Eagle ray
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.

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 At night these tentacles are withdrawn into the grooves for protection.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. Tenticales are also withdrawn in storms such as hurricanes.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.



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?

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.




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!

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UPDATE 2/5/09. When I went to paint today I was surprised to see that the paintings were nearly all gone from the Forum Shop gallery. Apparently, they have decided to discontinue the gallery.

In the past couple of years I have taken up watercolor painting. As such I have met and learned more about local artists. We have discovered that the Forum Shops on the main street (Melgar) allows local artists to display there work free of charge in a cooperative on the 2nd floor. It is great that they are providing the space. I guess the idea was that cruise ship passengers would wander up and buy art. It isn't happening, but it is a great gallery and worth exploring. Another place on the island to see the works of local artists is Greg Deitrich's Gallery Azul. Here is a link. He features many local artists and his amazing blown glass art.

Forum shop also 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

Here are a couple of cruise ship passengers exploring the natural wonders of Cozumel's waterfront. It is so refreshing to see them taking an interest in the tide pools and not just the t-shirt and jewelry shops.

Those of us that live here take the waterfront pretty much for granted, but it really does have some interesting critters and is worth exploring from time-to-time.

Reticulated starfish
Each arm of the starfish has hundreds of tube feet. These attach themselves to a food object such as a mussel or bivalve. Then with amazing strength it can pry open the shell and the feast begins. Here is the gross part, the sea star then forces its stomach into the shell, excretes enzymes and turns the insides into a puree which it uses to digest the shell contents. Having had its fill, it slinks off leaving the unfortunate shell completely cleaned of its former occupant and looking like it is just closed for the duration.

Sea stars are very famous for being able to regenerate their arms, and in some cases their entire bodies can be regenerated from just a bit of an arm left. This can happen because they have most of their vital organs only in their arms.


Sea stars have no eyes but can tell if it is light or dark. They breathe through there feet.

Filefish and rope to the left. I have concluded that there is something in the ropes around the snorkel areas that file fish like to eat. I see them hanging out so often. The ropes around Dzul Ha and President Hotel sting. Really sting, you can get a rash for touching them.

I have photos of the file fish in other blogs, but this was pretty close. They are closely related to the triggerfish. Below is a young trigger fish with it's "trigger" up for protection. They sure are cuties.


Blackbird with suspicious white powder. These blackbirds are very common on the island and have a huge variety of sounds that they make. They flock together in the early evenings at the square and other places and it sounds like pandemonium! I just love them. I had one that visited my back yard every afternoon and "talked" to me for about 30 minutes. The Mayan word for these guys is caw!

This one was photoed at Coral Princess Hotel. It and others had raided the sugar bowl. They grabbed the packets of sugar, ripped them open and ate the contents. They also ate the artificial sweeteners with as much gusto.

There is almost always something curious near my back door. This appears to be a type of wasp, but I could find no information on it. There were 3 of these that came and died by my back door. Apparently at the end of their life cycle (usually after procreating). Sure was pretty and if anyone that reads this has a clue as to what it is, please let me know..

UPDATE.
This insect has been identified as the polka dot wasp moth. Mary Poole (cilantramary) found it and let me know. Someone locally had warned me that they were dangerous, but the sites I read said not. They can also be found in the USA and its caterpillow is known as the oleander caterpiller because it feeds on oleander and devil's potato. Now if anyone can tell me what the devil's potato is...

The Cozumelanian people are not only very resourceful, but take their lot in life with a smile and an acceptance unlike anywhere I have lived. This man has found the perfect way to travel around town. Love his smile.

Trumpetfish are piscivores - which means they eat fish. I thought that their peculiar appearance of standing on their heads was to disguise themselves. I guess in a sense it is, but only because they are waiting for fish to appear and I think they are hiding from the intended meals. They will hang until a fish appears and then lightening fast they will expand their mouths widely and swallow the fish. When they do, the mouth appears much like a trumpet. Hence the name trumpetfish. One of the fish that the trumpetfish prey on is the damselfish. Damsels are aggressive little guys and are really quite full of hutzpa. They will keep cool and hide when a trumpetfish passes, but chase after and nip their tails after they pass.



Below is a trumpet fish traveling in the horizontal position.

 



Left is Victor from Cuba, he is part of Aquino's salsa band, Fuerza Latina. Aquino is below singing to a couple of salsa dancers. It is a fun dance style to watch. One of the favorite places to watch is Sundays at Playa Azul beach. As you can see, Salsa is for all ages.

 

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