Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize

In Central America off the eastern coast of Belize is a small island floating freely in the Caribbean Sea.  Here is where I enjoyed my first trip to the Caribbean last year.  Americans in the central and eastern parts of the U.S. tend to vacation in the Caribbean, while those of us on the west coast frequent Mexico or Hawaii for tropical adventures.  So the Caribbean was new to me.

 

Ambergris-Caye,-village-squOur vacation in Belize was primarily planned for a birding trip with a group, but prior to meeting up with the group we spent a few independent days on this spirited and sparkly island.  Only 25 miles long and a mere one mile wide, the island is surrounded by white sand beaches.   You can read more about the island here (but skip the part about the meaning of the word “ambergris”).

Ambergris-Caye,-street

A pleasant convenience to this small island were the golf carts, the main mode of transport.  You could go anywhere in a rental cart, dressed in casual swimwear and flip-flops.

 

Frigate birds, pelicans and gulls

Frigate birds, pelicans and gulls

But I am a birder and don’t live that way.  We like to load up with pounds and pounds of optical equipment, dress in long-sleeved shirts so we can stay out in the sun until we nearly faint, and wear hiking shoes so we can trudge through the mangrove swamps.

 

snorkeling with rays

snorkeling with rays

 

And although I did do the swimwear thing and enjoyed a great day of snorkeling and beach walking, my favorite day was the day we explored the island on that crazy golf cart.

 

Spiny-tailed Iguana

Spiny-tailed Iguana

We watched mating iguanas, delighted in the frigate bird often cruising overhead, tip-toed through someone’s back yard in pursuit of an Olive-throated Parakeet, and escaped from some irate dogs as our golf cart flew across cobble-stoned roads.

 

The food was fantastic–rice, beans, fresh-caught fish, plantains–with a Caribbean and Mayan flair.

 

When it was time to return the rental cart, a local woman made a map in the sand for me, directing me to the island’s only gas station.  We found it in some back canal area, where a kindly man suggested I not turn my back on the canal in case of alligators.

 

snorkeling find

snorkeling find

 

Although I very much enjoy being with a guide and seeing far more birds in a day than I would on my own, I treasure days without a guide too.  Free-flying days give me big smiles and great memories.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Our airport chauffeur

Our airport chauffeur

Aerial view of Belizean coast

Aerial view of Belizean coast

 

 

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby mating display, bird on right is "sky pointing"

Blue-footed Booby mating display, bird on right is “sky pointing”

There are not many places on earth for observing this delightful creature, for they are a marine bird found only on a few tropical and sub-tropical spots in the Pacific Ocean.  A trip to Espanola Island in the Galapagos yielded a fascinating introduction.

 

Sula nebouxii breed here where their ground nesting succeeds without animal or human disturbance, and they are surrounded by plenty of tasty meals.  They eat fish and are extraordinary divers, aligning their large body and wings in a streamlined bullet as they pierce the waters.  A large bird, about the size of a bald eagle, they measure approximately 36 inches long with a wingspan of over 4.5 feet.  To learn  more click here. 

 

Female Blue-footed Booby

Female Blue-footed Booby

We found their breeding colony and were entertained for hours observing their mating dance.  A sunny, open expanse of lava and rocks was the scene for over a hundred of these showy birds.

 

Blue-footed Booby on nest (note the egg)

Blue-footed Booby on nest (note the egg)

Their mating displays are loud and raucous, and the dance is truly spectacular.  They have elaborate gestures that include strutting, dancing, lifting and presenting their feet, sky pointing, whistling, bowing, and nodding.  All of this is done in a ritualistic order.  What a crazy, surreal scene it was to see dozens and dozens of pairs in different stages of displaying, mating, and nesting.

 

 

Blue-footed-BoobyWhen I see humans acting oddly in public, strutting and posing and doing their best to attract a mate, I am sweetly reminded of the glorious day we watched the blue-footed boobies on that island in the Pacific.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Thank you my friends

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Thank you for bringing laughter, warmth, kindness, human spirit, heartfelt comments, and awesome artwork into my life.  Lately I spend over half of every week day at the keyboard working on my novel.  When I get weary, I just check in to this magical land of friends and supporters all over the world, and it’s a party every time.  Thank you.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander