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Belize and Caribbean Cruise Report (1 Viewer)


With my family I recently spent a week on Ambergris Caye of Belize, the went on a Caribbean Cruise with Oceania Cruises. Tried to see as many birds as possible, and was fairly successful. I have posted some photos at my Flickr site if you wish to look.


I hope my ID's are correct but some of the flycatchers are a bit tricky!

February 18, 2012 - Five of us are in Belize today, after flying on three different airplanes to get from Edmonton-Houston-Belize City-Ambergris Caye. At the airport I noted Rock Dove and Great-tailed Grackle. We are staying in a condo at the Hol Chan Reef Resort. Right off the bat in the condo beach area I saw Brown Pelicans, Royal Tern, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, and Double-crested Cormorant. These birds will be constant companions over the beach areas. After unpacking and resting a bit I headed south along the road and saw many more birds: Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, a possible Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, many Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, a bunch of Pectoral Sandpipers, a Whimbrel, White-winged Doves, a Cinnamon Hummingbird, Tropical Kingbirds, Tropical Mockingbirds. Three life birds were seen: Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a Mangrove Vireo, and a Hooded Oriole. The Golden-fronted Woodpecker has a hole in a palm tree next door. Later down the road I saw a Belted Kingfisher fly over, and an Osprey.

February 19, 2012 - Up fairly early this morning and had great looks at some birds in the pine tree next to our 4th floor balcony especially Kiskadees and Hooded Orioles. Yellow Warblers about all day everywhere, and a Yellow-throated Warbler seen briefly. New birds seen today were Kiskadee, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-bellied Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, White-collared Seedeater, Laughing Gull, Yellow Warbler, a Common Ground-Dove at the dump, Bronzed Cowbird, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working all day on a palm tree by the beach, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and two more lifers: Mangrove Swallow and Melodious Blackbird.

February 20, 2012 - Up at 5:45 to get to the Marco Gonzales Maya ruin site. As I thought it was quite bird rich, being an island of deciduous trees surrounded by mangrove swamp. Lifers seen were Black Catbird, Yucatan Vireo, Yucatan Woodpecker, and Yucatan Jay. Other notable birds were Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and the Mangrove Warbler subspecies of the Yellow Warbler. In the ponds near the water tower were 3 Pectoral Sandpipers. Walking about in the afternoon I got good looks at a Yellow-throated Warbler, and then saw some Ruddy Turnstones. A flock of Bronzed Cowbirds flew onto a power pole. There was a Wurdemann’s morph of the Great Blue Heron right in front of the villa all day.

February 21, 2012 - Once we got things together we decide to head into the town of San Pedro and over the toll bridge to explore the road north. Before we went I took a look at the empty lot across the road and came up with a Palm Warbler. We saw a Lineated Woodpecker. After we got back to the Hol Chan Reef Resort I headed out to the Marco Gonzales site on foot. Not much on the way down, but a couple of vultures came over and I got lots of photo’s. Looking at them later I can see that one is definitely a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, and the other a Turkey Vulture. At the site there was again lots of Black Catbirds about, all calling frequently. A couple of Yucatan Vireos about and I got better photos of both as I brought my flash this time. Black-and -white Warbler seen again, and American Redstart. A new bird was a White-crowned Pigeon.

February 22, 2012 - There was a Willett on the beach this morning. We went snorkeling with Suya tours and had a very good experience. Lots of fish seen, a couple of turtles, lots of rays and sharks. Driving into town in the afternoon we see a Gray Hawk on a pole.

February 23, 2012 - I went over to Caye Caulker to check it out, a 30 minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye. Not much there, but a quieter version of San Pedro. We found a bar overlooking the cemetery where they had a bucket of Belikin and some nachos for $20BZ. On the beach there I noted 2 Sanderlings and 6 Ruddy Turnstones, Great Egret, Tricoloured Heron, Little Blue Heron, Laughing Gull and Royal Terns. There were always at least 6 Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring over the town and the ubiquitous Grackles. I saw a Cinnamon Hummingbird also. While waiting for the boat back I saw Sandwich Terns flying off of the island out to the reef.

February 24, 2012 - In the morning I again went down to the Marco Gonzales site. I saw an Ovenbird and a female Northern Parula. A few Black Catbirds about, and more Yucatan Vireos. The host at the kiosk said that they do have Great Horned Owls at the site. Later in the afternoon, after a nice lunch at Mr Joe’s Lone Star Grill & Cantina, I headed northwards over the toll bridge and up the island. I got some good looks at a Lineated Woodpecker and saw quite a few Black Vultures. As we were heading back the right front wheel almost came off of our piece-of-crap golf cart as the bearings gave out. We called the rental office and had to wait for over an hour for the tow-cart to come and get us back. Just before they came I noted a Great Horned Owl on a building nearby and I was able to get some nice shots of it from a the 4th floor of a nearby resort building.

