Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: February 3-9, 2016
Report by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Mary Jane, Alison, Chee, Kathy, Jean, Cindy, Richard, Debbie, Ana and Joya. We visited two different habitats, the lowlands, staying at Bird’s Eye View Lodge in Crooked Tree, and the highlands, staying at Crystal Paradise Lodge. It was the second time that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Belize. We had two vans and two guides with us at all times. It was a highly successful trip with 204 species seen by most members of our group.
Feb. 3: Our flight out of LaGuardia took off at 9am, on time, and our transfer at Houston was also on time. We arrived at Belize International airport about 4pm and the birding started immediately. Our guides Erik and Andy met us at the airport and would stay with us for the next 7 days. First bird seen was a beautiful Vermillion Flycatcher. We saw a Vermillion Flycatcher just about every day as they are very common in Belize especially at our Crookled Tree Lodge. Other birds seen at the airport or on our way to the lodge were: Wood Stork, Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Once at the Crookled Tree Lodge we took a short break, then dinner and then outside for the view of at least 5 Pauraques. It was a great way to start our birding adventure.
Feb. 4: Today we birded the grounds of Crooked Tree and a pine area just north of the lodge. We were up at 6am for breakfast and out by 6:30. This was basically the routine for the entire trip. It is important to note that most birding activity occurs around dawn and then again in the late afternoon. Around the lodge we saw: Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Snail Kite, Black-colored Hawk, Limpkin, Lineated Woodpecker and Belted Kingfisher. North American warblers that winter in Belize were also noted. They included: Magnolia, Yellow, Parula, Hooded, Redstart and Black-and-white. One feeder at the lodge attracted many oriole species including: Baltimore, Orchard, Hooded and Black-cowled. After lunch and a siesta we birded a pine tree area on the Crooked Tree Island. Here we found the highly sought after Yucatan Jay and the also highly sought after Rufous-browed Peppershrike. Two great birds that were “lifers” for almost everyone. Dinner was at the lodge and then we did the “list”. This was to become a daily event.
Feb. 5: We started the day early as usual. Today we took a three hour boat ride around Crooked Tree. Everyone loves boat rides especially if they are on a lagoon or easy river. Birds we saw from the boat were: Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (hundreds if not a thousand), Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Great Black-hawk, Green Heron, Ringed Kingfisher and Green Kingfisher and wild Muscovy Ducks.
After the boat ride we packed our stuff and headed towards our next lodge, Crystal Paradise. Along the way we birded and stopped at the Belize Zoo. In cages, but not countable, we saw two massive Harpy Eagles and a beautiful Jabiru. Birds out of cages but living near or in the zoo seen by us were: Squirrel Cuckoo, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker and Brown Jay. North American warblers were again well represented with good views of Hooded Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. We also added Summer and Hepatic Tanagers to our list. We arrived at our lodge, took a break and then dinner and the list.
Feb. 6: Up early as usual, breakfast, some birding at the feeders and then our plan for the day. We were going to go to El Pilar, a Mayan site, but because of the weather and poor road conditions we switched our trip to Laguna Aguacate. First we traveled through some agricultural fields and then to our birding site. In the fields we saw: Eastern Meadowlark, Solitary Sandpiper, Blue-black Grassquit, White-collared Seedeater, Indigo Bunting and American Kestrel. At the entrance to Laguna Aguacate and after some struggling we saw the beautiful Blue Bunting. Warblers were again well represented and we added Kentucky and Yellow-rumped to our warbler list. Conditions were somewhat on the damp side yet we added more birds. We recorded: Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra and Bright-rumped Attila. It was a good day despite the rain and reduced visibility. It was the only rainy day we would have and from here on the conditions were excellent.
Feb. 7: The day started off with two Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls in the parking lot. The owls were only about two feet apart. They were spotted by Andy2, a brother of Erik and a substitute for Andy1 who had the day off. Our visit today was to the Blue Hole National Park. It has water flowing through some limestone formations and produces a “blue hole.” Some people like to jump in to say that they swam in the blue hole. Different people come to Belize for different reasons and ours was seeing and appreciating the beautiful birds of this country. Along the way to our birding site we picked up many species on the road. We had good views of: Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, and Crested Caracara (the national bird of Mexico yet somewhat rare in Belize). At the blue hole we took the lower trail until we reached the Herman’s Cave. We heard a Dusky Antbird along the way but it was a no show. The entrance to Herman’s cave was very interesting and also held a lot of birds. We saw: Dot-winged Antwren, Acadian Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, White-collared Manakin and Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Walking back to the parking lot we taped a Ruddy Crake. The bird responded very nicely but was seen by only half the group and poorly at that. We tried to trick it to come into an open spot but the bird tricked us by staying in the deep underbrush. At the parking lot many birds were coming into a fruiting tree. These birds included: Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Olive-backed Euphonia and Worm-eating Warbler.
We got back to the lodge a little early and some of us took a walk down to the Macal River, which defines one boundary of the lodge property. We added: Band-backed Wren, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo and Rose-throated Becard. Dinner and the list were at the usual time of 6:30.
Feb. 8: Our last full day of birding. We were up early, breakfast and then on to Mountain Pine Ridge for some very special birds. The number one target was the Orange-breasted Falcon. A bird of special concern in Belize as only 30 pairs may exist. There are two areas in Mountain Pine Ridge and we would go to both of them. At the first spot we parked and walked about ¾ of a mile, our longest walk of the entire trip. We ended at Erik’s “secret spot” at 10am just in time for the show to begin. First bird up was a Red-capped Manakin, male. We had good views, especially of its head. Next bird was the White Hawk. It seemed to come out of nowhere but there it was in front of us, as a matter of fact there were two of them. They put on a nice show. Next was the King Vulture, two immatures followed by one adult. All these birds were very special. At 11am this show was over and we were on our way to the next spot. Along the way we encountered a feeding flock which gave us more birds. We saw: Rusty Sparrow, Grace’s Warbler, Black-headed Siskin and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. At the end of this road we came to an area called “The Thousand Foot Falls.” Here is the spot for the Orange-breasted Falcon. Within 5 minutes Erik said that he got it. It was the falcon in the distance visible through the scope. We got in the van, drove a ¼ mile and then had fantastic views of a male and female Orange-breasted Falcon. The male is so much smaller than the female and they are supposed to have the largest feet relative to size of any falcon in the world. Great views and everyone was very excited.
After the falcons it was on to the Butterfly Farm with the hummingbird feeders. We got there about 3pm and they gave us a tour and talk about their work with butterflies in Belize. Next to the butterfly area were the hummingbird feeders. We added the following birds to our list: Violet Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird and Long-tailed Hermit among others. We went back to the lodge, had dinner and some drinks. We were celebrating Chinese New Year, Happy Birthday Cindy and just having a great overall birding trip.
Feb. 9: Our last morning and after a 6:45 breakfast (our latest of the trip) we got our stuff, loaded the vans and headed for the airport. It was about a two hour ride. We had a slight detour and picked up Laughing Gull, Double-crested Cormorant and Magnificent Frigatebird, all in Belize City. Our flights were on time. We had a great time, made new friends and saw some terrific birds.
Chee has provided us with the following photo history of our trip:
and more from Chee:
and even more photos:
Photos from Cindy:
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Western Long-tailed Hermit
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 204