Birding and Fly-fishing in Belize

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Oh Belize. A beautiful country on Central America’s coast, Belize boasts spectacular diving and snorkeling, immense cave systems, beautiful rivers, dense jungles, and of course, hundreds and hundreds of birds. My husband and I arrived in Belize just after a late afternoon thunderstorm. It was the beginning of the rainy season, and a quiet time in Hopkins, a small Garifuna village in south-central Belize (they are much busier when it is winter in the US).

What is the National Bird of Belize?

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And the Keel-billed Toucan , the national bird of Belize, is nothing if not easily recognizable. From 1786, when the British appointed a superintendent over the colony of Scottish and British settlers known as Baymen, until 1981, when it was granted independence, Belize, which was known until 1973 as British Honduras, was a colony of the United Kingdom. What does all of that have to do with how the Keel-billed Toucan became the national bird of Belize?

Birding Belizean Jungle

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Belize gave me my first opportunity to see the jungle for myself, as well as its avian treasures! Because I had never birded in a truly tropical climate, our first morning in the Belize rainforest my husband and I went out with a guide at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge : Abel Garcia (you can find him at Upside Down Tours , or at abelgr75@yahoo.com). I had one goal for our birding morning: to spot a Keel-billed Toucan , the national bird of Belize.

2015 58

How I Saw My First Jabiru

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While in Belize for my family vacation one of the birds I most wanted to see was a Jabiru. My best chance to see one would be during the three days we planned to spend in Hopkins, on the Caribbean coast of Belize. And the best location to see one would be in the marshy lands just west of Belize, through which Hopkins Road, the road that leads you to Hopkins from the Southern Highway, runs. So on our last full day in Belize we rented a cart and away we went!

2017 45

The Awesome Tree

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I’ve been back from Belize for several days now and have fully recovered from the chiggers, the sunburn, the sand flies, the rum, and the exhaustion of international travel. (I Trips Belize lazy birding Sleeping Giant LodgeI know, I know, poor me, right?)

2017 43

Birding the Sittee River

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While in Belize back in August one of the outings we signed up for was a boat ride along the Sittee River, a mangrove-lined and placid river that flows into the Caribbean just south of Hopkins. Maybe it’s better in winter when there are neotropical migrants around but on the entire boat trip the only new species we saw for the week-long, not-birding-intensive trip in Belize was the tiger-heron. Trips Belize Sittee River

2017 43

Visit Guatemala with Birding Expeditions

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Our company is based in Guatemala but also offers tours in Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. 10,000 Birds is running a series of articles by and about tour guides, tour companies, eco-lodges, and other birding travel organizations.

Where Are You Birding This First Weekend of August 2017?

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Because Corey and his family just journeyed to Belize for some serious Neotropical bird looking! Real seasons shift more quickly and subtly than our crude quartile scheme suggests. While the calendar asserts that we in the Northern Hemisphere are merely midway through summer, birds are beginning to feel autumnal breezes blowing. We’re entering a new season now, one that will see shorebirds and songbirds alike on the move. Don’t you love that?

2017 40

Fall Hawk Migration Hotspots

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Super Hot-spot: Toledo District, Belize – Central Flyway. Super Hot-spot: Toledo District, Belize – Central Flyway. Our favorite birds of prey fly south. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird. I would fly about the earth. seeking the successive autumns.” George Eliot). Appearing now (or very soon) at a Flyway near you – fall raptor migration! Thanks to HawkCount.org for sharing tallies from over 300 North American (and Central American) sites.

2018 70

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America: A Book Review

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So, if you are going to write a field guide on the birds of the countries south and east of Mexico–Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—it makes the utmost sense that you embrace the whole geographic area. This book is a field guide treat for traveling birders and birders who love to fantasize about travel, answering that age-old question, “I’m going on a trip to [fill in the blank—Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras], what field guide should I use?”.

2016 76

Birds of Central America: A Field Guide Review

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Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rican, and Panama , just published in October, is a field guide that was ten years in the making. Press and Birds of Belize by H. But, there is the excellent Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America: Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar, with illustrations by Robert Dean and Peter Burke, published in 2016.

2018 70

Cry “Havoc!” or a Birding Movie before the Birding Movie

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If you are not familiar with the story, it’s about an Anglo-Irish mercenary, Jamie Shannon (played by Christopher Walken), hired to overthrow the regime in a fictional Western African country (it was actually filmed in Belize, Central America) and prior to the real thing, he was doing a reconnaissance trip posing as a “rare birds photographer”. Can you remember any birding movie before Schrodinger’s Cat? Probably not.

2016 78

This Week in Bird(ing) News: Orange Is the New Beak, and a Dead Parrot (No Joke!)

