Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Belize - Day 2

This is a continuation of our 2005 trip to Belize. 

2/15/2005 (Tuesday) – We went on a 6:00 a.m. bird walk with a new guide, Ruben. We watched and listened in the cabana area until it started to get light. At the cabanas we saw a Bat Falcon pursuing flying bats, and Crested Guan flying down from their night roosts. We also listened to the Howler Monkeys roaring as dawn broke. We saw quite a few birds on the road as we walked down toward the suspension bridge. Birds included White-breasted Wood-Wren, Pale-billed Woodpecker, White-necked Puffbird, Red-lored Parrot, Black-headed and Slatey-tailed Trogan, and Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet. We watched a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird sit in a tree and sing like a songbird. In the clearing at the bridge we watched a White-necked Jacobin flycatching from a tree.

Crested Guan
Pale-billed Woodpecker
Suspension bridge 
Howler Monkey
Bat Falcon

We returned to the lodge in time for breakfast. Like dinner, breakfast was served off of a menu that included six or so “standard” choices like pancakes, French toast, omelets, etc. The same young ladies were the waitresses, and we were learning that the staff was made up of families that lived in either the service areas adjacent to the lodge or in Gallon Jug Village. The men worked as guides, drivers, groundskeepers, or other laborers, and the women worked as cooks, housekeepers, receptionist, etc. There was a school for children up through sixth grade in Gallon Jug. Beyond sixth grade the families would either have to move or send the children to live with relatives in Orange Walk.

After breakfast we left on the Gallon Jug Farm tour with two other couples. We first headed down the road toward the airport. Another van was stopped, and reported that they were looking at a perched Double-toothed Kite. They drove on, and we couldn’t see it from our van, so we decided to get out. I got just a glimpse of it perched, then flying off. It was quite close, so it was too bad that we didn’t get better looks. On the road at the airport we got excellent looks at Groove-billed Ani, Giant Cowbird and Fork-tailed Flycatcher.
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
In the Gallon Jug Farm area we were taken to a small building where a group of local women were preparing sauces with names like “Mango Tango” and “Secret Sauce”. These sauces are used at Chan Chich Lodge and locally, and are not exported. The ladies had large kettles on propane burners and simmered and bottled the sauces themselves. It was interesting to see this example of local economy. We also visited the coffee roasting and grinding shed. Coffee is apparently the only product exported off of the farm, with all other produce being consumed in Gallon Jug Village or at Chan Chich. Other products of the farm include almonds, lemons, oranges, bananas and cocoa.

 Mango Tango and Secret Sauce
 Mark getting a cooking lesson
 Roasting coffee beans
Cooling coffee beans

We drove over to Laguna Verde, which was quite low. We saw a pair of Northern Jacana, a small flock of White-collared Seedeaters, and a Gray Hawk perched in a tree. On the road to Sylvester Village we crossed a small drainage and saw two Bare-throated Tiger-Herons.

On the way back to the lodge we were treated to a Roadside Hawk perched commonly at eye level in the trees along the shoulder of the road. We got several good pictures. A bit further up the road several people in the van, including Teri, watched a Puma cross the road in front of the van. I missed it completely. Ugh!
 Roadside Hawk
Bare-throated Tiger Heron

We had lunch, which once again featured some standard menu items, and a special of the day. We were starting to get familiar with the waitresses by now, and also noticed that for each meal the cloth napkins were folded in a different decorative style. We were told that they had enough different folding patterns for a week. We really enjoyed sitting out on the deck for our meals, as the various fruiting and flowering plants attracted quite a variety of birds. The Red-capped Manakin male and female could be counted on to visit at each meal, and we always saw Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and Stripe-throated Hermit. We’d also occasionally see the Long-billed Hermit in the area. Quire often parrots and toucans would fly over during meals.

After lunch we decided to walk one of the trails. We headed out behind the lodge and down the Xaxe Venic Road, and then took the Norman’s Temple Trail. Good birds along the way were Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Black-faced Grosbeak, Black-and-White and Worm-eating Warblers. We also saw Plain Xenops and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers together. Near the temple we came upon a group of Spider Monkeys who didn’t seem too pleased with us. They grabbed and shook branches, which made a lot of noise and caused a lot of leaves and debris to fall down around us. Norman’s Temple itself was another mound, which is the remains of a partially collapsed Mayan structure that has been overgrown by the forest. They appear to be nothing more than local hills, but once we learned what they were we could understand how they formed. Norman’s Temple was one of the few ruins in the area that had not been looted, so it displayed none of the “Looter’s trenches” that we would see in other areas. 
 Very nice trails
We returned to the lodge at 4:00 and decided to walk on down to the bridge. We took the Sac Be trail, but found birding to be pretty slow along the trail. I did spot a Great Tinamou off the side of the trail. The light was dim due to the hour and the heavy forest, so the bird was tough to make out. It just sort of disappeared from sight into some brushy cover. As we neared the bridge we heard a bird calling from up in the trees. Teri was finally able to spot it, and we determined it to be the juvenile Ornate Hawk-Eagle that was known to be in the area. The bird was out on a branch eating a snake. We watched it for a few minutes and then headed on up to the bridge where about ten folks were waiting around to see the Hawk-Eagle. At the bridge we were treated to a group of four Collared Aracaris and a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers. A bit later the Hawk-Eagle did fly out into view of the bridge. As we walked back up the road we saw an Agouti

Ornate Hawk Eagle - Juvenile 
After dinner we went on a night walk that started at 8:00. Our guide was Gilberto, and he led us down the main road toward the bridge, and then back up the Sac Be trail to the lodge. We heard Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls a couple of times in the distance, saw a big Bullfrog in the creek, but other than some movement above us in the forest didn’t see much. Finally on the road as we neared the lodge we got good looks at a Kinkajou up in a tree feeding. It was a lot of walking for a look at one little animal!

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