Today we took off to do some bird watching south of the island. It was a little overcast, basically a dreary day (and honestly), we didn't expect to see many birds. Wow!!! I couldn't have been more wrong about that statement. Let's share some of what we saw.
Before heading out, we decided to stop at Ms. Susan's (La Divina Providencia), right around the corner from Belize Budget Suites. Many of our guests (at the hotel), really enjoy eating here when they first arrive to the island. La Divina Prvidencia is both a restaurant and a grocery store. So when our guests first arrive (by stopping at Ms. Susan's), they can not only grab a bite to eat, but pick up a few groceries for the following morning as well. The food is amazing, and the prices are definitely amazing too. Ms Susan caters to locals, and many of our guests are here to back-pack Belize and experience it as a local as well.
Ms. Susan came over to the table to greet us, it was exciting to get to see her after months of pandemic madness. Everyone has a little local hangout (that's close to home), where they enjoy some of their favorites. La Divina Providencia is that place for us. It's close to the hotel (just around the corner), the food is great, the prices are great and it's a family owned business just like us. We've gotten nothing but great reviews and comments (from our guests), thanking us for helping them to find this wonderful place.
The boys each tried their favorite drink, Romen had watermelon juice and Jaymin had a banana smoothie. Drinks were delicious and the boys fist bumped to a amazing tasty moment.
La Divina Providencia - Restaurant & Grocery Store
Within walking distance of Belize Budget Suites
After a most delicious lunch, we headed south of the island. Our first two birds that we saw were a "Hooded Oriole" and a "Tropical Mockingbird". Both birds are very common on the island (we have them around the house), so no big surprise to see these first off.
All of us had our eyes pointed up, scanning the tree tops and bushes. Out of Marcy's peripheral vision she spotted movement, and quickly blurted out: "What bird is that?" As I looked up (I began to laugh), it was a Tropic Air plan flying by. "Cessna", I told her, "That is what they call a Cessna". We both enjoyed a good laugh, for this most unusual bird sighting.
We pulled the golf cart off the road and headed toward the beach. Here we saw a number of "double-breasted cormorants", sitting on old dock posts, a boat-billed heron, a few brown pelicans, seagulls and ducks. The boys always need help spotting the birds, as they usually don't know exactly where we're looking. Marcy pointed them in the right direction, and they quickly saw all of them.
Nestled at the edge of the mangrove, we saw a boat-billed heron.
What is interesting about this habitat, is the red mangroves that we saw growing at the beach shoreline. Belize is home to 4 different species of mangoves.
How do you tell the different mangroves apart?
Red mangrove - is the tallest of all local species, it can grow to a height of over 80 feet tall. It has large broad leaves grow to 5 inches, with a blunt point. The leaves are waxy, dark green above and below. The key characteristics of the Red mangrove are the "prop roots" derived from the trunk and “drop roots” from the branches.
Black mangrove - is the second tallest species, reaching heights over 65 feet in height. The leaves grow about 4 inches in length, with a blunt point. The leaves are dark green above and a pale green below. The leaf under surface is covered with dense hairs. The key characteristics of the Black mangroves are the aerial roots growing from underground upward.
White mangrove - is the smallest species existing as a tree or shrub with maximum heights of 50 feet. The leaf shape is a broad, flat oval rounded at both ends. White mangrove often develop peg roots which are similar to pneumatophores except they are shorter and more stout in appearance.
Buttonwood mangrove - is more frequently found in the upland transitional zone. Its pointed leaves possess salt glands as openings alternating along the midrib on the underside of the leaf. Rather than producing seedlings that germinate on the parent tree, buttonwoods flower with the formation of a button-like seed case.
Birds We Saw Today
White Ibis - American White Ibis, in Belize. The white ibis is a medium-sized bird. It is about 60 cm (2 feet) tall and has a wingspan of about 90 cm (3 feet). The white ibis breeds in large colonies that may include other wading birds.
Great Egrets - It is the most widespread of all the herons in Belize. The great egret feeds in all the shallow waters of Belize. This large bird coils its sinewy neck, ready to spear prey. Prey includes fish, aquatic invertebrates and reptiles.
Tri-Color Herons - These herons are the only dark-colored ones with a white belly. Tricolored herons are one of the herons in Belize that are the most abundant. When stalking prey, the Tricolored heron will go deeper into the water than any other heron.
Great Blue Herons - The Great Blue Heron is the largest and most widespread heron in Belize. It is a large bird, with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and an "S"-shaped neck. Great Blue Herons are very tall and stand 38-54 inches.
Reddish Egrets - The Reddish Egret is a small heron. It is a resident breeder in Central America, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast of the United States, Mexico and Belize. In the past, this bird was a victim of the plume trade.
Red Knot Sandpipers - This medium-sized sandpiper has black, brown and gray scaled upperparts, a red-brown face, neck, breast and sides, and a white lower belly. It has a slightly curved black bill. The wings show white bars in flight. Diet includes insects, larvae, mollusks and crabs.
