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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Belize

Tuesday 15 January to Friday 25 January 2019
with Stuart Elsom and Eric Tut as leaders

Price: $4,750

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Yucatan Jays. Photo: Bob Gress - Birding Belize

Belize is quite simply a birder’s paradise. Formerly known as British Honduras, this small Central American country is a popular destination for tourists. Bordered on its western side by Mexico and Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea (and the second-longest barrier reef in the world), Belize forms part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor stretching from Mexico to Panama. Belize has a small population, which ensures there are extensive areas of good habitat to be found. Indeed, some 60% of the country is covered by forest and only around 20% by cultivation or settlements. In addition, Belize has been proactive in protecting its natural resources, and today some 37% of the land mass comes under some level of protection.

Our tour takes us around this little gem of a country from Crooked Tree in the north, to Crystal Paradise in the west, Blue Hole in the center of the country and Mayflower Bocawina National Park in the east. The ancient Mayan culture is writ large across the landscape of Belize, and we’ll spend a day amid the wonderful ruins at Caracol. With some delightful lodges, easy trails through lush habitats and a number of scintillating birds, we are assured of a wonderful birding tour.

Day 1: The tour begins this morning at Belize airport. After clearing immigration and customs we’ll be met by our local guide and begin our tour by driving along the Northern Highway to Crooked Tree village, located inside the eponymous wildlife sanctuary, where we’ll spend two nights. Night in Bird’s Eye View Lodge. 

Day 2: The Crooked tree Sanctuary was founded in 1984 by the Belize Audubon Society and consists of some 16,000 acres of inland waterways, swamps and lagoons. The wetland is approximately a mile wide and more than 20 miles long and the reserve features a number of trails allowing exploration on foot. We’ll spend most of the day birding along these trails and along the lagoon side where a variety of birds can be expected. Specialties include Jabiru, Agami and Bare-throated Tiger Herons as well as Black-collared Hawk and Black Catbird. Species associated with wetland will be in abundance and could include Roseate Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule, Snail Kite, and an array of gaudy kingfishers including the diminutive American Pygmy. Away from the water there will be much to attract us including Savannah (Lesser Yellow-headed) Vulture, Northern Potoo, Acorn, Yucatan, and Red-vented Woodpeckers, Yellow-headed Parrot, Yucatan Jay, Vermillion Flycatcher, Canivet’s Emerald, and Rufous-browed Peppershrike to mention a few. As dusk approaches we’ll venture out again to look for Yucatan Poorwill. 

Day 3: We’ll enjoy a magical early morning cruising gently along the waterways of Crooked Tree and likely getting close to shy species such as Jabiru, Sungrebe and both Agami and Boat-billed Herons. 

Later after breakfast we’ll depart for La Milpa, crossing open savannah and farmland, and then driving through mature hardwood forest. There will be birds to look for on the drive; Short-tailed and Gray Hawks, Laughing Falcon, and Fork-tailed Flycatchers among others. This area is a key wintering ground for North American wood-warblers, and we should encounter among others, Blue-winged, Yellow, Tennessee, Black and white, and Chestnut-sided. If we’re very lucky we might even see the flamboyant Blackburnian, or even the odd Magnolia. Night in La Milpa. 

Day 4: The lodge at La Milpa, nestled deep in the forests of northwestern Belize, is located only a short distance from the The La Milpa Archaeological Site, the third largest in Belize and only one of at least sixty other archaeological sites found on the Rio Bravo area. We’ll look for birds throughout the day on the many trails in the area including Green Honeycreeper, Spot-breasted Wood-wren, Spot-breasted Wren, Great Tinamou, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest-Falcon, Crane Hawk, Scaled Pigeon, Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner, Barred Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Ruddy Woodcreeper, Yucatan flycatcher, Chestnut-collared Woodpecker, and the vocal Green Shrike-Vireo. Night at La Milpa. 

