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THANKSGIVING IN BELIZE: Chan Chich & Hidden Valley
Two wonderful lodges for an exciting tropical birding experience over the Thanksgiving holiday, including some regional specialties. Great as an intro to or continuation of your Neotropical birding.

For those looking for a bit of adventure on their Turkey Day, how about a short hop to the small, delightful Central American country of Belize? Independent from Britain since 1981, Belize has become a haven for lovers of natural history mainly because of its commitment to habitat conservation, its small and primarily English-speaking population, its excellent tourist facilities, and its abundance of wildlife. The publication of a number of field guides to the region -- including the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Northern Central America by our own Jesse Fagan -- makes study and learning about the birds even easier.

Although Belize has no true highlands within its borders, Mountain Pine Ridge, site of Hidden Valley Inn, comes pretty close. The numerous panoramic vistas and recovering stands of Caribbean Pine (decimated by a beetle infestation years ago and a number of wildfires since then) give you the feeling of being much higher than you actually are. The birds here reinforce this impression; Acorn Woodpecker, Grace's Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Rusty Sparrow, and Black-headed Siskin are common inhabitants of the area. The special birds that we'll be looking for on the Mountain Pine Ridge are decidedly more tropical in nature and include a couple of real Neotropical rarities: Orange-breasted Falcon and Stygian Owl.

One of the most highly-favored stops in this wonderful country is Chan Chich Lodge, located due west of Belize City near the country's border with Guatemala. Here, situated in a 250,000-acre private reserve chiefly of primary forest (itself abutting another huge conservation tract managed by the Programme for Belize) and effectively isolated from the distractions of the modern world, birders can wander quietly among largely unexcavated Mayan ruins and towering trees on well-maintained trails to explore a variety of microhabitats in search of the birds and other wildlife. But visitors need not be concerned with relinquishing essential comforts at the lodge, as the food is excellent, the service friendly, and the accommodations superb.

Birding, too, is superb here. The more than 300 species recorded at this site include such prizes as Great and Slaty-breasted tinamous, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, three species of hawk-eagles, Collared Forest-Falcon, Great Curassow, Ocellated Turkey, Middle American Screech-Owl, Mottled Owl, Northern Potoo, Tody Motmot, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Royal Flycatcher, Green Shrike-Vireo, Gray-throated Chat, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, and Rose-throated Tanager. During our stay we should see a large percentage of these birds plus myriad others, along with a host of forest mammals that, with some luck, could include one or more species of cats in the area (including Jaguar), White-tailed and Red Brocket deer, Yucatan Black Howler and Central American Spider monkeys, Kinkajou, Tayra, and Collared Peccary.

About the Physical Pace & Requirements: The habitats we visit on this trip are so rich that it really pays off to be out early and beat the midday heat. With that in mind, we'll be starting fairly early each day (around 6:00 a.m) and bird right through until lunch. On most days we'll take a break after lunch, then head back out for the late afternoon. With few exceptions, we'll be walking on excellent packed dirt trails. Generally there isn't much elevation change, but there are a few walks that require going up and down a steep grade for a short distance. While distance varies from day to day, we often walk several miles in the morning and usually shorter trails in the afternoon. If you would like extra rest, it is often possible to stay back, particularly at Chan Chich, and enjoy the many birds that frequent the grounds.

Although the birds will command our attention much of the time, this trip is designed to take notice of some of the rainforest's many other attributes. Chan Chich offers a plethora of potential mammalian encounters, along with an assortment of reptiles and amphibians.

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2019 Departures
Nov 23 - Dec 1 ($4550)



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Guides for our tours
Megan Edwards Crewe

What to Expect
Good accommodations, easy terrain, warm climate.

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