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Carol McCutch's Cozumel Blo

Late December '08 Early January '09

Cozumel stingray

I have to admit that for me, seeing a Spotted Eagle Ray is always thrilling.

This one was especially thrilling because; 1) had my camera, 2) I found it in shallow water, and 3) even had my head about me anough to get a little video and 4) it hung around long enough for me to do all that.

Here is the youtube link to the video:
Eagle ray
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The quality is not the best, but it was pretty murky that day. I have heard since of another sighting of an Eagle Ray in that same vacinity. From what I know of them, they eat conch and will work an area where they find food. It is now January, '09 and I am told the rays are "running" in schools near the island. A school of 18 was seen in the past few days (Jan. 26, '09) There are dive trips to the north to look for these schools.

In the photo above there is a remora with the ray. Remoras attach themselves to large fish with a “sucker” with which it sticks tight. It is done by suction only, no teeth. It gets a free ride with this, but is capable of swimming on it’s own as shown above. There is much discussion as to the role they play with their hosts. Some say it is commensalism, or more rightly phoresy. It means it benefits from the host and the host loses little by the relationship. It is thought to gain meals on the scraps left behind when the host eats. Others think it is more like mutualism with the host benefitting because the remora is thought to clean off parasites from the host. I understand the reason that eagle rays are known to breach is due to their attempt to rid themselves of parasites and maybe even remoras. The one that breached and landed in my friend’s boat (shown in an earlier blog) had a remora attached.

I have also observed small remoras attached to parrot fish. The parot fish seem crazy to be rid of them. I have taken dozens of photos and have not gotten one decent shot of a parrot with a remora attached.

 

Brain coral.
Polyps of the brain coral live in the "valleys" of the structure. These polyps send out tentacles in the daytime and catch zooplankton and bacteria from the surrounding water. At night these tentacles are withdrawn into the grooves for protection. They also feed on algae but this is more of a symbiotic relationship in that the algae protects the surface of the coral. Tentacales are also withdrawn in storms such as hurricanes.

 

 

Brain coral is pretty sturdy in hurricanes because of their shape. Wilma was powerful enough to destroy even these. But they fared a lot better than the elkhorn coral which wasn't solid like the brain. Coral structures of elkhorn coral the size of Volkswagens were completely broken apart and disappeared except for their thick bases after the hurricane..

Here is a major landmark in the square in downtown San Miguel. Most anytime I was to meet someone at night to do something in the downtown area it was, "Meet you at the clock tower". Bet those of you that have been to Cozumel before have heard those words. By the way, next time you look at the "numbers" on the clock, note that it is in Mayan! Well here it is all decked out for Christmas. The square was full of all kinds of Christmas decorations and clusters of plastic animals, baby Jesus's, Mary and Josephs and wise men. There are frequent festivities here.

A good band plays on Saturday and Sunday nights and everyone dances. Men will come up to women that are strangers and ask and off they will go to dance in this family atmosphere. Doesn't matter if they are from the USA, Mexico or whereever, everyone gets into the act. There are vendors all around the square selling homemade goodies so families come and eat and enjoy the free entertainment.

 

 

There is also a churro maker on the square at night. Churros are fried dough with sugar sprinkled on it. Well, not sure sprinkled is the right word, maybe totally covered with sugar is a better description.

To the left is the stand and it the middle of the lighted area are the churros. Greasy paper container with churros sticking out. Below is the process of fryinig the dough.The recipe is to fry them until they are golden brown and sort of drain them and pile on the sugar. Wonder whoever thought up this one?

 

 

 

My dog, Freckles, meets Chapis (chap pees) and her owner. The motorized thing she is on is hers, it has her name on it.

Sweet dog, devoted owner. Wish everyone here cared as much for their animals as he does.

 

And speaking of caring for the animals probably nothing gets my blood boiling more that seeing the condition of the carriage horses of Cozumel. The one pictured to the left is actually one of the luckier ones here on the island. His coat looks shiny and the umbrella provides a little shade while the driver waits for a fare. Sometimes they put these ridiculous sombreros on the horses which not only do not provide shade, but rub and irritate their ears.

 

The Humane Society has worked very hard to try to improve their lot and poco a poco things are changing. But there have been steps backwords in recent months. The forcing of them to have the proper shoes to walk on pavement has started being ignored and you can once again hear the clang of the dangerous metal shoes.

All too often this is the condition they are found in. This horse's ribs are showing, but its belly is rounded (bloat?). Too me it is obviously not in good condition to be pulling 3-5 people including the driver. They are often made to run on the hard cement roads. So often you see them limping or with their heads hanging down. They are often dripping in sweat and frothing at the mouth. They are rarely permiitted water or food. It is just sickening. When the city polished the streets last year they fell because it was so slippery and they had the wrong shoes. They have been known to drop dead in their traces with tourists in the carriages.

 

Man, don't get me started. It is necessary to harden your heart to this sort of abuse here. It is a different culture and a different country and I always have to remember that. But for the Americans that visit here, please look at the condition of the horse before you go for a carriage ride. Ask the driver when was the last time they had food or water. If you don't like what you see, take a taxi!

 

The Forum Shop allows us to use the facilities to paint. So a group of water color artists meet once a week and paint for a few hours. The lighting is wonderful and it is quiet.

Occasionally a cruise ship passenger or 2 will wander up and seem startled to see us and back away as if we might bite them. Really, we don't mind being watched. We hardly notice they are there. Susan McGuffin (closest to the camera) has won awards 2 years in a row for her paintings.

If anyone on the island is interested in joining our group, please contact me at: mccutch1@msu.edu

   

 

Go to Page 2 of Carol's Dec 08/Jan 09 Blog