this evening I went to the annual party for volunteers of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory and came home with this certificate of appreciation, as did about 30 other volunteers. I’ve been helping out there since 1990, putting a few hours in at the Cape May Point center’s front desk once a week (when I can) and helping lead field trips on the spring and fall weekend events. It’s always nice to be appreciated! The volunteer force there is strong, and it feels good to help an organization that I believe in, one that helps preserve and educate about the natural world.
As mentioned previously, my camera also does video. I didn’t take a lot, but linked below are some of the best clips. Includes parrots. Note that a clearer version of this is on my “Todd Klein, artist” page on Facebook.
Sunday began for us with a drive to Laguna Seca to look for some water birds. It began well, and we saw some good ones, but after about half an hour it began to pour rain again, so we came back to the lodge. After lunch the weather began to clear, and by mid-afternoon the sky was completely clear and sunny, and we had a great birding walk with Marvin on the trails.
Here’s the Violaceous Trogon, one of three of this showy bird family on the grounds. They are about the size of a large pigeon. They eat fruit and move slowly, so can be hard to find, but are a treat when you do.
The butterflies were also out enjoying the sun. I don’t know the name of this one.
There are over 30 birds of several species with the word Ant in their name, so you can guess what they probably eat, and there are plenty of ants here. I have videos of leaf-cutter ants and army ants that I’ll put up later. This is a Red-crowned Ant Tanager. The largest family of birds here, and worldwide, are the flycatchers. We saw quite a few of those.
Here’s a Yellow-fronted Owl Butterfly with characteristic large eye spot.
This is a Black-headed Trogon, similar to the one above, but the markings on the tail are different.
The entrance road to the lodge in the sunshine.
The suspension bridge on the lodge road, which the guides are proud to point out is the second-largest in Belize. We saw lots of great birds in this open area.
On past cloudy and rainy walks we hadn’t even noticed this entrance carving for the lodge, overshadowed by tropical greenery.
Every day at breakfast and lunch we were entertained by the frantic battles of many hummingbirds at the feeders on the lodge verandah. After numerous tries, this is the best photo I could get of a Long-billed Hermit, the mascot bird of the lodge, and the largest hummingbird here.
We’ve loved our time at Chan Chich lodge, and enthusiastically recommend it to nature lovers everywhere. We’re heading home today, with an overnight in Miami tonight, back home Tuesday. I’ll have some videos from the trip to put up eventually, but regular posting should resume by week’s end.
Saturday morning began with some light rain after a night of heavy rain. We went out for an early morning birding walk, and saw some good things when the rain stopped, but I hadn’t brought my camera, so no pictures.
After breakfast we drove with guide Luis to The Escarpment, a high hill overlooking the Gallon Jug property, about 400 feet higher than our lodge, and near the border with Guatemala. We arrived in more rain and fog, and could see nothing! Fortunately after a while things cleared, and we had some good views and good birds to see.
The rarest bird was Hook-Billed Kite, one of which sat fairly close. Ellen’s camera was able to get this picture through Luis’s scope. We saw six of them in all, probably a one-day record for the property, and other cool raptors, all three Toucan species, and more.
The food here is great, and we returned to lunch on the verandah of the main lodge, where we’ve had most of our meals.
After lunch there was more rain, so we spent some time in our room, which is very nice, almost like staying in a large screened porch.
Ellen tried the hammock on our own verandah, but didn’t find it too comfortable. There are other chairs and a sort of low couch that are great, and often there are birds in the trees right outside.
After a while the rain stopped, the sun came out, it got warmer, and there was even some blue sky, almost the first we’ve seen here. I went out to walk around the grounds and take some pictures, like this of a White-collared Seedeater. Suddenly a black cloud moved in with thunder and lightning, so I took shelter at the main lodge, thinking it would soon pass. A half hour later, Ellen came to find me with an umbrella, rescued me, and took me back to our cabana. We had planned a nighttime birding trip, but it was cancelled due to the rain, so that was our Saturday. Sunday so far has been pretty rainy too, but just now things are clearing, so we’ll get out on the trails for a while.
