Life at Crooked Tree in Belize
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.
What a beautiful post and I agree about the holiness of nature
Thank you. This has been a post long-time coming, but I just didn’t know how to write it. I’m happy you liked it.
The photographs are amazing and I love the way you describe the experiences!
Should that be ‘holyness’?
I think you got it right the first time. But I like “holiness” too.
Ha! Nice. Belize is an awesome place. I had the pleasure of visiting there about 8 years ago, but alas I did not have a head or an eye for the birds then. what a waste.
It looks like you all made out well though! how many species did you see? It ‘s curious to think of so many ‘American’ birds also being so far south. I mean, it’s not really curious, and in fact it’s very logical, but it’s still odd to think that in 3 months so many of those Wood Warblers that I associate with New England will be done in Belize and the tropical rain forests.
Laurence, I’m going to have my husband pull out our list from Belize and I’ll report back on our number. I can’t recall off the top of my head. All I know is it WAS A LOT! And a whole bunch of lifers. You really need to return to Belize for birding and when you do, let me know and I can give recommendations. We had a fantastic guide for the whole week. Complete heaven!
Fantastic display of wildlife. Your photos are excellent, and interesting reflections as well.
Thank you Sue! This visit to Crooked Tree produced so many fabulous bird photos for me that I had to really edit down what I showed here.
Looks like a great place for aquatic birds! Thanks for the nice photos.
Thank you BlueBird Annie, it certainly is a great place for waders and such. I can’t wait to return!
Beautiful! I was transported. Wonderful photos, too. I am reading a really fascinating book right now “The Nature Principle” by Richard Louv which discusses nature in all its glory. Glad you were able to get your fill and share it.
Thank you Gordon! I’ll have to check out that book!
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