February 25, 2012 - Today we headed out to the Lamanai ruins. A boat picked us up at about 7:30 AM and we headed over to Belize City, a 50 minute ride. Then we headed up the Old River a ways, the guide finding us some manatees and we also saw some dolphins, or their fins anyways. The manatees were feeding on the river bottom, stirring up clouds of silt that the guide recognized. We only really saw there snouts as they came up for air and then back down again. We stopped at a transfer point where I saw a Common Black Hawk fly over. Then we transferred to a van for a 45 minute ride to a spot where we got on a boat again for a ride up the New River. So far the birds seen had been the usual ones seen elsewhere this trip, except the Black Hawk and some Wood Storks that we saw flying over from the van. On the New River we started to see a few different ones: Neotropical Cormorants, Ringed Kingfishers, Jacanas, Boat-billed Heron, and an Anhinga. Close to Lamanai the guide pointed out 2 Jabiru Storks in a far away tree. When we got to the ruins we had a nice lunch provided with the tour. I saw a Blackburnian Warbler, but there were few other birds evident. After lunch we first went to the Jaguar Temple and then the ball court. Then the impressive High Pyramid. There were Bat Falcons about and I was able to get a good photo. On the lake that Lamanai is on I saw Pied-billed Grebes. Driving back I saw 2 Brown Jays flying about a farm yard.

February 26, 2012 - Up today and packing up to head out from Ambergris Caye, heading to Miami to start a Caribbean cruise. On the beach early was a Willett and some Ruddy Turnstones. A Common Ground-Dove was posing for quite a while on the power lines. So I leave Belize with 74 species and 14 lifers. An uneventful flight to Miami and then a transfer to the ship, the new Oceania Marina.

February 27, 2012 - Sailing into Key West this morning, accompanied by Laughing Gulls, Royal and Sandwich Terns, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans. I wanted to visit Fort Zachary Taylor Park so I headed there mid morning from the ship. Not very birdy but I did see Red-breasted Merganser, Common Moorhen, Coots, Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher at the moat; lots of Palm Warblers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Grey Catbird, some Northern Mockingbirds, some Mourning Doves, Turkey Vultures, and one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the trees, and the previously mentioned birds and Ring-billed Gull on the beach. Walking about Key West I add Osprey, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Kestrels. At the Wildlife Rehab center/Indigenous Park I added White Ibis and Anhinga.

February 28, 2012 - After the day in Key West we had a sea day. The only birds seen all day were two Magnificent Frigatebirds. Lots of flying fish, some actually able to go long distances out of the water before diving back into a wave.

February 29, 2012 - Today we docked at Costa Maya, Mexico. It is an artificial village with nothing but shops and bars, not a real town. In the morning we took a tour to the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben. Somewhat interesting, with some medium sized pyramids, one with traces of the original red plaster. At the temple I see a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a male Orchard Oriole, and a White-eyed Vireo. I could mention that at the dock there were all of the usual birds: Magnificent Frigatebird, Turkey Vultures, Brown Pelicans, Royal and Sandwich Terns, and Laughing Gulls. After the return to the ship and some lunch I set out to an area just beyond the shopping centre, where there are a grid of streets laid out but only overgrown and without houses. The birding started kind of slow but then started to pick up as the afternoon got a bit later. Lots of Tropical Kingbirds, Yucatan Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Jays, White-collared Seedeaters, Black-cowled Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, two Roadside Hawks, a lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, and a skulking black bird with a yellow bill, a Yellow-billed Cacique.

March 1, 2012 - Today we are docked at Mahogany Bay on Roatan Island, Honduras. It is a rather nice new cruise village, full of shops of course, but with some nice plantings and a small natural area. I decide to take a taxi out for a tour and a visit to the Carambola Botanical Gardens where I know that there is a trail that may be interesting. We connect with a young driver named Julio who takes us on a nice tour of Roatan. We are fairly impressed with the island. Although still third world, it is cleaner and neater than Ambergris Caye was. We see some nice resorts like Anthony’s Cay Resort. Not much to see at the gardens except Canivet’s Emeralds at a feeder and on some flowers at the top of the mountain trail. On the drive back I saw a Great Blue Heron in the surf. After lunch I head back out into the dock area and then explore back on some trails a bit. I get some real nice looks at a female Canivet’s, and see more Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Flycatchers, Gray Catbird, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Roadside Hawk, Great Egret. Just before I get back to the boat I saw in a tree two Common Ground-Doves then a Green-breasted Mango Hummingbird perched on a bare branch, just like the book says.

