Birding in Belize

Bird Watching with Black Rock Lodge in Belize

By Pablo Cambranes 10/10/2018 3 minutes


For our second episode of A Day in a Birder's Life series, we got to go birding with Black Rock Lodge. Black Rock Lodge is an eco-lodge located about six miles away from San Ignacio Town. According to eBird, Black Rock Lodge is listed as the #1 birding hotspot in Belize with over 318 bird species. 

Nestled within a lush tropical forest, accompanied by the majestic Macal River, Black Rock Lodge also offers great amenities for both local and international travelers. Not only do visitors get to go birding, but you can also take advantage of the lodge’s other on-site activities such as hiking and river tubing. So if you need a break from the busy life of modern civilization, then this place is perfect for you.

On our way to the lodge, we got the opportunity to witness beautiful sceneries one after the other. We were so impressed by Mother Nature’s work that we even stopped half-way through our journey to admire the waterfalls in the distant cliffs off the traffic barriers at the edge of the road. Our driver, Isaias Morataya, who was also our guide, was ecstatic to take us on an unforgettable experience. As amateur birders, we didn’t know what to expect; and, so Isaias made it his mission to show us a spectacular time as Belizean travelers at Black Rock Lodge.

Arriving at the lodge, immediately, we heard the sounds of nature, from the chirping of the birds to the wind rustling through the tree branches. The sweet sounds chimed through our ears, we took a second to appreciate it.

After settling in our river view cabins, Isaias suggested a hiking adventure. Before we could have started on our hike, we had to cross the Macal River on a canoe. After paddling our way across, all of us prepared for this magnificent hike.

Elijio Panti National Park Hike

Our trail led us to the top of Elijio Panti National Park. This is also the closest national park to the San Ignacio town. On our way up, we encountered a Mexican Red Rump Tarantual crawling through the decaying leaves on the forest floor. Its fuzzy legs and scary demeanor brought goosebumps to everyone. We were eager to touch it and place it on our arms. Would you hold a spider? 

Our jungle trail included the sights and sounds of many birds. The Belizing Team was tested on their pishing” skills by Isaias. This is a sound technique that is done to attract birds nearby and if done good, the birds would respond.

After getting to the tallest heights of the Elijio Panti National Park trail, we were greeted with a spectacular view of the lodge and surrounding natural wonders in the area. We were able to get a bird’s view of where we would be spending the night. The mountains were endless and definitely worth all the terrain hike. We admired the view a little longer before headiing back down. 
When we got back to lodge, we took a long shower before heading to the restaurant to enjoy an amazing four-course meal for dinner – compliments to the chef and his sous chefs!

Dinner was so delicious that we didn’t want it to be over. For the night’s option of soup, we were served a savory beef soup. It definitely calmed our growling stomachs after the hike. After our soup, we were served some gourmet barbecue wings that had our mouths watering for more, but we had to keep in mind that it was indeed a four-course meal. As entrée, the chef prepared us a tender chicken piccata layered on top of a dome of warm vegetable rice.

We were stuffed after our third course; but, we couldn’t deny dessert! It was a sweet, frozen pineapple, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, and topped with a rich, homemade vanilla ice cream. That night, we ate like kings and queens!

After recovering from such a marvelous dinner, we headed back to our cabins for a good night’s rest. We were determined to catch the worm at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.

Early Morning Birding

The sun had barely crept out as we prepared for our bird adventure. The sounds of the birds were already echoing through the air and we were excited to see which species of birds we would be checking off today. But, before we headed out, we were offered a selection of coffee and teas at the restaurant. A chosen favorite among the group was freshly brewed coffee with natural goat’s milk. Some of us also selected a flavored tea with a dash of cane sugar. The team was awoke and ready to go birding!

Our birding essentials for the tour were binoculars, the eBird app and, of course, our guide, Isaias. It was recommended that we kept track of our bird count with the eBird app.

In just ten minutes we had spotted birds such as the Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow Warbler, and the Yellow-winged Tanager. We wandered around the lodge’s gardens, hiked up the trails away from Black Rock Lodge’s facilities and explored the riverside trails. Our list totaled to forty-six bird species in our morning tour. Think you could spot more? We challenge you to go birding in Belize and let us know of your bird count!

