Monday, February 4, 2008

Belize - February 4, 2008

It rained really hard overnight, but the sound was great in the relatively open air cabana. We arranged for a 6AM Howler wake up call and they were right on time :)

During breakfast, we were entertained by Oscillated Turkeys and Red-capped Manakins which were both easily visible from our table. (The outside seating at Chan Chich allows you great spotting opportunities and bugs were never a problem).

Red-capped Manakin:
Red-capped Manakin

This morning we booked an offsite activity to Laguna Seca which is a nearby lake. After talking to the guides the first few days, we ascertained that a lot of feline sightings occurred on or near the roads, so this trip out would afford us some additional opportunities to spot one.

Chan Chich is located on a side road off the main road around Gallon Jug Farm. To get a quick visual of the roads around here think of Gallon Jug Farm as a 1 mile in diamter round-about surrounded by the main road. Offshoots from the round-about take you to Chan Chich, or Laguna Seca, or the airport, or other roads to Belize City (A long 6 hour drive I am told) or even Guatamala.

Gallon Jug Farm:
Gallon Jug Farm

So, our trip lead us around part of Gallon Jug where was saw tons of birds and white-tailed deer. Bird sightings going to and from Laguna Seca included Roadside Hawks, a Gray Hawk, Cattle Egrets, Vultures, Killdeer, Olive-throated Parakeets, Flycatchers of all kinds, Barn Swallows, and more.

Gray Hawk:
Gray Hawk


Even though we aren't huge birders (we prefer to be called "mammalers") the rainforest has such cool birds in all shapes, sizes, and colors it is not hard to quickly become a birder. Laguna Seca itself is a great place to see waterfowl.

Northern Jacana:
Northen Jacana

Great Curasow:
Great Curasow

New birds we saw include Anhinga, Great Blue Heron and a Purple Gallinule. So, the trip was successful for birds, but other than some cows and deer we saw no mammals.

After lunch, we spent the entire afternoon hiking the many miles of trails around Chan Chich. We ran into some interesting critters.

Black Headed Trogon:
Black Headed Trogon

Hernandez Helmeted Basalisk:
Hernandez Helmeted Basalisk

As we came back along the river trail towards the lodge, we scanned the many edges of the pools hoping to see Coatis, Agoutis, or other mammals. Imagine our surprise when we saw this guy:
Morelet's Crocodile

Right across one of the pools from us was this 6-foot Morelet's Crododile. We certainly didn't expect to find a crocodile at Chan Chich, and especially not one that was so big and so close. Needless to say, we walked a whole lot more carefully around these pools the rest of the trip. Later, one of the guides told us a story of how he saw a troop of Coatis get attacked by one of the crocodiles. That would have been pretty fun to watch (but, not for the coatis).

After another super dinner (You get to order off a menu and it changes regularly), we took another night drive. This one was much more action packed than the last one. We were able to get a brief glimpse of a Gary Fox on the road, multiple Pootoo, more Racoons, a Yellow Crowned Night Heron and our first owls in the wild a Mottled Owl and this Barn Owl:
Barn Owl

The night drives are great because you use lights to locate animal eye-shine and then you go in for a closer look. The Pootoo have eyeshine that is really bright and can be seen from over a 100 yards away. We quickly became good at identifying animals just from their eye shine.

Another great day in the jungle, but still no cats and we have reached the halfway point of the trip. Still, even if we see no cats, the trip has been great so far.

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