March 2, 2012 - Today we are docked at Santo Tomas in Guatemala. A nice green hilly area. We bargain for a boat cruise, trying to get the idea across that we do not want to just go trinket shopping in third world villages. We end up with a cadre of about 10 people on a boat with a guide and a driver. We head north up along the coast and see a number of fisherman working. When we get to the Rio Dulce mouth we turn upstream and have a nice ride up the river. We end up at a fisherman’s shack on stilts on the river side where young girls in dugout canoes try to sell us shells. We give them a dollar and tell them don’t bother with the shell. The mom is cooking tortillas. Behind the house I spot a parrot in a tree, a Red-lored Parrot. I ask the guide if it might be a pet, but the mother tells him no, it comes and goes from the jungle. Then we head back down the river and I spot a Common Black-Hawk high in a tree. I should mention that Neotropical Cormorants, Mangrove Swallows, Black Vultures and Jacanas were seen on the river as well. We then end up at a spot where hot springs come out of the river bank, and then explore some caves that open up above them. It was actually quite interesting. Then a stop at a riverside restaurant that actually was rather clean and nice, with cold beer. Leaving the bar we head downstream and I note a flock of birds fly over, large, black and yellow tails - Montezuma Oropendolas. At the river mouth we still end up at a poor fishing town called Livingston. The guides insist on taking us her, perhaps it is a tour requirement to get money into the town. It is a town with little to go for, with very scrawny, mangy dogs running about and no place to eat that looks half decent. I do come across 4 Social Flycatchers noisily squabbling on some power lines. At the shore I see a lot of Royal Terns flying by and some Great Egrets standing in the surf. Lots of Laughing Gulls, Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans. Leaving Livingston there is a lot of fishing activity and a lot of gulls and terns. I see one jaeger for sure, likely a Pomarine Jaeger.

March 3, 2012 - Today we are tendered off of Belize City, and it is quite windy, making tendering and transferring a bit tricky. I have a tour booked with Dirk Francisco of the Belize Audubon Society, but I am a bit late getting to shore. I walk the one block down to the Audubon Office and meet Dirk and another young lady, Nikisha, that is joining us today as well. Before we get in the truck Dirk points out a Common Tody-Flycatcher in a tree in the parking lot. In the truck we drive out along the seaside, picking up Mangrove Swallows, a Cattle Egret, Tropical Mockingbirds, Ruddy Turnstones, Spotted Sandpiper, and a Black-billed Plover. Near the shore we come across a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a power line. We drive to some wet lands in the city by a school and get Northern Jacana, Killdeer, Common Ground-Doves, White-collared Seedeater, Brown Pelican, Little Blue Heron, two Common Black Hawks flying over, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Olive-throated Parakeets, a Vermilion Flycatcher, Hooded Orioles, Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird, White Ibis, and a Grey-necked Wood-Rail. Dirk checked out an area that he has found nighthawks roosting on the top of chain link fence but no luck. He mentions that in the last hurricane a lot of house were damaged by wind blown branches, and a lot of trees have been trimmed back by worried home owners, giving the other wise attractive suburbs a bit of a bare look. Once we are out of town we see Common Moorhens, American Coots, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egret in the roadside wetlands. Dirk stops at a roadside field and finds the Fork-tailed Flycatchers that he has seen there before. Some highway driving then we turn off at one spot where Jabiru Stork have nested but no luck. We end up not seeing them at Crooked Tree either so I was lucky to see them at Lamanai. Soon we are turning onto the gravel road that leads to Crooked Tree Sanctuary, and the village of the same name. Along the road we see a Ringed Kingfisher, and when we stop at a turn out Dirk ID’s a Couch’s Kingbird by its call. At the same spot we see a Limpkin, a Snail Kite, an Osprey, and a Neotropical Cormorant. On the water are good numbers of Pied-billed Grebes and Blue-winged Teal. We stop at the ranger station, and see a Yellow Warbler and a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher in the trees. Driving about the village we see a Clay-colored Thrush, Social Flycatcher, Acorn Woodpecker, Green Heron, Great Kiskadee, and another Gray-necked Wood-Rail. We stop at the Bird’s Eye View Lodge for a nice lunch. Outside the lodge are some feeders attracting Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and I get a great shot of a Vermilion Flycatcher. A Yellow-throated Warbler is about as well. While eating lunch a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is seen in a bush outside the window. After lunch we walk some trails and pick up Black-and-white Warbler, Brown Jay, Lesser Greenlet, Spot-breasted Wren (heard only, but heard often!), a Melodious Blackbird, American Redstarts, Mangrove Vireos, a skulking Yellow-billed Cacique, and a Magnolia Warbler. Coming back out onto the shore there is a Belted Kingfisher and a Tricolored Heron as well as the many Blue-winged Teal. Driving about the village again we find a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron in a small pond, and then come across a group of Chipping Sparrows in some pine savannah. Before we leave the village we spot a Groove-billed Ani. On the way back I spot a raptor over the highway and we pull off to get a better look, finding it to be a Peregrine Falcon. We have to take a small detour in Ladyville near the army base as Prince Harry is visiting for the day. We see more Olive-throated Parakeets. After dropping me off back at the Audubon office I walked about while Dirk locked up and left. Keeping an eye on the parking lot I see Magnificent Frigatebirds flying over, a male Orchard Oriole, the Tody-Flycatcher again, a Yellow Warbler and a Lesser Greenlet. At the dock there is one immature Herring Gull, and the usual Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns. A good day with 66 birds seen, and 10 lifers. New trip birds are 23 today for a total of 121, and a trip total of 34 lifers.

