First day of hawk watching in Belize!

Anna FasoliBirding, Field Work, General News and Info2 Comments

Woken up early thanks to some Howler Monkeys around 5 am, I hit the road early for birding. The road that my house is on is actually very productive for local species and also warblers; it is just one street over from the coast, so I think migrants just use it all day long. Perhaps everywhere in Belize is like this though…birding is good literally all day, and especially during a light to steady rain. I’m seeing a lot of our northern warblers that will spend the winter here (Black-throated Green, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler), and also many other familiar faces (Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Gray Catbirds).

Red-eyed Vireo, a common migrant

Red-eyed Vireo, a common migrant (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Yesterday morning I added a few new species; Plain Chachalaca, Yellow-billed Cacique, and Pale-vented and Short-billed Pigeon. Two White-fronted Parrots flew over just after a noisy group of Red-lored Parrots (the most common parrot species here), and later in the day I found a group of 5 Olive-throated Parakeets roosting high in a tree. A local juvenile Common Black Hawk was perched near the road, trying to dry off. Read the morning ebird list here (36 species).

Common Black-Hawk - juvenile, drying off after a storm

Common Black-Hawk – juvenile, drying off after a storm (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Red-lored Parrots flying over

Red-lored Parrots flying over (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Hook-billed Kite - adult male

Hook-billed Kite – adult male (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

After my morning walk, I headed out for my first full day of hawk watching at the Cattle Landing Soccer field for Belize Raptor Research Institute.  I must say that it feels completely wrong to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and worrying about dehydration, while hawk watching in November. Weather was not ideal for the first hour (no wind and cloudy), but by 9 am local vultures started moving, and soon a few individual Peregrine Falcons and Broad-winged Hawks followed. Shortly after was my first group of Hook-billed Kites! Groups ranging in size from 2-32 flew by until a mid-day storm, giving us a total of 386 raptors for the day. About 150 or so of these were local raptors, mostly Turkey Vultures. Occasional Common Black Hawks and Short-tailed Hawks could be seen over the distant forest, but most migrants passed directly over the count site very high. A few juvenile Mississippi Kites also flew over. While I loved seeing the Hook-billed Kites after nearly 5 months of anticipation, my favorite bird of the day was a distant adult King Vulture that was travelling with a group of Black Vultures! On top of this, Magnificent Frigatebirds dotted the sky with the raptors all day, and migrant songbirds flew south along the coast (mostly warblers and Gray Catbirds, but also a single Yellow-billed Cuckoo!). After my lunch break, we had a downpour, and raptor activity all but stopped. However an adult Peregrine made a quick run south along the coast in between the storms, and a juvenile Mississippi Kite flew right over our shelter before the next and final storm of the day moved in. Read the ebird list here for the day (56 species; does not include full raptor numbers).

Mississippi Kite - juvenile

Mississippi Kite – juvenile (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Hook-billed Kite kettle!!!!

Hook-billed Kite kettle!!!! (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Common Black Hawk - adult

Common Black Hawk – adult (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Hook-billed Kite - juvenile

Hook-billed Kite – juvenile (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

A large kettle of Hook-billed Kites containing adults, juveniles, and dark morphs

A large kettle of Hook-billed Kites containing adults, juveniles, and dark morphs (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Broad-winged Hawk - juvenile, flying over the count site

Broad-winged Hawk – juvenile, flying over the count site (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

We ended the county early for rain, so I headed back and did some more birding of course, but with no camera thanks to the rain. Highlights were three new hummingbird species including Long-billed Hermit (amazingly long tail), White-necked Jacobin, and White-bellied Emerald! I also found a grassy field that contained quite a few Blue-black Grassquit, and an extremely friendly Yellow-bellied Elaenia (lifer of course) popped out and foraged down the edge of the road. Read the ebird list here (38 species). It is very easy to add a few new species here every few hours, and I think I will be able to keep this up at least a few days as I learn more and more species!

Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Social Flycatcher; note the smaller bill than Great Kiskadee

Social Flycatcher; note the smaller bill than Great Kiskadee (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

White-collared Seedeater - male (very common)

White-collared Seedeater – male (very common) (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Photo by Anna Fasoli)

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Photo by Anna Fasoli)