Day 1: Arrival in Belize City
Our Belize & Tikal birding tour begins with an evening meal and welcome at our hotel. Night near Belize City.
Day 2: Monkey Bay and travel to Hidden Valley
We first visit the waterfront at Belize City to look for coastal species such as Sandwich and Royal Terns and maybe a booby. Flowering gardens nearby host Cinnamon Hummingbirds and Black-cowled and Hooded Orioles. Then we head inland to the Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for our first introduction to neotropical families such as woodcreepers, honeycreepers, motmots, manakins, maybe a puffbird. Commoner birds include Pale-vented Pigeon, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Spot-breasted Wren. Our trip along the road to Mountain Pine Ridge will be punctuated with frequent stops, as this area is excellent for raptors – from White Hawk to Bat Falcon to Black Hawk-eagle. Night at Pook's Hill Lodge.
Days 3-4: Hidden Valley
We explore the pine forests, broadleaf stream valleys and cliffs of this wonderful area. In the pine forests around the lodge we look for mixed flocks containing Grace’s Warbler amongst the northern migrants and, with luck, we may even find a roosting Stygian Owl or Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. The broadleaf gullies are home to Little Hermits and Blue-crowned Motmots, and on past tours we’ve found Tody Motmots and White-throated Spadebills there, and the gardens of the lodge are frequented by Acorn and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, Rusty Sparrows, Azure-crowned Hummingbirds, Black-headed Saltators, and Yellow-tailed and Yellow-backed Orioles. We take excursions to the nearby Thousand Foot Falls (the highest waterfall in Central America), where we search for the rare Orange-breasted Falcon, and to King Vulture Falls, where we will hopefully see the vultures that gave it its name.
An early start the next morning will allow us to reach the forests and ruins at Caracol where we will search in particular for the rare Keel-billed Motmot amongst the ruins. The foothill forests here support a diverse array of birds, from Crested Guans to Black-crested Coquettes, and we should have a great day exploring this beautiful area. Nights at Pook's Hill Lodge.
Day 5: Travel to Tikal
Before breakfast we investigate once again the areas around the Hidden Valley lodge, looking for mixed species flocks. We then drive to the international border and, after crossing into Guatemala, we will bird some of the roadside marshes and lakes. In the mid- to late afternoon we should arrive at Tikal National Park, an internationally renowned site for both its magnificent Mayan ruins and its incredible wealth of wildlife. We will have some time to do a little birding around the lodge, where we should see Ocellated Turkeys feeding close to our lodge at dusk. Night in Tikal National Park.
Days 6-7: Tikal National Park
There are few more exhilarating experiences than walking among the fabulous Mayan ruins at Tikal and watching a wealth of wildlife, often surprisingly unconcerned about our presence. The view atop Temple VI is amazing as one looks in all directions over the top of unbroken tropical forest and observes several raptors circling over the canopy. The list of potential raptors is so impressive that it even includes Crested Eagle! Ocellated Turkeys and Great Curassows stroll through the clearings. Motmots and puffbirds perch quietly along forested trails and Thrush-like Manakins (Schiffornis) whistle melodiously from the undergrowth. Mixed-species flocks containing an interesting mixture of tanagers (led by Black-throated Shrike-Tanagers), warblers and flycatchers move through the canopy, while woodcreepers, ant-tanagers, and antbirds follow army ant swarms. Our time at Tikal will be full and exciting. Nights in Tikal National Park.
Day 8: Tikal to Bird’s Eye View Lodge
We do some early morning birding along the old airstrip before taking a bus to Flores where we catch a commercial flight to Belize City. Upon arrival we head for the remarkably productive wildlife areas at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. En route, we look for Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures among the very similar Turkey Vultures. Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-ducks are often found in flocks of Blue-winged Teal which overwinter in the area. Night at Bird’s Eye View Lodge.
Day 9: Crooked Tree
The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is a superb area of marshes, lagoons, and pine and hardwood forests. It has an extensive complex of shallow lagoons streams, rivers and marshes, linked to the Belize River via Black and Mexico Creeks. The aquatic and riverine habitats are a highlight of our visit; we could encounter tiger-herons, Agami and Boat-billed Herons, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Great and Common Black-Hawks, Muscovy Duck, Sungrebe and American Pygmy Kingfisher. There are nesting Jabirus on Western Lagoon, which we will make a special effort to locate. Our boat trips could turn up potoos and pauraques as well as lots of other interesting wildlife including crocodiles, turtles and fish-eating bats. During our stay, we visit the pine savanna, with its strong Yucatán assortment of birds — Yucatán Woodpecker, Yucatan Parrot, Yucatán Flycatcher and Yucatán Jay. Aplomado Falcons cruise the grasslands, and Grace’s Warblers grace the pines. The short tropical and second-growth forest support Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Squirrel Cuckoos, Gray Hawks, Laughing Falcons, and an array of orioles, saltators, flycatchers and seedeaters. Night at Bird’s Eye View Lodge.
Day 10: Departure
We have a final morning of birding around the lodge, we head back to the Belize City International airport to conclude our Belize & Tikal birding tour. We will arrive at the airport around 11 am so participants can catch flights home after 1 pm.