Our list included birds from all different sizes and colors. As like a true birder, Isaias was just as excited as us when we spotted a new species. We had some funny sightings too! Such as a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird teasing a Gray Hawk. Although the hummingbird was significantly smaller than the hawk, it was indeed feisty. Wanting to poke at the Gray Hawk, the little hummingbird flew around the hawk, attacking it with its beak a few times, chasing away the Gray Hawk before flying off. 

Throughout the tour, Isaias was accompanied by his scope, binoculars and camera that came in handy when he wanted to spot a bird that was singing in the distant tree tops. Being amateur birders, it was a bit difficult for us to spot these flying creatures as fast as Isaias. As soon as the sounds of a new bird species met Isaias’ ears, he would dash off with his scope and binocular to look for the bird.

It was exciting to see someone so enthusiastic and passionate about birding. Isaias was the perfect guide to go birding with. He was extremely knowledgeable about the species that were unique to Black Rock Lodge and the other species of avifauna that recently migrated to Belize. It was a refreshing experience for us to be birding with such humble and experienced birder.

After two and a half hours of birding, we decided to head back to the restaurant where we had breakfast, À la carte style. Most of the team had the Belizean breakfast, which included beans eggs, bacon, and the infamous fried jack. We also had the options of pancakes and French toast. Once again, the food was so appetizing, especially after our amazing early morning bird watch!

Since the dining area was an open space with a high, thatched roofing, we were able to spot four more Gray Hawks preying over the tree lines during breakfast. Indeed, the birding never stops!

#BirdLikeTheresNoTomorrow

After breakfast we spent some time getting to know the staff. We had the opportunity to meet Jovani, who is the director of Black Rock Lodge’s green living practices. We also met with several of the farmers who were dedicated to planting and producing their own organic vegetables and fruits. They also raise their own goats and chickens in the lodge’s facility. We were able to milk the momma goat and pet the cute baby goats in the compound – quite interesting!

The fun didn't end there! We were offered a complimentary river tubing tour down the Macal River. Flowing downstream and riding down each rapid was exhilarating! This experience really allowed us to enjoy the nature around us. Truly, Belize is a jewel! It was a great way to end A Day In A Birder’s Life with Isaias from Black Rock Lodge. 

Belize Birdathon

Black Rock Lodge recently won Belize’s 2018 Birdathon with a total of 238 species spotted in one day. We were indeed in the right place! We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to Black Rock Lodge and all their staff and employees for having us over and for giving us such a great experience. Everyone was so friendly and helpful that we felt as if we were a part of their family. Thank you, also, to Isaias for giving us one of the best birding experiences – it was spectacular.

#letsgobelizing at Black Rock Lodge!

 
Learn More
Events
 (1)
Belize Birding Festival To celebrate Belize’s avifauna, the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), in partnership with the Belize Hotel Association (BHA) and the Belize Audubon ... moreSociety (BAS), is hosting the second Belize Birding Festival in San Ignacio Town, Cayo, Belize.

As nature’s best kept secret, Belize offers many birding hotspots for amateur and expert birdwatchers, including six Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Most of these hotspots are nestled in nature reserves that are tropical forests, savannahs, wetlands, islands, and coastal planes. These locations make for an ideal habitat for a diverse collection of birds.
2019 Belize Birding Festival The 2019 Belize Birding Festival celebrates the love for birds and the unique collection of bird species that exist in the country. This birding festival will be hosted at the George Price Center in Belmopan City.

The Belize Birding Festival starts with a 6AM Urban Bird Watch through Belmopan. The day includes vendor and exhibit booths, birding and photography talks, a variety of presentations, video documentaries, and bird watching sessions with top birders in Belize.

More details will be posted as soon as new information is release by the organizers. See the official website at http://www.belizebirdingfestival.bz or the Belizing.com fan page at http://www.belizebirdingfestival.com

#belizebirding #BelizeBirdingFestival2019 #letsgobelizing
Why should you attend the 2019 Belize Birding Festival? The First Annual Belize Birding Festival is a great opportunity for amateur bird waters and professional bird watchers to come together and celebrate their admiration for birds.
Entrance Fee:
$10 - $25 BZD
Venue:
George Price Center, Belmopan
Address:
Belmopan City, Cayo District, Belize
Start Date:
Saturday, 19 Oct, 2019
District:
Cayo
Tours/Activities
$
350
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Provider:
Enjoy a close encounter with Guatemala’s vibrant wildlife on this full-day bird-watching tour in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. With the help of an expert private guide, visit bird-watching ... morehotspots like Ixpanpajul Nature Park, Tikal or Yaxha, and have a chance to spot more than 400 different bird species, including the famous.

