Letter from Belize no. 63

23rd April 2017

It is so interesting how, when one has lived in a place for some years, one begins to slide into the rhythms of that place. In the tropics the seasons are not nearly as defined as further north but without doubt spring has arrived. The dried out winter leaves have fallen from the trees, many trees have flowered, and now the new fresh bright green leaves are appearing growing at an astonishing rate each day. The whole vibration of the bird world has changed noticeably in the last few weeks. The residents are pairing up, the winter visitors are changing their plumage to the breeding colours and preparing to leave for the north and the transients, those who winter in South America and breed in North America, are passing through. The songs change, the usually gentle creatures become territorial and aggressive, the residents are quick to see off the passers through and right now there is a never ending movement of searching for appropriate nesting sites and nesting materials. There is a whole heightened intensity like nothing I have been aware of before.

But I suspect that is not so much that it has not been happening but rather that I have not lived in a veritable aviary before and had it all going on right in front of me. Certainly having this marvelous camera has made a huge difference and in this way I am able to share some of our sightings with you.

When I first came here I thought our human presence would chase away the birds but in fact the vegetation we have introduced has provided plentiful food and has attracted more and more different species.

The Madre de Cacao tree (Mother of the Cacao), planted as a live fence, flowers each year at this time and the birds just love it. In fact people love it too. I was told by a woman from Honduras that the flowers are wonderful gently fried in butter with a bit of onion.

Click on any of these photos for a larger view.

So many birds come to it every day but one of the real gifts has been the Olive-throated Parakeets who often fly overhead chattering away like a bunch of school kids but who, for this short period, land on the Madre and devour the flowers in total silence.

One day a pair of them flew from the Madre Cacao into the avocado tree and I witnessed what I thought was a parent feeding a young one but I have since been told that sometimes they feed each other as a mating ritual and on reflection this is most probably what it was. One started flapping its wings like crazy and wobbling on the branch as if it was about to fall off.

and then ...

Then there is the splendid flower of the Ziricote tree which attracts so many species, the most difficult to photograph of course being the humming birds. This one here is the Rufous-tailed humming bird.

The Ziricote also attracted this little darling called the Indigo Bunting. The Indigo Bunting is brown most of the year round but in preparation for the breeding season the male changes into this stunning blue colour. It winters between central Mexico and Panama and it will nest from southern Canada to south west USA and the Gulf of Mexico.

To my delight it also came right up to the bird bath.

A bird that has roosted here all winter and who I have stalked unashamedly is the Summer Tanager. It is very shy and while I have heard it every day I had not been able to get good pictures as it arrived each evening in the fading light.

I did see it in the forest one day in February.

And then a couple of days ago I saw it very clearly in the trees at the back of the house. I have only heard him once since then so I think he may have taken off to his breeding grounds. Having wintered between central Mexico and the north of South America it will now return to the central to south-western regions of the USA. In the non-breeding period it is like its female, a yellow bird, not red at all.

Imagine my delight when photographing the Summer Tanager my eye was drawn to the tree beyond it to an even brighter shade of red — the Scarlet Tanager.

Here being seen off by a Social Flycatcher who is building a nest nearby who was not about to put up with a mere passer-by.

Having wintered in the west of South America it is now in transit on its way back to the eastern part of North America where it will nest between southern Canada and northern Mexico. Can you imagine those distances.

Birds of course are great fruit eaters and love papaya.

This Blue-grey Tanager had to wait its turn while the Clay-coloured Robin (which is really a Thrush) had first sitting.

And then today there were these guys who I have seen before but not for a long time.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page under Belize Gateway Trust Foundation.

Um – that’s not a bird

Our love to all

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