Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Getting ready for... Belize

Birding Caracol in February 2002
Tomorrow night I set off on a fortnight's trip to Belize, leading my annual tour for Tucson-based Borderland Tours. I first visited the country in March 1997, to work with the Belize Forest Department in Belmopan as a consultant for the World Conservation Monitoring Centre on a Darwin Initiative project on Central American Plant Genetic Resources. In 1998 and 1999 I got several further opportunities to return, this time to carry out rapid biodiversity inventories of the nascent Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, in Toledo District.

Coming down Caracol's Caana, the highest man-made structure in Belize, with Joe Thompson, January 2006 (Photo: Pepe Clavijo Michelangeli)
Shortly afterwards, I was invited to co-lead my first bird tour to Belize by Rick Taylor and since then have returned annually, usually for Borderland Tours, but sometimes leading small private groups. These groups have included world-listers eager to mop up a few elusive species (although Belize has no avian endemics - yet), as well as those who simply want to enjoy a pleasant birding and cultural experience at some of the best managed ecolodges in tropical America.

After twenty-odd trips to Belize, I always get excited about preparing for a new trip. Although the country is small and conditions for birders are comfortable, even luxurious, there is always the chance of something special: a new country record, a Jaguar, or simply an encounter with the country's speciality birds such as Orange-breasted Falcon, Stygian Owl or Tody Motmot. If nothing else, it is a chance to spend some time with old friends at lodges like Hidden Valley Inn and Chan Chich. Time to pack! 
At Chan Chich with the Heseltines, February 2003

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