19th March 1991 - 2nd April 1991.
After a five and a half hour delay at Heathrow and an abortive first flight, we, that is a group of 15 people plus me as leader, finally took off for Miami on a BBC Wildlife Magazine tour to Belize, which was organised by Cox & King, arriving at 9.30 in the evening. We were met by a local agent who very efficiently got us through the airport and on board a coach for a drive to the Everglades National Park and our hotel at Flamingo, where we arrive at around midnight, but we did see one bird on the way, a Great Horned Owl. New birds for me will be in bold.
As expected, not an early start, we met our park guide and had time to look around the harbour and visit Royal Pine and the Anhinga Trail, where we saw a Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Gray Catbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Common Flicker, Palm Warbler, 5 Ospreys, Brown Pelican, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, 4 American White Pelicans, Northern Mockingbird, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, Great Egret, both white and dark phase Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vulture, Laughing Gull, American Black Vulture, Common Grackle, Green Heron, a Wood Stork, Snowy Egret, a Swallow-tailed Kite, 6 Alligators, a White Ibis, Anhinga, 2 Moorhens, 2 Yellow-crowned Night Herons, 3 Red-bellied Turtles and 2 Florida Softshells.
Later in the morning we left the park to return to Miami Airport, on the way seeing 3 American Kestrels, Boat-tailed Grackle, Mourning Dove and American Coot.
At Belize Airport we were met by Judy, the owner of the excellent Bellevue Hotel and Lascelle who was to be our guide for most of the tour.
It was just after 4pm so we still had some light, so a tour of Belize City was decided upon, during the drive from the airport and around the city we saw Great-tailed Grackle, a Northern Harrier, 2 Roadside Hawks, Tropical Mockingbird, Northern Oriole, 2 Short-billed Pigeons and as we got to the coast near the hotel, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird and Laughing Gulls.
Photo: White phase Great Blue Heron.
An early morning walk by the coast seeing American Black Vulture, Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, Brown Pelican, Royal Tern and Great-tailed Grackle.
Then a drive west to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, where we had a 3 hour boat trip around the lagoon. The water level was high so there were no waders, and apparantly it wasn't a good time of year to see Jabiru, but we had excellent views of most other birds, seeing Little Blue Heron, American Black Vulture, Olivaceous Cormorant, American Coot, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Tricolored Heron, 15 Snail Kites, 10 Tropical Kingbirds, Mangrove Swallow, Great Egret, Anhinga, Northern Jacana, 3 Black-collared Hawks, 2 Ospreys, 5 White Ibises, a Green Heron, a Red-winged Blackbird, a Melodious Blackbird, Great Blue Heron, 6 Limpkins, a Night Heron, a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird at its nest with a chick and several yet to hatch eggs, a Magnolia Warbler, a Ringed Kingfisher, 25+ Boat-billed Herons, around 10 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a Belted Kingfisher, a Blue-winged Teal, 4 Wood Storks, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine, a pair of Vermillon Flycatchers, a Grey-necked Wood Rail, a female Green Iguana, a
Clay-colored Robin, Cattle Egret and Tropical Mockingbird.
This was a great place which we could have spent all day, but we had to move on, to the Baboon Sanctuary , on the way seeing 2 Aztec Parakeets, a Black-collared Hawk, a Bare-throated Tiger Heron and a Roadside Hawk.
At the Baboon Sanctuary we saw 11 Yucatan or Guatemalan Black Howler Monkeys and later listened to their evening chorus, we also saw 2 Great Kiskadees, Aztec Parakeets, Vermillion Flycatcher, Clay-colored Robin, 2 Melodious Blackbirds, Purple Martin, 2 White-fronted Parrots, a Rufous Piha, a Tropical Pewee and an American Redstart.
Photos: Above & below left Snail Kite. Below right Yucatan or Guatemalan Black Howler Monkey.
We left Belize City by boat and headed north to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, there was a strong wind so it meant that we couldn't go at full speed, so it took a bit longer than it should.
On the way we saw Laughing Gulls, Magnificent Frigatebird, Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, Brown Pelican and Double-crested Cormorant.
We stopped on Chapel Caye for lunch were there was an American Redstart, American Black Vulture and Great Blue Heron.
Continuing the journey we saw a Manatee, Caspian Terns and Sandwich Terns now split and called Cabot's Tern.
Photo: Laughing Gull.
An early start on Ambergris Caye, I had arranged a taxi to take a small group of us a couple of miles south of the hotel to an area of scrub, trees, marsh and bushes which I had hoped would be good for birds.