As we drove along the south end of the island, purple martin swallows flew overhead. They were so fast, and often so many (in a flock), their movements were fast and jerky, as they suddenly flew upward and downward with the wind. As we continued on, Jaymin spotted a black vulture on a tree post. We backed the cart up to get a closer look, which didn't seem to disturb him one bit. These were the same type of birds we saw on our bird tour (up north on Ambergris Caye) a few weeks ago. Next Marcy spotted a Yucatan Woodpecker, drilling into one of the power poles along the sandy road (south of the island).
Purple Martins - the Purple Martin, the biggest swallow in North America, by the way, is one of the earliest migratory visitors to Belize, showing up from between July to late August. We see them in large numbers because, when they are not breeding, they hang out in huge flocks and roost together in great numbers.
Yucatan Woodpecker - The Yucatán woodpecker is found in Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, and ranges over the entire Yucatán Peninsula. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.
Black Vultures - Are most abundant at low elevations. They breed in dense woodlands but usually forage in open habitats. They roost in undisturbed stands of tall trees, including sycamores, pines, hickories, oaks, junipers, and bald cypress. The total population is extremely large with at least 10,000 mature individuals.
Marco Gonzales Maya Site
As we continued heading south on Ambergris Caye, we came to the site known as the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. It's located near the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, about 6 miles south of San Pedro and is surrounded by dense jungle. It covers an area of approximately 8 acres on a small area of elevated terrain. Over 2,000 years ago, the area would have been much larger as evidenced by archaeological debris underlying mangrove stands. Before sea levels rose, the area is thought to have been beaches and a direct access to the sea. The rise in sea levels over the past 20 years has significantly altered the land mass.
Prior to Covid-19, there was a booth at the entrance, and trails that allowed you to walk to the site. Now, however, the trails are overgrown and visits to the site are difficult, especially during the rainy season.
Ambergris Caye was home to an estimated 20,000 Maya traders at the height of their occupation of the island. There are 18 sites recognized on the 25 mile long island and none of these sites had been preserved. By April 1, 2011, the paperwork was signed with the Belizean Government, making the Marco Gonzalez the first Maya Site National Park on Ambergris Caye. The development of the site is a huge undertaking. NICH has estimated the cost at $1.5M USD for the Visitor/Educational Center, footbridge, parking lot, restrooms, security buildings, etc. In the desire to go "green", wind and solar power is being explored to compliment local electricity. Composting restrooms and recycled plastic "lumber" for the boardwalk are being discussed. Grants and donations are being sought to make this dream come true.
The Marco Gonzales Maya Site was boarded up when we got there. With this pandemic, there just hasn't been enough funding to support keeping it open. Someday when the pandemic is over, we hope to go back to the site and take a walking tour. This site (unlike many others in Belize), was built using conch shells and much of it is submerged under the water table, making it hard to excavate. So we'll save this adventure for later.
Ending Our Bird Tour
This was a great afternoon spent bird watching on Ambergris Caye going South. We certainly saw way more birds than expected. This pandemic has been hard on many, and available cash is hard to come by. We try to pick adventures that cost very little money, and yet provide quality time with both the boys. Bird watching is an activity that does just that (it costs nothing, except the gas), and has become a highlight for Marcy, Romen, Jaymin & myself. We promised the boys, before ending our bird-watching tour, that we'd stop and get them a special dessert. So our last stop of the day, was to try out the Turtle Cheesecake at Black Orchid Restaurant. We had seen a post on Facebook, of this cheesecake and thought this is just too good to be true (so the next time we're out), we need to check this out. Black Orchid Restaurant is located about 2.5 miles south of the center of San Pedro, and about 1 mile south of Belize Budget Suites.
As we pulled up to BLACK ORCHID RESTAURANT, one of the waitresses came outside to greet us (wearing a mask), "Are you the lady bringing 2 boys in Belize, here for cheesecake? "Yes", I told her, and "We're excited to check this out." This chilly afternoon seemed like the perfect opportunity for a cup of hot green tea, along with a quick visit with Judyann Horton (general manager - who runs the show), just a wonderful person and so dedicated to her mission. We absolutely loved our experience at the restaurant, the staff was warm and inviting and made us feel right at home.
The staff at Black Orchid Restaurant gave the boys pirate hats, crayons and a treasure map to color while waiting for their Red-Velvet Cake & Turtle Cheesecake. Of course, we got creative with the whole pirate thing, and a whole slue of pictures transpired right at the table.
Though we came in for the cheesecake, the boys really enjoyed the red velvet cake more, while Marcy and I devored the cheesecake. Romen got a little cranky towards the end and made Marcy apologize for taking bites out of his cake (giggle). Both were absolutely delicious and we can certainly recommend these two wonderful desserts to anyone looking to partake of something truly scrumptious.
This ends another adventure for 2 Boys in Belize.
This lovely lady I'm sitting next to (is Roman's mom), the mother to my grandson. Together, we are going to take the boys (Jaymin & Romen - Jaymin being my other grandson), on a series of adventures throughout the country of Belize. This is our photo diary of those adventures, to share with you. Many of these adventures can be enjoyed by families (just like us), while traveling on vacation in Belize.