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Thu, Aug. 22

Column: Greetings from Belize!

On Monday, Gayla and I flew from Phoenix to Belize, via Houston. This is my first time visiting Belize, and in many respects it reminds me a lot of Brazil. For years we have been providing free guided bird walks each week at both our Prescott and our Sedona stores. This trip, however, is the first Jay's Bird Barn birding field trip to an international destination.

We flew in a day before the group was to meet up, which provided me with the opportunity to go birding on my own, both Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The birding has been fantastic! It is hard to describe the joy I feel as I spend time in nature, observing new birds.

The birds that thrill me the most are the birds that I am seeing in the wild for the first time in my life. It is one thing to see pictures of birds in a bird book. It is quite a different thing to see them in the wild.

I have taken this Belize trip seriously. I have spent the last two months studying and memorizing all of the birds that are in The Birds of Belize book, which has over 570 birds! I have been pouring over the color plates in the bird book, repeating over and over again the names of the birds. I wanted to firmly plant in my mind each species name and its key identifying features.

My preparation has really paid off. It is one thing to bird with a guide when you are in a place you have never been before. However, when you are alone, if you don't know your birds, it can be really challenging to identify each species you see. I felt that the time I spent birding by myself was super productive. I really knew the names of each of the species I saw, and was able to identify

them without the aid of a guide.

It is the 'local' birds that are especially exciting to see, as these are birds that I have never seen before. Some of the highlights include seeing several bat falcons, a yellow-throated euphonia, a lineated woodpecker, squirrel cuckoos, black catbird, white-fronted parrot and olive-throated parakeets.

There is a wide range of birds to see here-non-migratory birds that are year round, birds that are migratory including birds found in eastern North America, and birds found in western North America. For example, on Tuesday I saw cedar waxwings, white-winged doves, hooded orioles, and vermilion flycatchers. Each of these species is fairly common in Arizona at the right time of year.

It has been interesting to see a number of 'neo-tropical' bird species-birds that winter in the tropics and summer in North America. On Tuesday, I saw eleven different warbler species that I have previously seen in the states, including northern water thrush, prothonotary warbler, common yellowthroat, hooded warbler, American redstart, palm warbler, Cape May warbler, magnolia warbler, yellow warbler, yellow-throated warbler and yellow-throated chat.

After everyone in our group arrived on Tuesday afternoon, we boarded a small plane and flew from the mainland to a small Island called Caye Caulker. After arriving, we did a leisurely bird walk which resulted in over thirty species.

Between the birding I did on my own, and the guided portion, I have already seen about eighty different bird species since arriving the day before. I am so grateful for the opportunity to visit Belize. It is truly a dream come true to be here and to spend time bird watching.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona - on Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and at 2360 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

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