Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Karen & Janice

We just had a great weekend with two visitors from Massachusetts, Karen and Janice. They had spent a week kayaking on the cayes, and because Janice is an avid birder (Karen birds but slightly less avidly), they wanted to spend a few days in the jungle and do some bird watching. When we communicated via email prior to their visit, they requested a real birding guide, not just a tour guide who knows birds. Selwyn’s uncle, David, is a professional birder who works with Birds Without Borders, and who lives in San Antonio, so we asked him if he’d be interested in doing some birding with our guests. He likes to do bird surveys in different areas anyway, so he was happy to do it – and it was a great success.

He came here at 6:00 Saturday morning, and he and Janice started right on our porch. Tom and I had a chance to see how birding works, and were a little surprised to see that it’s not just a hike through the jungle. It starts where ever you are, listening to the various bird calls close and in the distance, and then you just follow the sounds and go where your feet and the birds take you. They wandered off the porch, through the yard, past the shop and pasture, and up the road. They were gone for about four hours, and when we came back they told us that they’d gone less than a half mile, but they’d seen lots of birds. We took a lunch break, and then David came back and they went on some of our trails into the jungle in the afternoon, and then around some of the farm fields and down the feeder road.

At the end of the day, they had documented 108 birds by sight or by sound, with almost 70 seen, and Janice said she had seen between six and ten “life birds.” This, she said, is a very successful birding day, and she was very pleased both with our location, and with David’s skills both for finding the birds, and communicating with her about how to see and hear them. She had a boatload of brilliant ideas for us about how we can get the word out to birders and make Moonracer Farm a birding destination, all of which are easily doable and virtually free. I need to start by typing up the Birds of Belize list and documenting what they saw and heard, and I’ll publish it both on this blog and on our website. And, before they left on Sunday morning, Janice took her own bird walk around the property and turned two of the “only heard” birds from the day before into “seen” birds. Woo hoo!

As an added note, we unknowingly got a good start with the birding effort a week before they arrived, when we met Wayne, a gentleman from Alaska who spends a month or so a year in Belize watching and videoing birds all over the country. I had made contact with him online, by offering to help him get in touch with the people he needed to talk to about birding in the Elijio Panti National Park. When he arrived in Belize, he met the Park contacts and, after camping for a night in the Park, came out to meet us. He returned Sunday a week ago with Antonio and a nature photographer from Caye Caulker, and spent the afternoon stalking birds around here. He also left us with a Birds of Belize DVD he made with video and calls of about 175 birds he videoed in Belize’s Mayflower Bocawina National Park. We showed the DVD to Janice, and she was thrilled because it’s so much more enlightening to see the birds in a video than to see the artist’s sketches in the bird books, plus each bird was associated with its call, which is invaluable. She watched about five minutes of the DVD, and then had Tom in the truck driving her to the Garcia Sisters’ Gift Shop so she could purchase a DVD for herself. David also liked it and, although we haven’t watched the whole thing yet, our copy is now in David’s hands so he can show it to some people. Who knew we’d plug into the birding network like this?

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