10 - 18 January 1997
by Kevin C. Loughlin
This was a very successful endeavor with 200 species in seven full days of birding (plus the time to/from the airport. This tour was ONLY the northern areas of Belize, so none of the usual southern species were found (e.g. Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Crimson-collared Tanager, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, etc.)
We stayed at the Paradise Inn in Crooked Tree Village for four nights in order to explore the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounding areas.
From hear we visited the Ruins of Lamanai and Chau Hiix as well as the Community Baboon Sanctuary and Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Rudy Crawford owns and operates the Paradise Inn and treats all visitors as family. The accommodations are small, simple and reasonably priced and the food is great! And best of all is Glenn Crawford, a self taught naturalist, and in my opinion the best and most enthusiastic birding guide in all of Belize. He is also expert in all flora and fauna of Belize. In fact, when he joined us at the Rio Bravo area for the first time, he and the local flora expert got into a "name the tree (including Latin, common, Creole and Mayan names)" duel! It was great! Kinda like watching Jeopardy in person!
The next three nights were spent at the La Milpa Research Station in the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area (RBCMA) in northwest Belize. This property lies just north of Gallon Jug (Chan Chich Lodge) in the same forest tract. However, the cost of accommodations is much lower and includes a guide each day as well as all meals. There are several ongoing projects at the station that include the La Milpa Maya site (where the full skeleton of a king, adorned in jade necklaces was found in 1996), sustainable forest products, and many others.
Birding highlights each day are as follows:
Day 1: Entrance to Crooked Tree Sanctuary- Vermilion Flycatchers (m & f), Tropical and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Limpkin, Glossy Ibis and a Chachalaca all near the visitors center in the matter of a few minutes.
Day 2: Lamanai- White-whiskered Puffbirds (m & f) offering long, close views for everyone, and a little further down the trail a rarely seen Black-faced Antthrush.
Day 3: Road to Community Baboon Sanctuary- Four Laughing Falcons fly overhead and land on a nearby tree and continue for an hour to call to each other. At the Sanctuary- a Bat Falcon swoops repeatedly from his perch to catch large insects.
Monkey Bay Sanctuary- A Black Hawk-eagle with a Basalisk (lizard) in talons flies over our heads and lands on a nearby dead tree to feast.
Day 4: Paradise Inn- After a long, drenching rain, a Bare-throated Tiger-heron dries itself in the sun near the porch of the main cabana, an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper climbed about on the Bullet Trees, a Royal Flycatcher and a Bright-rumped Attila in the back yard as well as a Crane Hawk search all the bromiliads for a meal... ignoring us as it flew low over our heads several times.
Day 5: Paradise Inn (as we were packing the truck to leave)- a Green Vine Snake grabbed a Squirrel Cuckoo for its meal (not sure if that was a highlight or a lowlight, but it was exciting!)
Along the Old Northern Highway on our way to the RBCMA- A pair of Masked Tityras, Barred Ant-shrike (m & f ), Plain Xenops, Yellow-winged Tanagers, Hooded and Black-cowled Orioles, and Scrub Euphonias all in a 100 foot stretch of road.
Day 6: RBCMA- three Keel-billed Toucans in a low Cecropia Tree near a Currasow -Crest Vine in bloom that hosted Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, White-necked Jacobins, Hooded, Baltimore and Black-cowled and Yellow-backed Orioles, Yellow-throated and Olive-backed Euphonias and Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers. Then on the road to the La Milpa ruins, an Ornate Hawk-eagle. Spotlighting in the evening we got a Northern Potoo and a Mottled Owl.
Day 7: RBCMA- a large mixed flock following the army ants--Ruddy, Barred, Olivacious, Ivory-billed and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, White-bellied Wood-wrens, and Gray-headed Tanagers feasted on the fleeing insects. Spotlighting that night we got EIGHT Mottled Owls and two Great Currasow.
Day 8: RBCMA- Ornate Hawk-eagle
Day 9: Unfortunately no time to bird as we had to catch our flight home.
Trip List, 200 species, 12 lifers for me (**=lifer for me, H=heard
HG=heard with glimpses):
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Black-faced Antthrush **
Bright-rumped Attila **
Crane Hawk **
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Kentucky Warbler **
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Little Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Ornate Hawk-Eagle **
Plain Xenops **
Rufous-breasted Spinetail HG
Rufous-browed Peppershrike H
Slaty-breasted Tinamou H
Tawny-collared Nightjar **
Thrushlike Manakin **
White-bellied Wren **
White-tailed Hawk **
White-whiskered Puffbird **
Worm-eating Warbler **
Yucatan Flycatcher **
Kevin C. Loughlin