Friday we did a day trip to the amazing Mayan ruins at Lamanai. This began with a three hour drive to the town of Orange Walk over some pretty rough roads, as well as some quite good ones, to the New River, where we boarded a small outboard motorboat with another tourist couple and Carlos, our driver and guide. He took us 25 miles down the river, pointing out wildlife and birds along the way.
This spider monkey is a regular stop, and here he is eating his lunch, a banana provided by one of the other tour boats..
One of the cool birds we were shown was Boat-Billed Heron, which is rare and hard to find, as they’re nocturnal, and stay in well-hidden roosts during the day. We saw five of them.
A Wood Stork, another cool bird. We saw many more, including a dramatic flight of aobut 50 parrots.
After our boat trip we landed at Lamanai, a very large Mayan site, occupied for about 3,000 years, but abandoned after the Spanish arrived in the area. Only about two percent of the site has been excavated and is open for tours, the rest is still buried by jungle. This is the Mask temple, with two large faces flanking the central stairs.
These huge heads and wonderful carvings are the most impressive artwork we saw at the site.
Here we are with the other mask.
The High Temple is even more impressive in size, reaching 120 feet in height. You can climb the central stair, though it’s very steep. The other couple did it.
Here they are going up. We only made it to the place the man in the yellow shirt is standing.
I found this section of stonework, moss and ferns interesting.
The Jaguar Temple is the third large one we saw, as well as several other structures, all very impressive and interesting.
This carving is meant to be a very stylized Jaguar head, though I can’t really see it myself. I like it all the same.
Another very long drive with our driver and guide from Chan Chich, Luis was enlivened by more good birds, including this Fork-tailed Flycatcher. A great day, though we were exhausted.
More next time.
Our cabana from the Mayan mound next to it. Chan Chich Lodge is surrounded by these Mayan mounds and there are plenty of other Mayan ruins all around, but nearly all are well buried by time and the jungle. A stiff climb up the mound, but worth it for the view.
Here’s Ellen on another of the mounds.
There was a lot of rain this morning, so instead of a morning nature walk we went on a tour of nearby Gallon Jug (here’s the post office). The town and farm of Gallon Jug is largely owned and run by the same family that owns and runs Chan Chich, the Bowens. Six miles east of our lodge, Gallon Jug is an area of about 3000 acres clear cut for farming cattle and other things.
Our driver was also a knowledgible nature guide who pointed out many more birds to us like this Social Flycatcher…
…and this Vermilion Flycatcher which, even on an overcast and rainy day is fiery red.
Overlooking part of the farm, African Tulip trees in bloom.
Gallon Jug also produces organic, shade-grown coffee, a grove is shown here with pruned coffee bushes under the tall forest shade trees.
They process the beans, roast them, and package them in town. Here’s Raul, the coffee roaster, with some of his machinery. I doubt he does all the roasting, but he does a lot of it, and mixed up a special bag for us to bring home. Gallon Jug produces between 150,000 and 180,000 pounds of coffee each year, supplying the entire country, though they don’t export it yet.
Back at Chan Chich after lunch, the rain finally let up, and we went for a two mile walk on the River Trail, very jungly.
We didn’t see many birds but did enjoy watching lines of leaf-cutter ants carrying their leaves, and strange fungi like this one.
It was a long walk, and we were glad to get back to the beautiful grounds of Chan Chich.
While we rested before dinner we enjoyed a flock of Ocellated Turkeys preening just outside our cabana. Such show-offs.
Tomorrow we’re doing a day trip that includes a boat ride to a much larger and better preserved Mayan ruins. More soon.
Ellen and I are in the jungle of western Belize, staying at Chan Chich Lodge, where we had a great walk this morning with another couple of birders and our expert guide, Marvin. Chan Chich is a marvelous place for ecotourism, deep in virtually untouched jungle with twelve luxurious cabanas set around a the central square of a former Mayan ceremonial site, and surrounded by massive mounds built by the Mayans, some probably still containing relics and remains. The birds and wildlife were our reason for coming, and it took all day yesterday by jetliner, then a four-seat Cessna airplane, finally a six-mile drive on this road in an all-terrain vehicle. While Chan Chich is remote, we are not roughing it. The food is gourmet delicious, the room and lodge are marvelous, and the staff is wonderful and knowledgable. This is not a cheap vacation, but it’s a great adventure. Here are my best pictures from this morning’s walk of about four hours.
