Saturday, January 31, 2009

Belize part 3 - Guanacaste Nat'l Park

In the afternoon of our 2nd day we returned to Guanacaste Nat'l Park, close to where we started the morning in Belmopan (the parks didn't open until 8am so we went to the farther place to bird along the way).  Supposedly this is one of the better places in the world to see a tody motmot; we didn't see one though.

The parking lot had a good number of birds including a brown jay trying to open a foil-wrapped piece of garbage, as well as an ovenbird and a Northern waterthrush working the periphery.  An ant-tanager popped up on one of the signs.  We had seen them earlier at Blue Hole.  I think this one is a red-throated, but it could be a red-crowned.

A golden-olive woodpecker appeared, it was a much more striking bird than I expected.

Guanacaste trees were apparently a large tropical hardwood that were cut nearly to extinction.  This is one of the few virgin trees that was missed by the original lumber companies (and is the namesake of the park).  Clearly these were immense trees (it seems difficult to believe that turn-of-the-century tools could ever have felled one, though I guess that just shows the power of the dollar).  This one was snapped off (by lightning or a hurricane, can't remember which) not too much above the frame though a remnant branch off the trunk survives.

We heard what would become the familiar song of a spot-breasted woodwren and eventually tracked the songster down (it would be one of the 3 songs I would learn while there).  This clay-colored robin popped up as well.  I was surprised by how dingy it was.
On the way back the call of a summer tanager attracted my attention.  It was joined by a yellow-green vireo and a couple yellow-winged tanagers, my first experience with a bird that appeared essentially lavender-violet in color.

I had various plans on an extremely ambitious itinerary, if we'd had unlimited time we could have spent another night in Belmopan, hit a ferry in the western part of the country and then continued up into the Mountain Pine Ridge.  As we were limited we drove that evening up into the mountains into the pine habitat of the Mountain Pine Ridge.  Dusk was falling as we arrived at our hut (errr cabana) there.  The owner of the collection of huts (errr resort) was tossing some bread to a gray fox.  He said that a jaguar had eaten its mate about a week earlier.  We slept well under the thatched roof.

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