Your professional guide will take you across the border into Tikal National Park in Guatemala and lead you on a fascinating tour of the sprawling archaeological complex. Round-trip transport from your Belize hotel and all park fees are not included.

Highlights

Full-day bird-watching tour from Belize

Enjoy bird watching, Tikal Park or Yaxha Park Spot and identify rare and native birds with an expert guide from the Perfect tour for nature lovers!

This private tour can be customized to your interests and ensures you’ll receive personalized attention from your guide

What You Can Expect

This tour offers round-trip transportation from your hotel or airport to the park.

The admissions are also included and you will be accompanied by a bird specialized guide.

Lunch includes great grilled beef with rice, salad, tortillas, soup, and dessert.

Drinks are not included with lunch only 1 bottle of water per person during the tour.

Do not miss this great adventure and explore with us the wonders of the Mystery Green World.

Some destinations for sightings are Tikal, Ixpanpajul, Yaxha and Lake Petén Itza.

ASK FOR MORE INFO THIS TOUR IS TOTALLY PERSONALIZED
$
35
/ Person
Departs From:
Orange Walk Town
Bird Watching Belize Tour Early morning river expedition or walking tour Whether you are a beginner and want to see a great variety of tropical birds, or an experienced birder with ... morea checklist of target sightings, throughout our property and the New River you will find birding packages to suit your preference.

During your Belize vacation and across various habitats you can see many of the 500+ birds that have been recorded here.
$
1,625
-
$
2,508
/ Group
 (1)
Belize is known for so many wonderful things- wildlife, cave systems, exotic rainforests- but a fascination with the birds of Belize has become one of the TOP nature-based activities ... moreon demand. The Belizean rainforest and savannahs contain some of the most exotic & colorful birds of Central America. With over 500 known bird species, you will have ample opportunities to see these beautiful creatures during your 4 nights stay at Caves Branch.

Explore the countryside with this unique Belize vacation package created specifically for birding enthusiasts who want more nature-based activities that focus on a growing attraction in Belize. Venture out on each of the daily activities in search of some of the unique winged creatures including the national bird of Belize- the Keel-billed Toucan or the exotic Mot-Mot bird the noisy Toucanets. Capture a Black-headed trogon and be enthralled with the natural beauty and distinct sounds. Learn about conservation efforts in Belize to save and protect some of the most endangered native species. This birding package can be done alone OR can be combined with a beach destination as the grand finale to an amazing vacation in Belize!

Caves Branch Tropical Feathers- Bird Watching Package

6 nights in a lovely Jungle Cabana

Daily buffet breakfast, lunch on tours, and buffet dinner enjoyed family style

Unlimited local beers, local rum mixed drinks, juices, sodas, coffee, tea, and water

4 Full Day Guided Birding Tours + 1 Additional Full Day Adventure Tour of Choice
**Surcharges apply for Tikal Maya Ruins tour, ATM Cave, Diving, Snorkelling, River of Caves 7 Mile Tour combined w/ Ziplining

Jungle Safari After Dark Tour (approx. 2 hours) which leaves right after dinner time

Roundtrip shuttle service to & from Belize City (includes international or municipal airports)

All Taxes Included
$
65
/ Person
Departs From:
Hopkins
 (1)
This tour begins just before daybreak with a drive through Sittee River where the lush vegetation attracts many species of birds in Belize. Be sure to keep your eyes open and your ... morebinoculars handy as you are bound to encounter spectacular plumage, stirring calls, and the steady drumming of a hummingbird’s wings.