One of the largest, commonest and most tame birds here is the Ocellated Turkey, a more colorful version of our wild turkey. A flock of them walked right by us today.
One of the most sought after types of tropical birds by birders are Trogons. There are three kinds here, and we’ve already seen all three. This Slaty-tailed Trogon was the best one I was able to photo.
Parrots are always great fun to see in the wild. This pair of Mealy Parrots gave us long, excellent views. A mated pair, they were acting affectionate, one snuggling close to the other. I got a video of that, which I hope to edit and show later.
There are beautiful butterflies as well, like this one which I am unable to recall the common name of. Mexican something.
Halfway through our walk, by prearrangement, breakfast had been brought out to this screened viewing platform for us, and it was delicious. Just behind the platform, on a high hill, the jungle drops off steeply to a small stream. We saw more cool birds here. As usual, only a small percentage of what we saw resulted in good photos.
There are half a dozen hummingbird species here, including this Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird.
A Banded Peacock butterfly.
The other common parrot here is the Red-Lored Parrot. There are a number of them on the lodge grounds, very noisy and entertaining.
Not long after we got back it began to shower off and on, and did so for the rest of the day so far. We didn’t mind, and spent most of the time enjoying the porch of our cabana, where we even saw a few more birds.
Not sure how often I’ll be posting from this trip, but more soon.
Our storm-refugee company, my friend Tim and my Mom, are still with us. Mom’s power went on yesterday, but Tim’s is still off, and they elected to stay a while longer, especially with another storm heading our way. Tim brought his computer, and it’s been nice having someone else working in my studio the last few days. Tigger seems to like it, too.
As for Leo, he’d rather try to catch the birds at the window feeder, even though he never can. He sits staring and talking quietly about those darn birds, then leaps up repeatedly, trying to get them, or at least scare them. At first they fly away, but already they’re getting used to him and beginning to ignore him.
The storm arrived as scheduled today bringing some wet snow with it. Not a lot, but enough to cover some of the ground.
Here’s the back yard with more feeders and the pond. It should all melt soon, as the ground is not very cold, but things could be different north and west of us. And the barrier islands, still trying to recover from Sandy, don’t need any more wind and storm surge, but will get some anyway. Hopefully not much.
We’re back home, and despite the fact that the eye of Sandy passed right over us Monday evening (as confirmed by a local friend who was here), there was NO damage at all to our house and yard. Lots of sticks and leaves, a small tree down in the woods, but nothing important. Really, in the drive down we saw much less damage in this area than where we spent the last three days with my Mom, where there were lots of trees down, and power out everywhere. Our power didn’t even go out! I can’t quite understand why, but we’re very thankful and happy about it.
I did two walks at the Higbee Beach WMA in Cape May this morning, part of NJ Audubon’s annual Autumn Weekend event. Here’s Field Marshall Pete Bascinski giving the opening remarks, and asking, “How many have never been to Cape May?” He’s done this for 40 years.
The weather was sunny and pleasant, and there were quite a few birds to see, as well as lots of fall color.
As usual, most of the birds were too small, too far away, or moving too fast for me to get a good picture, but this Immature Bald Eagle was close and cooperative, and of course large! Other highlights were many more raptors searching the fields for breakfast and soaring overhead, several Common Loons overhead, a Great Cormorant, two close Northern Gannets, a good selection of land birds and more.
Most of the Higbee paths are through fields, but some do enter the woods.
Always fun seeing newish birders spotting new (for them) species, or enjoying familiar ones.
One surprise was this female Fence Lizard on the path to the beach, the largest and certainly the fattest one I’ve seen. Perhaps she’s pregnant.
Now I’m back to work, after a trip to the store for some pre-hurricane supplies. Sandy is headed right toward us according to one computer model. Should be an interesting few days. Perhaps we’ll have to evacuate, as we did for Irene. If so, we’ll go to my mother’s.