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Belize: Bird Week 2019

Belize bird weeks at La Milpa Conservation Area and Chaab’il B’e Lodge with premier Belizean bird guides. 

La Milpa

The La Milpa Research Centre is nestled deep in the forests of northwestern Belize and is part Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. Rio Bravo is host to a wide variety of habitats lending to great biodiversity. Chaab’il B’e in the Toledo district of Southern Belize means “good trail” in Q’eqchi’ Maya, and no less than 17 trails are found on the property. Nestled along Jacinto Creek in the shadow of the Maya Mountains, Chaab’il B’e Lodge will the home base for the second half of our bird week. With the Maya, Creole, Garifuna and East Indian cultures along with the explosion of the cacao industry, the Toledo District in southern Belize offers a combined nature and cultural experience different than anywhere else in the country. 

 


2019 Departure Dates & Costs

February 4 - 11, 2019 with Roni Martinez
April 11 - 18, 2019 with Jonathan Urbina 
Trip cost: 1,895 USD per person, based on twin share
$ 100 USD donation is included to the Belize Bird Conservancy


Belize may be small country, but it is well endowed with wild landscapes, diversity of wildlife and interesting cultures both present and past. It is an English-speaking hideaway tucked under Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula with Guatemala to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Visiting here is like a step back in time because the unhurried pace of life  and natural conditions and cultural charm.  The coastal strip is a mosaic of mangroves, salt and freshwater lagoons, sandy beaches and meandering rivers. To the south and west rises the forested Maya mountain range. More than 65 per cent of the area of the country is still forested providing habitat for over 500 species of birds, as well as many mammals, reptiles and butterflies. Belize also includes numerous offshore islands that stretch along an almost continuous barrier reef off the coast. This reef system is the longest in the Western Hemisphere.  The country is also home to hundreds of ancient Maya sites. Some have been excavated and are open to visitors but many others lie hidden in the jungle. Several indigenous cultures welcome visitors to experience Belizean hospitality, natural and cultural heritage.

Bird guides:

Roni Martinez, born in Belize, has worked as a natural history guide since 2004.  He began his career serving as the Conservation Officer in the Mountain Pine Ridge area. While there, his passion for birds and other wildlife deepened. In 2014, he left his position to pursue a wider career in birding and wildlife conservation, working with an array of  researchers and conservation NGOs who share the same vision. Among his achievements, he co-founded the Scarlet Six Biomonitoring Team in to protect the last remnant population of Scarlet Macaws in Belize, is President of the Belize Raptor Research Institute, and has been proactive in efforts to conserve biodiversity in Belize.

Jonathan Urbina has been birding from a young age. At 13, he became the youngest birder to get a first country record - the Lesser Goldfinch. Since then, he observed 3 more first country records. His passion turned to academics, and he completed his degree in Wildlife Biology & Conservation. In 2012, he joined the Peregrine Fund’s Orange-breasted Falcon Restoration Project and spent 6 years gaining intimate knowledge of this iconic species as well as more of Belize’s avifauna. He also immersed himself in extensive training to become a bird guide which led to work guiding for several North American ornithological and wildlife operators. Past groups enjoy his pleasant personal demeanor and his skill in the field.

IITINERARY

Days 1 – 4 LA MILPA RESEARCH CENTRE
The La Milpa Research Centre is nestled deep in the forests of northwestern Belize and is part Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area.  Rio Bravo is host to a wide variety of habitats including Pine forest, Secondary palm/broadleaf forest, marsh and freshwater lagoon. This diversity helps protect over 70 mammal species and 392 bird species.  Twenty-two vegetation types are encompassed by the boundaries of the conservation area, and support 230 tree species. The research Centre is just 3 miles from the La Milpa Archaeological. This and sixty other archaeological sites found on the Rio Bravo have contributed to a rich base for archaeological research. Guests visiting the La Milpa Lodge experience firsthand the rich history of the Maya Civilization and in 1996, the site received international recognition when a royal Maya tomb was found and a male skeleton adorned with a jeweled necklace was unearthed on its grounds.  We will stay in thatched- roof cabanas with private baths. (Comfortable and tastefully decorated dormitory are also available with 5 berths per room and shared bathrooms). Birding and hiking the nature trails are the order of the days at La Milpa. Avid birders can likely compile a list of more than 150 species during the three days. Time permitting, we will visit a nearby Mestizo and Mennonite village for a taste of Belizean culture.

Days 4 – 7  CHAAB’ ILB’E LODGE
Nestled along Jacinto Creek in the shadow of the Maya Mountains in the Southern district of Toledo, Chaab’il B’e Lodge will be your home base for 3 days of briding and wildlife exploring. Chaab’il B’e means “good trail” in Q’eqchi’ Maya and there are no less than 17 trails on the property lending to great birding. Chaab’il B’e Lodge has 20 acres of private forest with 3 of those acres maintained in gardens. In addition to the heliconias, gingers, and orchids endemic to Southern Belize, the gardens are full of local flowering and fruit bearing trees which attract birds year around. One birder couple said, “We don’t have to leave the property. The property’s birding checklist includes over 200 species. We can just sit by this one tree and complete our list.” With the Maya, Creole, Garifuna and East Indian cultures along with the explosion of the cacao industry, the Teledo District in southern Belize offers a complete natural and cultural experience different than anywhere else in the country. 

For the February departure, we are planning a number of day trips in the area, conservation talks and presentations in the evenings, and birding at all the local hotspots. For the April trip, we also feature a 24 hour Birdathon. Birding will take place on the Chaab’il B’e property and in a 5 mile radius of the lodge which includes the Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary.Birders will awake to the noise of flocks of parrots, chachalacas, and Montezuma Oropendolas. Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Araceris, and several species of trogons are common on the property. You will hear the clicking of the White-collared Manakins and follow the sound to watch their display. Enjoy great food, hospitality and pleasingly rustic yet oh so comfortable accommodations.

Options are also available to visit the nearby ruins of Lubaantun and Mim LI Punit. The Lubaantun Ruins are the largest Maya site in Southern Belize. A late classic ceremonial center dated to 700-900 AD this site consists of eleven large structures tower above five main plazas and three ball courts. Nim Li Punit is one of the smaller Maya sites well known for the large amount of stele found here. Inheriting its name from the carving of a figure wearing a large headdress, Nim Li Punit means “the big hat” in the the Maya Kekchi language.

Day 7: TRANSFER TO CROOKED TREE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY (B,L,D)
Leaving Southern Belize and head to Crooked Tree Lagoon. Two nights at Bird’s Eye Lodge, located on the edge of the small rural village of Crooked Tree. Afternoon boat trip. 

Day 8:  CROOKED TREE LAGOON (B)
Morning birding at the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary which is a vast wetland where waterbirds of many species concentrate during the dry season and are easily seen. We will see a range of waterbirds including egrets, ibises and possibly the Jabiru Stork. We will also have a boating tour to experience the area, and search for birds from a different vantage point.  Continue to the Belize airport for departure. 

(Photos by R. Alvarez, J. Kamstra and C. Evans)


Additional Information

Package includes:

•         7 nights accommodation & meals
•         Local bird guide
•         River trip, daily transfers to bird hotspots, entry fees to ruins site and national park
•         Round trip road transfer to Belize International airport
•         Tax & service charge
•         Contribution to Bird Conservation. Your tour cost includes a $100 USD contribution to Belize Bird Conservancy