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25 - 30 December 2006 

by Paul Jones

My wife and I stayed five nights at this acclaimed forest lodge. The accommodations were luxurious and we enjoyed long days of great birding topped off by a close encounter with a Jaguar.

Getting There - We flew American Airlines from Montreal to Miami and then on to Belize City. We picked Miami as our transfer point because it is south of the winter storms that can play havoc with airline schedules. In Belize City we stayed Christmas Eve at The Great House, a charming hotel located near the waterfront. Next morning Javier's Flying Service flew us from the municipal airport to Gallon Jug farm in a three-seater Cessna. The $300 CDN flight (return) lasted about half an hour and provided a good sense of how green Belize still is. At the Gallon Jug landing strip we were met by a truck and after a fifteen-minute drive we were at Chan Chich. The lodge can also be reached from Belize City by road. On December 30 we flew directly to Belize International Airport and on home. The lodge and charter flight were booked through Daryl Knight and Emily Meegan at the Chan Chich U.S. Office (

The Lodge - Chan Chich (pronounced "Chan Cheech") is in northwestern Belize, close to the Guatemalan border and situated within a 53,000-hectare parcel of protected land. Built on the site of a Mayan plaza, it consists of twelve cabanas, one small villa and a restaurant/bar/administration building. The cabanas are luxuriously appointed, there is a covered swimming pool, a reference library (with all the relevant field guides), laundry and an Internet room. The staff - from food services to housekeeping, maintenance, guiding and administration - are wonderful, treating each cog in the endless rotation of visitors as a special guest. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor tables and great food, with separate breakfast (7-9 am), lunch (12-2pm) and dinner (6-8pm) menus offering multiple selections, including soup, appetizer and dessert choices at noon and in the evening. The Belizean dishes - migras for breakfast, stewed chicken with rice and beans for lunch, jerk chicken and pan-seared grouper for dinner - were particularly fine. For guests on the go, coffee is ready at 6 am and packed breakfasts and lunches are available on request. Despite the luxury, Chan Chich has an unobtrusive presence in the forest, circled by fifteen kilometres of trails and many more kilometres of quiet gravel roads. There is no hunting in the area, so the wildlife population - from birds, monkeys and big cats - is very healthy.

The Catch - Chan Chich is expensive. We took the discovery package, which included meals, unlimited daytime guiding services and local excursions and as much bottled water, juice and beer as we could consume. The package cost roughly $500 CDN a night, obligating us to drink a lot of beer. We tipped 10% of the accommodation cost and gave the individual birding guides between $5 and $20 US for each walk, depending on what small bills were handy.

Weather - An unusual cool front coincided with our arrival. At night temperatures dropped to twelve or thirteen degrees and daytime highs only reached the mid 20s. This necessitated an extra blanket for the bed but, with no wilting heat, we enjoyed long hikes throughout the day. The sky was occasionally overcast during our stay and there were a couple of morning rain showers, but nothing heavy enough to penetrate the canopy.

Clothing - Shorts, sandals and t-shirts are not recommended because of biting insects. Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and light hikers and socks are a better choice. A light fleece or anorak might be advisable in case, like us, you hit a cool spell. A ball cap rather than sun hat was fine most of the time as the forest trails we frequented were deeply shaded.

Health and Safety - A visit to a travel medicine clinic ensured our various shots were up to date and also provided prescriptions for Novo-Chloroquine, a cheap anti-malarial with limited side effects. The Great House and Chan Chich presented no food-related illness concerns. Crime is not an issue at the lodge, but Belize City has a reputation as a bit dodgy. Our taxi driver told us three times not to go out at night. That said, the area around the Great House/Radisson Hotel complex seemed entirely safe and we enjoyed a number of daytime walks around the neighbourhood. Some care is required in the forest, although we saw just one snake during our visit (albeit a beautiful Fer de Lance). Biting insects consisted of occasional ineffectual mosquitoes in the forest and, in the afternoon, a more annoying small black fly around the lodge whose bite left a tiny red and itchy dot. We encountered none of the chiggers, ticks and bot flies that others have reported as problems in Belize.

Birding in Belize City - During our brief stay in the city we took a couple of short strolls around our hotel, walking down Cork Street to Memorial Park then circling back along the waterfront to our accommodations. The area, though very built up, was quite birdy with the sea view offering close study of Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigate Bird and Laughing Gull. Cinnamon Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Scissortail Flycatcher and Tropical Mockingbird - birds we didn't see at the lodge - were picked up in various ornamental plantings.