Some of the tropical birds often spotted in the area are keel-billed toucans, fork-tailed flycatchers, tropical kingbirds, and Amazon kingfishers, blue crowed mot-mot and harpy eagle.
$
175
/ Adult
Departs From:
Belize City
View some Belize of the most beautiful birds in the tropical wetland; Birding-by-Boat Cruise At The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect location Birds in Belize. This incredible ... morewetland ecosystem that is the largest of its kind in northern Belize is 30 miles north of Belize City. Mother Nature has designed this huge lagoon just for birds. It’s home to most of Belize 574 species of birds found in the country, including One the largest flying Bird in the Americas Jabiru Stork, different species of Birds Like egrets and herons and even the magnificent Northern Jacana just to name a few. But birds aren’t only animals you can see on this cruise. On this cruise will have high possibility To see Morlet crocodiles, green as well as spiny tail iguanas and even howler monkeys.
$
1,249
/ Person
Day 1: AIRPORT/CRYSTAL PARADISE You will be met at the airport by your Belizean bird guide and transferred to your jungle lodge accommodations. Optional stop to visit the Belize Zoo ... more(entrance fee not included, US$15/pp). We check into our accommodations at Crystal Paradise after a short orientation.
O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. /D

Day 2: MACAL RIVER CANOEING – morning or afternoon
Canoeing on the Macal River. While canoeing we have the chance to see Neotropic Cormorants, Mangrove Swallows, Kingfishers, Gray-necked Wood-rails and other wildlife that frequent the riverbanks such as iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks and trees.
O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. B/L/D

Day 3: EL PILAR
We will make an afternoon visit to El Pilar, a Maya site, and flora/fauna reserve. It is excellent for birding, hiking, and provides an insight to Belize’s sub-tropical forests. We will make stops along the way to view such birds as the Collared Manakins and Honeycreepers an array of flycatchers etc. We will then return to our accommodations after witnessing a Belizean sunset.
O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. B/L/D

Day 4: Mountain Pine Ridge/Rio on Pools/Rio Frio Caves
The Cayo District’s principal town of San Ignacio is the gateway to some of Belize’s most precious ecological gems. After breakfast at the hotel, we will experience the wonders of Mountain Pine Ridge.

Bring along your walking shoes, swimwear and adventurous mind for a full day of activity. The reserve is teaming with hills and valleys, rivers and falls, swimming holes and caves, all surrounded by the majestic beauty of Pine Forests. Our main stops will be at the Rio Frio Caves, Rio on Pools and weather and road conditions permitting, you’ll get a chance to see the 1000 ft. Hidden Valley Waterfalls. Bring along your binoculars, as there is much to see in the line of exotic flora and fauna, endemic only to this extremely rugged, but beautiful part of the county. Lunch is included before returning back to Crystal Paradise Resort. O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. B/L/D

Day 5: Spanish Lookout & Laguna Aguacate
A 45-minute drive north of Crystal Paradise through rolling green hills brings you to Spanish Lookout, a modern-day Mennonite settlement reminiscent of Pennsylvania farmlands. Several different habitats in the area make it a favorable birding destination. The area consists of Savannah, open farmland, and subtropical forest around the lake. In the open land and pastures, it is easy to find Vermillion Flycatchers, Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-Tailed Kites and Hawks, Laughing Falcons, Meadowlarks, Swallows, Herons, Jabiru storks just to name a few. Aguacate Lagoon Reserve is located about 20 minutes beyond the community and provides a birdwatcher’s paradise. In the forest around the lake common sighting may include Jacamars, Trogons, Puff-birds, Crested Guans and Great Curassows. Other birds may include Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Night Herons, rails, and Crakes. O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. B/L/D

Day 6: DEPARTURE
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Belize City/Belize Airport.B/

** itinerary is subject to change once here due to weather conditions or unforeseen events***
$
65
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Provider:
CAHAL PECH BIRDWATCHING Cahal Pech was the ancient palatial compound of an elite aristocratic Mayan family. The site name is Maya for “House of Ticks” (given in the 1950s when the ... morearea was used for grazing cattle) and it is situated on the highest hill overlooking modern-day San Ignacio town. This is a serene jungle setting close to the town, and the 2-acre compound is not only rich in ancient artifacts and structures, but also in wildlife. Cahal Pech is an excellent place for birding in Belize. This is a fascinating site for birdwatching as the morning mist rises over the various temples and courtyards, which were built over several centuries spanning from 1000 BC to 800AD. Belize birding tours at Cahal Pech will offer birders a chance to see a vast variety of tropical bird species, including hummingbirds, parrots, birds of prey, and many colorful migratory birds. Your bird watching vacation in Belize is not complete without a morning spent in this otherworldly environment, where the jungle allows glimpses of the cultural past of this ancient landscape.

Pablo Cambranes

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