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BELIZE

11 - 20 March 2000

by Al Guarente

I just returned from a 10 day birding trip to Belize, Central America.  It had to be the most spectacular trip ever run.  We recorded 329 species and found the most fabulous birds you could imagine.

Saturday:

Upon our arrival at the Belize City airport, as we stepped outside to go to the van, flying overhead was a Jabiru Stork in with a flock of Turkey and Black Vultures.  I no sooner landed in Belize and I already got a lifer.  This was just an omen of good things to come.  As we drove around locally in the airport area waiting for one more member to arrive we added several Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Grayish Saltator, Blue-Gray Tanager, White-collared Seedeaters, Ruddy Ground Doves and a Common Black Hawk.

We headed north to Crooked Tree for our three day stay at the Paradise Inn.  The lagoon was low and the birds were everywhere.  We quickly found most of the herons and egrets and added about 6 more Jabiru Stocks.  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were everywhere and there had to be 200 Snail Kites flying over the lagoon.  Northern Jacana and Limpkin were common birds and the trees surrounding the lagoon were filled with Red-Lored Parrots, Black-cowled Orioles and Clay-colored Robins.  At night, we were surrounded by the calls of the Paraques.

Sunday:

Our first full day of birding in Belize.  We headed out to a pasture behind the inn for some before breakfast birding.  Since this was my first time out of the USA, I was totally lost with all the sounds around me.  The short walk produced an amazing variety of birds, including, a Laughing Falcon, Bright Rumped Attila, Greenish Eleania, Blue-black Grassquit, both White-collared and Red-capped Mannikins, and Pale vented Pigeons.

After breakfast we started out on a boat trip to the Mayan Ruins at Lamanai.  It was about a twenty mile trip but took us about two hours to get there as we kept stopping to spot the many birds along the way.  Mangrove Swallows and Ringed Kingfishers were at every turn in the river.  One of our group spotted what he thought was a Kingfisher perched atop a tree, but as we got closer we could tell it was a White-necked Puffbird.  The Black-collared Hawk was absolutely astonishing.

At the ruins we saw many Howler Monkeys just a couple feet above our heads eating the leaves from the trees.  This is where we found our first of many Keel-billed Toucans, Black-headed and Violaceous Trogons, and Yellow-throated Euphonia.  But the best bird of the day had to be the Gray-collared Becard.  This is a rare bird in Belize and, as it turned out, it was a lifer for our guide.  Glenn, who has lived in Belize all his life was amazed at finding this bird.  While we were being thrilled by the Becard in comes a Purple-crowned Fairy.  I didn't realize hummingbirds could be so large.  We also found Mangrove Vireos and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts.  After leaving the ruins and motoring back we found a Bare-throated Tiger Heron.  Just as we were approaching the dock, there was a Black-capped Tityra in a treetop across the river.  We headed back to Paradise Inn for a fine dinner and a review of our daily sightings.

Monday:

Once again we started out before breakfast behind the Paradise Inn.  In the little brush pile ahead of us was a Spot-breasted Wren and in a distant tree we could see a Gray Hawk.  We knew then it was going to be another day of exciting birding.

Walking along a sandy road we heard a strange call from the shrubby growth alongside the road and out from the brush pops a Barred Ant-Shrike.  Quickly following that were Bentbills, Yellow-billed Cacique, and Rose-throated Becards.  The variety of birds was never ending.  Of course, just to keep us in practice, we found Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers.  Completing the circuit back to the Paradise Inn we were able to find one of my favorite birds the Tody Flycatcher.

After breakfast we headed out to another river for another boat trip.  This time we had to park about a half mile from the boat and walk.  This enabled us to add White-bellied Wren and Rufous Spinetail and to review the call of the Mangrove Vireo seen previously.  Our objective today was to find the difficult to view Agami Heron.  We were warned that the bird is very shy and runs into the jungle when spooked instead of flying away.  So we were all psyched.  As were we motoring along our attention got distracted from the Agami chase by a Sungrebe swimming alongside the boat and then finding a Gray-necked Wood Rail along the shoreline.  A little further downstream we were again distracted by a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers and a Squirrel Cuckoo.  It was very hard to take all these distractions particularly since they were all lifers.

