1st-4th March 2014
Crooked Tree, Belize
On two successive mornings a female Peregrine killed and ate a Cattle Egret on the lawn of one of the houses bordering the road from Bird's-eye Lodge. The first time I only saw the aftermath: a pile of feathers and the remains of a wing. The second day, just before the sun poked its head above the horizon, I caught a glimpse of a speeding grey shape out of the corner of my eye and then an explosion of white feathers as the Peregrine smashed into the Egret at full speed, mortally wounding the hapless bird. The Egret continued to weakly struggle against the weight of the Peregrine sitting on top of it for a few seconds, but it didn't last long as the falcon, completely ignoring the Egret's struggles, proceeded to quickly rip it to pieces. After only 5 minutes, all that was left was the Egret's beak, wings and a pile of blood-stained white feathers.
After such a stark display of nature at its most brutal, the rest of my day was spent photographing more gentle subjects such as the comical Northern Jacanas with their enormously over-sized feet...
The long elongated toes of the Jacana spread its weight over a large surface area and allow it to walk on floating vegetation without sinking into the water.
A Wilson's Snipe also joined the regulars in the roadside pond for a couple of days....
At another pond a bit further up the road, a Bare-throated Tiger-heron could regularly be seen fishing among the flooded tree roots.
An American Pygmy Kingfisher could also occasionally be observed here, usually perching on a branch overhanging the water in the deep shadow.
Both Golden-fronted and its smaller, close relative, the Red-vented Woodpecker gave good close views at times and I once even saw them both in the same tree at the same time, which provided a good opportunity to compare the two side-by-side.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Red-vented Woodpecker (Melanerpes pygmaeus)
Hummingbirds are not particularly common in the Crooked Tree area, with Rufous-tailed Hummingbird making up over 90% of the sightings, but Green-breasted Mango, Canivet's Emerald and Ruby-throated Hummingbird also all occur.
All the other Masked Tityras I've seen on my travels around South America have always been perched on the tops of enormously high trees, so it was a welcome surprise to find an obliging female in the lower branches of a roadside tree
A beautiful male Rose-throated Becard was also flycatching for insects in the same tree.
Brown Jays, Spot-breasted Wrens and Dusky-capped Flycatchers were among the other Belizean residents frequently observed in the roadside vegetation.
...while winter migrants from North America included Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Warbler.
At night, Common Pauraques regularly sat on the road beneath the street lamps waiting for moths to fly by.
The following morning, I went on a boat trip out onto the lagoon and along part of Spanish Creek.
Three species of Kingfisher were seen on the trip, although most of them kept too far away to allow me to photograph them. The female Belted Kingfisher, shown above, was the exception to the rule.
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)
juvenile Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga)
Raptors formed the majority of photographic subjects on the boat trip with both Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and an immature Great Black Hawk both allowing us to approach quite closely without any sign of concern.
Close to its nest tree, an adult Black-collared Hawk was agitatedly dive-bombing a neighbouring tree. After a bit of searching and maneuvering the boat into a better position we were at last able to spot the object of the hawk's ire: a sleeping Northern Tamandua who was completely ignoring the over-protective hawk. Tamanduas are anteaters and don't even possess teeth, so it posed no threat whatsoever to the hawk and its nest.
Ray Wilson owns the copyright of all images on this site.
They may not be used or copied in any form without prior written permission.