Saturday, May 6, 2000. Belize Day 2 of 8. Trip Day 30 of 38. CHAN CHICH TRAIL TRAVELS.

The parrots wake us up, and by 6:30 am we are off to see what we can claim on our own. We get a better look at what we called an all-green parrot yesterday, and now we can see blue on its forehead and crown. It's a MEALY (BLUE-CROWNED) PARROT*. We are in the grounds (called the main plaza or the lodge grounds) containing all the cabanas, heading for the River Trail, and we're seeing lots of birds, including a bird which looks very similar to North America's Pileated Woodpecker. This bird is a LINEATED WOODPECKER*, and has a black body, red crested head, but with a black streak up the neck and through the face. A white line comes up from each side of the chest and goes up through the black of the neck and face, and meet at the base of the yellow bill. On the back, there are two more-or-less vertical lines which do not meet at the bottom. A gorgeous bird backlit by the sun.

There is another almost identical bird, but without the black face or white face line, and whose back vertical lines DO connect at the bottom. We hope to see it later.

We can hear some kind of trogons calling, and Sharon gets on them right away. It's a pair of SLATY-TAILED TROGONS*, and they are gorgeous, especially the male. He has a red belly, a bright dark green chest and head, slate-gray undertail, and a beautiful green back. He has a red eye-ring and a yellow-orange bill.

After watching them work their way out of the area, we hit the River Trail, and turn left to a little almost-dried-up pond, where we scare up a Turkey Vulture, who joins his buddies up on a tree with lots of snags. The green water lettuce tells us that there is at least some water here.

There are numbered markers every fifty or hundred yards or so, and there is a neat little book you can buy which tells about each one. In addition, it contains a nice map of the entire area, so if somebody says, "We saw a Spotted Wood-Quail at Number 111," you can look up exactly which trail that is, and how to best get there.

It's not that I'm too cheap to buy one, but it would mean another book to lug around, and we just don't have the room.

There is a three-inch thick stick protruding from the water lettuce, and perched on top is a BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON*, rufous on the belly, and striped on the sides and back of the neck. There is a metallic yellow color on the neck that is very distinctive. He is beautiful and frozen, waiting for a fish to come into range.

We move a little bit and can hear the same snapping we heard at Asa Wright. This is the lek of the WHITE-COLLARED MANAKINS*, but they are across the dry creek bed and we can't see them at all. Hopefully later. I'm pretty sure it's quicksand down there, so I ask Sharon if she wants to test. She poo-poos the quicksand notion, but she declines.

One or two Rufous-tailed Jacamars call from across the water lettuce. We don't know it at the time, but we have turned left, where the River Trail itself turned right, and we emerge from the jungle into a Chan Chich service area, where workers live and work, and much of the equipment is stored. We walk around a bit, and find a trash dump that is still smoking from the fire recently used to burn rubbish. We see a Black Vulture hanging around in a tree, and several Melodious Blackbirds too.

We begin making our way back to where the trail exited the jungle, and I see a little black and white bird flitting around, with a similar mixed-brown-colored bird. They are about grassquit-size. We work and work on their ID, and finally come up with WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER*, but they seem to keep flying away from us. We need to verify this with someone to be sure, because we're not sure that they can be black-and-white.

We are hearing a bird overhead, and we think maybe it's a Brown Jay, but it's even better. We saw this bird yesterday, but never got a very good look. It's a BLACK-HEADED SALTATOR*, and is very vocal. It has a yellow-olive back, light gray belly, and a black chest, neck and head.

We climb the trail back up to the main plaza (where all the cabanas are), and see a woodpecker fly over that looks like the Lineated. But we double check, and good thing, because the head colors make it a PALE-BILLED WOODPECKER*, the "cousin" of the Lineated. We later learn that the Pale-billed is the more numerous and the Lineated is rarer.