Continuing with our objective, I was scanning the shoreline about one hundred yards ahead of the boat and there it was, the Agami Heron.  It was already trying to climb up into the forest but eventually we were all able to get a view of the bird.  It was a magnificent looking creature.

Later that day we headed to a pine forest behind the Paradise Inn.  We found some woodcreepers and warblers, but the one the got away was a possible Black Catbird.  We continued the loop and found a noisy Yucatan Jay and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker.

Back at dinner that night we once again added up our list.  I was averaging 25 new lifers a day.  Pretty darn good.

Tuesday:

Today we would leave the Crooked Tree area and Paradise Inn and head out towards Caracol.  We would be birding along the way.  We drove through Belize City and stopped at the market and Glenn told us to check the flowering bushes around the market because Cinnamon Hummingbirds frequent them.  We watched the shrubs and skies as Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans flew by and then a hummer came in.  But alas, not the Cinnamon but a female Green-breasted Mango.  So we left there and were driving down the main highway when Glenn stops the van in the middle of traffic and yells out "there's the Cinnamon Hummingbird sitting on the electric wires".  We all get a glimpse of the bird then it takes off and flies directly in front of us.

We stopped at a restaurant called J.B.'s for lunch and while we were eating we were entertained by a White-tailed Hawk cruising the fields behind the restaurant.  After lunch were walked back to the van but in the distant we saw an incoming Falcon.  Although most of us didn't get to see the Aplomado Falcon in time we would see it again.

We backtracked a little from the restaurant and headed to Monkey Bay.  At the first stop we no sooner got out of the car and found a Hepatic Tanager.  Then in among the flowering shrubs there was an Azure-crowned Hummingbird.  Real nice looking fellow.  It had been raining earlier in the day as we were driving and now the dirt road was filled with little pools of water which would turn out to be in our favor.  We started up again and suddenly we stopped the van and Glenn shouts out that a Ruddy Crake just ran across the road.  Being in the back of the van I missed it.  Then it ran across the road two more times and both times I missed it again.  Frustrated doesn't describe have I felt at that moment.

As we approached one of the pools in the road things started to happen.  Birds of all varieties were bathing in the pools.  We had several Orchard Orioles, Yellow-faced Grassquits, Variable Seedeaters, Dusky Antbird, and Red-throated Ant Tanager.  We walked a little further and the tanagers were everywhere.  We added Summer Tanager, Passerini's, Blue-Gray, Yellow-winged, and Golden-hooded Tanagers along with Red-legged Honeycreepers and Blue-black Grassquits and all three Saltators.

At one point we came around a bend in the trail and there in the pool of water was a Ruddy Crake bathing.  The bird stayed there for five minutes, not bothered at all by our presence.  I finally caught up with this guy.  After he disappeared back in to the shrubs where he belonged and we again started walking, there appeared a Striped Cuckoo on the ground about a hundred feet from us running around feeding.  It resembled a roadrunner because of its actions and long tail.

As we headed back to the van, we all were just amazed how the little bit of rain that we had, turned out to be very fortunate for us.  We were able to see birds in amazingly close proximity and in the middle of the road in clear view allowing us to really enjoy their beauty.

We then headed out and drove to our stop for the night at Clirissa Falls.  Mottled Owls and Bare-throated Tiger Herons were calling as we entered our room for the night.

Wednesday:

This would be the day to remember forever.  We arose at 3:30am and left the room to the calling of a distant Barn Owl.  It would be a 2 hour drive to Caracol from here.  At daybreak we paused in the high mountain Pine Ridge area and departed the van to a flurry of bird activity and song.  Scaled Pigeons, Grace's Warblers and White-bellied Emerald were present as was the Golden-olive Woodpecker.  A few more stops along the way and we added Yellow-Green Vireo, Black-headed Siskin and Rufous-tailed Jacamar, which is a dazzling bird.