Here we saw Belted Kingfisher, Great-tailed Grackle, Melodious Blackbird, Botteri's Sparrow, White-winged Dove, Tropical Kingbird, a Lesser Yellowlegs, Cattle Egret, a Common Black Hawk, an Altamira Oriole, a Yellow Warbler, a White-crowned Pigeon, Short-billed Pigeon, Double-crested Cormorant, a Spotted Sandpiper, 2 Grassland Yellow Finches, Great Kiskadee, Aztec Parakeet, 2 Yellow-backed Orioles, a Cinnamon Hummingbird, 2 Velasquez's Woodpeckers, Tropical Mockingbird, a Plain Chachalaca, a Grayish Saltator, White-collared Seedeater, a Spiny-tailed Iguana which is also called a Wish-willy, an American Redstart, a Ruddy Ground Dove and a Red-crowned Woodpecker.
After breakfast we boarded a boat for a trip to the Butterfly Farm at Shipstern on the mainland, which because of the choppy sea took us longer than usual, on the way seeing a Manatee, Royal Tern, Cabot's Tern, Mangrove Swallow, Turkey and American Black Vultures, Tropical Kingbird, a Wood Stork and a Tricolored Heron.
On the return journey we saw a Caspian Tern, 3 Little Blue Herons, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, 2 more Tricolored Herons, 5 White Ibises, 4 Snowy Egrets and another Spotted Sandpiper.
Photo: American Black Vulture.
An eventful day, firstly the chartered aircraft was not at the airport to fly us south to Dangriga, but Lascelle saved the day by insisting that the plane to Belize City took us, then we were able to get a connecting flight to Dangriga. At the airfield there was a bus, but no driver, he had gone for breakfast, but he did leave the keys, so Lascelle drove us the short drive to the Pelican Beach Hotel.
We arrived around 9am and because the previous nights guests were still in their rooms, had to store the luggage until later.
By now the bus driver had shown up and we started our journey to the Cockscombe Basin Wildlife Reserve which we reached by mid-morning, a little late, but an excellent place with lots of forest paths, where we saw a Green Iguana, an amazing, large Blue Morpho butterfly, 2 Groove-billed Anis, a Short-tailed Hawk, Turkey and American Black Vultures, a Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, a Plumbeous Kite, Melodious Blackbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a Pygmy Kingfisher, a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, several Montezuma Oropendolas, a Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Oriole, Magnolia Warbler, a Gray Hawk, Gray-breasted Martin, a Bat Falcon, a Little Hermit, Brown Jay, a Streaked Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole, a Black-cowled Oriole, 2 Crested Guans, a Thick-billed Seed-Finch, a pair of Black-headed Trogons, a Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, an Eastern Kingbird, American Redstart, a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Dusky-acpped Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Black-crowned Tityra, a Spot-breasted Wren, a Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Brown-crested Flycatcher, a Rufous Mourner and as we stayed until dark we also saw 3 Pauraques on the way out of the park.
Returning to the hotel we found another tour group staying the night, a 'Wings' tour from the US, led by a friend of mine Steve Howell, who used to come birding with me in the past.
Photos: Above: Crested Guan.
Heliconia wagneriana common in Cockscombe forest.
A pre-breakfast walk along the beach, from the Pelican Hotel in Dangriga, and into the mangroves, seeing 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 4 Turnstone, a Grey Plover, 2 Tropical Kingbirds, a Willet, 2 Hudsonian Whimbrel, a Brown Pelican, an Anhinga, Great-tailed Grackle, a Louisiana Waterthrush, a Mangrove Warbler, a Northern Parula, 2 Hooded Warblers, an American Redstart, a Brown-crested Flycatcher, a Yucatan Vireo, a Common Yellowthroat and a Myrtle Warbler.
After breakfast we headed inland on the Hummingbird Highway, stopping a couple of times when we saw something and to witness slash & burn alongside the road. During this part of the journey we saw a Squirrel Cuckoo, Great Kiskadee, Groove-billed Ani, 3 Plain-breasted Ground Doves, Turkey and American Black Vultures, Social Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, 2 Dusky-capped Flycatchers, a Blue-black Grassquit, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Swallow, 3 Vilaceous Trogons and a Plain Chacalaca.
Our lunch stop was at the Blue Hole in the Blue Hole National Park, where some of our group took a dip, others joined me birdwatching around the lake, an excellent place where we could have spent all day, in the short time we had we saw a Black-headed Saltator, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, a Wilson's Warbler, 2 American Redstarts, a Long-tailed Hermit, a Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, 2 Social Flycatchers, 5 Indigo Buntings, a Rat Snake, a Northern Waterthrush, a male and female Red-legged Honeycreeper, 2 Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, a Ruddy Woodcreeper, a Crimson-collared Tanager, a Snake Lizard and a Red-throated Ant-Tanager.
