As much as we love our great Pacific Northwest and all the amazing local birds, when it get’s cold, dark, and dreary it is a good time to travel to the sunshine. Last winter we found our sunshine in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This year we chose Belize! We chose to split our time between San Ignacio in the jungle, near the Guatemala border, and Placencia for some time on the coast. Being that the Belize City airport is not close to either we decided to stay near Belize City the night we arrived and the night before we left. It just so turns out that about 45 minutes north of the airport is one of the best birding spots in the country, the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
Crooked Tree is basically a giant wetland area, in the dry season many birds arrive to seek refuge in the lagoons. We stayed at the Bird’s Eye View Lodge in Crooked Tree Village. This lodge is right on the water and offers many different tours of the area, since we were only there one day we did an early morning boat tour that took us out at sunrise and got us back for breakfast around 9am with plenty of time for our drive to San Ignacio where we spent the following days (more posts to come!). While tourism helps support the local economy of Crooked Tree they also grow cashew trees. They sell fresh cashews, cashew butter, cashew jam, cashew wine and more. I have to say the cashew wine was much better than I expected – you should definitely give it a try when visiting.
One of the most common and possibly my favorite bird in the Crooked Tree wetland was the Northern Jacana. Generally in pairs the Jacana liked to follow along with the boat, landing on near by floating vegetation and poking around looking for insects. They were quite chatty making sure our ride was not a quiet one. As they walked through the vegetation the areas they walked would sink enough to get wet and leave visible trails where you could see they walked. They have very long legs and toes which you see dangle below as they take flight.
While the Vermilion Flycatcher was the most colorful bird we saw (the featured image above), the most interesting were the Limpkin, Snail Kite, and more rare Black-collared Hawk. The Limpkin looks like a rail or other shorebird with long legs and a long beak but is almost the size of a Great Blue Heron. It uses it’s large curved beak to eat the many snails living in the wetland. The Snail Kite you’ll not be surprised also feeds on the snails in the area. It’s sharp hooked beak looks like it would be quite the dangerous hunter but it is designed also to get inside the snail shells for a tasty meal. The Snail Kite’s remind me very much of our Skagit Valley Northern Harrier’s the way they fly low over the water searching for their next snail, much like a Harrier flying low over an open field looking for a rodent.
The Black-collared Hawk was a nice site as well as our tour guide told us they were more rare. Like Osprey’s they like to live near the water and feed mostly on fish though they’ll also eat snakes, lizards, and of course the snails. The one photo’d below in the gallery we saw diving towards the water for some fishing. You’ll also see a photo of pink snail eggs and a Striped Basilisk that we also saw on our tour. Enjoy!
Things to Note:
- Crooked Tree Village is a remote area, it is only a few miles of gravel road from the paved highway however so is easy to get to, our rental car had no difficulty.
- There are only a couple of hotels and you have to contact them directly for booking. We enjoyed the Bird’s Eye View Lodge for a good base for birding.
- You’ll want to load up on bug spray – it’s a wetland!
- Read our last post about Northern Harrier’s.
- Check out all our other birding and nature adventures here.
- Please check out the Kingsyard banner above and give it click. They make some really cool bird feeders and bird houses that you’ll want to check out!
- Most of these shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens.