Letter from Belize no. 43

16th June 2015

This has been the month of not so much “the birds and the bees” as “the birds and the dogs”. One of my early morning delights is to sit on the back veranda with my breakfast coffee and watch and listen to the myriad of birds out there. One is level with the tree canopy and it is a bit like being in an aviary. It is abuzz with movement and chatter and of course this time of year is breeding time. There have been quite a few nests tucked into the beams, gutters and eaves of the house and again I am struck by the huge failure rate there must be in the bird world – that so few eggs make it to fledglings and so few fledglings make it to adulthood.

A pair of Hooded Orioles built this beautiful nest on the back veranda …

… and then one day we saw some Melodious Blackbirds at the nest. Since then I still see the orioles around in the trees adjacent to that part of the house but I see no activity in the nest. I don’t know if Blackbirds are known raiders of nests but it was very suspicious behaviour.

Well that is what I wrote yesterday but LOOK what I saw today …

That is a tail sticking up from the nest so they are sitting on eggs. That is so fantastic!

And I have discovered that birds are into re-cycling! Let it not be said that they don’t play their part in contributing to the cause.

Last year the Sociable Flycatchers built this nest (left) while the Kiskadees rebuilt this one for the 3rd year running (right, in the middle of the photo), in the gutter close by.

This year I saw the sociable Flycatchers pulling down that last year’s nest and using the same materials to rebuild on the site of the Kiskadee nest. I am not sure where the Kiskadees have moved to. I am aware of them around but have not spotted their nest.

The various Orioles continue to visit several times a day to attack their images in the mirrors on posts on the front veranda and the black birds come morning and evening to share Dan’s leftovers. Trouble is we have started Dan on a new brand of food this week and he loves it so there are no leftovers and we have to give the Blackbirds their share.

So, talking of Dan, he has been, over the last few months, becoming increasingly bored and made it very clear to us that we were too old, too staid and way too dull. We have a delightful young man who comes to help out here and Dan responds to his youthful vigour with wild excitement and I think would go and live with him like a shot. Anyway, right after my last newsletter where I had described the plight of some Belize dogs this one turned up one night.

She was skinny and scabby and bald and spent the first day tucked safely under the truck but her tail thumped every time we walked past, so grateful was she for the food and water we gave her. After a morning of telling myself we really didn’t need another dog we succumbed by the afternoon realizing she wouldn’t be going anywhere else in a hurry so took her off to the vet for shots and mange remedy. And we called her Suki.

Honestly these poor creatures have such a very hard start in life. This kind of mange is passed on from mother to puppy because of extremely poor immunity in both. Anyway the following week she was looking so much better and we had her spayed but within a week she died. The wound opened and she just didn’t make it. The vet is mystified. It was a horrible way to go and we felt very bad for her. She was a honey and we all liked her.

Dan clearly loved having company and then last week we heard about Tala who was looking for a new home. Actually she originally belonged to an English couple who lived not far from us so we met her when she was a puppy and always liked her. When her owners returned to UK last year she was taken on by another friend until she could be re-homed. As Henry says she has not quite unpacked her bags yet but each day she looks more settled and at home. She is sweet, gentle and affectionate and infinitely patient with Dan. Tala is a native American name meaning Wolf.

May and June are also the months of the fire. Sugarcane harvesting time. It is very fraught this year with unease between the cane farmers, the refinery, the Government and the US buyers. Because of the dispute the season started late and now there has been over production and the refinery cannot cope with the quantity of cane and so many farmers will not be able to sell their crop and many are in debt to the Banks and so face a very insecure future.

The practice in Belize is for the farmers to burn the field before cutting the cane and they must then cut and transport it within 3 days to the refinery before the cane begins to dry out and the quality of the sucrose deteriorates and also to meet their allocated delivery time.

The fires are fast and fierce. Whereas here at the Retreat we used to be surrounded by both papaya and sugarcane, we now have only sugarcane since disease destroyed the papaya crops through over use of chemical sprays and the papaya company have now moved to another area (no doubt to repeat the process elsewhere). The field right next to us was burnt last week. It is a terrifying sound and sight with huge flames and slivers of burning cane leaves flying through the air in the up currents of wind caused by the heat of the fire. A lot of expats find their eyes suffer so much from the smoke around at this time of year that they cannot live anywhere near the cane fields.

We have at last had some rain and after one shower these gorgeous little bulbs I had planted in the fern garden suddenly burst into flower.

You are viewing our new website. We would like to thank Andy and Ann Kenyon for paving the way with the earlier sites and to Jan and Judy Wilson, web designers and residents of Corozal for over 20 years, who have shared their expertise in both web design and life in Belize.

With all our love,

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