Belize 2011
11 - 19 December 2011
 by Henry Detwiler

Jim, Suzanne, and I split our time between three great birding and nature destinations in northern Belize, watching colorful parrots, huge storks, and an assortment of reptiles.

199 species seen.  Click here for bird checklist
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos border  


As the sun set, we listened to the haunting cries of the many Limpkins in the lagoon. The moon provided a great backdrop to our search for tree frogs and other night critters. We saw a number of Common Pauraques, including this one.

common pauraque
Common Pauraque

The property was a great spot to view juvenile Northern Jacanas.

Northern Jacana

We spent the first two nights at the Crooked Creek Lodge in the Crooked Tree Preserve. Soon after we arrived the first evening we watched a tarantula hawk (a wasp) dragging its prey (a tarantula) to its burrow.

tarantula hawk
Tarantula Hawk with its victim

crooked tree
Crooked Tree Lagoon by night

The next day we explored the preserve, finding Grey-necked Wood Rail, White Ibis, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, wrens, and lots of flycatchers and warblers.

grey-necked wood rail
Grey-necked Wood Rail

rufous-tailed humingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

We took a boat trip on the Crooked Tree Lagoon on Wednesday morning, and had great sightings of basking & displaying iguanas, hawks, waders, and shorebirds.

Male Green Iguana
Our next two days we spent in Lamanai, where we explored the archaeological Mayan treasures at this site and explored the magnificent natural history.

gray hawk
Gray Hawk on colonial church

Tree Frog

The first evening at the Lamanai Lodge Jim found a number of reptiles, including this fine tree frog. Suzanne and I took a night cruise along the New River, where we saw seven Common Potoos. The following evening a Mottled Owl flew into a tree right in front of our cabin as we were sitting on the balcony.

The next day we explored the ruins of Lamanai in the rain and found lots of birds and other critters, including howler monkeys and a young, road-killed Fer de Lance.

howler monkey
Howler Monkey

lamanai mask temple
Mask Temple at Lamanai

fer de lance
Fer de Lance

During lunch at the lodge we watched as a number of wet Groove-billed Anis dried out their wings in the sun.

groove-billed ani
Groove-billed Ani


yellow-headed vulture
Yellow-headed Vulture

On our way east to Chan Chich we stopped along Blue Creek close to the Mennonite settlement with the same name. The rice paddies had a great assortment of water-loving birds, including a dozen of the massive Jabirus (over 11' wingspan!) Overhead were lots of raptors and Yellow-headed Vultures.

Chan Chich turned out to be an outstanding location for nature lovers. Hundreds of thousands of acres of rain forest and a huge cattle ranch called Gallon Jug provided ample opportunities for birding and other natural history adventures.

ocellated turkeys
Ocellated Turkeys
roadside hawk
Roadside Hawk

The 30-mile access road through prime jungle led past the La Milpa archaeological site, where we saw our first ornately adorned Ocellated Turkeys.

Butterfly at La Milpa

At La Milpa was a pond with a resident crocodile and this well-camouflaged butterfly up against a tree trunk.

American Crocodile at La Milpa

black-cheeked woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker

boa constrictor
Boa constrictor

During a night drive on the access road to Chan Chich we encountered this young boa constrictor. At Gallon Jug we also found a nimble Three-lined Opossum hunting for dinner.

black-cheeked woodpecker
Black-cheeked Woodpecker

We explored the Chan Chich area for three days, never far from the conspicuous and hungry Black-cheeked Woodpeckers--caught in these pictures feasting on palm fruits. One particularly nice feature of this site was the abundance of parrots: Mealy, Brown-headed, Yellow-headed, and the omnipresent Red-lored.

Above Chan Chich are some temples overlooking the main plaza--several of them still contain trenches used by looters and archaeologists to recover artifacts.

Chan Chich
Henry at Chan Chich

Chan Chich Jungle

fork-tailed flycatcher
Fork-tailed Flycatcher

At the sprawling cattle ranch of Gallon Jug we spotted three King Vultures and a number of grassland species like Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Tropical Kingbird. Back at the lodge, we had superb looks at Social Flycatcher.

social flycatcher
Social Flycatcher

tropical kingbird
Tropical Kingbird

slaty-tailed trogon
Slaty-tailed Trogon
As we headed north back to Belize City, we made a final stop at Laguna Seca. On the side road to this beautiful lake we came upon a family of Slaty-tailed Trogons, which obliged us with several photo opportunities. Down the road, Jim was photographing a troop of coatimundis from one trail while Suzanne and I were watching a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker on another. There was bird and animal activity everywhere!

tropical mockingbird
Tropical Mockingbird

Our final evening and morning was spent at the Black Orchid Resort just west of Belize City. Along the Burrell Boom River, this turned out to be a very birdy location. When we arrived late in the afternoon, we were treated to fine views of euphonias, parrots, Tropical Mockingbirds, Altamira Oriole, and Linneated Woodpecker, among many others.

yellow throated euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia

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