Belize: Relaxed & Easy Mar 15—22, 2018

Posted by Michael O'Brien


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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While the eastern U.S. was enduring four nor’easters in a row, our happy group was meandering through paradise, enjoying Belize’s diverse natural beauty. It’s never a hardship to visit Belize, but the weather at home made this trip a particularly welcome getaway! 

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Slaty-tailed Trogon— Photo: Michael O’Brien


A short walk at our hotel near Belize City yielded 30+ species, providing a nice introduction to Belizean birds, including Cinnamon Hummingbird, which is rare at Crooked Tree and Lamanai. A nearby Common Black-Hawk along the Belize River was also a treat. But the real bonanza awaited us at Altun Ha, where a single fig tree entertained us for well over a half hour as feeding birds came and went. Gartered Trogon, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Collared Aracari, Masked Tityra, Yellow-throated Euphonia, and Yellow-winged Tanager were just a few of the highlights. When we tore ourselves away from the fig tree, Ann Marie gave us a nice tour of the ruins, but the birding continued as Black Hawk-Eagle and Black-collared Hawk sailed overhead. And a trail through the woods yielded great views of Spot-breasted Wren, plus Plain Xenops, Tawny-crowned and Lesser greenlets, and Red-throated Ant-Tanager. 

Every time we visit Crooked Tree the water levels are slightly different, and this time, due to unusually high February rains, water levels were particularly high. One benefit of this high water is that there was a wonderful pond behind Bird’s Eye View Lodge. Many of the species that we often cruise the lagoon to look for were right here behind our lodge! Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Limpkin, seven species of shorebirds, Caspian and Gull-billed terns, Anhinga, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Snail Kite, and Ringed Kingfisher all visited our backyard pond! Pre-breakfast walks at Crooked Tree are always some of the birdiest outings of our tour, with such species as Canivet’s Emerald, Yucatan Woodpecker, Bat Falcon, Yellow-headed Parrot, Common Tody-Flycatcher, numerous warblers and orioles, and the ever-present Vermilion Flycatcher being highlights among a long list of species. A little farther afield, the pine savannah at Crooked Tree held some sizable flocks of birds, including Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Jay, Grace’s Warbler, and Red-legged Honeycreeper. With high waters, our boat trip to Spanish Creek was able to continue on to Western Lagoon, a shallow waterway that is normally inaccessible. This area was loaded with Common and Purple gallinules, numerous Snail Kites, Limpkins, Northern Jacanas, and a long list of herons. Along the way, we encountered several Black-collared Hawks, including one sitting on a nest. From Crooked Tree, we headed to Lamanai via Mennonite farm fields around San Felipe where a new set of open-country birds awaited us, including Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, White-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Blue-black Grassquit, and Eastern Meadowlark. 

Read Michael’s full report in his Field Report.