Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Not that we have Black Friday here, in the sense that shoppers in the USA know it, but here are two big black vultures, side by side. More specifically, the one on the left is the black vulture (Coragyps atratus), and the red-headed one is a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). Not unfamiliar to North Americans either since both species are widespread, especially the turkey vulture.

Here in Gallon Jug around the farm, it seems these vultures have been displaced since Hurricane Richard blew through a couple weeks ago. They were easily photographed at nearly eye level since their favorite tall roosting trees are gone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

White-collared Manakin

This has to be one of the cutest and most colorful of tropical birds: the White-collared Manakin, Manacus candei. Pictured here is a male which our friend Jeff photographed from Chan Chich's dining room veranda while we were having lunch. This little bird is a frugivore and likely enjoying the same Polly Redhead berries as the tanager in the previous post. The male manakins have specially modified wings that make a distinctive snap and pop during the courtship display in an effort to attract females. And yes, females are seen from time to time in the Polly Redhead bush.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Bird in the Polly Redhead Bush

The Yellow-winged Tanager, Thraupis abbas, is commonly seen near Chan Chich Lodge and on the Gallon Jug Estate. Jeff captured a really nice shot of this bird with a berry from the Hamelia patens shrub. This shrub grows readily in the open and provides a year round source of berries and small red blossoms, a favorite of many species of hummingbirds. Other names for this shrub are firebush and hummingbird bush and my favorite, the Belizean name Polly Redhead.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Here's another photo from Jeff that I love: a Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) lit up by a shaft of sunlight in the tropical forest. It's a male as determined by the green on the back and the orange mandible -- the females are a deep gray. If anything is missing from this photograph, it is a full on view of the brilliant red breast which occurs in both sexes. There are four species of trogons in Belize, of which the Slaty-tailed is the largest. All four can be readily seen at Chan Chich Lodge and Gallon Jug Estate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Top Notch Chick

Another of Jeff's photos, the Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea) foraging in a forest puddle near Chan Chich Lodge. The Belizean name is one of my favorites: Top Notch Chick. And I haven't a clue as to how it got this name. The Top Notch Chick is a member of the rail family and not nearly so secretive as most rails seem to be. It's readily seen in swampy areas -- and even along roadsides -- throughout Belize.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chan Chich Aracari

I don't post about birds as often as I'd like. To be honest, with my little pocket camera, it is difficult to get a good shot in order to have something to write about. I'm ok with that right now since I hauled around long lenses, tripods and SLR cameras for a number of years here in Belize. Right now it feels pretty good to have a "take everywhere" camera that fits in my pocket.

That said, I was amazed and envious of the gorgeous bird photos our friend Jeff got a couple days ago at Chan Chich Lodge. This is one of the toucans, a bird that most visitors want to see. Specifically, it is a Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), a common resident near the Lodge, eating palm fruits.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chan Chich Forest Aerial View

Our friend Jeff was here last week, just days after Hurricane Richard hit our area. He had the opportunity to assess the damage to the forest from the air. Surprisingly, while there are some areas of damage (visible on the lower left), it appears mostly limited to the tops of trees broken off. Not complete blow downs. Chan Chich Lodge itself weathered the storm very well -- there were some downed trees near the pool but that was about the extent of it. All in all, we were very lucky.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hurricane Richard clean up

After getting our driveway cleared enough so that we could take a drive, we set out around Gallon Jug to assess the damages. Clean up is well under way now, as you can see from the photo above of our driveway.

Although we didn't enter the surrounding tropical forest, it really looked as though it had held together fairly well. The dense growth of trees apparently offered enough integrity so that only a few (relatively speaking) were toppled or topped. And it is good to remember that these forests and animals evolved with hurricanes and are thus adapted to such events. Mahogany, as a matter of fact, is considered "hurricane-dependent" since it sprouts in areas opened up after such a storm.

Our house is high on a hill, as high as the top of the forest canopy which is about 400 yards away. This left us in a very exposed position which is why we felt the wind so badly during the storm Sunday night. Some of the other Gallon Jug buildings were hardly impacted.

Although the road to Chan Chich Lodge had a lot of downed trees, the Lodge and cabanas emerged virtually unscathed. Some of the thatch needs replacing on the roofs but that is about it. Nestled in the plaza of a Maya ruin and buffered by the surrounding tropical forest, the Lodge was really well protected and looks virtually untouched.