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Chan Chich & Ambergris Cay

26 December 1994 -- 4 January 1995

by Duane Carmony

This was essentially a week at Chan Chich (C) Lodge located in a Mayan Ruin in about 200 000 acres of relatively undisturbed rain forest near Gallon Jug (J), Belize, Central America.  This was followed by a three day extension to Ambergris Cay.  Time at Ambergris (A) was roughly equally divided between birding, snorkeling at the reef, and eating seafood.  Dry season at C is Dec-June.  There was no rain while there and the trails were dry and the rivers low.  It rained one day at A.  I recorded 223 species in Belize.

Symbols * = lifer, Cn indicates recorded by me on foot from Chan Chich Lodge with possible additional occurrences on drives in the Gallon Jug area on n days (n = 6 is maximum days bird recorded by the group provided I recorded it at least once).  J indicates not recorded by me on trails at Chan-Chich, but recorded by me in Gallon Jug area.  One day was spent driving the Gallon Jug area by each half of the group, and one night drive was taken (Mottled Owl and Potoo).  The symbol Am indicates that I recorded bird m times (max = 3 days) at Ambergris Cay.  Small letter means heard only.  Birds not listed by me at Chan Chich/Gallon Jug are at end of this list.


Great Tinamou                 C2
Brown Pelican                   A3
Double-crested Cormorant        A3
Neotropic Cormorant           J2
American Anhinga              J1
Magnificient Frigatebird        A3
Great Blue Heron              J2A2
Great Egret                   J2A2
Snowy Egret                   C5A3
Little Blue Heron             C6A2    one hung around the lodge
Reddish Egret                   A1    both color phases at bird cay
Cattle Egret                  C6A3
Green Heron                   J1A1
Black-crowned Night-Heron     J2A3
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron    J2A2
Boat-billed Heron               A1     1 at bird cay
Wood Stork                    J1
White Ibis                      A1     few at bird cay
Roseate Spoonbill               A1     1 at bird cay
Blue-winged Teal                A1
Turkey Vulture                C6A3
Black Vulture                 C3
King Vulture                  C2
Osprey                        J1A2
Hook-billed Kite              C1      distant
White-tailed Kite             J2A2
Double-toothed Kite           C1      distant
Common Black-Hawk               A3
Gray Hawk                     C1
Roadside Hawk                 C5
Short-tailed Hawk             C1
Zone-tailed Hawk              J1
*Ornate Hawk-Eagle            C4     at nest and distant flight
American Kestrel              J2
Bat Falcon                    C4     always same pair roosting
Peregrine Falcon              J1
Plain Chachalaca              C2A3
Crested Guan                  C5     roost in trees near lodge
*Great Curassow               J2
*Ocellated Turkey             C6     pests at lodge
*Ruddy Crake                  c2A2   one quick view
Sora Rail                       A1
Sungrebe                      C2     2 separate birds on river
Northern Jacana               J2
Black-bellied/Gray Plover       A1
Wilson's Plover                 A2
Whimbrel                        A2
Willet                          A2
Spotted Sandpiper               A3
(Ruddy) Turnstone               A2
Sanderling                      A1
Least Sandpiper                 A3
Laughing Gull                   A3
Caspian Tern                    A2
Royal Tern                      A3
Rock Dove                     C1
Scaled Pigeon                 c3
Red-billed Pigeon             C2
Short-billed Pigeon           C4
White-winged Dove               A2
Common Ground-Dove              A1
Ruddy Ground-Dove             J2A3
White-tipped Dove               A1
*Gray-fronted Dove            C2
Olive-throated Parakeet       C6A3
Brown-hooded Parrot           C4
White-crowned Parrot          C4
White-fronted Parrot          C2     flying views
Red-lored Parrot              C6     lots around lodge at dawn
Mealy Parrot                  C6     several around lodge
Squirrel Cuckoo               C4
Smooth-billed Ani               A1
Groove-billed Ani               A2
Mottled Owl                   C3
*Black-and-White Owl          c2
Common Nighthawk                A1
Paraque                       C4
*Common Potoo                 J1     night drive
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift   C6
Long-tailed Hermit            C6
Little Hermit                 C6
*Wedge-tailed Sabrewing       C6     flowering tree by lodge
Fork-tailed(Gldn-cr) Emerald  C2
*White-bellied Emerald        C3
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird     C6
Cinnamon Hummingbird            A3
Purple-crowned Fairy          C4
Black-headed Trogan           C5
Violaceous Trogan             C6
Slaty-tailed Trogan           C5
*Tody Motmot                  C2     one on trail to Norman's Temple
Blue-crowned Motmot           C3
Ringed Kingfisher             C3
