Monday, March 22, 2010

Birding in Belize

There are tons of birds in amazing Belize. I like birds because; I just like birds even from when I was a baby. I like to watch them and draw then which makes me very happy. I have seen over a 120 species since we have been here in December. Most of them are new to me. They are very very colorful and look exotic. I would like to tell you about each bird I saw but instead I will tell you about the most interesting. We went to different habitats in search of birds such at Mayan temples, lakes, wetlands, rivers, islands and the amazing fig tree.

Pyramids sites are usually in rain forested areas and have many cleared spaces surrounding the pyramids and temples. The birds like these spaces. At Caracol, we saw Oscillated Turkeys which are one of the prettiest birds in Belize. Their feathers are iridescent and shine like copper and other colors. We also saw one of the most amazing vultures. It is the King Vulture. It has interesting head gear and is huge. We saw Keel Billed Toucans which have a large brightly colored bill which is often seen on items such as cereal box labels. This toucan is also the national bird of Belize. There was another pyramid site called Laminai with has lots of birds. There were trogons , which are the size as a crow but with a yellow bill and it has a lot of iridescence feathers especially on its stomach with a blue color sheen and yellow or black eye rings.

Lamanai is on the New River and we had to take a boat to get there. There were herons on the river such as the boat billed and Yellow Crow Night Herons. We saw a Yucatan Poorwhill which is not very common in that area. We saw a limpkin which is a bird where scientists can’t figure out which family to put it in so they made a new one just for this bird. We saw a small colorful bird called a Jacana which is also known as the Jesus Christ bird since it has very large feet which enable it to walk on lily pads and other aquatic plants. Imagine you could do that too. There is also another interesting bird species called the snail kite which only eats apple snails which is a large freshwater snail. It has a special shaped bill to gets into snail shells without cracking the shell. We spotted a common black hawk which also looks a lot like the snail kite except it has a yellow bill.

We had other guided trips to Spanish Lookout and Crooked Tree. These are both wetland sites and the name wetland suits this habitat perfectly because the beaches are mushy muck which I found out was not a good place to walk. At Spanish Lookout we saw a Jabiru Stork nest but not birds were home. The Jabiru could be called the Jumbo-ru because it is one of the biggest birds in the Americas. We looked at a laughing falcon through the spotting scope but it wasn’t very funny. We saw grove billed anis which looks like a grackle with the bill of a puffin. Then there were scissor tail flycatchers and this was the first place we saw the Vermillion Flycatcher which is a beautiful shade of red.

Back at the lodge there was a fig tree which was the most birdee-ist tree that I ever did see. We went there first thing in the morning and we saw Chacahlacas, Summer Tanagers, trogons, Great Kiskadees, and Aracasis which are a small type of toucan. At times there seemed to be more birds on the tree than leaves. The sound was a noisy concoction of calls and songs. And I have to add that the parrots sounded the worse. That’s the story of the magical fig tree.

Our next birding trip was to the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. We saw thousands of Wood Storks and we canoed real close to them. Mixed in with them was a jumbo Jabiru Stork. The Jabiru has a rufus collar and was much larger than the other storks. We spotted Roseate Spoonbills which are pink birds with a spoon shaped bill. There was a Black Collared Hawk which should be called the Rufus Winged Hawk. It was fun to watch the pygmy kingfisher feed and take its food back to a tree for lunch. It was really neat and is one of my favorite birding places. That’s all for now on the Nudibranch Network.


PS if you want to see video of a singing Summer Tanager or Wood Storks of Crooked Tree then click on the play buttons

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life on the Atoll

Life on the Atoll (20 February 2010)

We are in Belize City shopping right now in a grocery store. We are getting lots of food because we won’t see a single store for a whole week. The boat leaves in half an hour. We are too far away to walk so we have to get a taxi cab to the dock. We weave through busy streets filled with bicycles, trucks, cars and pedestrians. Then we turn onto a not so busy tree lined street and pull up to the dock. We get there just in time even though we know the boat won’t leave without us.

People load on a huge amount of gas cans, boxes, rolls of toilet paper and everyday items. Pineapples get loose and roll all over the floor of the boat. The Oceanica is our 43 foot boat which takes us 30 miles to Blackbird Caye and back. We see most of the staff and our new guests on the boat. Mr. Kent is our Captain. Wanda is our cook and some of you have skyped with her in your classroom. There is Alton who is an expert coconut open-er-upper and super fixer-upper of things. There is Rose the housekeeper and Richard the small boat captain. Security is Camille the dog. And there’s a hungry guy named Peckish who works at the nearby fishing camp.

We start off and we pass the little islands called Cayes and the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef. Sometimes there are swells when we hit blue water but today they are only 3 feet high. And there we go through Turneffe Atoll and go by lots of mangrove forests. And then we pull up to a long dock with sandy rocky beaches, a big buttonwood tree and coconut trees. Then we see cabanas on the ocean. We start hitting bumps as we head near the reef. Then we see a big palapa with a thatched roof.

We pull up to the dock and I run down the dock happy to see my island again. I startled some wish willies who are basking in the sun when I ran by. Camilla the evil munching puppy meets me with her tail which is wagging and her whole body is shaking. And it is time for teething. She lunges at me with the mouth wide open and I throw a sea grape leaf like a frisbee. Our place, the Oceanic Society owns about 50 acres of land.

I hear a RRRRRRRRRRRRRR from the generator which is the only way to get electricity until they get the solar working. If it’s not a very windy day then the mosquitoes, doctor flies and sand flies come out and bite. It looks like you have been to the doctor or need to go to one. There may be some bummers here but there’s so much more good stuff.

My favorite thing to do is to go snorkeling and fishing. Before it’s too late, we can go for a little swim. The ocean can be really warm here and you can play in it for hours without freezing. It also makes for good snorkeling but you can’t go swim at night because of the crocodiles. When I snorkel, I see thousands of fish called grunts, schoolmaster snappers, butterfly fish and yellow jack which like to hang out around our dock. After dinner, when it gets dark, my Dad and I go fishing. When it’s dark the big fish bite. We usually see two big red eyes underneath the water. We see a big body that looks like a croc. But it is only a tarpon which is a big game fish and it is like the crocodiles of the fishes. We tried to catch it but it just does not seem interested.

I spend a lot of my time homeschooling. It’s a lot like regular school but it is in your home. You also get the full attention of your parent school teachers. I do math, reading, writing and lots of other stuff like you do. I also get to learn about things that are special to me like field trips to Mayan temples for history class or my science class is about 100 yards away on the dock into the coral reef and seagrasses. And I always get to do art class by myself. You get a lot of attention by being the only kid in the class and it is also a lot of fun.

Well, that’s a day in my life at Blackbird Caye.


PS We can see both sunrises and sunsets off our little island. It is only a couple of hundred steps from one side to the other.