Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Forest Spectacle(d)

We're on a run of great bird images, thanks to contributions from Chan Chich Lodge guests. The most recent comes from Fred and Nancy, ornithologists who are long time "repeaters" at the Lodge. We've come to really look forward to their annual visit, both for their friendship and their bird and wildlife reports.

This large and gorgeous bird is a Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) they encountered just a couple weeks ago on Chan Chich's Sac Be trail. It's a large owl that needs mature tropical forest to survive and is often found near streams. This owl is about 18" tall and weighs just under 2 lbs. Its distinctive markings -- the white "spectacles" -- make it unmistakable. The young are simply adorable: fuzzy white as if they are wearing snowsuits with big yellow eyes.

One of my favorite things about this owl is the call, which reminds me of the boing boing boing of a bouncing ball. It's something you really must hear because the written word simply doesn't do it justice.

And once you've heard it, you'll never forget it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tody Motmot

Frank Buck also came up with a very nice shot of this sought-after species, the Tody Motmot (Hylomanes momotula). As tropical birds go, I think just about everyone likes motmots.

First of all there is the great name which sort of mimics most motmot species' hoot hoot call. And they just look like a tropical bird ought to look with beautiful turquoise, green and rusty colored plumage. The tody is the smallest of the three motmots species found in Belize. It is quite readily encountered near Chan Chich Lodge, much to the delight of many birders.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Follow Those Ants!

Here's a really nice photo of a seldom photographed bird: the Gray-headed Tanager (Eucometis penicillata). Frank Buck was lucky enough to snap this bird in the forests around Chan Chich Lodge where this species frequents the understory. Although it is not often photographed, it isn't really all that hard to find. It is most often found in the company of woodcreepers and other army ant specialists.

Such birds don't actually eat the army ants. Instead they follow the ants as they wend their way through the forest, grabbing insects fleeing the approaching column. If you are lucky enough to find this situation in the forest, it can be an entertaining way to pass the time as the birds dive, swoop and glean the abundance of insects.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This ceiba tree was something of a landmark. We could readily spot it in historical photos of Gallon Jug's logging days where it served to orient us to the Gallon Jug of today. I think all of us in the Gallon Jug community were sad to find it toppled during October's Hurricane Richard.

The ceiba tree (Ceiba pentrandra) had mythological and sacred significance for the ancient Maya people. Also known as kapok, the cottony fibers from its seed pods were formerly used in flotation devices, before synthetics took over. I had been collecting the kapok fibers to stuff a pillow and was sorry that this tree wouldn't be supplying any this year. A colony of bats that lived there must have had to relocate (which they may have done in our roof, actually ...). I am sure there are dozens of birds that miss this tree as well.

Although we thought this landmark tree was history, as it turns out, some roots are still embedded in the soil. New leaves are sprouting from its branches as the inset photo shows. The Maya considered the ceiba the Tree of Life. And as these photos show, life does indeed go on.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Secretive Heron

The only way this Agami heron (Agamia agami) could be any more beautiful is during that time of year when it has filmy powder-blue "nuptial plumes" trailing down its neck. That's a once-a-year occurrence when the agami enters into courtship. Recent Lodge guest Frank Buck took this photo in December and although somewhat early for courtship plumage, it still shows what an attractive bird it is.

Even for a heron, the Agami has an especially long thin bill, and likes swampy forested areas as opposed to open water. Around Chan Chich Lodge, that would mean along Chan Chich creek and Laguna Seca are good places to look for it.

While Laguna Verde is a lovely spot, those of you that know it would agree that it is probably a bit too open for this forest-loving species. Even though the Agami can be rather secretive, it is a sought-after species by birders, and as this image proves, it is very possible to get a good look at it.