eco-tourism

A legacy of the rainy season on Ambergris Caye yields an avian wonderland

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Our little rain pond is especially busy this morning. There are a half-dozen voracious roseate spoonbills, a peripatetic snowy egret and what looks like one very stoic wood stork. A few other waders off camera, stilts, perhaps. What ever is in the pond must be good eating.There is a grazing frenzy going on.
Our little rain pond is especially busy this morning. There are a half-dozen voracious roseate spoonbills, a peripatetic snowy egret and what looks like one very stoic wood stork. A few other waders off camera, stilts, perhaps. What ever is in the pond must be good eating.There is a grazing frenzy going on.

When the rains came, starting in November, they filled the front lawn of our condo complex with water that has never gone away.

As with any standing water it quickly became an aquatic microcosm. Algae, larvae, little tiny fish all exploded on the “pond.” Not far behind were the mosquitoes and little frogs that sprang from the various larvae and they were soon followed by the birds.

They all feed on each other.

A feeding frenzy this morning in the small pond of rainwater in front of our home in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
A feeding frenzy this morning in the small pond of rainwater in front of our home in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

The rains have abated and the pond has begun to shrink, though it doesn’t look like it will entirely go away.

As you pedal north, the amount of standing water beside the road is really noticeable. Stagnant pools of dark orange-reddish water are everywhere. Over-saturated vegetation is dying and the oxygen starved ponds are eutrophicating.

I suspect the new concrete road has something to do with all this. It is elementary physics that water finds its own level. Before the road, water drained into the lagoons or into densely vegetated areas where it was absorbed. To water, the elevated road is a wall that can not be traversed. In time, much of it will evaporate and much will sink into the ground as this sponge on which we live begins to dry out a bit.

Meanwhile, ponds like ours have proven to be a feast for the birds.

Grand varieties of egrets, ibises, herons, stilts and  pipers, wood storks and roseate spoonbills among them have taken seats at this banquet.

This morning I received a text from Rose as she arrived at her studio, “A dozen spoonbills on the other side of Feliz.” Feliz is the neighborhood bar that sits beside our pond.

By the time I got out there the number of spoonbills had been reduced to six, but there were other characters feeding at the trough. There was what looks to me like a wood stork standing sentinel over the menagerie, barely moving but alert to every movement in the area. The stork stood apart from the bulk of the feeders, aloof and alert.

One  snowy egret was careening around the pond like it was on fire. Dart left, jab the water. Dart right, jab the water. Streak across the water with half flapping wings, halt suddenly and, yes, jab the water. More orderly were a few stilts, and probably more productive, grazing out a whole section before moving on, as if working an invisible grid. Even tinier bids of unknown species (to me) seemed to fill in the gaps, like puppies retrieving the scraps from the table.

Sometimes a spoonbill would wander too close to the road and the sputter-putt of a passing motorcycle would send if flapping back toward the relative safety of the other side of this little patch of water.

They are all entirely too suspicious of people. Get close to the pond on foot and they freeze, slyly checking  you out from the corner of their eyes. Advance one more step and the whole pack will skitter to the opposite shore and try to wait out your intrusion.

Admittedly this is a small sampling of the bird population. A slow bicycle ride north is like taking a tram through an aviary. Birds abound, and less developed the area, naturally, the more you see. But you really have to slow down to spot them.

In one little stretch of lagoon up north,  the same blue heron and  great egret always seem to be locked in some sort of territorial dance. Like a chess game, they track each other around the little inlet, one muscling the other off small patches of grass and fallen branches, claiming this or that corner as home turf. I’ve stopped and watched them any number of times and it always seems to be the same game in play.

What is amazing, to me, is that a mere  20 yards east of our little pond, there is a whole other avian pageantry going on of pelicans, frigate birds, ospreys, cormorants, plovers, terns and gulls on the Caribbean Sea.

And the dense jungles, fields and forests of the Belize mainland?  That is another whole story, isn’t it?

It is good to step back sometimes in the midst of High Season, with all its compressed touristical ya-hooery and loud gaiety, and realize that we are blessed with a wealth of these little pockets of breathless beauty — ours for the taking, if we only stop to watch and listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pook’s Hill defines eco-tourism in Belize

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On the road to Pook's Hill, an eco-resort in the Cayo District.
On the road to Pook’s Hill, an eco-resort in the Cayo District.

I think I’m becoming a birdwatcher. I’ll let you know for sure if I ever drop a bundle on high-end binoculars, a camera with a telephoto lens, a light-weight bush jacket with pockets for my bird guides, notebooks, pens, spare glasses, mosquito repellent and granola bars.

Then I’ll know for sure.

Meanwhile, I just spent a very productive morning with Mario, a guide at Pook’s Hill Lodge, spotting birds.

Man, did we see birds. Read the rest of this entry »