Tuesday, May 9, 2000. Belize Day 5 of 8. Trip Day 33 of 38. GILBERTO, WHAT BIRD IS MAKING THAT CALL?

The alarm is off at 5 am again. We have an appointment with Gilberto for 6 am, together with another couple from England, Matthew and Anne. But in the meantime, we walk around and get a Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher. This bird is pale yellow, but looks like he has been dipped in brown-streaking paint all over.

We meet Gilberto and he decides to take us to the dump and then to the River Trail, the back way. But first, he picks us up a couple of neat WHITE-CROWNED PARROTS*. We hear the descending whistle of the Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, which I can now recognize. We finally actually SEE a Lesser Greenlet, by the dump.

As we are walking past the dump and back into the jungle, Gilbert assumes his normal position -- walking softly, first finger of his right hand in the air, head cocked, listening intently, and calling out the birds that he hears. THRUSHLIKE MANAKIN*, CHESTNUT-COLORED WOODPECKER*, TAWNY-CROWNED GREENLET* -- all heard only, but we ask Gilberto which sounds are which, and we can distinguish them. Sharon works a little harder and gets a quick view of the Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, in the middle of all that, but I don't.

Gilberto whistles in a nice male Slaty-tailed Trogon. We continue on, now on the River Trail, and we get a gorgeous BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE*, and after lots of poor views, finally a BLACK-FACED GROSBEAK*, high in a tree. The Oriole is mostly black but with patches of orange. The Grosbeak looks like an overgrown Black-faced Grassquit, although the book shows him with olive back, yellow head, neck and chest, lighter belly, and a black face. We hear the Thrushlike Manakin again.

We finally see a Spot-breasted Wren -- up to now, we've only heard them. It's high in a tree by the culvert marking the intersection of the path that goes to Silvester Village.

Birding is great in the morning, and we get a DOT-WINGED ANTWREN*, a gorgeous little very dark bird with a white wing-bar and white dots on a black wing. Beautiful. Sharon automatically re-launches her dot-winged tirade (we all have our buttons and this is a fun one), and Ann looks at me with a huge grin. We continue on, and high in a tree we hear heavy rustling, and get a Kinkajou, followed closely by a Collared Anteater, walking across a branch. The anteater suddenly drapes itself across a branch, curls its tail around a smaller branch, hangs its head over one side and its left paw across the other side of the main branch. Off to sleep he goes.

Gilberto gets a Yellow-olive Flycatcher, but I don't see it. I mark the number 58 sign, to come back to later. An Agouti crosses our path as we begin to head back up to the main plaza. At 8:28 am, we get WHITE-BELLIED EMERALD*, a green-and-white hummingbird we're used to, but somehow I forgot to mark it down till now.

We got directions from another couple, to the location of a nesting Emerald Toucanet, on the Back Plaza Trail, between numbers 11 and 12. But first, breakfast.

While we're at breakfast, we can see the commercial-filming group getting ready to go shoot. The guy I've dubbed Indiana Jones looks like he hasn't showered for days, and we find out from Josie later that that is acura, I mean accurate. Sorry. They want him to look properly grubby for the shoot.

I suddenly realize that the LONG-TAILED HERMIT* we've been enjoying since Saturday is different from the Green Hermit that we got in Trinidad. I have been assuming all along that it was the same species. But they are different, so Bingo, a "discovered" lifer.

After breakfast, we head out, even though it's getting a little warm. The sweat is rolling down, as I spot a PLAIN XENOPS*. This little brown bird has horizontal stripes above and below the eyes, and he seems to always be clinging to a horizontal vine, hanging down like he's about to fall off. All the photos and paintings of him, he's doing the same thing. At first I think this is the same bird we saw in Trinidad, but as I look it up, that was the Streaked Xenops and this is the Little, or Plain Xenops. The most unusual thing about this bird is that its bill is upside down, presumably to match its mostly upside down feeding penchant. Love the surprise lifer. And this is three in one day, counting the White-bellied Emerald, the Long-tailed Hermit and now the Plain Xenops.

We locate the dead palm with about 20 holes in it, and there, around on the left side, about 25 feet up is our bird. The intense green EMERALD TOUCANET*. Yellow or light green upper bill and black lower bill. We watch for five minutes or so and I get some good video. Just as we leave, the bird flies out of the nest hole and lands on a triple hanging vine, then scoots up and out of sight, into the high palm leaves.

At 10:23 am, we get our own male and now a female Dot-winged Antwren. We can see the dark orange belly of the female, and both the male and female have the black wing with the wing bar and dots. I just love this pair, and unusual for jungle birds, the female is as attractive as the male.