Upon our arrival at Caracol we looked up and the sky seemed to be filled with Plumbeous Kites, a magnificent creature when seen soaring.  The rufous in the wing tips is gorgeous as the light shines through the feathers.  Along with them were the occasional King Vultures.  A Montezuma Oropendola was calling in the same tree as the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher.  We saw the Red-lored Parrot sitting in its nest hole and a Tropical Gnatcatcher up the trail a ways.  But the main attraction here would be the hawks.  Caracol was the home of the largest city of the ancient Mayans and there is a very tall temple that remains standing there.  The temple towers over the rain forest canopy, so naturally if you want to see soaring hawks, you climb to the top of the temple.

It was a struggle getting there for some of us but it was more than worth the sweat.  At the top the view was astounding and at eye level there was a Plumbeous Kite perched in the treetop eating some kind of insect.  Scanning around the area Dave Wasabaugh found a White Hawk perched in the forest below.  As we were watching that, I spotted a low soaring bird below the horizon that turned out to be a Black and White Hawk-Eagle.  We watched it soar higher and higher until we could see it no more.  Once again I spotted another hawk coming up through the forest and as it got above the horizon I yelled out Sharp-shinned Hawk.  But as soon as I said it I knew I was going to be made the fool.  It turned out to be a Double-toothed Kite.  I suffered through the expected jokes and name calling that lasted the rest of the day.  Not to be out done by the Black and White Hawk-Eagle, a Great Black Hawk then soared by for a distant view.  Two Bat Falcons then came divebombing in and one large female landed in a dead snag about 50 yards from us, offering a good but quick view.

Descending the stairs of the temple was a little easier, but still tough on the knees.  We then walked up the road to a little settlement where some scientist were staying and John Ginaven looks over and sees a large raptor sitting atop a snag right above the settlement.  Glenn looks over and almost passes out.  He was so excited he couldn't get the words out.  He's stuttering, "Ornate -no- no- no- HARPY EAGLE!".  We all were floored to see this huge magnificent bird just posing in the treetop.  We got the scope on the bird for a good look and finally realized that this bird was sitting right among all the human activity going on below.  That's when we realized that we obviously could go in closer.  Well, we got right under the bird and started snapping pictures.  Kevin was dying because he didn't have his camera and it was quit a ways back to the van.  But the bird looked cooperative so he made a mad dash to the van.  Ten minutes later, here comes Kevin, red in the face, sweating, and totally out of breathe, carrying his camera and tripod.  He finally got set up and ended up taking 4 rolls of full frame pictures of our quest bird.  This is the bird everyone wanted to see.  This was the bird that we changed our itinerary for.  This was the bird that no one really expected to get but there it was.  The Harpy Eagle sat there for 50 minutes as news spread of its appearance.  Finally the bird flew off with one of the largest wingspans I have ever seen.  Truly a sight to remember.

After this we took the long way back to the van and we were still adding lifers.  Belize is a truly great birding experience.  One real nice

looking bird was the Chestnut-colored Woodpecker.  We then added Golden-crowned and Rufous-capped Warblers to the day's sighting.  It was getting late so we drove out along the long bumpy road from Caracol and headed to Jaguar Creek.  We found Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and White-tipped Dove on the way out and also Yellow-tailed Oriole was a new bird for the trip.
This trip was blessed from the very beginning when the Jabiru flew over the airport to greet us, to the Ruddy Crake bathing in the rain pool, to the incredible view of the Harpy Eagle.

