Saturday, February 7, 2009

Belize part 4 - Mountain Pine Ridge

This is what we woke up to in our cabana (hut) in the Mountain Pine Ridge on Day 3, a traditional roof made of densely packed palm fronds draped over crossbars.  I have no idea what the life expectancy of such a roof would be.

Birding around the cabanas was quite productive in early morning light.  Melodious blackbirds, rusty sparrows (which were enormous), as well as birds I think of as SE Arizona birds like acorn woodpecker and hepatic tanager were all present.  Yellow-backed and yellow-tailed (below) orioles sang conspicuously:
 We walked a trail into a thicket area encountering an olivaceous woodcreeper as well as a female red-capped manakin (which was plain olive rather than the the stunning black, red, and yellow that a male presumably displays).  This olive-green woodpecker was also cooperative and was one of few birds that crossed over between the jungle habitats we'd previously experienced as well as this higher elevation piney area.

Here's what the terrain looks like.  They had a combination of some non-native beetle and (I think) fire that decimated much of the mature pine so it definitely has a Yellowstone feel with the forest of snags.

A red-lored parrot was more cooperative than the golden-hooded tanagers that appeared (they were an incredible iridescent blue-violet over a black ground color with a contrasting bobolink-like buffy hood):
In the afternoon we drove to the 1000 Foot falls (which actually is 1600 feet tall and is the tallest falls in Central (and North?) America.  Of course we stopped numerous times on the way for black-headed siskens, rufous-capped and Grace's warbler, fork-tailed flycatchers, scaled pigeon, and this laughing falcon.

The falls area (where I again just missed a shot of the above-mentioned tanagers) was utterly devoid of any other tourists.  In America there would have been a hundred people milling around.

Of course a birder wouldn't come here and not hope to see an orange-breasted falcon, perhaps seen more "easily" here than anywhere else in the world, as traditionally there is a nesting pair of these showy peregrine-sized birds.  This one was perched up on a snag on the other side of the gorge.  (The other traditional bird to look for in this area is Stygian owl which a formal tour would almost certainly have had teed up)

I had pipe dreams of heading 30 miles south to the ruins of Caracol which is farther south than we visited and reportedly very good to see raptors (and various canopy birds) from the tops of the pyramids ... definitely next time.  As it was, in the late afternoon we drove back down into the lowlands (seeing blue ground dove, blue-black grassquits, and lineated and pale-billed woodpeckers) to reach Crooked Tree Sanctuary.

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