Coastal waterbird notes from southern Belize, Fall 2014

Alex LamoreauxBird Sightings, Birding, distribution, Featured, Ranges and DistributionsLeave a Comment

Sandwich Tern diving (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Sandwich Tern diving (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

We are spoiled in the United States with many concentrated birding efforts taking place throughout fall and spring migration such as hawkwatches, seawatches, Big Sits, and other surveys which all help to pull in loads of data on bird numbers and distribution, but there are very few endeavors taking place in countries like Belize. Thanks to the Belize Raptor Research Institute, there is now a full time hawkwatch in the small town of Punta Gorda in southern, coastal Belize which is really the first of it’s kind in the country. With it’s second season in the books, the site has clearly become the foremost location for viewing Hook-billed Kite migration in the world. Many other raptors were also counted passing the site, but with a location right along the coastline there are plenty of other birds that can be seen moving by besides raptors. Throughout a day of hawkwatching in Punta Gorda it isn’t uncommon to see migrant groups of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, swallows, or various waterbirds.

In particular, this fall was notable for the increase and diversity of gulls and terns seen along the coastline near Punta Gorda as well as some notable waterfowl sightings, due to the increase in birder effort. Highlights were record one-day high counts for Forster’s Tern (see table below), the first confirmed record of Greater Scaup for Belize, the second record of Lesser Black-backed Gull for Belize, the southern-most record for Ring-billed Gull in 4 years, and the all-time southern-most record for Red-breasted Merganser (and 6th record ever for Belize).

One of two first winter Lesser Black-backed Gulls found on December 8th, 2014 along the Punta Gorda coastline. This was the second confirmed record of Lesser Black-back in Belize, with the first sighting by Michael O'Brien on March 3rd, 2011. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

One of two first winter Lesser Black-backed Gulls found on December 8th, 2014 along the Punta Gorda coastline. This was the second confirmed record of Lesser Black-back in Belize, with the first sighting by Michael O’Brien on March 3rd, 2011 at the Belize City waterfront. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The second Lesser Black-backed Gull seen on December 10th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The second Lesser Black-backed Gull seen on December 10th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

eBird sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Caribbean

eBird sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the Caribbean

Belize's first confirmed record of Greater Scaup, one of two birds seen flying south past the hawkwatch on November 17th. (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Belize’s first confirmed record of Greater Scaup, one of two birds seen flying south past the hawkwatch on November 17th. (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Belize's 6th record Red-breasted Merganser, and the all-time southernmost record on eBird (Photo by Angus McNab)

Belize’s 6th record Red-breasted Merganser, and the all-time southernmost record on eBird. This female type merganser was seen briefly on the afternoon of December 6th, discovered by Lee Jones. (Photo by Angus McNab)

An immature Forster's Tern, a species that was particularly abundant this past fall season. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

An immature Forster’s Tern, a species that was particularly abundant this past fall season. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

One of two pink-breasted Sandwich Terns seen on December 10th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

One of two pink-breasted Sandwich Terns seen on December 10th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Table showing observations and notes concerning tern and gull sightings along the Punta Gorda coastline during November and December, 2014.

Table showing observations and notes concerning tern and gull sightings during 24 days along the Punta Gorda coastline during November and December, 2014.

First winter Laughing Gulls were a common sight along the Punta Gorda coastline, with very few adult birds noted and none seen until November 30th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

First winter Laughing Gulls were a common sight along the Punta Gorda coastline, with very few adult birds noted and none seen until November 30th. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)