Birding Chan Chich - Realizing that trying to see everything at Chan Chich would result in us enjoying nothing, we decided to focus on the forest. This meant spending most of our time on the heavily wooded trails rather than frantically seeking out and ticking off birds in all manner of habitats. Our final total was 152, not bad, but at least 20 or 30 species short of what we could have got had we been more disciplined in tracking down hummingbirds and parrots around the lodge and sampling the habitat around Gallon Jug and the escarpment for raptors and other open country birds (the Gallon Jug CBC averages around 200 species). Visits to additional locations in Belize, such as Lamanai, Crooked Tree, Thousand Foot Falls, and the Cays would build a list well over 250. Being our first trip to the neotropics many of the birds were amazing but highlights included two Yucatan endemics - Gray-throated Chat and Rose-throated Tanager - and a number of forest residents - Great Tinamou, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Northern Potoo, Tody Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-whiskered Puffbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Barred Antshrike and Montezuma Oropendola.

The Guides and Tours - Chan Chich employs at least five guides who lead walks and driving excursions from the lodge. A schedule is kept at the reception desk and visitors register for the walk/guide they want and then show up at the scheduled departure time. There is also considerable leeway to make customized arrangements to suit particular interests. All the guides seem to be very good. Gilberto is the veteran and an enthusiastic host. His knowledge of the local natural history is extensive and he is very quick to put names to birds. Ruben is younger and a very good birder. Marvin did an excellent job of leading us on the night walk (not the same thing as the night drive). Many of the lodge's guests are not especially knowledgeable about natural history so tell the guides that you are a birder, otherwise expect a lot of Red-throated Ant-Tanagers to be pointed out. We asked Gilberto for assistance with Tody Motmot and Gray-throated Chat and he found both of them for us, as well as providing a quiet commentary on the natural and human history of the area. The guides carry small laser pointers, which assist in indicating the location of birds. We took most of our guided walks early in the trip, then put the knowledge we acquired to use on our own.

In addition to the walks, the lodge also offers a number of driving tours including ones to the Gallon Jug farm, Laguna Seca (a wetland) and the escarpment (a forest overlook). We chose the Laguna, which was pretty but overflowing with water and not especially birdy. Others who went on the farm and escarpment tours reported much better success, including many raptor sightings.

A key tour is the night drive. It only runs once or twice a week so sign up early if you are interested. Our drive yielded two good mammals (Red Brocket Deer and Gray Fox), lots of Paraques and one great bird, a Northern Potoo spotlighted in the Gallon Jug area. Potoos, although not guaranteed, seem to be fairly reliable on the drive. Despite this success the event was not quite up to the level of excellence we otherwise enjoyed at Chan Chich. The tour vehicle's barely muffled diesel engine produced a deafening roar, depriving us of stealth and making conversation difficult and the hearing of night sounds impossible. Because of a malfunctioning starter, the engine had to run continuously, meaning there was no quiet time at all. Finally, the vehicle's electrical system wouldn't charge the spotlights and they faded before the trip was over. Still, Northern Potoo!

Field Guides - Belize is well served by bird books. We used Jones's "Birds of Belize" (2004, University of Texas Press), which has the advantage of covering only birds found in the country. The other popular guide is Howell and Webb's "A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America" (1995, Oxford University Press) a highly respected, though larger and less exclusive book. Interestingly, the guides were of the view that the most accurate illustrations could be found in Petersen's old "Birds of Mexico". In any event, the lodge's library has several copies of each to consult as needed.

Sound Recordings - A good range of bird recordings are also available for Belize. John Moore's "A Bird Walk at Chan Chich" provides a solid introduction to the main bird sounds at the lodge. Available on cassette tape from ABA sales, I took my copy to a tech services company who transferred it to CD format. I did the same with another cassette, Dale Delany’s "Bird Songs of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico". Combined with tracks from two CDs - Gilardi’s "Songs from a (Vanishing) Belizean Rainforest" and Boesman’s "Birds of Mexico MP3 Sound Collection" - my iPod was loaded with a comprehensive selection of bird sounds. This allowed me to learn and put a name to a good number of species. The lodge strongly discourages the use of recordings to lure species and most of the guides do not like the practice, although the tour groups that pass through use the technique occasionally.

