Chapter 7.  Belize Pine Forests

Bert & Shari Frenz, 2004 All rights reserved.

Day 41 - February 23 - Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo District

(Bert) Just south of San Ignacio lie the Mayan Mountains, a pine forest now a bit sparse of trees after a beetle infestation and logging removed most of the cover. Beyond San Antonio, few people live here, although there are several nice tourist lodges. The dirt roads have not seen a grader in many rainfalls, so we barely travel at 15 mph. Our first destination is 1000 Foot Falls and on the entrance road we see a big sparrow fly across. We stop to watch the Rusty Sparrow, new to my Belize list, but seen previously in Mexico a few years ago. Further along the road a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites soar grandly above us. Parking, we walk down to the canyon viewpoint that overlooks the high waterfalls as it plunges below into the jungle and beyond our perspective. Our target birds are a pair of Orange-breasted Falcons that nest beside the falls. The attendant points toward the nest location, but even with our powerful spotting scopes we are not sure which ledge he refers to, because the falls is about a half-mile distant. Then Cindy spots the two perched on a tree on the horizon of the opposite side of the canyon. We swing our scopes in that direction and barely make out the outline of the falcons. Fortunately, the falcons eventually take flight and soar in our direction and then alight near the nest. Now we can clearly identify the orange, white and blue falcons. Better yet one flies even closer and stops on a nearby dead tree, much improving our view. We are entertained for over an hour by the falcons, perched and in aerial display. The attendant tells us King Vultures appear each morning at 9:30, so we wait for their arrival. Somewhat tardy, at 9:40 three King Vultures sail right over our heads and continue to the canyon, soaring there for several minutes. Back on the dirt road, we see a perched hawk and puzzle over its identity. The faint two-eyed pattern on its back is odd and its red tail doesn't match any of our preconceptions or the drawings in Howell & Webb. Our next stop is a resort where Cindy and Bob stayed years ago. We hope to get a map, but I also want to get information on staying there perhaps next year. We get lots of information and on the way back to the cars we see hummingbirds on a flowering tree and much to our delight add Azure-crowned Hummingbird to our list. We wander further south in the heat of the day, then turn north because I'm concerned about my low registering fuel gauge and the absence of any gas stations here in the mountains. We stop once more on a side road and find quite a variety of species, highlighted by Black-headed Siskins, Yellow-tailed Orioles, Yellow-faced Grassfinches and Acorn Woodpeckers.

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