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Thu, Oct. 17

Column: From Crooked Tree to duPlooy's Jungle Lodge

A Caribbean pine tree near Crooked Tree Lagoon in Belize with an Acorn woodpecker granary.
Eric Moore

A Caribbean pine tree near Crooked Tree Lagoon in Belize with an Acorn woodpecker granary.

We returned home from Belize this past Saturday, and feel very grateful for the opportunity we had to travel and bird there In my column last week, I mentioned birding at Bird's Eye View Lodge at Crooked Tree Lagoon.

One day we walked from the lodge to an oak-pine savannah habitat. One of the species of trees growing in this unique habitat is the Caribbean pine, which is very similar in appearance to the ponderosa pine trees we have here in the Central Highlands of Arizona.

It was so interesting to observe how, as we transitioned from a tropical habitat to the oak-pine habitat, the variety of birds changed dramatically. It was fascinating to see bird species in this habitat that are the same species we observe in the ponderosa pine forests around Prescott.

One of the bird species we saw was the acorn woodpecker, with its characteristic 'clown' face, and its unique behavior of creating granaries to store acorns. We also saw Grace's warblers, chipping sparrows and dusky-capped flycatchers in this area-just as we do here in Arizona.

Needless-to-say, I was totally fascinated by this experience. I was in a very different part of the world, with a similar habitat, and I was seeing the exact same bird species. This experience was repeated throughout the day as we visited other areas within walking distance of the lodge.

Some of the bird species I saw around Crooked Tree, all of which occur in the Prescott area, were least sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, killdeer, white-winged dove, northern rough-winged swallow, vermilion flycatcher, house wren, blue-gray gnatcatcher, common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, summer tanager, northern cardinal, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird and hooded oriole.

I could have stayed home and seen all of these birds! But, I would have missed all of the amazing and beautiful birds found in the jungles of Belize that do not occur in Arizona.

After two nights at Crooked Tree, we departed for our final destination, duPlooy's Jungle Lodge. It was further south and west, not far from the Guatemala border. This was our base for the next five days.

What a fabulous location in the middle of the jungle! From here, we did day trips out and back to places like Black Rock Lodge, St. Herman's Cave, Blue Hole National Park, Mountain Pine Ridge, and even a day in Guatemala touring the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal.

The birding around duPlooy's was truly remarkable. Within walking distance of the lodge we saw exotic species such as keel-billed toucan, collared aracari, blue-crowned and tody motmot, black-headed and gartered trogon, white-collared manakin, brown jay and so much more.

One night we went owling-using recordings to play owl calls-to see if we could illicit a response and have an owl come into view. We had success in finding a mottled owl that was very cooperative, allowing us to get a really good look at it.

One of the highlights at duPlooy's was seeing a potoo for the first time in my life. With help from a local, we found both the daytime roosting location and the nighttime feeding perch for a northern potoo-a large, cryptically colored bird that sleeps during the day and feeds on flying insects and moths at night. It is difficult to describe a potoo. It looks something like a mix between an owl and a whip-or-will or a nighthawk. I encourage you to do a Google search to see images of this unique species.

Next week I will do a final article on our trip to Belize. Until then, Happy Birding!

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