Eventually we started seeing Magnificent Frigatebirds circling overhead - a good indication that we were arriving in Belize City. Due to the notoriously high crime, we were glad to spend very little time here and quickly boarded our next bus. The trip west towards San Ignacio offered quite a different setting than the tropical broadleaf forests of the Yucatan. Leaving the mangroves of the coast behind, we entered extensive savannah-wetlands which provided a different array of birds including Vermilion Flycatchers.
By late evening we arrived in San Ignacio – the base point for exploring some of the top birding spots in Belize. There were two focal areas that we wanted to check out – the isolated, infrequently visited Caracol Ruins and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. In order to get to these areas, our only option was to rent a car. For those who know me, I enjoy the challenge of spending practically nothing at the same time as seeing incredible birds. I thought about it for a good two seconds and deciding that renting a car is a must. There was no way I wanted to pass up the chance. We picked up our 4x4 in town and drove into the night along terrible mountain roads into the heart of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Before setting up camp, we made a quick stop at a nearby lodge known for hosting Stygian Owls. Sure enough, we heard a single Stygian call a couple times from the parking lot – not a bad start! We never did get a view of one for the duration of the trip.
|The rental car|
We didn’t feel like waiting any longer so after a quick chat with the guards, we had permission to go early on our own. Never hurts to ask! Seeing that it was a two hour drive, we ‘tried’ to make good time to get to the ruins early but driving along a deserted road through pristine rainforest proved to be a difficult task. Flocks of Mealy Parrots screeched overhead, Gartered Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Stripe-throated Hermit, Violet Saberwing, Crimson-collared Tanagers…then we came to a sudden halt. A bird we didn’t expect to get on this trip – Scarlet Macaw! Four individuals teed up across the forested valley in a tall tree offering excellent looks. Although not a lifer, it was great to see them again!
|Along the way to Caracol|
|One of two King Vultures|
|Main structures at Caracol|
|View from the tallest structure|