After lunch we continued to Belmopan, capital of Belize, and had a quick tour around the city before visiting nearby Guanacaste National Park, which contains an enormous tree covered with orchids of 35 species. Again we could have spent longer here, but in the time we did see an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, a Yellow-winged Tanager, a Dusky Antbird, a Plumbeous Kite, a Yellow-throated Euphonia, another Hooded Warbler and another Black-and-white Warbler.
From Belmopan we took the Western Highway to San Ignacio near the Guatemalan border, in the hotel courtyard were 3 Red-lored Parrots.
Photos: Slash and burn along the Hummingbird Highway.
Another pre-breakfast walk in woodland near our hotel in San Ignacio, which led down to the Macal River. We saw Melodious Blackbird, Groove-billed Ani, 2 White-fronted Parrots, 2 Yellow-tailed Orioles, a Black-and-white Warbler, 2 Magnolia Warblers, Tropical Kingbird, a Brown Jay, a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, 2 Masked Tityras, an American Redstart, a Black-throated Green Warbler, a Cinnamon Becard, Social Flycatcher, a Lineated Woodpecker, 2 Velasquez's Woodpeckers, 4 Giant Cowbirds, 5 Orchard Orioles, a Hooded Warbler and like a cloud rising above the town around 250 American Black Vultures.
After breakfast a drive to Hidden Valley and a view of the 1,000 foot falls ( which are actually 1,500 feet ), where we saw an American Kestrel, Great-tailed Grackle, Giant Cowbird, a Summer Tanager, Rusty Sparrow, Black-headed Siskin, White-collared Seedeater and Clay-colored Robin.
After lunch we continued south to the Rio Frio and Rio Frio Cave, an impressive cave system, after a tour of the cave, some had a swim in the pools others came with me, seeing 10 Acorn Woodpeckers, Cave Swallows, 4 Red-legged Honeycreepers, a Plumbeous Kite, a Long-tailed Hermit, about 10 Brown Jays, a Scrub Euphonia, Tropical Kingbird and around 25 White-collared Swifts.
Photos: Hidden Valley & 1,000 foot falls.
Another early morning walk near the hotel, seeing 2 Rufous Pihas, a Magnolia Warbler, a Plain Wren, a Blue-crowned Motmot, Velasquez's Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Black-headed Saltator, Brown Jay, Clay-colored Robin, a White-eyed Vireo, Groove-billed Ani, Gray-breasted Martin, Great-tailed Grackle, Melodious Blackbird and Great Kiskadee.
Then a morning visit to Xunantunich Mayan ruins and the nearby Mopan River, where we saw Mangrove Swallow, a Blackburnian Warbler, an Amazon Kingfisher, a Plain Chacalaca, Blue-gray Tanager, Yellow-winged Tanager and Great Kiskadee.
The afternoon was spent at Panti Maya Medicine Trail and a shopping visit across the Guatemalan border, the only birds seen were Turkey and American Black Vultures and a Black-and-white Hawk Eagle.
Again an early morning bird walk, with the people not on the first canoe ride on the Macal River which flows into the Belize River further north.
As we couldn't get enough canoes for the whole group, we split it into Lascelle taking half the group up river to a landing stage, then me with the rest of the group from the landing stage back to the hotel, which ment our walk could be longer, down to the river and along the bank, we hadn't had time to go that far before. We saw 5 White-fronted Parrots, Brown Jay, Tropical Kingbird, Groove-billed Ani, a Red-billed Pigeon, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Red-eyed Vireo, Short-billed Pigeon, Red-lored Parrot, Spotted Sandpiper, a White-crowned Parrot, Velasquez's Woodpecker, a Black Phoebe and Mangrove Swallow.
At 10.30am we were at the landing stage for our canoe trip down river, where we saw 3 Amazon Kingfishers, 3 Green Kingfishers, 2 Little Blue Herons, a Green Heron, a Peregrine, an Osprey carrying a large fish flew close past us, 4 Black Phoebes, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, Mangrove and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Cattle Egret, Turkey and American Black Vultures, then the boatman showed us a roost of White-lined Sac-winged Bats in trees along the bank. Continuing we saw 2 Aztec Parakeets, a White Hawk, a Hook-billed Kite, 2 Black-throated Shrike Tanagers and 3 Double-crested Cormorants.
Photo: Green Kingfisher.