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Or maybe you’re visiting Belize, Guatemala, Paraguay, or the Bahamas? If you’ve got some downtime between barbecues and fireworks (or, outside of the U.S., obsessing over World Cup matches), here’s some bird news to peruse: Loss of suitable habitat , instead of insecticides, seems to be the culprit in declining numbers of grassland birds. Know what else kills grassland birds? Ill-timed mowing … which a petition aims to stop in New York’s Hudson Valley. Meanwhile, in San Jose, Calif.,

2014 56

How to Help Cerulean Warblers, Other Migrant Species, and Resident Birds in Costa Rica

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Ernesto and another local guide and ornithologist, Juan Diego Vargas, have theorized that Las Brisas might be situated at a strategic point where Ceruleans and other migrants make their first stop after flying from another important stopover point in Belize and Guatemala because more seem to be seen at Las Brisas than other sites with similar habitats in Costa Rica. In the birding world, May is the beautiful time.

2019 67

Exploring the Uncharted Bird World

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And the results are indicative, representative and nothing short of surprising: Brunei, The Gambia, Belize, Jamaica, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea and Panama top the list. Summer is normally the vacation season, for ordinary tourists at least. Birders follow different patterns of bird migration and their local activities and travel accordingly. But – where? I discovered this cover-photo map somewhere at the BirdLife International’s website.

2018 77

Rwanda Dreaming

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And the results are indicative, representative and nothing short of surprising: Brunei, The Gambia, Belize, Jamaica, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Panama and Haiti top the list. The beginning of the northern summer is a good time (as any) to dream of some of the most biodiverse places on Earth. No, I am not talking of Brazil or Columbia, they are not just in the tropics but more importantly, they are officially huge.

eBird Photo Quizzes: A Great Way to Prepare for a Trip

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But my experiences in Belize and Honduras give me a good basis in the birds of the region and I have plenty of time to study and learn what to expect with the endemics. In a little less than two weeks my family and I will be enjoying a long weekend on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. While June is not the best time of year to get huge numbers of neotropical migrants it did work out perfectly for us in terms of when we could go and find a really good deal to take advantage of.

2018 49

Black-necked Stilts at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve

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” Though I have seen stilts in Aruba and Belize, I had yet to add them to my American list, making me extra happy to see them. I was in Jacksonville, Florida for a conference on Living Shorelines, a restoration technique for coastal areas throughout the Southeast. For day 2 of the conference, we headed out to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve to look at some in-progress projects. Luckily for me, there was time afterwards for a little birding.

2016 40

Dawn in South Carolina

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She also had amazing stories of birding in Belize and Costa Rica, and we swapped favorite birding tales during the 2.5 Near the turn of the 20th century, wealthy influencer Bernard Baruch bought coastal property in South Carolina. In just a few years he had consolidated over a dozen plantations, accumulating nearly 16,000 acres of coastal forest, saltmarsh, and beach. His daughter Belle fell in love with the property, known as Hobcaw Barony, eventually making it her permanent home.

What is a Cardinal?

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Its common name, however, is a bit of a misnomer, unless “Northern” refers to the landmass north of the equator; this species extends from some southern Canadian provinces through the entirety of the eastern United States into Mexico and down to Guatemala and Belize. In all of North America, only one avian species serves as both the beloved mascot of seven states as well as the totem to two professional sports teams (and an infinity of amateur ones!)

Diving New Zealand – Goat Island

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Diving has taken me to places like Belize, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Egypt, places that coincidentally are fun to bird. In my opinion, if you’re a birder you should diver too. Not because you generally see many birds while diving, although the experience of seeing shearwaters flying underwater while cage diving, as I once did, was one I think most birders would enjoy. But no, the reason I think birders should be divers is because it ticks, figuratively, many of the same boxes.

Fruit For Birds

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This is a photo that my friend Larry Sirvio took in Belize. Something has always puzzled me in my years working in the bird feeding industry: why don’t we offer more fresh fruit to birds in our yards? Oh sure, you can find mixes with dried fruit like banana chips and raissins. Heck you can even find mixes with heavy fruit flavoring…but why don’t we offer fresh fruit scraps to birds on tray feeders instead?

2011 80

The Long Reach of the Poor Knights

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The Poor Knights were internationally famous and often turned up in those inevitable lists of “top places to dive&# along with Cocos Island, Sipadan, the Great Barrier Reef, Truk Lagoon, Bikini Atoll and the Blue Hole in Belize. I’ve subsequently managed to dive in some spectacular destinations, including Turneffe Atoll in Belize, the Great Astrolabe Reef in Fiji, the kelp forests of Monterey and the wreck of the President Coolidge in Vanuatu.