We get a Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and then arrive at a mound with a trench dug in. This must be the looter's trench that we heard about, where the robbers cut into the burial chamber to steal the jade and whatever else is of value. While I'm shooting video, Sharon gets her flashlight, drops into the trench, and walks into the mound. "Hey, it's really cool down here. I mean temperature wise," she yells. I keep narrating to the video. She turns on her flashlight and something flies right at her face, then swoops upward just before hitting her. "OOOH!" yells Sharon. She turns around, grinning, and says, "Did you hear that?" I zoom in on her, and find that a bat swooped her. I come down, and we get a nice video of a long-eared bat, hanging from the ceiling, where else?

We heard stories of people walking into this trench or others like it, only to come face to face with a Jaguar or two.

We go back for lunch, a shower, typing up some notes, and a swim and soak in the cool, cool water on this hot, hot day.

But at 3:30 pm, we're back out there, hoping to surprise the Black-collared Hawk at the water-lettuce pond. Others have seen him, but we're oh-for-three or so. On the way, we get our first MASKED TITYRA*, but it's a long way off, and we hope for better views on some future bird sighting. This bird is generally white, with a black mask, but with red around the eye. Very similar to the Tityra we saw at Asa Wright, but a different species.

We continue, walking ever-so carefully so as not to spook the hawk. But as we near the pond, we hear wings beating and something flew off. Dangit. We go down and search all the surrounding trees, but don't get no hawk. Dangit Dangit. Sharon decides to test the dried-up creek-bed, since she's sure it's not quicksand. She walks down, and I watch her feet slowly sink down about two inches, then stop, so I go out too.

Just then a young local comes walking past on the trail. I suddenly have a feeling and ask, "Are you Rick?" We have an appointment with him tomorrow morning at 6 am. "Oh sure," he answers, matter-of-factly. He is short and stocky, good-looking with jet black hair, strong Mayan background, and is very friendly. I tell him the story of our Collared Hawk chase, and he says, "Let's try," and reverses direction on the trail. We follow him.

He carefully checks the trees also, but the hawk is not here. A rustle up in the trees behind us. Sharon spins around and says, "What was that?" Rick says, "CRESTED GUAN*." We both fall all over ourselves getting in position with our binoculars to see this bird. The joke is that it seems everyone in the camp has seen these birds mid-tree level all around the main plaza. They claim they're very noisy, but our Guan is being silent. We get good looks, and can see the red wattle under the neck. Lifer. Thanks Rick. Rick takes off and says he'll see us tomorrow. We continue on carefully, and suddenly a very large bird is scared and flies. We both get unmistakeable looks at the flashing colors of a full adult Agami Heron. This bird looks like it was designed by Armani or Ferrari, it's so silky-smooth and sleek. I get some nice video, and it finally flies away.

Sharon wants to go to where the water backs up to the land, a place Gilberto showed us the other day. Birds like to slowly edge their way down here in the late afternoon for a drink and a shower. We got three Coati Mundi here the other day. We sit.

At 5:00 pm, an OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER* works its way to the water. At 5:05 pm, a beautiful SULFUR-RUMPED FLYCATCHER* arrives and we see the gorgeous yellow rectangle on its rump, as it turns away from us. This is followed by Sharon hearing a "tic, tic, tic" bird approaching, but she can't spot it. Suddenly she does her whispering-yell to tell me that there is a male Red-capped Manakin at the water, with a female. And son-of-a-gun if I don't zero in on that most spectacular set of black and red colors. It takes your breath away.

At 5:30, a Gray-headed Tanager flies in, and a few minutes after that, we fly out.

At 6:30 pm, we are finished with our showers and we go to the bar for further refreshment. Sharon has a cooling limeaide and I have another Jaguar. Smooooth.

After dinner, I write up another report, although I can't send any out from here. And by 9:00 pm, we are sound asleep.

Lifers Today: White-crowned Parrot, Thrushlike Manakin (heard), Chestnut-colored Woodpecker (heard), Tawny-crowned Greenlet (heard), Black-cowled Oriole, Black-faced Grosbeak, Dot-winged Antwren, White-bellied Emerald, Long-tailed Hermit, Plain Xenops, Emerald Toucanet, Masked Tityra, Crested Guan, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Sulfur-rumped Flycatcher

Upgrades Today: Lesser Greenlet (PREVIOUS: heard only; NEW: seen clearly), Spot-breasted Wren (PREVIOUS: heard song many times; NEW: seen overhead), Agami Heron (PREVIOUS: pre-adult, plus Bob very poor look; NEW: seen very clearly, got video), Red-capped Manakin (PREVIOUS: brownish female; NEW: spectacular black male with contrasting red head)

Handsomest Bird: Dot-winged Antwren (both male and female), Emerald Toucanet, Agami Heron, Red-capped Manakin

Most Difficult Bird: Agami Heron

Rarest Bird: Agami Heron

Most Remarkable Bird: Crested Guan

Lifer Totals: Today 15, Belize = 57+15= 72, Trip 226+15 = 241
Upgrades: Today 4, Total 3+4= 7

May your world include fun stuff like this,
Sharon and Bob

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