Birding Time - There was enough light to comfortably move around the lodge area by 6:00 am. Birding in open habitat was possible by 6:30 and under the canopy by perhaps 7:00, although the forest floor in particularly dense areas remained deeply shaded throughout the day. Dusk came fairly early - 5:30 pm - and we made sure that we were heading back from the more distant trails by 4:30 at the latest.

The Forest Cycle - The guides indicated local bird populations shifted with the season and also year to year. They suggested March and April were particularly good, with local nesters at the peak of activity and migrant species arriving or passing through. They also explained that rains and droughts and other factors unknown, either locally or many hundreds of kilometers away, affected both bird and mammal populations over the long and short term in ways that were not fully understood. In our experience, a few birds that other parties in past years found common, we had difficulty seeing. Conversely, a number of species that people had reported trouble with, we picked up easily.

Birding the Lodge Area - The open area around the restaurant and cabanas provides a critical birding habitat, offering the chance to see species not easily found on the trails. The flowering shrubs and trees attract a variety of nectar feeders including hummingbirds, honeycreepers and orioles. An unobtrusive fountain by the dining tables brought in White-collared and Red-capped Manakin, migrant warblers, White-collared Seedeater and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. Directly abutting the lodge to the south is a high ridge-like structure, part of the Mayan ruins. Scalable by stairs at either end, it provides a good vantage point to set up a telescope and scan the surroundings, especially in the late afternoon. From here we saw a number of interesting species including Wood Stork, King Vulture, Mealy Parrot, Collared Aracari, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Bright-rumped Attila, Royal Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Yellow-winged Tanager, and big mixed flocks of Yellow-throated and Olive-backed Euphonias.

The Trails - Over 15 kilometres of forest trails surround Chan Chich, including a series of short, looping paths right by the lodge - King's Tomb, Temple Loop, Upper Plaza, Back Plaza and Norman's Temple. Less than a kilometer in length, they can easily be strolled in 30 minutes and provide an excellent introduction to forest birding. As with all the trails at Chan Chich, these paths are wide and well groomed. Some were a little slick in places as a result of earlier rain, but were all easily passable. Highlights for us here included Ruddy Quail Dove, White-whiskered Puffbird and Rufous Mourner.

The River, Logger's and Sac Be Trails are, at one to two kilometres, slightly longer routes. They proceed through mature forest with closed canopy, touching on riparian habitat at several points. Of all the paths at Chan Chich, the start of the River Trail, a briefly descending switchback, was the only stretch that might be described as mildly difficult.

Birding is a greater challenge in the forest than around the lodge, with the height of the trees and the canopy shade making viewing conditions sometimes less than ideal. The forest can also be nevery quiet, with the stillness punctuated only occasionally by the distant call of some unknown species or the sudden appearance of a feeding flock. Our choice to spend most of our time under the canopy was not the best way to maximize the number of species sighted, but it was an enjoyable and peaceful experience. Although the lodge was booked to capacity during our stay, we seldom came across other guests on the trails. Highlights here included Great Curassow, Ruddy Quail Dove, Tody Motmot, woodcreepers and Black-throated Shrike-Tanager.

The Bajo Trail and Sylvester Road are longer and more distant paths. Bajo runs in a loop off Sylvester through scrubby, wetter forest and has a reputation as a good place to see animals. We came across recent Tapir, Ocelot and Puma tracks as well as a number of beautifully flowering orchids. Bird sightings included Ornate Hawk Eagle, Northern Bentbill, Gray-throated Chat and a pair of extraordinary Barred Antshrike. Sylvester Road is a gravel track leading fifteen kilometers to a small village. It begins on low flat ground with shorter trees but begins to rise slightly into a taller canopy forest. At the farthest point we walked, the road seemed quite remote and pleasantly spooky. Bird sightings in the initial portion included Plain Chachalaca, Mangrove Vireo, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Rose-throated Tanager. We had Gray-fronted Dove at the far reaches. Sylvester Road is also where we encountered our Jaguar.

Random Encounters - In walking the trails we found that even at the quietest times of day one bird or another would eventually pop into view. Red-throated Ant-Tanager was the classic example of this type of sighting. Other birds that we would happen across fairly frequently included Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Spot-breasted Wren, Hooded Warbler and Summer Tanager. The perfectly named Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher also fell into this category. Crested Guan and, more rarely, Great Curassow provided excitement. Because we spent a lot of time in the forest (eight to nine hours a day) by sheer statistical probability even the shyer birds were bound to present nicely. We came across two Ruddy Quail Dove, a Thrushlike Schiffornis (often heard - seldom seen) and a Scaly-throated Leaftosser, all in plain view at our feet.

