Friday, November 25, 2011

Very Creepy, Very Crawly

It's probably a safe bet that this little predator isn't often featured in nature blogs.  In fact, when we stumbled over it (well, not literally), I wasn't even sure what it was.  Recently, it has been common on the Gallon Jug Ring Road in the early mornings, exactly the time when I take my walk or run.  But I wasn't seeing it in late afternoon.  Finally, Bruce took a few minutes to research it.

As it turns out, it is a flatworm or land planarian, (Bipalium kewense).  It preys upon earthworms, slugs, larvae and is even cannibalistic.  Evidently it is Asian in origin and has been accidentally introduced around the world.  It requires high humidity which probably explains why we only are seeing it on the roads in the early morning when it tends to be especially damp and/or foggy.  How this invasive species arrived in our remote corner of Belize, we'll never know.  Exotic species like this one can be hard to eradicate (how would you even go about it?) and often negatively impact local species.  So interesting though this little creature is, it's not exactly a wonderful sign to have it here.  If you want to learn more about Bipalium kewense, check it out here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

112th Christmas Bird Count

Thanksgiving is just a few days off and Christmas is right around the corner.  So it seems appropriate to feature the Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena), festive in holiday colors, for a post about the Christmas Bird Count.  Yes, it's that time of year again ... and we're planning for 21st Christmas Bird Count to be held in Gallon Jug and Chan Chich Lodge.  The date we've selected is  December 31.  So just think, we're going to count birds all day, including the Slaty-tail, and retire to beautiful Chan Chich Lodge on New Year's Eve to compare results and raise a Belikin beer.  What could be better?

Not familiar with Christmas Bird Counts?  Here's more detail from the National Audubon Society: 

Citizen Science in Action
The count period for the 112th Christmas Bird Count will begin on December 14, 2011. 

 From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.

From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition -- and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.
We'd love to have you join us ... or join a count closer to your home.  Check out the National Audubon Society's website for more details about how to go about signing up online, past count results, why Christmas Bird Counts are important and much more.

My thanks to Frank Buck for the use of his Slaty-tail image!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Catching Some Rays

I think it is pretty obvious what this bird is doing:  sunbathing.  Birds sunbathe for various reasons.  In cooler climates, it can be to warm up.  In hot climates, it is thought that sunning supports feather health, distributes Vitamin D (from the oil from the preen gland, located at the base of the tail) and even dislodges feather parasites.  Sunning can involve various body postures from fluffed up feathers, spread wings and tails with the bird angling its body for maximum sun exposure.

In the case of this Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), on our hill here in Gallon Jug, I think it was enjoying catching some rays and drying off after a rainy night.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just to Prove My Point ...

Just to prove my point, my neighbor, Alan, reminded me that the water was even higher over the Chan Chich Bridge last year ... and he had the photos to prove it!  That's October 26, 2010 with water well over the bridge, the lower bridge submerged entirely and people marooned on the Chan Chich side (although one staff member is making his way along the railing!).  Impressive! And, all things considered, there are worse places to be than being stuck on the Chan Chich side!