Thursday:

We were awaken by a different chorus of birds today at Jaguar Creek Preserve.  As we walked to the meeting area, a few in the group managed to get the Orange-billed Sparrow, but I missed it.  This morning we were informed that the location of a pair of Orange-breasted Falcons was found and that's where we would be going.  Upon arrival at the location we found Yellow-faced Grassquits and more Tody Flycatchers flitting around with the Euphonias.  As we scanned the cliff side someone saw one of the falcons fly in and perch.  We quickly got the scope on it, and although the lighting wasn't the best, we got a good view.  Then the other one flew in, for an even better view.

We walked down to the river from here and the area was hopping with birdlife.  The first bird we noticed was a large hummingbird.  After finally getting our binos on this speedster, we discovered it was a White-necked Jacobin.  There were also Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and Green-breasted Mangos in the area.

While watching the a Gray Hawk sitting on it's perch, we noticed out in the distance a flock of large birds flying towards us.  It was a flock of about 30 White-collared Swifts and boy were they neat.  Not only were they the size of a kestrel but they didn't act like swifts.  Instead if the usual circling, curved flight of the Chimney Swifts I'm used to seeing, this flock just flew in a straight line and if you didn't look quick they were out of sight before you knew it.

Back at the lodge, while we were waiting on breakfast, when a Hook-billed Kite flew overhead and a pair of Olive-backed Euphonias was observed building a nest in a coconut shell that was split open.  After breakfast, and before we left the lodge, we found a pair of Blue Ground Doves mating in the treetops.  However the male bird had a distinctive look to it.  Instead of being blue, it was a complete albino, including the pink eyes.  This was a dramatic site to behold.  We then drove to Blue Hole National Monument and upon our arrival we had a White Hawk soaring along the ridge and then a few moments later another Double-toothed Kite, this time a lot closer then at Caracol.  Across the street Glenn heard a Piratic Flycatcher and we quickly got the scope on it for a great look.  As we sauntered down to the Blue Hole, which is an underground river which surfaces and then flows back into a cave again about a 100 feet downstream, we were surrounded by dense undergrowth and you could feel the humidity in the forest.  Hooded Warblers were sitting right on the hand railing just waiting to get their pictures taken.  We found a nesting pair of Ridgeway's Rough-winged Swallows, a subspecies of the Northern Rough-winged Swallow and took some time to splash around in the refreshing, blue, cool water of the river.  While standing there we found a Sepia-capped Flycatcher gathering nesting material and also a Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher.  It was another wondrous day of birding.  We then headed up the Hummingbird trail in search of any of the Tinamous or a Tody Motmot but found instead a Gray-headed Tanager and Yellow-green Vireo.  The Tinamous and motmot were being saved for another day.  We headed back to the lodge and had lunch.  As we were leaving the lunch room and walking along the boardwalk we heard a bird that reminded us of a Tufted Titmouse, but turned out to be a Green Shrike Vireo, as we finally were able to locate this well camoflaged bird among the leaves.

Then we started out on a walk to find the Emerald Toucanet.  We traversed a good distance and found Scarlet Tanager and another Keel-billed Toucan, and came to the area where the toucanet was supposedly nesting.  I happened to be looking in the right direction when out in the distance I show the large green Toucanet fly across the horizon and disappear in the heavy trees.  We later relocated the bird for a better view.

Soon the skies started to blacken and then it started to rain.  So we headed to a little restaurant and waited out the storm.  This was a refreshing break from the humidity and one of the few times that we had to rest while it was still daylight.  Not that we wanted to rest but were forced to.  After the rain we started to head back to the lodge but were immediately attracted to a woodcreeper on a tree next to the restaurant.  It turned out to be sixth species of woodcreeper, the Streak-headed Woodcreeper.

