Tired. Exhausted. Dirt under my fingernails. More than my share of mosquito bites.

We were on our way to the airport in Belize to go home after our two-week adventure. Our first week we spent on Ambergris Caye, scuba diving every day and the second week we spent birding at places such as El Pilar, Mountain Pine Ridge,  Aguacate, Blue Hole National Park, and even Tikal, Guatemala. But now it was time to go home and my heart ached a little bit at the thought of leaving Belize.

We were squeezing in one more birding trip before our guide, Eric, was to drop us off at the airport. The nervous-Nellie side of me didn’t like the idea of doing some birding right before we caught our flight back home, but Eric assured us that there was time and he promised me that I’d get a good look at some Jabiru Storks at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.

That’s all I needed to hear. I wanted to get a good look at a Jabiru Stork.  I saw some juveniles–not yet fledged–in Rio Lagartos, Mexico on our honeymoon two years earlier, but it was only through a scope. I wanted a better look.

Eric was not lying. There were birds galore: Jabiru storks, for sure, and herons, egrets, ibis’s, and terns and the list goes on. It was the end of the dry season and the water was low, which was a special treat, as all the birds were concentrated together. Birding was almost too easy.

An osprey swooped down to catch a tilapia from the lake,

we caught a Limpkin eating an apple snail,

and I was fascinated as I watched a heron shadow feed. (Shadow feeding is when the bird makes a shadow with his wings over the water, which helps him see the fish better for feeding. Rather clever, I’d say.)

The birds didn’t seem to mind that we were there.  Unlike warblers who flit around dense leaves and play a game of hide and seek, or the toucan, which I never was able to get a good look at, the waders at Crooked Tree seemed to be indifferent about our presence and had no problem parading out in front of us.

I’m not the first and I won’t be the last who will write this: Being out in nature and seeing wildlife–birds in this particular instance–is a very reverential experience.

I find spirituality in churches, synagogues, cathedrals, temples and especially in nature, and the reverence I feel in watching birds astounds me every time, and never so much (at least up to this point) as when I was at Crooked Tree.

Wonderment. Respect. Awe. It’s akin to the feeling I had when I sat in the Sistine Chapel and looked up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece until my neck couldn’t take it any longer. Or when I first heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor played live on a big church organ. Yes, sometimes birding gives me spine-tingling moments.

And so who cares that I had dirt under my fingernails.  I was in a sacred place and my soul felt cleansed.

Wood Storks

More photos of the birds at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.  Click on any in the gallery below and you will taken to a slide show where you can view it much better.