Today we were rained out at the BRRI Cattle Landing Hawkwatch (run by Belize Raptor Research Institute). However, rain is not a day-killer here, at least for me; it just means I leave my camera at home (don’t worry, photos at end). I planned to head to the dump again, but I had not yet been to Belcampo, a nearby resort in the rainforest just north of town, that allows visitors to enter to go birding. With nothing else to do, I rode the bike an extra mile or so and found a new magical place to bird. Belcampo is like a little city, with its own organic farm and resident staff. You can easily take a bike in, but you should abandon it at the bike rack at the base of the drive to the lodge. These roads are steep! The ride in is on flat land through the middle of the farm, and is good for grackles, Cattle Egrets, and flycatchers. My first venture was up a pretty steep rocky road. No idea how cars ever drive up this road, even when it is dry. Warblers were out foraging in the rain (added Kentucky Warbler to Belize list!) along with hummingbirds and a Lesser Greenlet (this was my 700th lifer a few days ago!). Parrots and both tityras were at the very top of the hill. Going back down was pretty treacherous in the rain, but the birds and view at the top were well worth it.
Next I birded up the less steep but still treacherous paved road to the lodge. Again, no idea how cars go up, let alone down, this road. Lots of Hooded Warblers were on this road, and in the distance a drenched Common Black Hawk perched on an open branch. A quick stop at the fancy lodge for a trail map (note to future husband; please be rich so we can stay here) and I was on my way down a couple million steep steps to the Rio Grande. At this point it was a downpour and birds were mostly hiding, but it was still a magical rainforest walk. Awkward concrete steps eventually turned into a wooden boardwalk ending in a deck at the Rio Grande. After seeing my first Tapir run out from under the deck, I quickly walked to the river’s edge to see what else was around. Be warned, do not go too fast or you will promptly slide off the wet deck right into the river, likely into the mouth of a crocodile, as I nearly did (I am sure there is one waiting in there for such an event). I waited out the rain in a wonderfully placed thatched roof shelter, but the rain only got worse. I headed to the Mahogany Trail which loops back around to the bike path, avoiding the ascent back up the hill. Wood Thrush and a single Swainson’s Thrush were foraging on the Mahogany Trail, and another Kentucky Warbler was near the end with an Ovenbird. I said goodbye to the staff who probably thought I was nuts for birding in a downpour and was on my way.
On my way out, I looked for raptors that were grounded due to the rain. On my way in, I saw two adult Gray Hawks, and on my way out I found my first-ever Laughing Falcon! It was perched out in the open, and despite the downpour, it still looked fluffy and adorable, more so than the other soaking wet raptors I saw. This guy is in the running for my favorite Belize raptor. I mean just look at it. I am sure the other raptors make fun of it for being so adorable and not at all intimidating.
A little farther down the main road in, I flushed a sparrow on the road, the second Savannah Sparrow I have seen here (the other made a quick stop in the grass at the BRRI Hawkwatch a few weeks ago). Isael and Victor both need this bird for their Belize list, so I rode home and we came back with the car. We did not relocate the sparrow, but we did find this light (or intermediate) type juvenile Gray-headed Kite perched at the spot! He was looking super wet and grumpy, and not at all as amused by us as we were by him. We also checked on the Laughing Falcon, who was still perched in the same spot. Not the best photos, but they prove that birding in the rain can be extremely productive, especially for finding downed, grumpy raptors.