Belize and Guatemala yielded many beautiful birds and interesting Maya archeological sites for the birders who joined ASNV’s tour with Holbrook Travel in late March.
Peter Herrera, our Belizian guide, led us first to Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, where we had a long morning boat ride to find the huge Jabiru stork, the rare Agami Heron, a Sungrebe, and hundreds of other waders, shorebirds, kingfishers, Snail Kites, and other species. We also birded the nearby dry pine savannah, found a Pinnated Bittern, and visited the Belize Audubon Society nature center. We then headed west to the Belize highlands, where we observed King Vultures, Great Black Hawks, White Hawks, and other raptors riding the thermals, and found a distant Lovely Cotinga perched across the valley. Along the way we stopped at the famous Belize Zoo and had lunch at the Tropical Education Center and a talk on Belize habitat issues and a project on tracking movements of the Tapir.
Most exciting was watching a Flammulated Pygmy Owl take a Yellow-winged Tanager at the hotel balcony in San Ignacio! It guarded its prey closely against nearby Brown Jays, and managed to fly off with it although the tanager seemed as heavy as the owl.
At San Ignacio Peter showed us the Maya ruins at Cahal Pech, a good introduction to the much larger Tikal site we toured the next day in Guatemala as well as a spot to see Lesson’s Motmot and Gartered Trogon. Our first stop in Guatemala was Biotopo Cerro Cahuí, where we walked in the forest to see a White-bellied Emerald hummingbird defending its territory and the Ivory-billed Woodcreeper.
At the Tikal Maya site, we saw a pair of the endangered Orange-breasted Falcon, odd-looking Ocellated Turkeys, Olive-fronted Parakeets and Mealy, Red-Lored and White-crowned Parrots. Our birds also included a variety of warblers, orioles and vireos, many that we will see here soon as they migrate north, as well Central American residents such as Yellow-backed Oriole and Mangrove Vireo.
The birding and Maya tours were complemented by lots of great food – especially the tropical fruits – and nice accommodations, beautiful sunrises, and good company!
Photos below, all by Dixie Sommers.