It's 8:30 am or so, and we have breakfast while a SOCIAL FLYCATCHER* watches us. In addition, the local White-collared Seedeater pair play in the fountain right in front of us. This black and white male Seedeater is the coolest little guy. And this after our long, careful analysis of the White-collared Seedeater over by the dump. I love it when the confirmation is this easy. We also see a LITTLE HERMIT* hummingbird, very small and very tan. It likes to pierce the base of the red flowers next to the porch rather than going in by the normal flower opening.

We see a little hummer with most of its tail chopped off, for some unknown and mysterious reason, but we ID it as a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. But then we get a new one -- the SCALY-BREASTED HUMMINGBIRD*. This hummer is a sort of dull green above and pale green below going to tan at the belly. It appears to have scales on the neck, chest and belly.

It's 10:00 am or so, and we are out walking the main road, headed for the suspension bridge, perhaps a quarter of a mile from the main plaza. We see a barred-back woodpecker of unknown type high in a dead tree, and it pops into a nest hole.

At 10:30 am at the suspension bridge, we get a BLUE GROUND-DOVE*, very cool-looking in the hot part of the day. We walk back on the Sac Be trail, and pick up another Great Tinamou, just standing in the trail in front of us, a little to the right of center. We try to outwait each other, but she moves first, into the jungle on the right. We take two steps forward, and flush two Tinamou chicks on the left, one running and the other flying away.

We go back to Cabana No. 2 (our home), have a nap, then go over for a light lunch, during which Roy (one of the staff) asks us if we want to go to Lamanai (LAH-muh-nigh, where the 'a' in LAH is the same sound as the 'a' in "hand" ) tomorrow to see some Mayan ruins. It's $200 U.S. and only one couple is signed up. If we go, that cuts it down to $100 per couple. We think about it, and Sharon decides that yes, we'll go. We also sign up for Gilberto to lead us on a guided bird walk for two hours, beginning this afternoon at 4 pm.

We go back to the room, change and Sharon goes for a swim. I type up some notes, then go join her. On the way over, suddenly my hair stands on end, and I jump a little, then check to make sure nobody saw me. Nobody did, and if you'll cooperate, you won't tell anybody either, okay?

Although I thought I was ready, nothing could quite prepare me for the HOWLER MONKEYS. They should put some of these into those Haunted Houses at Halloween. I head on to the pool, but the jacuzzi is going, and the Howler noise is drowned out (so to speak), so Sharon doesn't hear them very well.

What a great way to spend the hot middle of the day. I come back first, and type up some more notes, then get ready for the afternoon bird walk. Sharon comes back then, gets ready, and we go to the main house to meet Gilberto.

We take off, and about 4:20, we hear a LESSER GREENLET* (we see it in the next two days also), but don't see it. A dark hawk-like bird zooms over our heads and just inches above them, but I missed it because I was watching the ground, and had my baseball cap (with the bill) on. Gilberto IDs it as the BARRED FOREST-FALCON*, a very cool raptor, perfectly comfortable flying around jungle obstacles. We chase it to get better looks. I get a poor one, but Sharon gets a better one. It's dark gray or black on the upper parts, white with narrow black barring on the chest and belly, yellow legs, black tail with thin white bars. It strongly reminds us of the scary Goshawk that almost got us in Anchorage a couple of years ago.

A few moments later, we hear a BLUE-BLACK GROSBEAK*, but Gilberto can't call him in.

Then we get a nice rarity -- a GRAY-NECKED WOOD-RAIL*, slowly walking across a sand bar, but made of rocks -- a rock bar (Is that the Stones playing in the background?). What else is cool about this bird is that it's the 200th life bird of our trip. Rails are notoriously secretive, and to get this one is multo belissimo (If you don't speaka Italiano, it means very belissimo). And finally we get a bird which I saw in the Caroni Swamp in Trinidad, but Sharon and everyone else on the boat missed, except the driver. It's a fantastic male PYGMY KINGFISHER*, green back and perfectly gorgeous orange chest and belly backlit by the sun, and it's hard to believe how he can snare those fish. But he seems unconcerned with where his next meal is coming from, and is very good at his job.


In short order, we also get a female RED-CAPPED MANAKIN*, but this drab bird has a mate that would knock your socks off if you saw him. So we really want to see the male. Stay tuned for more on this later.

