7th-13th March 2014
La Milpa, Belize
My next port-of-call was La Milpa, in the northwest corner of Belize, very close to the Mexican border. The habitat here is dense, deciduous rainforest so the range of species found here is totally different to those found at Crooked Tree.
My favourite bird of my stay here was definitely the Red-capped Manakin, a bird I have always wanted to see ever since watching David Attenborough's "Life of Birds" back in the '90's. He showed a priceless piece of footage in that programme of the Red-capped Manakin's display and anyone who thinks Michael Jackson had original dance moves should watch that video. These beautiful, little birds have been "moon-walking" to impress the ladies for countless millenia before Jacko came along, and I was lucky enough to witness this marvel of the natural world it for myself on the first day of my stay at La Milpa!
The dowdy female didn't seem anywhere near as impressed by his display as I was and totally ignored his advances...
I was doubly fortunate to witness the Red-capped Manakin's display because that wasn't actually the species I was looking for at the time! Vladimir, one of the wardens on the reserve, had told me there was an active White-collared Manakin lek just opposite his office and it was this species I had gone over to try and photograph. Unfortunately, the males didn't emerge from the dense cover and all I was able to see of them was partially obscured birds in the gloom of the undergrowth. The female, however, was much more obliging and popped out into the open to allow its portrait to be taken.
Another stunning bird I saw on my first afternoon at La Milpa was a gorgeous Ornate Hawk-eagle, one of the most striking raptors to occur in the neotropics.
Ornate Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus ornatus)
Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris)
During my stay at La Milpa, I saw 3 species of Trogon: Black-headed was the most common, but I also saw several Violaceous Trogons and a couple of Slaty-tailed Trogons.
Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus)
Violaceous Trogon (Trogon violaceus)
Along the road in the early mornings, Great Curassows could often be observed at the edge of the dense forest as they made their way down to the pond for a drink.
Around the main lodge building, Red-legged Honeycreepers regularly came down to drink the sugar water in the hummingbird feeders...
The vast majority of the hummingbirds visiting the feeders were again the ubiquitous Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, but a few White-bellied Emeralds also made an appearance from time to time.
In the branches overhanging the small pond, a Green Kingfisher could often be found fishing for its dinner...
...while in the pond itself, the resident Morelet's Crocodile silently lurked...
...and Common Sliders hauled themselves out onto partly submerged branches to bask in the afternoon sun, often attended by butterflies seeking to drink the moisture around the turtle's eyes to gain valuable salts and minerals contained within its tears.
The lawns around the cabanas also had its share of wildlife, with the resident pair of Grey Foxes regularly making an appearance.
The Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift shown below had somehow managed to get tangled up in some vegetation and was attempting to fly with a big ball of moss (visible in the top right of the below photo) hanging from its neck! It soon became exhausted, however, and it was quite easy to capture it and gently remove the plant fibres that were wrapped around its neck. The bird thankfully appeared uninjured and in excellent condition, despite its ordeal, and flew off strongly as soon as I opened my hands to release it.
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.