Jungle Jeanie has wi-fi, but only in the restaurant/bar area. After dinner, Katherine Thorington and I liked to sit on the outside deck to use our laptops. It sure was nice to do that in January. An added bonus was watching a Common Pauraque dance under the lights of the adjacent parking area. Yeah, another life bird.
Friday would be the last day we were together, and once again we were up at the crack of dawn to explore local birding hotspots. Much thanks to Jeanie, John and their staff for accommodating the breakfast timetable of these crazy birders. Of course, the garrulous Great-tailed Grackles also were early risers and ready to send us off on our daily adventures. What’s that strange sound? It’s a grackle.
There was no rush to meet anyone that morning, so we finally made it a point to stop at the savannah on the Hopkins road. Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers and White-collared Seedeaters popped in and out of the reeds, and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher perched briefly on the wire. However, the main attractions were the numerous wading birds foraging along the mudflats: Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks and then a flash of pink as a Roseate Spoonbill came into view.
Our destination for the day was only a few miles up the highway – Mayflower Bocawina National Park. The park preserves partially excavated Maya ruins dating from 800-900 A.D. There are about a dozen earth- and tree-covered structures, the largest being the Maintzunun Temple mound with a wall of stones wrapped around the base. We enjoyed a peaceful stroll among the hills, admiring the efforts and skills of the long-ago ancestors of the local populace.
Most of the birds in the mound area were neotropical migrants – catbird, redstart, Magnolia and Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. A beautiful pair of Golden-hooded Tanagers flew by the visitor center but, alas, too quickly for a photo. Meanwhile, Pink Cattleheart and Two-barred Flasher butterlies fluttered from flower to flower outside the visitor center.
After we all enjoyed a relaxing lunch on a bridge spanning Silk Grass Creek, Shelley Rutkin and I clicked off several photographs of a puzzling hummingbird. Consulting with Lee Jones when we returned home, we eventually concluded that it was a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird.
We began the afternoon at Mama Noots Eco Resort in the park, where we could see Antelope Falls spill off a nearby mountainside. A shorter, easier trail leads to Bocawina Falls. Shelley and I opted to join Jeremy Reiskind on his mission to see this waterfall and perhaps new birds. Before we went very far, we ran into a pair of Blue-black Grosbeaks. Even for a grosbeak, their bills are big. Then, just off the trail, a male Summer Tanager and several Olive-backed Euphonias lunched on bananas, completely oblivious to us observing them for several minutes. Deeper into the jungle, we discovered that Long-tailed Hermit hummingbirds also visit banana trees but for the flowers.
A larger bird glided across the path to a new perch. It was a species we had been hoping all trip to see – a Blue-crowned Motmot with its long racket-tail. Deeper into the jungle, we came across a cluster of birds, including Wedge-tailed and Ruddy Woodcreepers, White-breasted Wood Wrens and a Red-crowned Ant-tanager. Shelley also found another bird Jeremy and I missed – a Royal Flycatcher This bird shows a spectacular crest at times, but this time it was in its usual folded position.
To Jeremy’s geological delight, we made it to the falls. We had time only for a few serene moments before hustling back to the friends we had deserted. A flock of about 20 Black-faced Grosbeaks and a couple of White-collared Manakins later, we arrived back at the lodge and I apologized profusely to Kitty Jensen for absentmindedly walking off with the keys to the van. Katherine seemed content with finding several birds we left behind, including Ruddy Ground Doves and Yellow-faced Grassquits. And, she happily showed us her photo of a Wood Thrush, Social Flycatcher and Gray Catbird in the same field of view.
Soon we were back in Hopkins for our final evening. On Saturday morning, we would depart early to get Katherine, Kitty and I to the airport before Shelley and Jeremy continued their Belize birding for a few more days. We celebrated our week with more fresh fish and young Guaranu drummers at the Frog’s Point Restaurant before turning in early, once again.
What a wonderful week it was! We took boat rides on rivers. We strolled the beach. We conquered muddy tracks to visit new parks and wildlife sanctuaries. We saw more than 160 bird species, dozens of them new to our life lists. We met new friends from Belize Audubon who are working energetically to conserve habitat for both resident and migratory birds. Belize is a small country with a population less than that of Forsyth County and few dollars to support the effort. If our cooperative efforts help Belize Audubon and the birds of the Atlantic Flyway in only a small way, the trip was worth it. For Forsyth Audubon, here’s to next time.
Photo credits: Phil Dickinson, Kitty Jensen, Shelley Rutkin
This is the fifth in a series of five posts.
Previous post: Forsyth Audubon in Belize: Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Two members of our group, Jeremy Reiskind and Shelley Rutkin, stayed in Belize for another five days. Read about that part of the trip on Shelley’s blog:
The Belize “Extension” (Part 1 of 2)
The Belize “Extension” (Part 2 of 2)