Letter from Belize no. 44

26th June 2015

I know it is not long since my last letter but this has been a high adrenaline week that I feel I must share with you.

First of all those Hooded Orioles nesting on the back veranda have had me on the edge of my seat all week.

After sending the last letter out I noticed that the nest was really bulging, as if the babies could fall out at any moment. Then one of the fledglings climbed up on to the outer edge of the nest and I thought, “There is no way that looks like an oriole, it’s HUGE — and very BLACK”.

So now it seems that the day we had seen the black birds around the nest a few weeks ago they were in fact laying their eggs cuckoo style. My friend Nathaniel who is an avid bird watcher suggests they may have been Cow birds rather than Melodious Blackbirds. I don’t know for sure but what is clear is that they are not Orioles.

The poor surrogate parents were working tirelessly feeding and feeding and feeding these ever-gaping mouths.

In the left hand photo you can see the female waiting in the trees close to the nest — the bright yellow blob. I thought she was wary of me but after I had enlarged the photo I saw the male was already feeding the chicks so she was waiting for him. You can just about see his yellow body to the top right of the nest.

I realized there were 3 fledglings, definitely 2 black ones and the third looking distinctly Oriole like. The biggest black one must have taken off because a couple of days later just these 2 were remaining.

Just about an hour after taking the photo on the right the black one took its maiden flight and I was fortunate enough to see it. And here it is below, suddenly looking quite small and vulnerable out in the big wide world. Black blob in the middle of the picture.

All this time both parents were closely watching the black one’s progress, following it every time it moved to a different branch and at the same time the female continued to feed the remaining one in the nest.

But not for long because shortly after this photo it too had taken off.

It really is such a privilege to get this close up to creatures in nature. I cannot tell you what a thrill it has been and now I am experiencing a bit of an empty nest syndrome.

My other adrenaline buzz was that last Sunday I went Zip Lining and Cave Tubing, both activities I have long wanted to do.

The trip was arranged by a friend in Corozal who is a friend of tour guide Vitalino. When Jess and Fearne Kenyon did his cave tubing trip in 2008 Vitalino’s business was still pretty small and he did the tour himself. No more. The tourist trade here has really taken off with the cruise ships coming in from the US. There are now many tour companies who offer these activities and Vitalino says they may have as many as 250 people a day. Cruise ship days are definitely the days to avoid. He now employs 70 people, has several mini vans, has added the ziplining to his repertoire and has an amazing thing going there.

So we were picked up in Corozal and taken the 2 and a half hour trip to Vitalino’s base in the Cayo district. Those are the toilets on the right – I just had to get a picture of them.

I was unsure how I would take to zip lining as I am a bit of a woos with heights but it was absolutely fantastic and of course the guides are so well trained and safety conscious and very reassuring all the time.

After doing the “Chicken Run” by way of instruction and to give you a chance to bale out if you think you will not cope there is a short but fairly steep hike up to the first zipline and then after that the platforms to the remaining 6 lines are all pretty close to each other.

From there we then were driven a few miles further down the road (which is being tarred to cope with all the additional tourists) to the cave tubing site. There is quite a long walk to the river, an opportunity to swim when you arrive and then the most glorious lazy relaxing float in a smart yellow tube through this extraordinary limestone cave which would be a good geography lesson in stalactites and stalagmites.

Once out of the cave there is a 15 minute drift back down the river to the starting point. There was a kind of hush over our group – everyone was so enjoying the peace and restfulness.

Now if that doesn’t entice you over here I don’t know what will.

My love to all

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