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Beautiful BELIZE

April 30, 2016  •  3 Comments

We spent two weeks in Belize this winter -- a  country wildly popular with birders. Which was one of the reasons I was eager to go. Belize is not big. It's about the size of New Jersey, but with a population of only about 360,000.  As a result, the country has large areas of undisturbed habitat rich in biodiversity.  We walked through forests and savannas; we traveled by boat up rivers and around lagoons. My main goal was to see birds so most of the time I had binoculars, not a camera, before my eyes. But I did have time to take a few pictures, and my little point-and-shoot recorded some nice creature sightings. My husband had time to produce some beautiful paintings and drawings.

Our first stop was three nights at Crooked Tree: a wild life sanctuary surrounded by the waters of Crooked Tree lagoon. It was here where we saw over a hundred species of birds, dozens of iguanas, a few Morelet's crocodiles, some howler monkeys, and a good number of amphibians. Prowling around with my flashlight one evening, I photographed a few. Seeing these frogs gave me pause, and I wondered how healthy their populations really were.

Throughout the world amphibians are in serious decline with one-third of all species at risk of extinction.  When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising to hear. Half the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900 and wetland destruction continues at an alarming rate: wildlife populations decline when their habitat is destroyed.  Air and water pollution also have a negative impact on amphibians.  They have moist, porous skin that helps them breathe when in water or mud. This sensitive skin makes them vulnerable to the transmission of infectious diseases and chemical pollutants.  And then, of course, there are the effects of climate change. If you want to learn more about the plight of our world’s amphibians here’s one place to start:

A tree frog - unidentified species

Tiny, colorful and translucent, I think this is Stauffer's Tree Frog.

Mexican Tree Frogs showed up one afternoon resting on our patio furniture.

 Dozens of toadlets appeared one night in the grass outside our lodge. This one was about 1/2" long. 










After Crooked Tree we drove south to spend a week at a lodge just outside San Ignacio.  It was a perfect location for watching birds and other wildlife. Numerous day trips took us to lots of birds, but I saw many insects and I managed to photograph a few butterflies.

     White Satyr  Paeruptychia orirrhoe

      Zebra Longwing  Heliconius charithonia

 Erodyle Checkerspot  Chlosyne erodyle    

But Belize was more about the birds, and they were pretty spectacular. If I wasn't amazed by the color of a bird, I was amazed by the shape of its body or beak, the display of its feathers, or the way it flew, fed, or called.  We saw birds from families with familiar names like orioles, tanagers, parrots, owls, falcons, hawks, and herons.  But there were birds with less familiar names like toucan, trogon, curassow, chachalaca, motmot, manakin, guan, and cotinga.  I photographed none of them.

However, I did get a few pictures of an interesting species--very beautiful but most odd in appearance. Walking amidst the Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala, we saw quite a few male Ocellated Turkeys. The feathers on this bird's body are stunning, but the head and neck are quite peculiar: blue in color, devoid of feathers, and instead, decorated with randomly scattered red and orange bumps that one might call "warts". Plus, as you see on the top of this bird's head, is a small blue crown.  It's inflatable.  Note his large eye surrounded by red and directly behind it the ear hole.

I was curious about that prominent ear hole. But when I saw this fully grown adult male (below) whose crown was inflated and whose nodules were most numerous, I think I found the reason why. As he strutted with his beak tilted down, his real eye looked more like decoration and his ear-hole looked more like an eye.  Lots of animals have  "fake eyes" -- it's an adaptation to help ward off predators.  Some creatures have spots on the back of their heads or necks,  some moths and butterflies have large eye patterns on their wings. These "eyes" make a potential predator think they are being watched.

Here's the head of that gorgeous male turkey.  Can you find his real eye?

And here he is in full.  Note his large blue crown and isn't it cool how that ear hole looks like a little eye?  You must go to Tikal someday not just to see the fabulous Mayan buildings, but to walk among the Ocellated Turkeys.



Love these photos; that turkey is weird!
Those frogs and toad look like they're in love with that camera of yours. Quite the hammy actors in all their froginess!
As usual fun to read and I learned quite a lot. Thanks
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