Belted Kingfisher               A2
Green Kingfisher              C2
American Pygmy Kingfisher     C2
White-whiskered Puffbird      C4     at dump
Rufous-tailed Jacamar         C4     at dump
Emerald Toucanet              C1     1 bird
Collared Aracari              C6
Keel-billed Toucan            C6     23 in one flock at Lodge
Black-cheeked Woodpecker      C6
Golden-fronted Woodpecker       A3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker        A1
Smoky-brown Woodpecker        C4
Golden-olive Woodpecker       C4
*Chestnut-colored Woodpecker  C3     along road
Lineated Woodpecker           C5
Pale-billed Woodpecker        C5
*Rufous-breasted Spinetail    J2
Plain Xenops                  C4
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper      C5
*Ruddy Woodcreeper            C4
Olivaceous Woodcreeper        C6
*Strong-billed Woodcreeper    C2
Barred Woodcreeper            C4
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper      C6
Barred Antshrike              J2
Dot-winged Antwren            C4
Dusky Antbird                 C4
*Black-faced Antthrush        C2     attacks tape recorders
*Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet    C2
Greenish Elaenia              C4
Yellow-bellied Elaenia        C4A1
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher      C4
*Sepia-capped Flycatcher      C3
Northern Bentbill             C2
Common Tody-Flycatcher        J2
Eye-ringed Flatbill           C4
*Stub-tailed Spadebill        C4     absolute hell to see
*Royal Flycatcher             C2
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher     C5
Tropical Pewee                C3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher     C4
Least Flycatcher              C4
Bright-rumped Attila          C3
Rufous Mourner                C3
*Yucatan Flycatcher           c2     distinct call
Dusky-capped Flycatcher       C4
Great Crested Flycatcher      C2
Great Kiskadee                C2A2
Boat-billed Flycatcher        C2
Social Flycatcher             C4A2
Tropical Kingbird             C4A3
Couch's Kingbird              C3
Fork-tailed Flycatcher        J2
Rose-throated Becard          C3
Masked Tityra                 C4
*Black-crowned Tityra         C2     along road
Rufous Piha                   C3
*Thrush-like Manakin          C5     mostly heard
White-collared Manakin        C5
*Red-capped Manakin           C5     mostly females
Mangrove Swallow              J2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow C3
Green Jay                     C2
Brown Jay                     C4
*Spot-breasted Wren           C6
House Wren                    C2
White-bellied Wren            c3     may be invisible
White-breasted Wood-Wren      C5
Long-billed Gnatwren          C4
Tropical Gnatcatcher          C2
Wood Thrush                   C5
Clay-colored Robin            C3
White-throated Robin          C2
Gray Catbird                  C5
*Black Catbird                  A3   5 individuals
*Tropical Mockingbird           A3   common near Hotel
White-eyed Vireo              C4
*Mangrove Vireo               C3     need tape
Yellow-throated Vireo         C2
Tawny-crowned Greenlet        C5
Lesser Greenlet               C5
Blue-winged Warbler           C1
Golden-winged Warbler         C2
Tennessee Warbler               A1
Yellow Warbler                C3A2   includes Mangrove W on A
Chestnut-sided Warbler        C5
Magnolia Warbler              C5
Black-throated Green Warbler  C4
Yellow-throated Warbler       CA4
Black-and-white Warbler       C5A2
American Redstart             C5A2
Worm-eating Warbler           C3A1
Northern Waterthrush          C5
Louisiana Waterthrush         C4
Kentucky Warbler              C4
Common Yellowthroat           J2A2
Gray-crowned Yellowthroat     J2A1
Hooded Warbler                C5
Wilson's Warbler              C5
Yellow-breasted Chat           A2
*Gray-throated Chat           C3     responded to tape
Golden Masked Tanager         C3
Green Honeycreeper            C4
Red-legged Honeyeater         C3
Yellow-throated Euphonia      C6
Olive-backed Euphonia         C5
*Yellow-winged Tanager        C5
Gray-headed Tanager           C3
*Black-headed Shrike-Tanager  C4
*Red-crowned Ant-Tanager      C4
*Red-throated Ant-Tanager     C6
*Rose-throated Tanager        C1
Summer Tanager                C5
Grayish Saltator              C3
Black-headed Saltator         CA5
Black-faced Grosbeak          C2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak        C4A1
Blue-back Grosbeak            C4
Blue Bunting                  J2
Indigo Bunting                C4
*Green-backed Sparrow         C2     near bridge on road
White-collared Seedeater      C5A3
Great-tailed Grackle          C3A3
*Melodious Blackbird          C6
*Black-cowled Oriole          C3
*Yellow-backed Oriole           A1  far end of A by boat- only I saw
*Yellow-tailed Oriole         J2
Hooded Oriole                   A3
Northern Oriole               C4    Baltimore type
Montezuma Oropendola          C6    one defending nestsite near lodge