Mixed Feeding Flocks - Every once and a while a multi-species group of birds would appear along the trail. Usually numbering between ten to fifty members, the phenomena was similar to the late summer, early fall warbler/vireo/chickadee bunches from the northern forest back home. The flocks were slow moving, didn't seem to have any particular association with ant swarms, and consisted mostly of small passerines, including neotropic migrants Black and White Warbler and American Redstart as well as local residents such as Lesser Greenlet. Another frequent constituent was Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, which the guides suggested often formed the nucleus of these flocks. We encountered a big, virtually stationary group on Sylvester Road that contained, inter alia, Mangrove and Yellow-throated Vireo, both Greenlets, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Rose-throated Tanager.

Ant Swarms - A couple times a day we would encounter swarms of army ants and their accompaniment of birds, a fascinating phenomenon. The swarms were not very big, the main mass covering two to three square metres at the most - nothing like the fervid fictional accounts of thousand hectare hoards that I recall reading about in my childhood. Still, the swirling carpet of them on the forest floor was very impressive. Accompanying the ants would be a flock of nine to ten birds; remarkably consistent in composition and behaviour. The group would typically include two or three Gray-headed Tanagers, a family group of Red-throated Ant-Tanagers and three or four woodcreepers of alternating species (Tawny-winged, Ruddy, Olivaceous, Strong-billed and Northern Barred). The birds would occasionally squabble with one another but mostly they perched intently on the ground or on low saplings above the swarm and made short sallies to pick off insects and spiders fleeing the ants. The birds were focused on catching prey and seemed oblivious to our presence, allowing very close approach and study.

Mammals - The protected nature of the Chan Chich and Gallon Jug area make it almost as famous for mammal sightings as for birds. Fiona Reid's "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico" (1998, Oxford University Press) assists greatly in the enjoyment of this aspect of a visit to the lodge.

We found Yucatan Howler Monkey and Central American Spider Monkey to be the most conspicuous mammals around Chan Chich. The extraordinary roar of the Howlers sounded from the forest throughout our stay. Although very loud, this species is more sedentary than Spider Monkey and less frequently seen. Still, we had eye contact with troops most days and great opportunities to study them at close range, including mothers with small infants. Spider Monkeys were more visually conspicuous, constantly crashing about in the forest canopy, again carrying their wide-eyed babies with them. The guides cautioned us against standing directly under the troops and regaled us with the story of one photographer who ignored the advice and ended up with a load of poop on his head, much to the amusement of his friends who turned the occasion into a photo op of their own.

In addition to the monkeys, we would also see several Deppe's Squirrel each day. They are thin-tailed, small and slinky, almost lizard-like. One Yucatan Squirrel, a larger animal with a bushier tail, also put in an appearance. On Sylvester Road we came across a hooting and crashing from the undergrowth and could vaguely make out shapes moving on the forest floor. I though it might be Guans or Curassows and after a few minutes of unsuccessful looking I clapped my hands in frustration and instantly a dozen or so Coatis ran a few metres up into their individual trees and balefully stared at us. Farther down the Sylvester Road, at the point where it begins to rise and enter taller forest, a golden-brown Agouti raced across the track in front of us. Bats were occasionally sighted on the trails at dawn and dusk and one Leaf-nosed Bat (Phyllostomidae sp.) provided excellent views as it roosted deep in the looted Mayan tomb.

More unusually, we saw two Northern Tamanduas, an anteater. Both times we were with Gilberto who keyed into the distinctive rhythmic ripping noise they make when tearing open ant and termite nests, a very different sound from the random crashing about of monkeys. The Tamanduas allowed close approach, being more interested in scratching at ants than worrying about us. Finally, the highlight of the trip, birds included, was a Jaguar.

Chan Chich has the reputation of being one of the better places in Central America to see wild cats, with good numbers of Jagarundi, Margay, Ocelot, Puma (Cougar) and Jaguar. The guides indicated these species are especially active at dawn and dusk, but can be on the move all day ineand seen at any time.