After dinner that evening we decided to head back over to the cliffs for a view of the Orange-breasted Falcons in better lighting conditions.  However, when we arrived the area was fogged in, so we turned around and decided to call it a night.  But as we pulled into the road to the lodge, I yelled to Glenn to stop the van when something big flew out of the dense foliage along side of the road and landed on a bare branch over the road.  It turned out to be a Barred Forest-Falcon.  This was only the second one that Glenn has seen and the bird was absolutely stunning.  It was perched not more than 50 feet away, right out in the open.  There was mass hysteria in the van, as the falcon could only be seen through the front windshield.  So everyone in the back of the van ran up front and were sitting on top of each other on the floor trying to get a view.  Everyone got good long looks at the bird but once it flew we needed an instruction book to figure out how to untangle everyone from the floor.  No one seemed to mind however, as the adrenaline was flowing strong again when we realized how fortunate we were to see this rare bird.  So we ended the day as we started it, filled with excitement about the birds we had seen and the birds still to come.

Friday:

The alarm clock went off at five-thirty but I was already awake and ready to go.  As I walked down the boardwalk to the van I kept looking for the Orange-billed Sparrow and finally I found one.  What a handsome bird he was.  The head pattern and the bright orange bill were dazzling.  As we got to the parking area and we were standing around the van, Glenn heard a bird calling that he wasn't quite sure of, so we tracked it down.  It turned out to be a Rufous Mourner, a large rusty brown bird the size of a grackle.  Glenn said we were very fortunate to find this bird, because it is extremely difficult to see if it doesn't sing.  Fortunately it did.

Our destination today was Five Blues Lake Nat'l Park.  Glenn dropped us off outside the entrance while he drove off to make arrangements for lunch.  So we walked down the dirt road towards the entrance gate and found a beautiful soaring White Hawk.This was the best view so far of this great bird.  I also found the nest hole of the Gray-breasted Martin in the top of a dead palm tree.

Glenn caught up with us with the van and we drove into the park to the main parking area.  As we stepped out of the van and were preparing to walk to the lake we looked overhead and found a very large raptor soaring above.  It was quite high so Glenn quickly set up the scope and discovered it was a Black Hawk Eagle.  This was our third species of eagle and was a real surprise.  We started to walk the trails and in the thick jungle forest we came upon some small rocky cliffs.  The birding was slowing down somewhat it this point when Glenn found a another Sepia-capped Flycatcher, but there was another bird with it.

Unfortunately, everyone got on the Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet but me.  This whole trip, I seemed to be the one who had the most difficulty in locating birds.

A little further down the trail Glenn stopped in his tracked and point to a low vine overhanging the trail.  There on the vine was one of everyone's target bird, a Tody Motmot.  He was a cute little motmot and stayed perched long enough to set up a camera and tripod and take a few pictures.  It was unreal how so many of the birds on this trip were so cooperative.  As we marched on we came upon a bird that we debated over its identity for quit some time.  It was one of those little brown jobs that caused so much confusion.  The bird, we finally decided, was a female Dusky Antwren.  Continuing on Glenn spotted Black-throated Ant-Tanager which most participants saw but once again I couldn't get on the bird through the dense underbrush.  I was dissappointed that I couldn't find the bird in the dense understory.  Then I thought about how most of the forest in Belize had this type of dense understory and told Kevin that Belize was lucky to not have White-tailed Deer that would clear out all the understory.  Kevin informed me that there are deer in Belize but since the country is still wild and most of the habitat is undisturbed that the deer population is kept in balance naturally by many predators such as Jaguars.

Well, we finished up at Five Blues Lake and went to lunch and met the owner of the restaurant who happened to keep a list of birds he has seen on his property which was close to one hundred and fifty species.  He showed us around the property and we found another White-whiskered Puffbird.

We then left the restaurant and birded our way to the south for our stay at Cockscomb the next day.  On the way, we were cruising along at sixty miles an hour, when someone saw a large bird sitting in the middle of a cricket field.  We stopped and backed up for a better viewed.  We were once again astounded by what we found.  There in the middle of the field taking a dust bath was a very large female Aplomado Falcon.  Talk about cooperation.  We watched it for five minutes or so then it took off and we could see the nice colors on the bird and the real long tail of this distinguished falcon.