Day 5: We’ll spend the first part of the day birding the grounds of the lodge where hummingbirds could include Purple-crown Fairy and Long-billed Hermit. Leaving after breakfast we’ll take a route along the back roads through rainforest for our journey to western Belize. Along the way we have a real chance of encountering some mammals such as Red Brocket Deer and Peccaries, and in these forests we can at least dream of Jaguar, Puma, and Margay. There will be birds to look for as well; Laughing Falcon, Crested Guan, Black and Black-and-white Hawk-Eagles, Brown- hooded and Mealy Parrots among others. We’ll have a packed lunch along for the drive so we can make the best of the birding, and will arrive at our lodge, the Crystal Paradise, in plenty of time to look for the resident Band-backed Wren, Blue-gray Tangers, and Collared Aracari in the grounds. Night in Crystal Paradise Lodge. 

Day 6: Leaving early, we’ll spend much of today in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, a large reserve dominated by Honduras Pine, but with a significant amount of broadleaved forest as well as small patches of grassland. A fine selection of birds awaits us here as flocks of Black-headed Siskins can often be seen flying overhead and in the wonderful ‘hidden valley’ we have a strong possibility of seeing the Orange-breasted Falcon and King Vultures sailing over the impressive 1000 Foot Falls. 

Elsewhere we’ll search for Black and White Hawk-Eagle, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Rufous-capped Warbler, Yellow-backed Oriole, and Golden-hooded Tanager. Stygian Owl also occurs here, and there is a very good chance of finding the Lovely Cotinga. Night in Crystal Paradise Lodge. 

Day 7: We’ll drive to Caracol. It was in 1937 that a logger came across these hidden Mayan remains deep in the jungle. Subsequent excavations revealed a huge site covering some 75 square miles and containing a wealth of ancient buildings, including the highest manmade structure in Belize today – the Caana Sky Palace. We’ll take time to explore the ancient site, and to look for many of the birds that make this location their home including Keel-Billed Motmot, Crested Guan, Great Curassow and the fabulous Ocellated Turkey. 

Nearby pools are attractive to a variety of birds including Tody Motmot, Buff-throated Foliage gleaner, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Golden-hooded Tanager, Rufous Piha, Rusty Sparrow, Olive-backed and Green-backed Sparrows, Bat Falcon, Gray-headed Kite, Great Black Hawk, and Scarlet Macaw. Night in Crystal Paradise Lodge. 

Day 8: We’ll depart in the morning heading for the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. On the way we call in at Blue Hole National Park. Besides the famous blue hole – a deep pool – there are a number of hiking trails which we’ll explore looking for White Hawk, Spotted-Wood Quail, Crested Guan, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Barred, and Great Antshrikes, Emerald Toucanet, Slaty-tailed Trogon, and Cinnamon, and Rose-throated Becards. Night at Night at Bocawina Lodge. 

Days 9-10: We have two days to explore this region. A short drive takes us to the Mayflower Bocawina National Park consisting of over 7,000 acres of superb habitat. It is home to waterfalls, lush vegetation and a wide assortment of interesting birds such as the Keel-billed and Tody Motmots, Black-faced Ant-thrush, tinamous including Little and Slaty breasted, Ruddy Quail Dove, Black and White and Spectacled Owls, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Cinnamon and White winged Becards, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, and Tawny-crowned Greenlet. 

We’ll spend a morning birding in the Jaguar reserve where birds we hope to see include Crested Guan, White-collared Manakin, Passerini’s Tanager, Hook-billed Kite, Rufous-breasted Spinetail. Orange billed Sparrow, Black faced Grosbeak, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, and Dot-winged Antwren and Dusky Antbird. Over 200 species having been recorded here, we are all but guaranteed a bird-filled time. Night at Bocawina Lodge. 

Day 11: We have a leisurely return to Belize International Airport where the tour ends.

Updated: 22 October 2018

Prices

  • 2019 Tour Price : $4,750
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $990
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Notes

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size 10 with two leaders.