Seeing a cat was a particular goal of ours and after three days of walking the trails we figured that Sylvester Road offered the best opportunity. Past the culvert and over a couple minor washouts the road opens into a long straight section, offering clear and extended sightlines - perfect to see a cat. At 6:00 am on the morning of the 29th we set off from our cabana in the half-light and walked quickly and quietly to the straightaway. Upon reaching it we slowed our pace and began to scan the track with binoculars ahead and behind us. At 6:40 am we looked up the road to see a Jaguar slowly walking towards us. It stopped about 150 metres away, yawned and began to claw at the ground and roadside brush. We stood stock still, but the cat turned and disappeared into the trees. Stunned, my wife and I stared at each other in silent disbelief. Then the Jaguar came back out of the forest and continued down the road towards us - closer and closer.

Jaguars are big animals, not all that tall at the shoulder, but with thick legs, big paws, a large head and jaws and a muscular body. As the animal drew nearer I quietly asked my wife, half-facetiously "At what point do we panic?" Finally, at less than 100 metres out, the Jaguar stopped with a start, perhaps finally becoming alert to our presence. It stared at us for a minute or so, slowly wagging its tail, and then slipped back into the forest and was gone.

Closing thoughts - Chan Chich is a wonderful place, offering beauty, tranquility, luxury and an excellent natural history experience. To run up a really big list one should combine a visit to the lodge with side trips elsewhere in Belize (or to Costa Rica or Ecuador). As this was our first trip to the neo-tropics, Chan Chich offered a perfect introduction to a new avifauna. Not being veteran lodge visitors, one particular surprise for us was how pleasant the company was, including Jamie, Zoe and Charlotte from New York, Edwin and Kay from Appalachia and the Walker family from Texas whose sons, Austin and Christian had memorized the field guides and found us a great many birds. Special thanks also to the staff, who run the place with a machine-like efficiency, yet treat every guest as special.

Belize City Birds (within 500m of The Great House) - December 24-25, 2006

1. Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis - common along the waterfront

2. Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens - common over the waterfront

3. Great Egret - one flyover

4. Black Vulture - several flyovers

5. Turkey Vulture - several flyovers

6. Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularia - two on the rocky breakwater opposite Memorial Park

7. Herring Gull - Larus argentatus - one along the waterfront

8. Laughing Gull - Larus atricilla - common along the waterfront

9. Royal Tern - Sterna maxima - several along the waterfront

10. Rock Dove - Columba livia - several

11. Cinnamon Hummingbird - Amazilia rutila - four sightings in the flowers along Cork Road

12. Golden-fronted Woodpecker - one in a large tree on Cork Road
13. Social Flycatcher - Myiozetetes similis - common

14. Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus - common

15. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Tyrannus forficatus - one

16. Clay-coloured Robin - Turdus grayi - three

17. Tropical Mockingbird - Mimus gilvus - common

18. Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis - one

19. Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum - one

20. Yellow Warbler - Dendroica petechia - one

21. American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla - two

22. Grayish Saltator - Saltator coerulescens - one

23. Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus - big, common and noisy

24. Orchard Oriole - Icterus spurius - four

25. Hooded Oriole - Icterus cucullatus - one

Chan Chich Birds - December 25-31, 2006

1. Great Tinamou - Tinamus major - haunting call heard daily, one seen on Sylvester Road near the staff village

2. Anhinga - Anhinga anhinga - one at Laguna Seca

3. Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus - one at Laguna Seca

4. Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias - one spot-lighted on the night drive

5. Great Egret - Ardea alba - one at Laguna Seca

6. Little Blue Heron - Egretta caerulea - one at Laguna Seca

7. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis - common at Gallon Jug

8. Green Heron - Butorides virescens - seen at Laguna Seca and along the River Trail

9. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Nyctanassa violacea - two at Laguna Seca, one spot-lighted on the night drive

10. Wood Stork - Mycteria americana - one from the Cessna and four flying high over the lodge

11. Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus - common

12. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura - common

13. King Vulture - Sarcoramphus papa - I did not catch onto these until the second last day when, from the plaza ridge, I scoped seven of them soaring in the distance to the west