March 4, 2012 - Today the ship is docked at the island of Cozumel, Mexico. I had arranged for a guide, Rafael Chacon, and he was a bit delayed by a marathon being held this morning. Once we got together we first headed to the Golf Course. Starting at the club house we first found some Cozumel Emerald’s in some bushes, male and female. There is also a Banaquit about, and a Black Catbird. Then we head out on the course especially to look at the ponds and wetland areas. On the course we see Black Vultures, Spotted Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, American Coots, Jacanas, Common Moorhens, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-billed Ducks (1 male, 3 female), Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Pied-billed and Little Grebes, Little Blue and Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Yucatan Vireos, Tropical Kingbirds, Tropical Mockingbirds, White-winged and Mourning Doves, Palm Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and American Redstarts. At one pond are some Great-tailed Grackles that seemed to have learn how too catch fish, possibly from imitating Kingfishers, though we saw none of those. Leaving the golf course we head onto a rougher road just beyond the course and find Grassquits and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. Then we backtrack a bit and head east across the island to the eastern shore side. First we drive off the cross-island road northwards towards the ruins of San Gervais. We pull into a spot that is used for ATV riding and walk about the trails. I see more Bananaquits, Grassquits, Ruddy Ground-Doves, and Black Catbird. We hear Cozumel Wrens and Cozumel Vireos, but can not get a glimpse of the elusive birds in the thick bush. Stopping at a a nice area with sea on one side and wetlands on the inside of a dune area we spot Great Egrets, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Coots, Stilts, Blue-winged Teal and Tropical Mockingbirds. Then we head back towards the port but pull into an area called El Cedral and drive around on some country road sand then walk some ways. Again we hear Cozumel Wrens and Cozumel Vireos, but still never get a glimpse. We do locate a Rufous-browed Peppershrike and manage to get a few shots. The weather is dry but cloudy and windy, with poor light for photos. Also seen are some Cattle Egrets, Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and more Tropical Mockingbirds. Also seen on the island are Turkey Vultures and Frigatebirds.

March 5, 2012 - Today we are docked off of Grand Cayman and take a tender in. Again, windy and choppy seas. Grand Cayman is somewhat underwhelming, and seems to have little of the exoticness that we found on other islands. The taxis are regulated and a trip to the Botanical Gardens is ruled out due to excessive cost. Instead I take a trip to a minuscule bird Sanctuary named after Governor somebody. I had a faint hope of seeing West Indian Whistling-Duck but no luck. I do see White-winged Doves, Common Ground-Doves, Little Blue Herons, Tricoloured Herons, Frigatebirds, Blue-winged Teal, Black-necked Stilts, Spotted Sandpipers, Northern Mockingbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Coots, Moorhen, Palm Warbler, Yellow Warbler and a Smooth-billed Ani for the lone new trip bird. That is the end of birding as we have a sea day then back in Miami. A total of 135 birds seen on this holiday, with 40 new lifers.

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