2011 74

Highlights from the 2016 Arenal, Costa Rica Christmas Count

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But then we remember that special birding moment when we saw a wood-warbler freezing it out with the rest of us (and thus sacrificing itself for the count) when it should be chasing bugs in Belize. The Christmas Count season has begun! For us birders who partake, this is a big deal. You see, we don’t just go outside and randomly watch birds during a set day in December.

2016 76

An Open Letter to the Birds on the Webcams, Re: Nesting Season

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Once you get back to Belize, you can be yourselves. Tragically, McSweeney’s doesn’t have quite enough hard-core birders in the audience to appreciate this. But I thought you guys would! Look, you guys, I know it’s been a rough start to the year for everyone. Some of you have been counting on federal funding or habitat protection that now looks shaky; some of you have mates who never made it back from migration; some of you just can’t catch enough fish.

2017 41

Birding by Volunteering

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In Belize I cruised above reefs few people had ever seen. Well, it’s official. Over a decade since I was last there, I am finally heading back to Africa late this year. Not forever mind, I’ll still be living here in New Zealand and carrying on as its beat writer here (I may even write about New Zealand again some time). But my long wait to see antelope, zebras and everything in between is finally over.

2014 61

The Agony and Ecstasy of Surrendering to eBird

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Then again, at 1 in the morning, who cares where Xunantunich in Belize is located. I blame Nate Swick. For many years now, I’ve resisted every form of listing software available, choosing instead to maintain my world and ABA life lists on a simple Excel spreadsheet. But Nate is an eBird fanatic. At the recent Swarovski Social Media Summit in Arizona, Nate proselytized passionately for the program that both manages your sightings and contributes them to science.

2012 69

They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Birds in Brazil.

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First Corey gets his life Jabiru in Belize, then I see my lifer in the Pantanal. Way down among the Brazillians, Coffee beans grow by the billions, So they’ve got to find those extra cups to fill, They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.… The Coffee Song lyrics ran like an earworm through my head as I prepared for my September trip to Brazil. Only, once I got there, I discovered that the coffee, while good, can’t compare to the birds. Oh my gosh!

Raptors of Mexico and Central America: A Book Review

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The accounts vary in length from two to six pages, and are well illustrated with photographic images by Ryan Phillips of the Belize Raptor Research Institute and a group of 40 photographers from the United States and Central America. There are birders who watch hawks and there are hawk watchers who bird.

2017 63

Gulls Simplified: A Gull Book Review

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We talk about Gulls Simplified, Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, The Feather Thief, and some books I have not had a chance to review yet, like Daniel Lewis’s Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai‘i and Birds of Nicaragua: A Field Guide. I’m not a larophile*, but some of my favorite birders are. It’s hard to escape the mystic pull of wanting to excel at gull identification.

2018 70

New Field Guide: Central America

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Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama make up Central America. Anyway, those countries have about 1261 species of birds, and the newly minted Birds of Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama (Princeton Field Guides) by Andrew Vallely and Dale Dyer covers 1,194 of them (plus 67 probably accidentals).

2018 45

Getting Lost in North Sydney

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I once visited Crooked Tree in Belize for a few days without hitting any of the great spots because I didn’t really know what I was doing. The North Shore of Sydney is, as I’ve often observed, a great place to watch birds. On my last visit, which lastes four days, I didn’t have much time to sneak away from family, but I did get to check out two new sites. One, Warriewood Wetlands, was a site I had tried to visit before only to get lost.

2013 56

Birding in Costa Rica, Birding in Guatemala

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After a brief look at a map, my rough guesstimate is that the territory from Guatemala and Belize south to the Darien gap is roughly equal to New England, or Florida and the eastern parts of Georgia and the Carolinas north to the Virginia line. Central America is much smaller than the land encompassed within the borders of Canada and the USA.

What is a Catbird?

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It is the only species in the genus Dumetella and most likely the only catbird most birders will ever see; the Black Catbird Melanoptila glabrirostris , also of a monotypic genus, is found only in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, and is the only other species of catbird in the New World. We can start first with what catbirds are not. Catbirds are not the unfortunate result of unwise experiments with radioactivity.

2012 76

Collaborative List – August 2017

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9 beats, birded 9 countries this month; Belize , Guatamala , Costa Rica, UK, Iran, USA, Greece, Australia and Mexico. Corey’s trip to Belize via Guatamala has pushed the Country/Kingdom/Principality/Territory/ Special Administrative Area/Emirate list to 41 and 10,000 Birds very own tribute to Ed Sheeran can also lay claim to the 3,000th species (a Yucatan Vireo ) to be entered onto the Life List which currently stands at 3011.

2017 40