14. Gray Hawk - Asturina nitida - one on the drive to Laguna Seca

15. Roadside Hawk - Buteo magnirostris - seven on the drive to Laguna Seca

16. Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis - one at Gallon Jug

17. Ornate Hawk-Eagle - Spizaetus ornatus - one heard calling and then seen soaring above Bajo Trail

18. Laughing Falcon - Herpetotheres cachinnans - one heard calling on Sylvester Road

19. Collared Forest-Falcon - Micrastur semitorquatus - one heard calling on Logger’s Trail

20. Bat Falcon - Falco rufigularis - a pair at Laguna Seca

21. Plain Chachalaca - Ortalis vetula - one group of five on Sylvester Road

22. Crested Guan - Penelope purpurascens - common and noisy around the cabanas and on the trails

23. Great Curassow - Crax rubra - much less common than above species, but three males seen by roadside on drive to Laguna Seca, pairs also encountered on River, Logger’s and Bajo Trails

24. Ocellated Turkey - Meleagris ocellata - common around the cabanas

25. Northern Jacana - Jacana spinosa - seven, including juvenals and displaying adults at Laguna Seca

26. Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus - heard on the night drive at Gallon Jug

27. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus - two at Laguna Seca

28. Red-billed Pigeon - Patagioenas flavirostris - one scoped above the cabanas

29. Short-billed Pigeon - Patagioenas nigrirostris - two scoped above the cabanas, frequently heard song "what’s up with you?" or "who cooks for you?" a signature sound of Chan Chich

30. Ruddy Ground-Dove - Columbina talpacoti - two roadside birds at Gallon Jug

31. Ruddy Quail Dove - Gyotrygon Montana - two chanced across in the forest, one at Back Plaza, one on Logger’s Trail

32. Gray-fronted Dove - Leptotila rufaxilla - two on the side of Sylvester Road

33. Olive-throated Parakeet - Aratinga nana - frequently heard, seen on Sylvester Road

34. Red-lored Parrot - Amazona autumnalis - common morning and evening in trees high above the cabanas

35. Mealy Parrot - Amazona farinosa - same as above, raucous call a good one to learn

36. Squirrel Cuckoo - Piaya cayana - excellent looks every day

37. Groove-billed Ani - Crotophaga sulcirostris - one large flock seen in Gallon Jug

38. Mottled Owl - Ciccaba virgata - heard two nights as I lay awake in the cabana, listening to the forest sounds

39. Northern Potoo - Nytibius jamaicensis - one spot-lighted on the night drive in Gallon Jug

40. Pauraque - Nyctidromus albicollis - three spotlighted on night drive, one spot-lighted on night walk, seen and heard most evenings hawking insects around the cabanas

41. Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift - Panyptila cayennensis - seen high above the cabanas on several occasions, one better view at tree top level on Sylvester Road

42. Long-billed Hermit - Phaethornis longirostris - seen (or glimpsed) daily buzzing around the cabanas

43. Stripe-throated (Little) Hermit - Phaethornis striigularis - seen (or glimpsed) daily buzzing around the cabanas

44. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl - common, the default hummingbird around the cabanas

45. Purple-crowned Fairy - Heliothryx barroti - three sightings, very easy to identify at a distance

46. Black-headed Trogon - Trogon melanocephalus - seen daily

47. Violaceous Trogon - Trogon violaceus - seen daily

48. Slaty-tailed Trogon - Trogon massena - one sighting, heard daily

49. Ringed Kingfisher - Ceryle torquata - one at Laguna Seca

50. Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alycon - one at Laguna Seca

51. Tody Motmot - Hylomanes momotula - one on Logger’s Trail during guided walk with Gilberto, the guides know specific locations for these birds and can sometimes whistle them up

52. Blue-crowned Motmot - Momotus momota - heard daily around the Mayan tombs, never saw one

53. Rufous-tailed Jacamar - Galbula ruficauda - two or three seen every day while walking the trails, a loud, fairly conspicuous and great bird

54. White-whiskered Puffbird - Malacoptila panamensis - one seen just steps from our cabana at the start of Logger’s Trail

55. Collared Araçari - Pteroglossus torquatus - three sightings, heard also

56. Keel-billed Toucan - Ramphastos sulfuratus - four sightings, frog-like "creek-creek" call often heard

57. Black-cheeked Woodpecker - Melanerpes pucherani - several sightings daily

58. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius - one on River Trail

59. Smoky-brown Woodpecker - Veniliornis fumigatus - one on Logger’s Trail

60. Chestnut-colored Woodpecker - Celeus castanea - two on Logger’s

61. Lineated Woodpecker - Dryocopus lineatus - several excellent views, but not as conspicuous as Pale-billed Woodpecker

62. Pale-billed Woodpecker - Campephilus guatemalensis - sightings daily

63. Plain Xenops - Xenops minutus - two sightings

64. Scaly-throated Leaftosser - Sclerurus guatemalensis - two sightings, one courtesy of Ruben on guided walk, one at our feet on Logger’s Trail

