Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: February 5-11, 2019
Report by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Bobbie, Kate, Judanna, Andrea, Lee, Al, Adele, Rebecca, Rose, Linda, and Mary Jane. 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, near St. Ignacio in the Cayo District. It was the fifth time that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Belize. Eric Tut from the famous Tut family of Belizean birders was our guide. He was with us at all times. It was a highly successful trip with 202 species seen or in a few cases heard by most members of our group.
Feb. 5: Our American Airlines flight out of JFK airport left on time at 8am and after transferring planes in Miami our Belize flight took off and also arrived right on time. Our guide Eric met us at the airport and we started birding immediately. Some of the great birds seen at the airport fence were: Eastern Meadowlark, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
We traveled for a short distance and stopped at a shrimp farm. Here we saw some shorebird species, egrets and herons. The highlight for the group was the Black-necked Stilts that we saw. Egrets and herons were also seen in good numbers. It was fun looking through the shorebirds and picking out Least and Western Sandpipers as well as Semi-palmated Plovers. After about an hour we headed towards our first lodge, the Bird's Eye View Lodge in Crooked Tree. Dinner was waiting for us and then we went out for nighttime birding. Best birds of the night were five very cooperative Pauraques and the sounds of many Limpkins calling. The Pauraques like to rest on the ground right under the street light and pick off moths. When put in the flashlight their eyes look all red.
Feb. 6: Coffee and some fruit were available at 5:30 and by 6am we were ready to do some birding on the grounds. This would be the usual routine for our entire trip as birding in the early morning is usually best. Today we birded the grounds of Crookled Tree. We started by driving to the pine forest and saw Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Pinnated Bittern. Birds seen on the grounds included all the usual egrets and herons, namely: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret and Green Heron. We saw two Jabirus flying over us. They were at a good distance but we could still see their all white wings and dark head. With a little imagination one could also see the red on the throat. Another highlight was the great view of the Buff-throated Spinetail. We also had many views of Limpkins.
Orioles were well represented with good looks at: Baltimore, Orchard, and Black-cowled. Another well seen and beautiful bird was the Yucatan Jay. We encountered a flock of over 15 of them on the trail. A lifer for everyone except Eric our guide. Lunch and dinner were both at the lodge. After dinner we would do the "list" as that was part of our routine. This evening we went out to find some owls and nightjars but came up empty. We did see some beautiful stars and picked out some constellations including Orion and the north start. Seeing the Milky Way at night with no lights was just great. Conditions for sleeping were excellent with a nice cooling breeze coming off of the lagoon. Also excellent was that we had no rain, except one 15 minute shower, to speak of during the entire seven days.
Feb. 7: We were up a little bit earlier as today we had a three hour boat ride on the lagoon. Everybody loves boat rides and for some it was the highlight of the entire trip. We had coffee and fruit first, then the boat ride, then a late breakfast, really a brunch. Water conditions were the excellent, not too high and not too low. The level was the best I've seen in the last 5 years and we saw tons of birds. We did see many hawk species on the ride. We saw: Osprey, Great Black Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite and Gray Hawk. Limpkins and Wood-rails were all over the place. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and Blue-winged Teal flew over us. Ringed, Green and Belted Kingfishers also made for nice viewing. Two American Pygmy Kingfishers were easily seen. Over 100 Wood Storks lined the shore. Luckily a Roseate Spoonbill flew in and with its pink body contrasted nicely with all the white egrets, Ibises and storks. Two special birds seen from the boat were the Agami Heron and the Great Curassow. After the boat ride and our brunch we headed towards our next lodge, the Crystal Paradise.
On the way we stopped at the Belize Zoo. The rule was if the bird is in a cage we can't count it but if it was flying around the grounds it was OK for our list. In the cages were Harpy Eagle, Spectacled Owl and King Vulture. Outside of the cages were many warbler species. We saw: Hooded, Grace's, Black-and-white, Redstart and Yellow-throated. Also outside of the cages was a Wood Thrush. We had excellent looks. We left the zoo and headed towards our next lodge and dinner. On the way we made a stop at Monkey Bay. It's just a road but it goes into some great habitat. We saw: Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Barred Antshrike (female), Keel-billed Toucan (the national bird of Belize) and a few Golden-hooded tanagers. It was a great day of birding.
Feb. 8: We were at our new lodge, the Crystal Paradise. Feeders were set up as we had breakfast and the Lesson's Motmot and Brown Jays put on a nice show. Another day and another venue. Today we birded Mountain Pine Ridge. On our way to this location we first stopped at a roadside location that was known to be good for finches and seed eaters. Small birds were present in good numbers. We saw: Blue-black Grassquit, White-collared Seedeater (now called Morelet's Seedeater), Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and a very cooperative set of Olive-throated Parakeets. In the Pine Forest we drove to an area that had an excellent elevation for seeing flyover raptors. We saw: White Hawk, King Vulture, Orange-breasted Falcon. Returning from this area we found a mixed flock of warblers. Present were: Black-throated Green, Yellow-throated Warbler, American Redstart and Yellow-rumped Warbler. For Belize resident warblers we saw in the distance two Rufous-capped Warblers. Before returning to the lodge Eric took us to a special spot where he had two Stygian Owls lined up. It was very special and everyone had great views. Dinner was at the lodge and we prepared for our next full day of birding.
Feb. 9: Another day another venue. We headed towards El Pilar, a Mayan ruin. Last year the road was washed out so we couldn't get there but this year, even though the road was very bumpy, we made it. We had our first two trogons of the trip. Very nicely seen were Slaty-tailed and Black-headed Trogons. Great colors on the birds with one being red and the other yellow. Another special bird was the beautiful Black-throated Shrike-tanager. We added to this collection a distant flyover Ornate Hawk-Eagle. Good thing we saw it in the zoo a couple of days before. A White-necked Puffbird was a great view in the scope. The ruins are only about 10% excavated but we did see how the temples were constructed of stone and the plaza where games were played and sacrifices made. Very interesting. We returned to our lodge and did some birding on the grounds. Here we saw Ferruginous Pygmy-owl and Keel-billed Toucans. We had dinner and of course our nightly list.
Feb. 10: The Blue Hole National Park was our destination for the day. The park has two parts, one that leads to Herman's Cave and the other which has the actual "Blue Hole." On our first part we walked towards Herman's Cave. Along the way we saw a Barred Antshrike, male and female. We also recorded Dusty Antbird, heard only but no view. It was right in front of us but we couldn't see it. About three White-collared Manakins were "snapping" in the nearby foliage but again we could not see them. We drove about a half mile to the "Blue Hole" part of the park. It is a cool place for an afternoon swim. It was formed by water running through a limestone cave producing a powder blue swimming hole. Here four members of our group took a swim in the Blue Hole. After swimming, drying off and having lunch we did some birding. We saw: Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Tennessee Warbler (our only one), and the interesting Wedge-billed Woodcreeper. We were teased by a Red-capped Manakin. We all saw the female but only one of us got a split second look at the male. We went back to the lodge, took a walk towards the river and got wet as the sky opened up. When it rains in the tropics it really rains. No problem, we just dried off and went to dinner.
Feb. 11: Before breakfast we did some birding from the deck and had great looks at Lesson's Motmot and other birds that came to the feeders. We had breakfast and then headed towards Belize City and the airport. We were very lucky and picked up a number of birds right at the shoreline in Belize City. The birds included: Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull, Sandwich Tern and Royal Tern among others. It was an excellent trip, we made new friends, we saw great birds and our return flight was pretty much on time.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 202