Then Gilberto gets us maybe the most graceful looking bird of the walk -- a PURPLE-CROWNED FAIRY* (hummingbird). It is turquoise green, with a turquoise blue cap, and is all white underneath. When it hovers (rhymes with plovers, for the last time), it seems to just shimmer.

We are near a spot that is the edge of a backup pool from the river, and Gilberto says that many birds and animals come to this spot late in the afternoon to drink. In just a few minutes, three Coati Mundis make their way down to the water.

At 5:30 pm, we get a beautiful male BLACK-THROATED SHRIKE-TANAGER*, and the female comes to join him almost immediately. This large bird (the male) is golden yellow, with a black head, wings and tail, and with a little white patch on the upper wing. He is the acknowledged captain of mixed bird flocks, and leads the way as the flock moves through the jungle.

At 5:56 pm, we're at the same dump we were at this morning. There is a hawk flying around and Gilberto finally decides that it's a HOOK-BILLED KITE*. Shortly after that, we get a nice upgrade to the Keel-billed Toucans we saw in a flyover a couple of days ago (or was it yesterday?).

We change over to mammals as we pick up a Howler Monkey (somebody appropriately and innocently wrote "Growler Monkey" on the recent-sightings board), which is pretty apt. The monkey is hanging high in a tree, by its tail, and picking fruit off a fig tree.

We continue towards the main plaza and get a CLAY-COLORED ROBIN*, then another, as they fly across our path and land on the ground about 20 yards away. To someone from Missouri, any robin not black and orange is pretty spectacular, and so these two are, even though they are fairly drab, being brownish above and tannish below.

Sharon spots the last bird of the day, a YELLOW-THROATED EUPHONIA*, while we are looking for the Crested Guan (no luck). The Euphonia seems to be a dead ringer for the Violaceous Euphonia of Trinidad, and I check the Latin names to make sure they are different. They are. The Trinidad bird's back is more violet whereas the Belize bird is more blue-black on the back, Jack.

We return to the room for a rest, then over to the bar ("The Looters' Trench") for soft drinks and appetizers, finally dinner at 8:15 pm. Mexican seafood cocktail, then pork chops, topped off with a pineapple ginger upside down cake.

Back to the room for the last time of the day, for a couple of (ahhhhh) showers, and off to bed.

But the Howlers are doing the thing Howlers do, and it's great listening to the troops play Battle of the Bands. Sharon can't believe it and makes me come outside and video tape just to get the audio.

And to our great surprise, we can see fireflies. Our cabana is right next to the jungle, and the fireflies are not in the open area of the cabana area, but they are only in the jungle itself. Visiting guests, including us, are delighted with the Howler/Firefly show.

Lifers Today: Mealy (Blue-crowned) Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-collared Manakin (heard), Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, White-collared Seedeater, Black-headed Saltator, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Social Flycatcher, Little Hermit, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Blue Ground-dove, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Lesser Greenlet (heard, later seen), Barred Forest-Falcon, Blue-black Grosbeak (heard), Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Pygmy Kingfisher, Red-capped Manakin (female), Purple-crowned Fairy (hummer), Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, Hook-billed Kite, Clay-colored Robin, Yellow-throated Euphonia.

Handsomest Birds: 1. Lineated Woodpecker, 2. Slaty-tailed Trogon, 3. White-collared Seedeater, 4. Pygmy Kingfisher, 5. Purple-crowned Fairy

Most Difficult Bird: White-collared Manakin (difficult in that it was easy to hear, but we still haven't seen it as of this report).

Rarest Bird: Gray-necked Wood-Rail.

Most Remarkable Bird: 1. Pygmy Kingfisher (How can this little bird catch fish? He can, we have seen it, and he's very good at it.); 2. Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers (remarkably similar to North America's Pileated Woodpecker

Totals: Today 25, Belize 13+25= 38, Trip 182+25 = 207 (We crack 200!)

Reporting from Jungle Paradise,
Sharon and Bob

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