Letter from Belize no. 73
29th May 2018
It has been another rich month at the Retreat in terms of birds. It is of course nesting time and we are humbled by their single mindedness, their dedication, their courage, their tirelessness and commitment to the serious business of reproducing their species.
Some of the birds we see are in transit, on their way to their nesting grounds. The Scarlet Tanager seen here nests in North America from southern Canada to the northern Gulf states and winters in South America. The Indigo Bunting nests from southern Canada to south-west US and the Gulf of Mexico. It winters from central Mexico to Panama. Hard to imagine isn’t it.
And no less impressive are the local residents. I mentioned in my last letter that we were delighted when the Rose-throated Becards came back to the very same tree. Watching their progress has been fascinating. They beavered away at making their nest, even reconstructing it after some Social Fly catchers had pulled most of it down to build their own nest.
Social flycatcher dismantling Becard’s nest
The new spring leaves of the mahogany tree they were in grew very rapidly and the nest was almost invisible over the last few weeks but a few days ago I saw the Becards dismantling their own nest and flying off carrying their old nesting materials to make a new nest in another tree.
On the ground below their nest I saw this so I really hope whoever hatched from this survived.
It is so tiny, about half an inch wide
The Social flycatcher who stole the building materials from the Becards built this nest. We noticed that after this tree had shed it leaves and was bare for a good week or so the birds did not go into the nest but were very present in the tree and then as the new leaves grew and gave the nest more protection so the birds became active again.
These flycatchers are very protective and can be quite aggressive towards other species which get too close to their nest.
Another bird that came back to the same location as last year was the Altimira Oriole but its behaviour remains a mystery to us. It works at the nest for a while, disappears for a few days, comes back and completes the building then vanishes for a couple of weeks. I thought it had given up on this nest and maybe built another but I saw it back again a couple of days ago.
The bird that gets the booby prize for being the most shoddy builder is the Ruddy Ground dove. It chose to build in an old oriole nest on the back veranda but after a few days, disaster, the nest fell to bits and a smashed egg with a barely formed embryo was on the railing below.
Then it built in a bunch of bananas and I spotted 2 eggs in the nest but before I managed to photograph them they had gone, taken I expect by some predator.
Also within clear view of the house are the
But my prize to the best parenting goes to the Greyish Saltators. What dedication. They also came back to the same spot as last year but they were so shy then I could never get any good photos. This year they are more sure of us and have been very obliging with photo opportunities.
Talk about a labour of love.
Anyway just to reassure you I do get out sometimes, last weekend I attended the first Maya Symposium to be held in Corozal, organized by Adela, Roy and Adam our regular satsangees. I was the official photographer and don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the over 800 photos I ended up with but here are a few choice ones. There was a mixture of presentations from academics from US, Mexican and Belize universities, from local amateurs passionate about Maya history, a talk on Maya Mystical Healing (sadly for me in Spanish so I could not understand it), an address by Government representatives and entertainment from the dynamic Ballet Folklorico de Chetumal Qunitana Roo and a school outside Corozal. On both evenings there were events at the Santa Rita Temple with some Maya ceremonies, the ball game Pok ta Pok, a baby’s naming ceremony, a re-enactment of the historic wedding between Maya princess Tzazil-Ha and Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Guerrero and to top it all, a real wedding Maya style on the same day that the world was watching the British Royal wedding. I don’t think ours followed quite the impeccable timing of that one but I am sure it was equally beautiful.
Ballet Folklorico de Chetumal Quintana Roo
Maya dance Koonex Koonex by children from Louisville RC school
Ceremony of the Cardinal Points – North, South, East, West, up above and down below
Pok to Pok played with solid rubber ball which can only be struck by the hip
Re-enactment of Maya royal wedding
And the real thing
And just to show I really do get out, I finally finished my mural this month. This is part of CSAM, Corozal Street Art Movement organized by Corozal House of Culture. It is really taking off and there are some great murals which can be seen on their Facebook page.
Our love from a very hot and humid Belize, the kind of weather when even your eyelids sweat