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott AndersonYes, that was one of the possibles.
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Wood Stork ?
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Two paddle boaters appeared, seemingly far from any dock.
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A surprising highlight of the tour was a stop at a little beach, where mostly plastic junk from the Gulf had washed up. We spent some pleasant minutes gathering it up. Later Diego will come and transport it away.

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At the beach!
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The beach also had tracks of raccoon. Raccoon are major predators of the flamingo chicks, which are raised in mud nests among the mangroves.

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Clearly there is Horse Shoe Crab here as well.
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Gotta come back and transport this out.
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Another cormorant, notice the hooked bill,
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Oh, oh, another one! Feeding to attract wildlife has brought more of these closer to the town. It's kind of like with bears in British Columbia.
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Great Egret
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Osprey
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Some dead mangrove
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Lineated Woodpecker
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Scott AndersonI was going to correct you because it looks just like the pileated woodpeckers we have in the PNW. I’d never heard of lineated woodpeckers, but they’re close cousins.
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This Cormorant is hanging out on a pier beside an underwater cenote.
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Frigate Bird
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That's all folks. Clearly there are a few hundred more types of birds we have still to spot here. There were a few more (e.g. Tiger Heron) that were seen but the camera could not get them. Oh, about the camera. It's a little Nikon S7000 - great for just documenting the story of our tour, but frustratingly fuzzy. Any suggestions for a replacement would be welcome. It does have to fit in a pocket and be capable of zoom and shoot with one hand. That automatically eliminates any smart phones. 20X zoom would also seem to be a minimum. Ideas?

After some time for a nap and to write this page, we returned to the Ria Maya restaurant for supper. There again, we we warmly received by the whole family, and now making the acquaintance of Diego IV's other kids - Fabrizio and little Isabella. Diego V was at pains to introduce us to his siblings, insisting that Isabella wave nicely. It looks like the business will be in good hands!

Regis from Lonely Planet was still there, and we promised to look for his book when it comes out. Diego III then walked us part way down the street, advising on which way to go to avoid puddles. So nice.

That brought to a close our adventure in Rio Lagartos, punctuated by the sunset from the restaurant deck.

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We returned to our hotel, ready to turn in and be ready for our 4 a.m. wake up. But before we had left for supper we had pumped up Dodie's rear tire a bit.  Again, our pump rather stuck on the valve stem, and we again were so careful to remove it with minimal flexing. But when we got back - flat!  I will now have to remove the rear wheel again and see what is going on. Fortunately (or not) I m beginning to be quite experienced at this! Our newest replacement tube seems to have a stronger  valve area, so presumably we are still leaving tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Gotta be kidding!
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Sue PriceOh no!!!!
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceFortunately, or maybe not, Steve is getting very skilled at these rear wheel repairs. It only took a little over an hour to fix. Aaaarrrgh.
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2 weeks ago
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Scott AndersonI don’t know about the one hand photography requirement (maybe that’s why you get fuzzy zoomed photos?), but I can recommend the Panasonic Lumix ZS60/70/80 series with a 30X zoom and good image stabilization. I’ve only used the ZS60, the oldest of the series, but it still looks like the best deal to me, even though it doesn’t have quite all the features of the newer models. I doubt you’ll find any camera that will give you a sharp image at that much zoom shooting with one hand though.
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2 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonWhat a fantastic, interesting day!
I agree with Scott on camera choice. But I am not sure the blur you have is motion blur due to camera shake. It looks to me like the camera isn't focusing properly. Is it blurry when you don't zoom?
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Suzanne GibsonTo Suzanne GibsonOr are you shooting at a very low resolution?
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Sue PriceWonderful reading about your adventure up there! Sounds like a spectacular time - until the flat tire that is! Hope you get that sorted soon!!
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonWhen shooting distant birds, I am stopped and holding on to the camera with all hands to stabilize and zoom it.

I knew I could count on you for the good advice, so we just bought the ZS60. Of course we can only pick it up when we get home, so I hope they also have birds in Portugal!
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Suzanne GibsonThe camera does much better when it is not zoomed near its max. Could be jungle mist on the lens too. I did increase the resolution at your suggestion, just in case. We just bought the ZS60 recommended by you and Scott, so we are eager to try it on the next tour!
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceThe tube we bought in Tulum was thick and kind of weird - like it had been fused together from scraps. It was a little hard to get on, but it held up today!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI thought you must have changed your technique, because you’ve got some really good shots in there. Something also to think about, if it’s a shot you want to be better quality - with my camera at least, it helps to give the camera time to figure out the image. I can almost see the image gradually improve as I watch, but maybe it’s my imagination.
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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesI kind of favour Suzanne's fogged lens theory. I definitely see that with my sunglasses. I was meaning to ask: Cell phones are escalating their prices over $1000 based it seems on camera improvements. But all that must mostly be in software. Do you think, as you say, that the Panasonic is also pondering the shot? But presumably it would not be trying stunts like making multiple exposures and studying them, ex post sharpening, or whatever. What do those Google Pixel phones actually do?
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2 weeks ago