65. Tawny-winged Woodcreeper - Dendrocincla anabatina - several sightings daily, with ant swarms

66. Ruddy Woodcreeper - Dendrocincla homochroa - several sightings daily, with ant swarms

67. Olivaceous Woodcreeper - Sittasomus griseicapillus - several sightings daily, not always with ant swarms

68. Wedge-billed Woodcreeper - Glyphorhynchus spirurus - one sighting, Bajo Trail with mixed flock

69. Strong-billed Woodcreeper - Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus - one sighting

70. Northern Barred-Woodcreeper - Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae - two sightings of this most interesting woodcreeper, both with ant swarms

71. Ivory-billed Woodcreeper - Xiphorhynchus flavigaster - one sighting, Sylvester Road with mixed flock

72. Barred Antshrike - Thamophilus doliatus - a pair on Bajo Trail, a great bird

73. Plain Antvireo - Dysithamnus mentalis - one, aptly named

74. Dot-winged Antwren - Microrhopias quixensis - several groups encountered on brushier portions of the trails

75. Dusky Antbird - Cercomacra tyrannina - heard

76. White-collared Manakin - Manacus candei - seen daily around the cabanas

77. Red-capped Manakin - Pipra mentalis - seen daily around the cabanas

78. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher - Mionectes oleagineus - several sightings

79. Sepia-capped Flycatcher - Leptopogon amaurocephalus - several sightings

80. Northern Bentbill - Oncostoma cinereigulare - one, pointed out by Gilberto

81. Eye-ringed Flatbill - Rhynchocyclus brevirostris - several sightings

82. Yellow-olive Flycatcher - Tolmomyias sulphurescens - several sightings

83. Stub-tailed Spadebill - Platyrichus cancrominus - frequently heard, seen once, learn the "dippity dunk" call

84. Northern Royal Flycatcher - Onychorhyncus mexicanus - several seen around cabanas, staff village

85. Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher - Terenotriccus erythrurus - several sightings

86. Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher - Myiobius sulphureipygius - seen daily, a flying field mark

87. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Empidonax flaviventris - heard and seen daily

88. Least Flycatcher - Empidonax minimus - several sightings

89. Bright-rumped Attila - Attila spadiceus - seen twice around cabanas at forest edge

90. Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Myiarchus tuberculifer - the most frequently seen Myiarchus

91. Great-crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus crinitus - heard or seen daily

92. Brown-crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus tyrannulus - one

93. Social Flycatcher - Myiozetetes similis - common, especially at Gallon Jug

94. Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus - common, especially at Gallon Jug

95. Fork-tailed Flycatcher - Tyrannus savana - seen at the Gallon Jug airstrip

96. Thrush-like Schiffornis - Schiffornis turdinus - distinctive song heard daily, only two sightings

97. Gray-collared Becard - Pachyramphus major - one on Sylvester Road

98. Masked Tityra - Tityra semifasciata - seen or heard daily, at canopy top

99. Mangrove Swallow - Tachycineta alibilinea - common at Laguna Seca

100. Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica - one at Gallon Jug

101. Spot-breasted Wren - Thryothorus maculipectus - common but hard to see, listen for finger on comb "z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-zip" call

