Birding Belize 2006
Journal 14 Jan 06
|Up at 6:00 AM to hit the road at 8:00 AM with Bredda David. Quite a good day of birding, if a bit breezy to windy. We started in the area immediately inland from Dangriga with good results, including Smokey-brown Woodpecker, Olive-throated Parakeet, Red-lored Parrot, Bare-throated Tiger Heron and Black-headed Saltator. The best birding, unhappily, was along a road with a lot of construction traffic and attendant dust and noise. But it didn't bother the birds a lot.
From there we headed to a farming district owned by a local matriarch. There were a few good birds among the citrus orchards, and especially a slough channel running along the southerly margin, including Belted and Ringed Kingfisher and a Plain Chachalaca. Under a local custom - well, Bredda Dave said it was a local custom - we munched on fresh oranges Bredda David plucked from trees along the road. Far, far superior to the stuff we get in Fairbanks.
Next to the dump. David had never birded the Dangriga dump, but I think we showed him why we were interested. We found multiple Fork-tailed Flycatchers, an Aplomado Falcon, Groove-billed Ani and a Vermillion Flycatcher, as well as the usual Roadside Hawk, Social Flycatchers, Great Kiskadees and Great-tailed Grackles.
From there we rattled up to one of Belize's newer and lesser-known parks, Mayflower-Bocawina National Park. It's in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, and is centered on a Mayan ruin. Along the way Nice trails. The birding was slow, probably because it was the hot time of the day, but still very nice.
Lastly, we drove around the beaches and mangrove swamps along the coast between Dangriga and Hopkins. The birding was slow - it was hot and very windy - and it was a little depressing. A bulldozer was wiping out the shoreline, knocking down forest and mangroves, blading sand over the swamps and estuaries. Making hurricane bait, I suppose. The little communities need economic development, and the tourists are never around for the hurricanes, but the American experience is that without the natural protection storm surge is likely be much worse.
After birding, we lounged in hammocks out on the Pelican dock with a crowd of Marquette University students here to build a Lutheran - of course - church. The wind was blowing 25-35 miles per hour. A moment's inattention and the wind grabbed my book, Richard Dawkins' A Blind Watchmaker, out of my hands and took it swimming in the Carribean. If it was a message from God, it was an annoying one.
I wandered into downtown Dangriga for supplies. It's really very nice, and the people a very friendly. The Garifuna are very proud of the their heritage, and there is a life-size statue of the politician who created a Garifuna national holiday. The statue did have a Magnificent Frigatebird perched on top of it, though.
Tomorrow morning we are off to Southwater Caye. I hope it's as much fun as Dangriga. But I also hope there are fewer sand fleas, which can bite even in strong winds.
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