Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The best Christmas Birdcount in Belize? The Mountain Pine Ridge CBC. Blog #6

Male Collared Trogon
For birders Christmas time is a very important part of the year in addition to the food, family gatherings and gifts, between December 15th and January 5th birders across the world take part in Christmas birdcounts. A Christmas birdcount is when volunteers across the globe go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds within their circle. I decided to participate in the MPR CBC, this would be my second time going to Mountain Pine Ridge. I was stoked!

MPR CBC circle
So my journey began in Belize City as per usual. I hooked with Ms Luz's team, another team that was doing the MPR circle, so we boarded the van and headed up towards Cayo. We stopped a Hattieville to stock up on rations for the count I got the usual birding staples bread, cheese and canned sausages. By the time we finished shopping and fueling up another member of the team joined Scott Forbes. On the road again we made another stop at Cheers to pick up Chrissy Tupper the last member of the team and she brought along an ice box full of food, perfect right? We arrived at Hode's place a little after 8pm where we met with the chief Roni to finalize the plan for the next days count. We headed to the Moonracer Farm where we would spend the night, it's just outside the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve and is a great place to stay especially if you're looking for birds (Mottled Owl, Spectacled Owl, Violet Sabrewing on site) and the owners Marge are Tom Gallagher are some great people. Check it out: Moonracer farm

After having some of the wonderful food that Chrissy brought me and Scott went for a short walk to try and find some owls but we only managed to come across some spiders and a couple bats so we headed back and settled in for bed.

My alarm went off at 3:30 am, the time had come for the CBC to begin, by 4:00 we were on the road off the the edge of the MPR reserve off the Depair Cairn. The team I was with included Roni, Fidelio and myself small but strong.

Fidelio, Roni and myself

We began birding before the sun came up, we managed to pick up a pair of Collared Forest-Falcons, Ruddy and Northern Barred-Woodcreeper all by ear. As the sun began to rise over the valleys of the Pine Ride the light got better and the birds began to come in. Early on we had some pine ridge specialist such as Rusty Sparrow, Rufous-capped Warblers and even some Scarlet Macaws.

We continued down the road now by foot as road worse, but the worse the road gets the better the birding usually is. We were now at the edge of the reserve, were the Mountain Pine Ridge meets the Chiquibul National Park. Pristine broadleaf forests, the tropics at its best.

The boundary line 

Birding the edge of the reserve

The migrant passerines were ever present Magnolia Warbler, Summer Tanagers, Black-throated Green Warbler all wintering in our Belizean forests. Present also were our local species we had Crested Guans, Barred Antshrikes and Dot-winged Antwrens. Our count was going well we were constantly scanning the treetops and understory for any signs of movement and our ears were constantly alerted by the calls of flocks of Brown-hooded Parrots and White-collared Swifts. We then came upon a tree with quite some activity a pair of White-winged Tanagers, some good looks at a Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet while I was checking out the Tyrannulet Roni said "guys I think you just missed an Elegant Euphonia" and Fidelio said " I saw it too" so it was just me who missed the Elegant Euphonia, damn! :( the Elegant Euphonia is one of the hardest breeding birds to get in Belize and it slipped away. Well that's one on the list for next time. I did manage to secure two lifers Orange-billed Sparrow and Golden-Crowned Warbler

Rusty Sparrow

Male White-winged Tanager
A bad shot of our most beautiful tanager, the Golden-hooded Tanager
After shedding a tear for the Euphonia and grabbing a bite to eat we continued birding along. Green Shrike-vireos and and a Great Antshrike were almost missed because the Crested Guans were busy calling loudly from the valleys. Moving back up away from the Chiquibul we came across some more activity on the road another lifer for me, a female Green Honey appeared alongside Olive-backed Euphonias a White-bellied Emerald female Wedge-tailed Sabrewing and even a Black-crested Coquette, I would have missed it too if it hadn't been for Fidelio who pointed it out my third lifer for the trip so far. Being the smallest hummingbird in Belize it can easily be looked over.

Male Olive-backed Euphonia

White-bellied Emerald 
If you've been to or just heard of the Mountain Pine Ridge you would know that the roads aren't quite forgiving we had a first hand experinece on the bad roads when the 4WD decided to quit working. We were stuck for a bit but we managed to get out Fidelio and Roni are both MPR specialist so this wasn't their first time getting stuck.

The MPR is a Forest Reserve so logging is still allowed with the proper permits sad but necessary I guess. We came to a clearing that was made by the logging company where is it was perfect to scan for raptors.

Logging activity in the MPR

We were graced by the presence of two beautiful Scarlet Macaws flying overhead, a Double-toothed Kite soaring above alongside a Short-tailed Hawk but the bird that really go us screaming like little Girls was a Black and White Hawk-Eagle right above our heads.

Scarlet Macaws

Short-tailed Hawk

Black and White Hawk-Eagle
High fives were given all around,the Black and White Hawk-Eagle is a top tier raptor (lifer for me) and we were all happy that we could've gotten it on our count. Acorn Woodpecker, Ovenbird and Grace's Warbler were all added to out list to get us up to 100 species. We jumped in the pathfinder again a continued on the roads of MPR  picking up some good species along the way such as Plumbeous Vireo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Olive-sided Flycatcher, sadly no Greater Pewee.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Rufous-capped Warblers

At the end of the Bradley Road we stopped for lunch at a vista overlooking one of the Macal River tributaries. From nearby we could hear the light calling of a Collared Trogon, Roni located it and photographed then I went down to do the same. This Trogon stayed right there and allowed me to photograph him a living breathing creature looking at me with the same inquisitive look I was giving him.

Lunch Lookout

Male Collared Trogon

The next stop was Cooma Cairn a lookout tower and ex British military compound. But we had one little issue it was hot and we driving up some hills and the pathfinder began to heat up so we had to let it cool down a bit perfect excuse for a quite nap. We made it up to Cooma Cairn no issues just the car needed water which we managed to get from some kind gentleman who were working at near the compound.

The beautiful view from Cooma Cairn 

Fully hydrated 

One of the many creeks 
  While taking in the wonderful views at Cooma Cairn we picked up some more species, Philadelphia Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler all were added to the list before we got on our way back to meetup with the other teams. We drove back almost the entire 5 miles without the engine on just coasting up and down the hills in the MPR  to keep it from overheating. What a way to end the off the birdcount. We had some amazing birds, some of the most beautiful views in Belize and hang out with two of the coolest people I know.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The best Christmas Birdcount in Belize? The Mountain Pine Ridge CBC. Blog #6

Male Collared Trogon F or birders Christmas time is a very important part of the year in addition to the food, family gatherings and gif...