102. White-bellied Wren - Uropsila leucogastra - several sightings

103. White-breasted Wood-Wren - Henicorhina leucosticta - common but hard to see, listen for loud "klink" call

104. Long-billed Gnat Wren - Ramphocaenus melanurus - easier heard than seen

105. Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis - common

106. Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina - common

107. Clay-colored Robin - Turdus grayi - one sighting at staff village

108. Tropical Gnatcatcher - Polioptila plumbea - one male on Sylvester Road in mixed flock

109. Brown Jay - Cyanocorax morio - just one, Gallon Jug

110. White-eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus - one on Sylvester Road in mixed flock

111. Mangrove Vireo - Vireo pallens - one on Sylvester Road in mixed flock

112. Yellow-throated Vireo - Vireo flavifrons - one on Sylvester Road in mixed flock

113. Tawny-crowned Greenlet - Hylophilus ochraceiceps - inconspicuous and uncommon

114. Lesser Greenlet - Hylophilus decurtatus - inconspicuous but fairly common

115. Green Shrike-Vireo - Vireolanius pulchellus - one heard

116. Chestnut-sided Warbler - Dendroica castanea - one on Bajo Trail

117. Magnolia Warbler - Dendroica magnolia - fairly common

118. Yellow-rumped Warbler - Dendroica coronata - two sightings

119. Black-throated Green Warbler - Dendroica virens - two sightings

120. Yellow-throated Warbler - Dendroica dominica - two sightings

121. Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia - common

122. American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla - common

123. Worm-eating Warbler - Helmitheros vermivora - one

124. Northern Waterthrush - Seiurus noveboracensis - one

125. Louisiana Waterthrush - Seiurus motacilla - common

126. Kentucky Warbler - Oporornis formosus - common

127. Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas - one at Laguna Seca

128. Hooded Warbler - Wilsonia citrina - common, mostly males

129. Wilson's Warbler - Wilsonia pusilla - one at staff village

130. Golden-crowned Warbler - Basileuterus culicivorus - two sightings in mixed flocks

131. Gray-throated Chat - Granatellus sallaei - one male seen between stops 94 and 95 on the Bajo Trail

132. Gray-headed Tanager - Eucometis penicillata - four or five seen daily, always attending ant swarms

133. Black-throated Shrike-Tanager - Lanio aurantius - two or three seen daily, in denser forest, calling loudly as leader of bird waves

134. Red-crowned Ant-Tanager - Habia rubica - seen daily, not as common as next species

135. Red-throated Ant-Tanager - Habia fuscicauda - signature Chan Chich bird, seen daily in good numbers

136. Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra - seen daily

137. Rose-throated Tanager - Piranga roseogularis - one male on Sylvester Road in mixed flock, one female at juncture of Bajo Trail and Sylvester Road

138. Yellow-winged Tanager - Thraupis abbas - several sightings high in trees above cabanas

139. Red-legged Honeycreeper - Chlorophanes spiza - one female at flowering trees near restaurant

140. White-collared Seedeater - Sporophila torqueola - one at suspension bridge, one at the restaurant fountain

141. Black-headed Saltator - Saltator atriceps - three birds in one noisy group, fairly high in trees above the cabanas

142. Buff-throated Saltator - Saltator maximus - one, sitting quietly in the scrub far down Sylvester Road

143. Black-faced Grosbeak - Caryothraustes poliogaster - two groups, both at junction of Bajo Trail and Sylvester Road

144. Blue-black Grosbeak - Cyanocompsa cyanoides - one male on River Trail at base of switch back

145. Melodious Blackbird - Dives dives - seen daily around the cabanas

146. Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus - common at Gallon Jug

147. Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula - seen daily around the lodges

148. Black-cowled Oriole - Icterus prosthemelas - heard daily, seen once near restaurant fountain

149. Montezuma Oropendola - Gymnostinops montezuma - conspicuous around the lodge area - a really big bird!

150. Yellow-throated Euphonia - Euphonia hirundinacea - seen daily around the lodges, large flocks (10-15 birds) high in the trees.

151. Scrub Euphonia - Euphonia affinis - two birds in with the Yellow-throateds

152. Olive-backed Euphonia - Euphonia gouldi - same as for Yellow-throated Euphonia

Mammals - December 25-31, 2006, as per ‘A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico’, Fiona A. Reid (1998, Oxford University Press).

1. Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana - Two close sightings of this fascinating mammal, one on the River trail, one on the Logger’s Trail

2. Yucatan Black Howler - Alouatta pigra - common around the lodge

3. Central American Spider Monkey - Ateles geoffroyi - common around the lodge

4. Yucatan Squirrel - Scirus yucatanensis - one

5. Deppe’s Squirrel - Scirus deppei - one or two daily

6. Central American Agouti - Dasyprocta punctata - one, far down Sylvester Road

7. Gray Fox - Urocyon cineroargenteus - two on the night drive and one daytime sighting on the road to Laguna Seca

8. White-nosed Coati - Nasua narica - a pack of a dozen or so off a swampy portion of Sylvester Road

9. White-tailed Deer - Odocoilus virginianus - common in Gallon Jug area, 25+ spot-lighted on the night drive

10. Red Brocket - Mazama Americana - one on the night drive

11. Jaguar - Panthera onca - one on Sylvester Road

12. Leaf-nosed Bat - Phyllostomidae sp. - one in Mayan tomb


Paul Jones
Ottawa, Canada


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