The afternoon was free time for those who wanted it, I had arranged with Lascelle for a mystery tour for those who wanted to go birdwatching. We had a full minibus and set off east along the Western Highway, then turned north towards Buena Vista, after about an hour and a quarter we reached an area of untouched rain forest called the Yalbec Escarpment, Lascelle had been there once before and had obtained permission for our visit from the land owner the previous evening.
We had past through logged and slash and burn areas on our way there, and it was the most impressive area of rain forest of the whole tour, we all hoped it could be saved. In the short time there we saw 3 King Vultures, 3 Black-faced Grosbeaks, a Red-legged Honeycreeper, a Gray Hawk, around 20 Vaux's Swifts, 4 Yellow-winged Tanagers, a Yellow-throated Euphonia, a Black-throated Green Warbler, 2 White-throated Flycatchers, a Squirrel Cuckoo, 2 Mealy Parrots, a Blue Ground Dove and 3 Pauraques.
A misty early morning, so no bird walk, a late breakfast then a drive east on the Western Highway to Warrie Head Lodge in time for lunch. The afternoon was free time until a bird walk with the owner along some of the trails; an interesting place mixing conservation and farming, mainly fruit growing, with oranges the main crop.
On the walk we saw Vaux's Swift, Great Kiskadee, Orchard Oriole, Blue-black Grassquit, Blue Bunting, 2 Black-and-white Warblers, Social Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Least Flycatcher, a Common Tody-Flycatcher, a Summer Tanager, White-collared Seedeater, a Little Hermit, a Buff-throated Saltator, 2 Blue-gray Tanagers, a Fork-tailed Emerald, Velasquez's Woodpecker, Brown Jay, 2 Aztec Parakeets, 2 Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, a Magnolia Warbler, Short-billed Pigeon, Melodious Blackbird, Cattle Egret, a White-throated Thrush and 2 Laughing Falcons.
Only time for a quick look around the lodge before an early breakfast, seeing 2 Yellow-tailed Orioles, a Keel-billed Toucan, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, 2 Blue-gray Tanagers and Red-lored Parrots.
Then a 10 minute drive to the Hector Silva Air Strip, where we had a bit of a wait for the plane, which gave us time to see a Black Hawk-Eagle, Blue-black Grassquit, Great Kiskadee, Turkey and American Black Vultures, a White-tailed Kite, a Swainson's Hawk and 2 Aztec Parakeets.
Here we said our goodbyes to Lascelle, who had been an excellent guide, not only for the birds but also Mayan history.
Our flight north to Gallon Jug took 15 minutes, where a bus was waiting to take us to the lodge at Chan Chich, it then took a while to get us all settled in rooms.
In the afternoon we met our guide Carlos, who was excellent on the birds and their calls, and we spent several hours walking the trails with him, seeing 10 Ocellated Turkeys, House Wren, Black-faced Grosbeak, an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Squirrel Cuckoo, a Thrush-like Manakin, a Barred Woodcreeper, a White-breasted Wood Wren, Aztec Parakeet, a Red-throated Ant-Tanager, a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, a Mangrove Vireo, Green Kingfisher, a Ruddy Quail-Dove, Tropical Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, a Roadside Hawk, Short-billed Pigeon, 4 Red-legged Honeyeaters, a White-throated Flycatcher, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, Red-lored Parrot, 3 Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, a Cinnamon Becard, a Greater Pewee, Yellow-winged Tanager, a Black-cowled Oriole and a Strong-billed Woodcreeper.
Later there was an amazing night chorus from Black Howler Monkeys.
Photos: Chan Chich accommodation and forest.
Early morning bird walks at Chan Chich, could be done from the lodge and people could join at different times, during our stay the guide could be booked for small groups and I did walks around the site for the others.
A full day seeing a House Wren, Red-lored Parrot, Aztec Parakeet, 3 Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Mealy Parrot, 6 Keel-billed Toucans, Melodious Blackbird, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, 2 Montezuma Oropendolas, 5 Ocellated Turkeys, 2 Black-crowned Tityras, 4 Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, a Golden-masked Tanager, 3 Collared Aracaris, 4 Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Social Flycatcher, Vaux's Swift, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, a White-bellied Emerald, a Cinnamon Becard, a Magnolia Warbler, White-crowned Parrot, Clay-colored Robin, 2 Slaty-tailed Trogons, a Lineated Woodpecker, Yellow-winged Tanager, a Yellow-throated Euphonia, a Bronzed Cowbird, Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, a Thrush-like Manakin, 3 Louisiana Waterthrushes, Ruddy Quail-Dove, a Gray-necked Wood Rail, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Gray Catbird, 2 Dot-winged Antwrens, a Hooded Warbler, 7 Crested Guans, a Basilisk or Jesus Christ Lizard, 2 Tawny-crowned Greenlets, a Mangrove Vireo, 3 Black Howler Monkeys, a Black-faced Grosbeak, an American Redstart, 2 Green Kingfishers, a Bare-throated Tiger Heron, a Gray-chested Dove, Streaked Flycatcher, Swallow-tailed Kite, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Orchard Oriole, a Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, a Blue-black Grosbeak, a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, a Squirrel Cuckoo, a Greater Pewee, 2 Least Flycatchers and a Scrub Euphonia.