Birds reported by other members of group while at Chan Chich: Gray-necked Wood-rail, Great Black Hawk(J), Red-tailed Hawk(J), Barred- forest Falcon (Heard only), Collared-forest Falcon(seen, I heard), Blue- ground Dove(J), Rudy-Quail Dove, White-necked Jacobin (at bridge on road), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Plain Antvireo, Northern-beardless Tyrannulet.  Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Lovely Cotinga, Barn Swallow, Scaly-Leaf-tosser(seen, I heard), Green-Shrike Vireo(heard only, I heard on 4 days!), Carolina Wren (White-browed race), Swainson's Thrush, Palm Warbler Ovenbird, Golden-crowned Warbler, Blue-Black Grassquit(J), Giant Cowbird, Yellow-billed Cacique(seen at J, I heard).

For further birds of this time of year see Xmas count for Gallon Jug in Audubon Field Notes (A Jaguar was seen by Count compiler).

Chan-Chich lodge is a wonderful, comfortable place.  A room (your own building) is currently $85 single, $100 double.  Three meals (excellent) is $35 per person.  For $250 two persons get room, board, free beer, soft drinks, snacks, and free access to all activities: horseback riding, canoeing, guided visit to the Mayan ruins, driving tours of Gallon Jug area with naturalist, early morning and late afternoon bird walks with a knowledgeable staff member (unlike the tour leaders, they had no tapes, but they know their birds).  It is possible to fly to Chan-Chich 3 times a week for $98 round trip.  Also possible to drive or taxi to there but it takes 5 hours.

There is another lodge Chau Hiix- that advertises heavily in bird magazines.  I was told to avoid.

Rental cars with the usual names will rent a four wheel drive for S100 plus $15 insurance (credit card insurance not valid on off road vehicles).  A standard car is cheaper but you have to swear you won't go anywhere interesting to a birder (paved roads only).  These cars are for use within Belize only.  On the plane home, I meet an elderly couple who had been in Belize and Guatemala on their own.  They were enthusiastic about a newish 4-wheel drive Chevrolet Blazer with A/C that they had rented for $65 per day insurance included and with all documents for leaving country.  They were picked up/delivered to airport and drove to famous ruins at Tikal, Guatemala.  He said it was not a long drive.  They stayed at Jungle Lodge but also mentioned Jaguar Inn.  Said both better than poor rooms at hotel on Tikal grounds.  He was not a birder, but said from this hotel their were early morning tours into the ruins and that one could wander off from them and bird but this may not be early enuf [I had heard that despite the fact that the hotel was only so so, that it was the only way to get into the ruins at dawn when all the parrots scream through].  Oh, yes, they now drive on the right.

I have had no personal experience with the above mentioned car rental place.  It is: Smith's Auto Rental and Tours Dennis Smith 1-B Central America Blvd PO Box 599 Belize City, Belize (Central America) Phone 73779 Fax 75199

I think the Tropic Air flight to Ambergis Cay costs about $100 round trip.  We stated at Mata Rocks Hotel (friendly owners, but have just sold).  To see Black Catbird, walk back toward town from Mata Rocks and turn left at first corner, then left again after 100 yards and wander till you come to a soccer field--got almost all the Ambergis Cay land birds here (Yellow-backed Oriole was a fluke during lunch on the other end of the Cay (via boat).  Could fly in early morning, get Black Catbird, Tropical Mockingbird, etc.  and return to mainland late in day (missing a great dinner at Elvi's restaurant in "downtown" San Pedro!) When (soon I fear) this area near Mata Rocks is is turned into condos, further out the road from the Mata Rocks was a dump--might get Black Catbird there.  Further out the island was a nice hotel, Victoria something or other.  Can hire a boat to go to Bird Cay.  Can walk in foot deep water around Bird Cay.  Hotel reservations at Christmas seemed essential.  Ambergis was 100% booked.  So was Chan-Chich as our group nearly filled the 12 cabins.  I heard they were normally >75% full except during rainy season.

My trip list was 223 species with 186 species seen while staying at Chan Chich (160 species on foot) and 67 species seen at Ambergis Cay (30 overlap).  The number of lifers was 38 with 35 seen at Chan Chich and 3 at Ambergis (one CC lifer also seen at A).  Without previous trips to Costa Rica and West Mexico, the number of lifers would have been 136.  Without Costa Rica, the number of lifers would have been 111; without Mexico 43.  Belize is a friendly place with a British sense of law and order.  [It is said that parts of Belize City has a serious theft/pickpocket problem].  I have quoted 1994 prices in US dollars.  Two Belizean dollars equals one US dollar.

Duane Carmony
West Lafayette IN

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