Once more on the road we headed down the southern highway and stopped at a bridge overlooking a river.  We found a couple of Blue Grosbeaks and about twenty Indigo Buntings.  They seem to travel in large flocks on their wintering grounds.  But the bird that I thought was unusual was a Limpkin standing in the very top of an orange tree in the middle of an expansive orange grove.  He seemed so out of place.

We arrived at our accomations in Cockscomb just in time for dinner and as we entered the dining room Glenn points down at the floor and says there goes a Tarantula.  The spider, upon seeing us, briskly ran into it's den not to be seen again.

Saturday:

The next morning, after taking a cold shower, our only option, Nick and I started out on our own.  We walked down the road and found some Collared Aracaris and a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and were enjoying the view of a Magnolia Warbler when we heard a truck beeping its horn.  We turned around and way down the road we saw a little pickup truck speeding towards us.  We didn't recognize the vehicle so we kind of ignored it until it came right up to us and cut us off.  Here it was Glenn yelling, "Get in the truck.  There's a Gray-headed Kite back at the lodge".  So Nick jumped in the seat and I hopped in the back of the pickup and we sped off.  Back at the lodge the other guys already had the scope set up on the kite and we jumped out to get another great raptor for our trip.  It seems like every morning we would start off with another great lifer.  Belize is just unreal, a truly magnificent birding country.

After breakfast we headed into Cockscomb preserve.  On the way in, we stopped along the road to observe a large colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendola building their long hanging oriole looking nests.  However the nests were about two feet long and were all over this one tree.  We got out and photographed the birds and enjoyed hearing their strange ventrilocal calls.

We arrived at Cockscomb and took to the trails.  But it wasn't long, only about 50 yards in, that we stopped and Glenn pointed into the dense shrubs, and there, walking along the ground was a Little Tinamou.  The bird was quite cooperative, but we couldn't get any pictures because it was so dark in there.

As we ambled along we came across a few more Rufous-tailed Jacamars and some Dot-winged Antwrens.  Then up ahead in the trail I saw a large rail like bird cross the trail and told Glenn.  He yells out "Great Tinamou", but the bird quickly disappeared across the trail.  At the end of the trail we came upon a river and there we found a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird foraging among the blossoms of the trees.  Red-legged Honeycreepers were also gleaning from the same tree, as was a Little Hermit.

We turned around and headed back and took a different trail in hopes of finding a Green Honeycreeper.  This turned out to be one of the few target birds that we didn't get.  At the end of this trail we found Plumbeous Kites, Masked Tityra, Blue-crowned Motmots, Social Flycatchers, Crimson-collared Tanager and our first Bananaquit.  We then headed back to the van for lunch.  While eating lunch we saw Bronzed Cowbird on the lawn in front of the headquarters.

After lunch came the killer march.  It was a 3.5 km trail but seemed like 3.5 miles.  We started out with King Vultures overhead and Glenn saw a Golden-winged Warbler which everyone else missed.  After a long hike and not seeing much, things started to pick up when a pair of Ruddy Quail-Doves lifted off the trail ahead of us.  Not much farther along Glenn told everyone to be quiet and come up to where he was standing.  There, walking along the jungle floor, was another Great Tinamou, but this time everyone got to see it as it strolled along the forest floor picking the ground for food items.

It was getting hotter and the walk seemed never ending, when suddenly we heard a real loud call, sounding like someone doing the wolf whistle at some pretty girl.  We started chasing this bird as it hopped from tree to tree but only Glenn got a glimpse of it.  It was a Rufous Piha and once again he told us how rare this bird was.  Well, as far as we were concerned, the bird was still rare since none of us saw it.
Once the Piha stopped calling we moved on again.  This time Glenn stopped in his tracks and called everyone up as quickly as possible, but only I saw the tail end of a Great Curassow high tailing it through the forest.  I never really saw the whole bird just the legs and the rump running uphill into the cover.  Close but no cigar.

Throughout this hike we had been hearing the call of the Thrushlike Schiffornis.  This bird is such a skulker that we tried 4 times to see it and never even saw movement as it evaded us every time.  The fifth time finally paid off as I we able to finally get a good look at the bird sitting on a bare limb, albeit only a three second glance.