Later, several of us, with the guide, went on a night walk, seeing a Kinkajou, a Mottled Owl, a Ghost Bat, several spiders including a species of tarantula carrying tiny young on it's back and a scorpion.
Photos: Chan Chich forest.
Forest river with Bare-throated Tiger Heron.
In the morning near the accommodation huts I saw Mealy Parrots, 4 Ocellated Turkeys and 2 Keel-billed Toucans.
After breakfast we drove to Gallon Jug, seeing 8 Roadside Hawks, a Gray Hawk, a Plumbeous Kite, a Black Hawk-Eagle, Tropical Kingbirds, Cattle Egrets, Turkey and American Black Vultures, 6 Keel-billed Toucans and 5 Ocellated Turkeys, probably immature males.
We watched the Gray Hawk attack one of the Roadside Hawks, swooping on it and hitting its back, forcing it to the ground, shaken the Roadside Hawk managed to take off and avoid further attacks.
From Gallon Jug we drove north to Laguna Seca, we had wanted to take canoes out on the lake, but the weather was too bad, so we viewed from the banks, seeing 6 Least Grebes, 2 Moorhens, a Bat Falcon, a Sungrebe, a Black-colled Hawk, 2 Mangrove Swallows, 3 Northern Jacanas, a White-crowned Pigeon, 2 Short-billed Pigeons, 2 Great Egrets and a Northern Waterthrush.
Returning to Chan Chich for lunch, in the afternoon we had a walk around the forest seeing 4 Masked Tityras, a Louisiana Waterthrush, 2 Collared Peccaries, 2 Ochre-bellied Flycatchers, a Gray-headed Tanager, a Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Northern and Hooded Orioles, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, 2 Red-legged Honeycreepers, Yellow-winged Tanager, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and Cinnamon Becard.
Later, we went for a night drive, seeing a Common Potoo, 2 White-tailed Deer, a Gray Fox, an American Barn Owl (now split), and a Morelet's Crocodile.
Photos: Chan Chich forest and Ocellated Turkey.
Our last full day in Belize, on our morning walk with the guide in the forest at Chan Chich we saw 2 Collared Aracaris, Mealy and White-crowned Parrots, Yellow-throated Euphonia, 3 Red-legged Honeycreepers, a Bananaquit, a Streaked Flycatcher, 3 Squirrel Cuckoos, 2 Black-faced Grosbeaks, Aztec Parakeet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Keel-billed Toucan, Masked Tityra, Pale-billed and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, a pair of Slaty-tailed Trogons, Ocellated Turkeys, an Emerald Toucanet, a Swainson's Hawk, a Hooded Oriole, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, 2 Hooded Warblers, 2 American Redstarts, a Black-throated Green Warbler, 2 Rufous Mourners, 3 White-breasted Wood Wrens, a Thrush-like Manakin, 2 Gray Catbirds and Brown Jays.
The afternoon was free time for the group, I with two of the group and Carlos the guide went birding, he took us on a narrow track by the river not often visited, we saw a male Red-capped Manakin, a Little Hermit, a White-throated Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, 2 Blue-throated Hummingbirds, a Streak-headed Woodcreeper, a Greenish Eleania, a Lesser Greenlet, a Rose-throated Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Black Howler Monkeys, a Grey-headed Dove,
3 Louisiana Waterthrushes and 2 Green Kingfishers, then in a small clearing we saw and heard 5 White-collared Manakins displaying, dancing along branches, wing-snapping which sounded like twigs snapping and ending in a short buzzing call, we were mesmerized for around 10 minutes before they disappeared into the forest.
A bit further along the track Carlos stopped us and pointed out a large column of army ants, there were thousands of them, as we watched the bushes above the column filled with birds, there were 4 Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, 2 Ruddy Woodcreepers, Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, an Olivaceous Woodcreeper and an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, also a Black-and-white, a Kentucky and a Mourning Warbler.
Towards the end of the track, in a pool, we saw a Green Heron and 3 Logger-head Turtles.
Later we drove to the airfield at Gallon Jug for our flight to Belize City.
Photos: Forest at Chan Chich.