Friday, April 29, 2011

Traveling Monkey

This must be the week for monkeys. My good friend Norma, who pretty much runs Gallon Jug (don't tell Zander), snapped this photo the other night of a young howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) near her office, hanging out in a flamboyant tree. Right in the heart of Gallon Jug not far from the airstrip. Those of you that are familiar with the tiny Gallon Jug community and airstrip will recall that this area is very much in the open, about 500 m from the forest edge.

Not so very far really, for a howler monkey to come, and nice of this guy to prove my point. Unlike the spider monkey discussed in the previous post, howler monkeys are perfectly capable of traveling through open areas as this little guy convincingly proves. Of course we don't know what happened, or how he came to visit the heart of Gallon Jug, but a guess anyway, is that he's reached the age where he needs to strike out on his own and perhaps establish or join a new troop. The howlers just inside the forest margin had been vocal all day, perhaps encouraging him to leave. He could have crossed the Ring Road, traveled through the mango orchard and dashed through the citrus orchard coming to rest for the night in that friendly flamboyant.

He spent the night, was there the following morning before striking out again, on his own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monkeys at Breakfast

I don't suppose it is too often that you can dine with monkeys ... but that was apparently almost the case when good friend Jim Wright snapped this photo from the Chan Chich Lodge veranda over breakfast recently. He and Patty were here with birding friends that we've come to enjoy seeing on an annual basis.

Spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) thrive in closed-canopy tropical forests which provide arboreal pathways for their foraging activities. Unlike the howler monkeys that are known to come to the ground, cross roads, swim rivers and otherwise move about in a "disturbed" landscape, the spiders require contiguous tropical forest for their wide-ranging lifestyles. With just a little thought, you realize that this is exactly the sort of habitat under pressure elsewhere as forests are cleared for agriculture or other human activities. Not so in Gallon Jug.

By the way, if the name "Jim Wright" sounds familiar, it is because he is the author of "Jungle of the Maya" which I posted about in January 2010. It's a great book, I'd encourage everyone with an interest in tropical forests here, to check it out. Chan Chich Lodge, Gallon Jug Estate, and the Selva Maya -- Maya Forest -- are the focus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So Great, Again

You've seen Great Currasow (Crax rubra) on this blog before but here's more nice images from Frank Buck. The point again being, how easy it is to see this "game bird" at Chan Chich Lodge since 1) it has not been extirpated from the area by over-hunting and 2) since it has never been shot at, it is therefore confident enough to allow itself to be photographed.

One of the great features of this bird is the yellow knob on the male, shown peeking through the foliage on the inset photo. If you'd like to hear the distinctive booming call and other vocalizations, check them out here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crested "Quam"

Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens) by Frank Buck, copyright 2011

The guan, or quam as it is called in Belize, is another of the un-shy game birds Frank Buck photographed during his December stay at Chan Chich Lodge. And it is true that this big chicken-like bird is scarce to exterminated in many areas of its range. Not so at Chan Chich Lodge, thanks to the good protection of the Gallon Jug Estate.

If you'd like to see a Crested Guan, look up ... and listen. The quam is a noisy bird that likes tree tops in forested areas. It often creates quite a disturbance, which, at Chan Chich anyway, makes it fairly easy to find.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Great Tinamou

Frank Buck visited Chan Chich Lodge last December with his family. He recently emailed the following:

"I thought that you might want to comment on the abundance and absence of shyness of the game birds at Chan Chich. Compared to my experience in other parts of Belize and Costa Rica, I was stunned to see so many Tinamou, Crested Guans, Curassows, and Turkeys so indifferent to my presence. I don't remember if I sent you this Tinamou photo. In my previous experience, they disappeared like ghosts. This one posed for me."

It certainly did ... and in my experience, the Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) is a very infrequently photographed bird. I love the red eye glowing like a little jewel on this otherwise plain bird. Also noteworthy for this species are the distinctive piping notes of its call, often given at dusk or dawn. The tinamou, a ground nester, has gorgeous "Easter eggs," normally a glossy porcelain blue.

And Frank is absolutely right about the lack of shyness here. I've commented several times on this blog about how the animals here are not afraid and very confident. Makes for great birding and wildlife viewing. That confidence comes because the Gallon Jug Estate (which includes Chan Chich Lodge) has been strictly protected for nearly 30 years with "no hunting allowed" strictly enforced. The Estate is buffered on all sides by large blocks of property. There are security gates one must pass through at the two road entrances. Would that the National Parks were so rigorously protected!