Monday, 14 August 2017

Introduction, Birding Spanish Creek Blog #1

My name is Francis Canto Jr, I'm a birder 23 years old from the small Central American country of Belize hence the name of the blog, 501 is the phone code of Belize. I started seriously birding in late 2015 after an Urban Birdwatch organized by the Belize Audubon Society. After that I fell in love with birding and even more with photographing birds, since then I've birded in all of the districts in Belize, seen 415 species and photographed 325 of those species. I decided to start this blog to share my various birding adventures with other while showing them the importance of protecting the vulnerable environment we currently live in.

Crooked Tree: 
The Crooked Wildlife Sanctuary is located approx 33 miles north of Belize City. It is (or was) co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society, in 1998 it was declared as a Ramsar site based on its wetlands. Crooked is one of the best birding sites in Belize, lagoons, creeks and surrounding habitats offer a wide variety of bird life from the iconic Jabiru to the small inconspicuous White-bellied Wren.

Western Lagoon, Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary 
Map of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary

Spanish Creek Sunday July 30th :

Mr Roni Martinez, known as the chief in Belizean birding circles organized a birding trip to Spanish Creek, it is located south of the Crooked Tree Village and is a creek connecting the Crooked Tree lagoon to the villages of Lemonal and Rancho Dolores.

The trip started off at the Bird's Eye View Lodge where I met up with the group :  Roni, Isaias, Melvin, Meshack, Ernest and Lenny the boat captain from the the lodge, we boarded the boat and headed south to Spanish Creek.
A view of the Southern Lagoon.

Before long we started to come across the regulars that are found around the lagoon, Limpkins, Snail Kites, Belted Kingfishers, Neotropic Cormorants we stopped to check out at Bare-throated Tiger Heron when the group noticed a small, brilliantly yellow passerine hopping about in one of the logwood plants along the lagoon, it was a Prothonotary Warbler one of my target birds for the this trip. But we didn't have only one Prothonotary Warbler we had a total of four in that area, they are some of the first migrants to arrive back in Belize, peak migration is right around the corner.


The brilliantly colored Prothonotary Warbler

We continue our southern journey along the lagoon , we passed what use to be called the "Crake Island" because it was almost guaranteed that you could find the Yellow-breasted Crake, one of the hardest birds to find in Belize, sadly today there was no crake, but we were greeted by a large rufous raptor possibly the most beautiful raptor in Belize, a young Black Collared Hawk. A fish eating raptor, the Black-collared Hawk is easily found in the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, I would go out on a limb and say that Crooked Tree has the largest population of Black-collared hawks in Belize.

I think he knows he's beautiful, Black-collared Hawk

The beautiful Black-collared Hawk
As we entered the Spanish Creek we scanned the banks for the elusive Agami Heron and the lily pads and floating vegetation for any signs of the crake no luck for either. But Spanish Creek did not disappoint we came across a nest building pair of Green Kingfishers, a small roosting colony of Boat-billed Herons, a molting, migrant Osprey ( Pandion haliaetus carolinensis) who probably decided to spend the winter in Crooked Tree ( I think he made the right choice). But it was not just birds we came across we found some huge Morelet's Crocodiles and one of their nests, a troop of Black Howler Monkeys and even a Mexican Tree Porcupine.

Spanish Creek

Part of the nest building duo of Green Kingfishers

Another very photogenic Black-collared Hawk

The Mexican Tree Porcupine wanted nothing to do with us. 

Osprey soaring above Spanish Creek

Heading back out from Spanish Creek we scanned some ideal habitat for the Yellow Breasted Crake, but again no luck. We did manage to find the extremely shy Sungrebe which gave a us a hard time, we were in and out of the vegetation trying to get a good look, we all had some good looks at it, I mean it's a Sungrebe it's worth the extra work to get a good look, no photos but there is always next time. A juvenile Great-black Hawk greeted us a we exited the creek back into the lagoon, that's definitely a sign that I should return as quick as possible. Spanish Creek is a beautiful and unique place, it's great for birders or anyone who just enjoys nature, it's diverse wildlife and scenic surroundings can definitely generate some income for the villagers of Crooked Tree in terms of tourism. They could offer boat or canoe tours and show off this beautiful place while also conserving it one of the reasons is that it's practically pristine, I hope we can keep it that way . We came across a couple fishing camps with some garbage but nothing too serious.

Morelet's Crocodile's nest containing 30+ eggs

Sometimes it's tough being alpha male

Black-headed Trogon on the water's edge

Juvenile Great-black Hawk

Cows in the lagoon.

A big thanks to Roni Martinez for making this trip possible.

eBird checklists:

Southern Lagoon

Spanish Creek

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for the next blog coming up soon.

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