Saturday, 23 January 2010

Belize and back again

Wood Stork

When we used to live in Belize, back in 1991, Crooked Tree Wildlife Reserve was not particularly well known. Now, with the help of the Belize Audubon Society, access and information are much improved. Though we were disappointed not to see any Jabiru storks, the tallest flying bird in Central America and South America, we did see plenty of other lovely water birds including the Wood Stork pictured above.

Green Heron

We followed a few trails at Crooked Tree and also drove along some of the village roads where we spotted a number of herons and a hawk, including the Green Heron, above.

Little Blue Heron

Tricoloured Heron

Common Black Hawk


We stayed for one night at the Tropical Education Centre and visited The Belize Zoo. The zoo was founded by an American, Sharon Matola, because indigenous animals used in the filming of Mosquito Coast, would not have survived had they been released back into the wild. We had the pleasure of taking a special 'night tour' of the zoo, which was amazing, and returned the next day in the pouring rain.



Yellowthroat Warbler

We spotted this handsome and cheeky bird while having lunch at Cheers on the Western Highway. Many thanks to Chrissy from Cheers for letting me know. According to Chrissy, he visits every day.

Roadside Hawk

On our way to Hopkins Village we regularly spotted several Roadside Hawks, including this one whose surprised expression may have been connected to the unusually shaped stream of excrement that he'd just released. I edited it from the picture because it looked very like a Johnson's ear bud!

Long-tailed Hermit Hummingbird

While we were staying in the jungle at the delightful Hickatee Cottages the rainforest lived up to its reputation with abundant downpours. The already shady jungle canopy was darker than normal which made bird photography quite a challenge, especially that of hummingbirds that are in the habit of flitting from flower to flower at lightning speed. They also seemed to know which flowers I had focused my camera on and would seek nectar from other blossoms before I had a chance to re-focus!

The No Sus Falls

There are some stunning waterfalls in the Toledo district including this one. Even though the weather was wet and grey the falls were breathtakingly beautiful. I should imagine that, on sunny Sundays, the local Maya and Ketchi Indians bring their families here to enjoy the refreshing, cool waters of the pools and lagoons.

Rio Blanco Falls

The Rio Branco Falls, also in the Toledo District close to Guatemala, were even more impressive and we had the pleasure of watching a Kingfisher plunge into one of the clearer pools in search of lunch. There's a rather alarming cable bridge over part of the falls and it feels most unsafe walking on small slats of wood that swing as you move. The fact that you can see the water beneath you between the widely spaced slats adds to the experience!

Boats outside Barfield Marine

On our return home we had the pleasure of one fresh snowfall before the white landscape turned to grey . . and wet. Fortunately, the following Sunday was a glorious day and we took the boat out for a trip upstream to see whether anything had changed over the past five weeks. There was little evidence of change and it didn't take long for our 'regular' wildlife to find out that we were back. The wildlife and Dave and I are very grateful to Claudia for looking after garden birds and the waterfowl while we were away.


Belize was wonderful but it's good to be home again and there's a lot to be said for messing about by the river on a sunny Sunday afternoon. However often we 'cruise' around Hampton and Platts Eyot we never tire of the beauty of this area.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Jungle & coast

Yellow crowned night heron

After leaving Caye Caulker we spent some days in the Cayo district which was really beautiful, but the weather was, for the most part, cold, wet and grey. We went zip-lining, spent a day at the ATM cave, which was quite an experience, visited the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech, went to the Botanical Gardens in the jungle and bounced some thirty odd miles along a 'washboard surface' road to the lovely Rio On Falls. On the final day, the sun shone and we drove almost to Guatemala to the beautiful Mayan ruins of El Pilar. We were the only visitors that day and had the whole site to ourselves. A grey fox stopped and stared at us several times and there were many exotic species of birds and butterflies to enjoy.

An osprey just above our friends' house in Belize City

We spent 5 days over the Christmas period with our friends from 20 years back. They have a magnificent house by the sea at Bella Vista and I spent many a happy hour there watching an osprey, the frigate birds, pelicans, herons, egrets and some lovely garden birds. We also fished from the dock, but only David managed to catch a yellow-fin Jack.

Frigate bird chasing a bait fish

The magnificent frigate birds usually steal fish from other species but they also take advantage of panicked bait fish when a large predatory fish goes on the rampage. Here you can see a female frigate bird just about to swoop on a tiny bait fish leaping from the sea to avoid whatever was hunting beneath the waves!

Hibiscus flower in the late afternoon light

Our friends have a lovely front garden and hummingbirds are sometimes attracted to the hibiscus flowers. I waited patiently for some time but lucked out.

West beach on the Northern Lagoon

David & Debbie took us on an amazing day out, which included trolling for snook and tarpon, a trip up the Sibun river to visit Bird Cay on Northern Lagoon, lunch on West Beach, and a 45 minute trip in an amphibious vehicle through water and then into the jungle as far as Gracie Rock.
On the way we saw a green heron

A great blue heron outside the Geggs' house

A bare-throated Tiger Heron

From Belize City we drove along the stunning Hummingbird Highway on our way to Punta Gorda. This was new territory for us as the Hummingbird Highway was unpaved when we lived in Belize which made for long, slow, uncomfortable driving and we never got as far as Punta Gorda. It's probably the wettest part of Belize - the rain supposedly falls mainly at night - but it rained far more than we'd have liked which put the dampers on most photographic opportunities. We stayed at a lovely jungle lodge with attractive trails into the jungle, but the grey skies and jungle canopy meant that the light was too low for bird photography. I was lucky enough to come across the immature Tiger Heron on the outskirts of town, however, where there was a clearing.

Passion flower

The owner of the lodge was good enough to show us around a butterfly farm and on the way we stopped to look at some of the leaves and flowers needed for the successful breeding of butterflies.

Butterfly feeding on a banana

The Tiger Heron was in the same spot the next day

Hummingbird in the rain

Sunset on the way back from the Maya ruins of Lubaantun