Finally, we were getting to the end of the trail and came upon a fork in the road.  Glenn gave us the option of heading back to the road by taking the left fork or taking the forest trail to the right.  We opted for the road and the open sky for better viewing.  So Glenn said fine, but he wanted to walk to the right a hundred feet or so to see if he could find any Crested Guans in a specific tree where they sometimes climb to roost.  As we approached the tree, Glenn shouted out that the Mealy Parrots were screaming.  He always said that the Mealy Parrot's call sounded like "Watch out, Watch out!" So he shouts "Watch out Watch out" meaning the parrots were coming.  We could here them coming from around the bend in the creek.  So we all look in the direction of the calls and to our surprise a giant bird comes soaring around the bend and lands on a bare branch about 75 feet above us in perfect view.  Glenn didn't have to tell me what this guy was.  As soon as I saw it I knew it was an Ornate Hawk-Eagle.  This was truly a magnifient bird and although the Harpy Eagle was rare and exciting this bird made the trip for me.  The coloring of the plumage and the crest on the head were truly a wonder to behold.  As he looked down on us we could see the oval patch on his throat and the large erect crest perfectly.  Glenn got off a few pictures, then the eagle took off never to be seen again.  What a surprise it was when those Mealy Parrots turned into an Ornate Hawk-Eagle.  Needless to say, that bird was the main topic of conversion at dinner that night.

Sunday:

This was the last day for one of our participants and we had to take her to the Dandriga airport.  So we headed back up the southern highway which was actually a dirt road at this point with much construction going on.  So we are driving along and someone shouts out to stop the van, there is a hawk on the side of the road.  A quick jamming of the brakes and gathering of the binoculars and there standing right next to the road on a high mound of dirt was a Crane Hawk.  This bird is definitely named correctly.  The legs on this guy were so darn long he looked like he was on stilts.  The bird stayed there for a good two minutes until another car passed by and flushed it away.

As we arrived in Dandriga we drove down a side street to a mangrove swamp and found Mangrove Vireos everywhere.  But the object of our search was the Yellow (Mangrove) Warbler.  And it didn't take long to track it down.  This yellow warbler with a complete maroon color hood, is so different looking that its hard to believe that it is only a subspecies of the Yellow Warbler.  Even the song is different and it doesn't migrate.  Oh well, one for the bank.

As we walked down the road we came upon a bridge and everyone was looking over the one side and they found a Gray-headed Wood Rail.  So I figured I'd see what was on the other side.  Well, I saw some little brown rail running away and quickly got Glenn on the bird.  Well, he shouted out "It's a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail.  I can't believe it another lifer".  Glenn who has lived in Belize all his life and is probably the leading birder in the country, amazingly added four lifers on this trip, plus a new bird for his Belize list, an Avocet.  This just goes to show how remarkable this trip was.

We also added Yucatan Vireo, Prairie and Worm-eating Warblers to the list.  Then we drove to the beach and we got out and walked the beach while Glenn drove to the airport.  We found Sandwich and Royal Terns, Ruddy Turnstones and Whimbrel, the onmipresent Frigatebirds plus another Common Black Hawk.

That night we all stayed up a little later then usual and started reminescing about what a fantastic trip it had been.  As I said in the beginning, we recorded 329 species of birds, 171 lifers for myself, and lots of lifers for everyone else.  This was absolutely the trip of a lifetime.  Two of the other participants had been to Costa Rica and both agree that the birding was better in Belize, due to the lower tree tops and the less disturbed habitat throughout the country.

