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Touring Belize

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Old Wednesday 1st February 2012, 15:06   #1
Maroon Jay
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Touring Belize

I have been in Belize for one month now. I will be here for two months altogether. Here is my report for the first month.
I started by taking the bus from Chetumal in Mexico to Orange Walk in Belize. In Orange Walk I took a boat tour on the New River to Lamani. On the boat tour I saw a Black-collared Hawk and several Ringed Kingfishers. At Lamani I saw a couple of roosting Mottled Owls.
Next I went to Crooked Tree where I stayed at Crooked Tree Lodge. This was the best birding location I have found so far in Belize. I was there for four days and saw 12 new birds including the Lineated Woodpecker, Gray-necked Wood-rail, Blue-gray Tanager, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-lored Parrot, and the pretty Hooded Warbler. With the help of a guide I identified the Couch’s Kingbird by sound which is impossible to differentiate visually from the Tropical Kingbird. The guide also help me ID the Yucatan Woodpecker which is very similar to the Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Most guide books show that both these woodpeckers have a yellow patch just above the bill. But the guide told me that this is only in the north of the Golden-fronted Woodpecker’s range. In southern Mexico and Belize, the Golden-fronted has a red patch above the bill instead of yellow, which makes separating it from the Yucatan Woodpecker much easier. The Golden-fronted is also bigger but the red patch is a way to make a positive ID. The guide, Glen, really knows the birds well. If you take a tour of Belize, allow at least four days at Crooked Tree and call ahead to find out when Glen will be there. He travels a lot and is not always there. The owners of Crooked Tree Lodge are wonderful people and the food is the best I have had so far in Belize.
Next I went to Bermudian Landing and stayed at Howler Monkey Resort. At this location I went mainly to see the monkeys, not birds. We saw several troops of monkeys, two of them right from our cabin. We also saw some birds there including the Montezuma Orpendola, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, and Yellow-winged Tanager.
Near the Belize Zoo I saw a Tropical Gnatcatcher and a wonderful Barred Antshrike. I really enjoyed seeing this bird that is covered, front and back, in black and white stripes. In the zoo I saw the magnificent Harpy Eagle. What an awesome bird. It is a wonderful raptor the size of a turkey. This is my number one bird on my most wanted list but the zoo is the only place that I will probably see one, which doesn’t count but was really great just the same.
My next stop was the little village of Maya Centre. I went here for three reasons. Birds of course, but also hoped to see some mammals and to learn about the culture of the Mayan people. I was disappointed with the mammals as I didn’t see any. The Mayan people and culture are fascinating and worth the visit to see. All the women wear dresses no matter what they are doing. No blue jeans or other pants here. There is tiny restaurant with two tables but the restaurant has no kitchen. We ate typical Mayan food which is mostly chicken, beans and rice. The food is cooked in a nearby house and brought to the restaurant. The women often do not wear shoes. It seemed strange to be eating in a restaurant that has no kitchen and served by a barefoot woman in a pretty dress. The women still do their laundry in the river. I went with two women down to the river to see this. Most of the houses are wooden structures with a thatched roof although there are a few modern houses. It was really fascinating. There are cabins to stay in or you can do a homestay in one of the village houses. The Chun family operate the restaurant and the village store and the three Chun brothers also work as guides. I took birding tours to nearby Cockscomb Basin and Mayflower Bocawana parks. At Cockscomb I saw a large tree that looked very normal from a distance. But when you stand under the tree and look up, you learn that the tree is full of large red flowers and hummingbirds. At any given time, there were about 20 hummingbirds there of four different species. I saw the Stripe-throated Hermit, White-tailed Jacobin, and Long-tailed Hermit all in this one tree. If you go to Cockscomb be sure to check this tree which is not far from the entrance. I also saw the Boat-billed Flycatcher, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Black-cowled Oriole, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-black Grosbeak, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, and the Crimson-collared Tanager. No mammals but we did see a large and very fresh jaguar print in the mud.
I hired Gregorio Chun, from Maya Centre to help me find the Scarlet Macaw. We left at 5:30 a.m. and drove for about one hour down a horrible, pot-hole filled, muddy road. When we could drive no further, we walked for another hour, mostly uphill. The macaws are in a very remote area in the mountains beyond the village of Red Bank. It started to rain. After slogging through the jungle in the mud and rain for hours we failed to find the macaws. This was my number two most-wanted bird after the Harpy Eagle and I was determined to see it, so we went again the next day. On the second day, we heard some macaws on the opposite side of the mountain so we went down there. One cannot see anything more than a few trees distance in the jungle. We could hear the macaws very close but could not see them. We walked very slowly and quietly, getting closer and closer but still did not see them. Then I looked up and there was one directly above me. This huge parrot is red and blue and yellow. What a beautiful sight just a few metres above me. Unfortunately it flow off before I could get any photos. We then travelled along the trail until we came to a clearing where we could see something other than trees. There, across the valley, were eight more macaws. Too far away for photos but I saw them fairly well in the binoculars. I went back to my cabin covered in sweat and mud but very happy.
At Hickatee Cottages near Punta Gorda in southern Belize I saw the Olive-backed Euphonia, the Pale-billed Woodpecker and the White-bellied Emerald. The Pale-billed Woodpecker is a large and beautiful woodpecker with an all-red head. I think it should be called the red-headed Woodpecker. I had been looking for it since the beginning of my trip. I have now seen all the woodpeckers in Belize except for the Golden-Olive Woodpecker. The White-bellied Emerald was the ninth new hummingbird of my trip.
I am now at the capital city of Balmopan which, with a population of 20,000 is the smallest capital city in the world. I came here to visit the nearby Blue Hole National Park but it has been raining for three days and I am stuck in my hotel room. Very disappointed.
My totals so far in Belize are 134 birds seen of which 42 were new lifers. This brings my total life list up to 461. This does not include the birds that I have found in Yucatan Mexico. Counting Yucatan I have seen 101 new lifers so far.
Well, at least with the rain, I got a chance to catch up on my paperwork and typing and organizing my photos. There is a detailed report of my trip with photos on my travel journal at www.mytripjournal.com/findtom4 Unfortunately I did not get many bird photos due to the gloomy, rainy weather with low light. It is very dark in the forest, making decent photos with a long lens almost impossible.
Will make another report when I get time.
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Old Thursday 2nd February 2012, 14:37   #2
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Hey, Maroon Jay - I thought the headhunters had gotten you! Glad to hear you've survived in the jungles of Belize and are having some good adventures. I have not visited Belize yet; your report will be helpful as reasearch when I do.

