Monday, January 31, 2011

More Cats!

Last week, the morning of January 26 to be exact, two members of the Chan Chich staff had an amazing experience. Guide Emil was out on the trails and encountered a family of pumas -- 2 youngsters with mom. He called Lodge manager Jason who rushed out with his camera ... and captured some amazing shots.

Here the 2 youngsters are investigating the Bajo and Lodge trail signs close to Chan Chich. Note the dappled spot pattern showing they haven't quite grown out of their juvenile pelage. They were in no hurry to leave as subsequent images will show ...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ornate Hawk-eagle


Here's a great shot sent by recent Chan Chich Lodge guest, Frank Buck. The Ornate Hawk-Eagles (Spizaetus ornatus) are nesting! Here's one coming in for a landing ... look at the outstretched talons! The Ornate is a medium-sized bird of prey, a gorgeous bird that is really quite colorful with dark upper parts and chestnut head with crest.

They seem to thrive in the forests surrounding Chan Chich Lodge and have nested every other year in tall trees near the Lodge. A forester we knew, that worked in the Gallon Jug area in the 60s-70s, said that they were quite numerous then. Since Ornates prefer good quality forest, their continued presence here provides a "stamp of approval" for the Gallon Jug Estate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Cats are Back (II)

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Dark moon, short days in late December...perfect cat conditions. I promised more cats ... and here they are. December 29 and 30 were big cat nights near the Lodge. The previous post showed an ocelot and jaguar moving through the area ... and here they are again.

Lots of cat activity at this location on the Sylvester Village road near the intersection with the River Trail. Lots of bird activity too. I understand from the Lodge managers that the bench has been relocated back to its previous position. While the bench doesn't necessarily add much to the camera trap images, the real reason was to minimize disturbance to the nesting Ornate Hawk-Eagles. These are magnificent birds and I have a magnificent image of one, coming right up!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Cats are Back (I)

( video

It's a nice way to start the New Year with the cat-loaded camera trap results from late December at Chan Chich Lodge. I haven't posted camera trap photos in a long time. Of the three cameras we had earlier in 2010, only one now is operational -- and it has had its share of problems.

But look at the interesting results for the nights of 28 and 29th December! First a male ocelot strolls by and the next night, a male jaguar. Going to my jaguar database, I can't find a match for this fellow, so perhaps he is fairly new on the scene.

The bench, for those that may be wondering, as been moved to offer optimal viewing of an Ornate Hawk-Eagle nest in progress. You can get an idea of size, comparing the bench to the cats.

Stayed tuned ... more cats coming right up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

20th Annual Gallon Jug Christmas Bird Count

Our 20th Annual Gallon Jug Christmas Bird Count, in conjunction with National Audubon Society, was one for the record books. We had perfect weather -- sunny and 80F or so -- and 34 enthusiastic participants.

Our stalwarts from Corozal Town, 3 hours north of us, came down. This includes a retired teacher from Corozal Community College and 4 of his former students, all of whom have become very competent birders over the many years of their participation. Victor Emanual Nature Tours, booked in at Chan Chich, participated as they have done for all 20 counts and contributed some great birds to our efforts. Several other guests at the Lodge also contributed as well as all of us "locals" from Gallon Jug community and Chan Chich Lodge.

We ended up with 214 species -- best count since 2001! -- and just over 3000 individuals. We had been concerned that Hurricane Richard that plowed a path through our area (24 October), would adversely affect the count. And some aspects certainly were "different." The frugivores (fruit eaters) like the toucans and parrots were present only in small numbers, perhaps since leaves and fruits were stripped from many trees during the storm. Presumably they've moved elsewhere to look for food resources while the forest regenerates. Hopefully, we'll be seeing them soon.

Neotropical migrants were conspicuous and represented in good numbers, especially the Gray Catbird which seemed to be everywhere! Warblers and thrushes were also in good evidence.

As far as resident species go, one of the real oddities this year was the White-whiskered Puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis). By no means rare, it is always recorded a few times. This year every team, except at the farm, had several, enough to total 32. It was a record year for them! My personal favorite bird for the count was the White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus; above) perched on a sign. Normally this is a bird found high in the canopy. It had been some years since I'd had a good close look at one, and here it was at eye level, posing for pictures.