TRIP LIST:

Great Tinamou
Little Tinamou
Slaty-breasted Tinamou
Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
White Pelican
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
Magnificent Frigatebird
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tri-colored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Agami Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Boat-billed Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Jabiru
Wood Stork
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
King Vulture
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Muscovy Duck
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Osprey
Gray-headed Kite
Hook-billed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kite
Snail Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Black-collared hawk
Crane Hawk
White Hawk
Gray Hawk
Common Black-Hawk
Great Black-Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Harpy Eagle
Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle
Black Hawk-Eagle
Ornate Hawk-Eagle
Barred Forest-Falcon
Collared Forest-Falcon (Heard only)
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Aplomado Falcon
Bat Falcon
Orange-breasted Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Plain Chachalaca
Creasted Guan
Great Curassow
Ruddy Crake
Rufous-necked Wood Rail
Gray-necked Wood Rail
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sungrebe
Limpkin
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
Northern Jacana
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Rock Dove
Pale-vented Pigeon
Scaled Pigeon
Red-billed Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
Ruddy Ground Dove
Blue Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Gray-fronted Dove
Gray-chested Dove
Ruddy Quail Dove
Common Ground Dove
Oive-throated Parakeet
White-crowned Parrot
White-fronted Parrot
Yellow-lored Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Yellow-headed Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Barn Owl
Vermiculated Screech Owl (Heard only)
Spectacled Owl (Heard only)
Mottled Owl (Heard only)
Lesser Nighthawk
Common Pauraque
White-collared Swift
Vaux's Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Long-tailed Hermit
Little Hermit
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird
White-necked Jacobin
Green-breasted Mango
White-bellied Emerald
Azure-crowned Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Purple-crowned Fairy
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-headed Trogan
Violaceous Trogon
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Tody Motmot
Blue-crowned Motmot
Ringed Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
White-necked Puffbird
White-whiskered Puffbird
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Emerald Toucanet
Collared Aracari
Keel-billed Toucan
Acorn Woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Chestnut-colored Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Yucatan Woodpecker
Rufous-breasted Spinetail
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner
Plain Xenops
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
Ruddy Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Northern Barred Woodcreeper
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Great Antshrike (Heard Only)
Barred Antshrike
Dot-winged Antwren
Dusky Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Greenish Elaenia
Yellow-billied Elaenia
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Sepia-capped Flycatcher
Northern Bentbill
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Eye-ringed Flatbill
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Stub-tailed Spadebill
Royal Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Tropical Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Bright-rumped Attila
Rufous Mourner
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Thrushlike Schiffornis
Rufous Piha (Heard Only)
Cinnamon Becard
Gray-collared Becard
Rose-throated Becard
Masked Tityra
Black-crowned Tityra
White-collared Manakin
Red-capped Manakin
White-eyed Vireo
Mangrove Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo (Heard Only)
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Tawny-crowned Greenlet
Lesser Greenlet
Green Shrike-Vireo
Rufous-browned Peppershrike
Green Jay
Brwon Jay
Yucatan Jay
Purple Martin
Gray-breasted Martin
Tree Swallow
Mangrove Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Ridgeway's Rough-winged Swallow (Subspecies of N. Rough winged)
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Band-backed Wren
Spot-breasted Wren
House Wren
White-bellied Wren
White-breasted Wood Wren
Nightengale Wren (Heard Only)
Long-billed Gnatwren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
Clay-colored Robin
Gray Catbird
Tropical Mockingbird
Blue-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Northern Parula
Golden-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Magrove Yellow Warbler (Subspecies of Yellow)
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Grace's Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-and White Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Golden-crowned Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Bananaquit
Gray-headed Tanager
Black-throated Shrike Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
Red-throated Ant-Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Crimson-collared Tanager
Passerini's Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Yellow-winged Tanager
Scrub Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Olive-backed Euphonia
Golden-hooded Tanager
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
White-collared Seedeater
Thick-billed Seed-Finch
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Orange-billed Sparrow
Green-backed Sparrow
Rusty Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Grayish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-headed Saltator
Black-faced Grosbeak
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Melodious Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Black-cowled Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Yellow-backed Oriole
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Yellow-billed Cacique
Chestnut-headed Oropendola
Montezuma Oropendola

Al Guarente
Media, Pa 19063
guarente@erols.com 
 

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