Steve
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Old Thursday 2nd February 2012, 17:54   #3
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Nice write up. Regarding Capital cities, the country I live in has Roseau, listed at 15,000 people.

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Old Thursday 2nd February 2012, 23:41   #4
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Hi Niels, perhaps my book is out of date. It says the population of Belmopan is 7000 and is the smallest capital but I was told the population is now 20,000 so I guess it is no longer the smallest. No Steve, the headhunters didn't get me but I could slip off the path and drown in all the puddles. Rain all day again today.
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 11:49   #5
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At 7000 it definitely would have been smaller than Roseau

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Old Monday 6th February 2012, 00:23   #6
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After more than a week of gloomy, rainy days, the sun finally came out again. The sky is blue, I had almost forgot. I am now in San Ignacio. I went on a birding tour today and finally saw the Aracari that I had been searching for, for more than a month. Saw five of them very close. What a beautiful bird. Also saw a Yellow-throated Euphonia. Now on the second day of sunshine. I hope it lasts for a while. Had enough rain to last the next month or so.
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Old Thursday 16th February 2012, 00:46   #7
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I spent a week in San Ignacio and surrounding area. In the Mountain Pine Ridge, I saw the Black-and-white Hawk-eagle, Red-billed Pigeon, Orange-breasted Falcon, Band-backed Wren, Black-headed Siskin, Stygian Owl and a few others.
I saw the Golden-olive Woodpecker which means I have now seen all eleven woodpeckers in Belize.
At the Green Hills Butterfly Range I saw several hummingbirds including the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Green-breasted Mango and others. A great place.
In the Spanish Lookout area I saw a lovely Fork-tailed Flycatcher. We found one of my “most wanted” birds - the Jabiru Stork. Saw two of these great birds on their nest. Also saw more than 150 Wood Storks. In the same area also saw a Bat Falcon which looks like a smaller version of the Orange-breasted Falcon.
At Laguna Aguacate I saw the Rufous-tailed Jacamar and the Amazon Kingfisher.
On the road to Caracol, I was lucky to find a small group of Ocellated Turkeys and a beautiful White Hawk.
All of these were day trips from San Ignacio. I would have like to have spent another week in this area. This was the best birding of my trip so far. Saw 24 new birds here in one week.
Some other places were a waste of time. I spend four days in the capital city, Belmopan because of the nearby Blue Hole National Park. It was a waste of time. The park is great but it rained three of the four days that I was there.
Totals = 179 seen in Belize so far, 68 of which were new lifers.
Total Life List now 487.
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Old Thursday 16th February 2012, 15:36   #8
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You have hit the birding jackpot, Maroon Jay. Some very good birds in that list. Where in San Ignacio are you staying?

