Belize's Hidden Treasures Mar 04—10, 2018

Posted by Michael O'Brien

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Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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Our inaugural Belize’s Hidden Treasures tour was a wonderful immersion into the deep forests of Western Belize. Based at two fabulous lodges, Pook’s Hill and Black Rock, our visit to the Maya Mountain Foothills and Mountain Pine Ridge was not only birdy, but also extremely comfortable, and accompanied by some of the country’s best guides.

Northern Emerald-Toucanet

Northern Emerald-Toucanet— Photo: Michael O’Brien

 

Our first morning at Pook’s Hill began with a dazzling show of flashy birds appearing as the first rays of sun lit the main clearing. Slaty-tailed and Black-headed trogons, Collared Aracari, and Keel-billed Toucan stole the show, but Black-cheeked and Golden-fronted woodpeckers, Masked Tityra, Scrub and Yellow-throated euphonias, and five species of parrots vied for our attention. Meanwhile, right outside our breakfast room, a flowering coral tree attracted an assortment of hummingbirds including White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, and Purple-crowned Fairy. The first morning thermals showed us how exceptional Pook’s Hill is for raptors, with King Vulture; Hook-billed, Double-toothed, and Plumbeous kites; and Great Black, White, and Short-tailed hawks all appearing in a matter of minutes. Later, the River Loop Trail was highly productive, with highlights including Bat Falcon, Green Kingfisher, Barred Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Green-backed Sparrow, Crimson-collared Tanager, and a roosting pair of Spectacled Owls! Our full day at Pook’s Hill was made complete by an interesting and informative afternoon lecture about the local Mayan site. After dinner, a short walk to the meadow area produced fine views of Common Pauraque, as well as Paca, Kinkajou, Red-rumped Tarantula, and several other interesting critters.

A half-day outing to St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park barely seemed like enough to do this rich area justice. Nesting birds became a theme, as we found Gray-headed Dove and Green-breasted Mango sitting on nests, Great Kiskadee building a nest, and a recently fledged Ruddy Ground-Dove. We also saw the “Ridgeway’s” subspecies of Northern Rough-winged Swallow visiting their nest sites at St. Herman’s Cave. Other highlights there included good views of Bright-rumped Attila, Dusky Antbird, and Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, and hearing the wonderful song of Nightingale Wren. The nearby Blue Hole was a favorite spot, as we had outstanding views of Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and a Royal Flycatcher visiting its nest just feet over our heads! There were many wintering warblers around this area, and we were particularly pleased to find a female Golden-winged among them.

Read Michael’s full report in his Field Report.