Steve
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Old Friday 17th February 2012, 16:27   #9
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I stayed at the Casa Blanco Hotel. A very good hotel right in the centre of town. From there I could go out on day trips in various directions.
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Old Friday 17th February 2012, 21:57   #10
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are you still in san ignacio, Jay? Casa Blanca is just down the hill from me. I think you still have my cell number?
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Old Sunday 19th February 2012, 23:57   #11
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Sorry I missed you BelizeRaptors. Had not heard from you in a long time. Now on Ambergris Caye.
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Old Sunday 19th February 2012, 23:57   #12
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I spent one week on the island of Ambergris Caye. Didn’t find many birds there. I did find the Mangrove Warbler which is a sub-species of the yellow warbler. It does not look at all like a yellow warbler as it has a rust-coloured head. Very interested. I found the Bananaquit Caboti which is a sub-species of the Bananaquit Mexicano. The Caboti has a white-throat whereas the more common Bananaquit has a grey throat. The Caboti is found only on a few islands in the Caribbean.
I saw the Blue Grosbeak but only the brown female. No sight of the male.
I saw a couple of Eurasian Collared-doves. I didn’t pay much attention to them. I have seen them many times before. They are very common in SW USA and Mexico. I found out later that they had been sighted only four times before in Belize. I went back the next day and they were still in the same location and I got a photo.
Didn’t find the Smooth-billed Ani and a few other birds that I was looking for.
Totals now 186 in Belize of which 70 were new lifers. Total life list = 489
Off to explore the island of Caye Caulker next.
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Old Sunday 26th February 2012, 21:17   #13
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Caye Caulker is a very tranquil place. Not much to do here except scuba diving and snorkelling. There is almost no traffic. Most people walk to wherever they are going. Some people have golf carts. Even police vehicle and taxis are golf carts. It is so tranquil that one day I saw a Great Egret walking down one of the main streets in town.
I found one new bird here. That is the Yucatan Vireo that I was not successful in finding in Yucatan.
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 18:04   #14
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I am now back in Mexico. My best birding locations in Belize were Crooked Tree, Maya Centre and San Ignacio area. My best sightings were the Black-and-white Hawk-eagle, Ocellated Turkey, Collared Aracari, Stygian Owl, White Hawk, Scarlet Macaw, Mangrove Warbler and several species of hummingbirds and my favourite, the Jabiru Stork. I saw all 11 species of woodpeckers in Belize. Hummingbirds included Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, White-bellied Emerald, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird and my favourite, the Green-breasted Mango which has a unique green vertical stripe down the front. I saw a total of 193 birds in Belize of which 71 were lifers for me which brings my total life list to 490. Just ten more for the big 500. Hope I can find an eagle or something special for my 500th. Off to Campeche and Chiapas in Mexico next.
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Old Friday 16th March 2012, 04:40   #15
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Sounds great, Jay. Where did you see the Stygian Owl? Did someone guide you to the location you saw it?

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Old Friday 16th March 2012, 18:15   #16
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Saw the Stygian Owl near Five Sisters Lodge with a guide. I am currently in Chiapas, MExico, Going to Tikal in Guatemala and will be back in San Ignacio agian for a few days. Perhaps we can meet.
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Old Sunday 18th March 2012, 11:51   #17
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I've enjoyed reading your trip journal Maroon Jay. I visited Belize in Nov 2011 and absolutely loved it. If you get the chance the ATM cave is an amazing experience.

TS

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Old Sunday 18th March 2012, 15:22   #18
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THanks TS. I am now in Chiapas and will pass through Belize once again on my way back to Yucatan. I like Belizse but had a lot of rainy days while I was there.
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Old Tuesday 20th March 2012, 02:37   #19
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I sent you an e-mail through your profile info, Jay.
Gave you my number. I have a raptor hot spot you'd like.
Black Collared Hawk, Crested Caracara, Bat Falcons, Northern Harriers (now leaving) American Kestrals, Aplomados, King Vultures, along with Jabirus on the nest, Anhingas, etc...
Hope to see you soon,
Daniel
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Old Tuesday 20th March 2012, 22:57   #20
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Did not receive a private message from you. I am currently in Chiapas on the Guatemala border. Two more nights here then headed to Flores and Tikal for a few days, then San Ignacio. Have seen most of the birds you metion. Have not seen the Alpomado Falcon. Saw one King Vulture a great distance and wojuld love to get a better look at one. Tom
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Old Wednesday 21st March 2012, 16:15   #21
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Actually, it was an e-mail I sent you through the forum, not a pm. Sorry for the confusion.
Same area is holding a pair of Jabiru on a nest, also a Bare-throated Tiger-heron on the nest. The King was a surprise for me in the area.

Got a picture of a 12' croc eyeballing me while birding the area.
Seems you've got most species I've recorded. Yesterday got pics of 3 White-tailed Hawks soaring, 3 osprey fishing...one caught a Northern Jacana, and a couple Double-crested Cormorant were highlights.

cheers
Dan
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Old Wednesday 21st March 2012, 20:36   #22
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Dan, I cant find your email. Please send again using private message. Tom
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Old Monday 26th March 2012, 17:28   #23
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