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Category Archives: Belize

We saw a few other animals on the caye. I think the hermit crabs were the most interesting. At night they were everywhere. It was really important to use our headlamps so we wouldn’t step on them. They hide in the bushes during the heat of the day and come out before the sun goes down. In the morning we’d see the artwork their tracks left on the canvas of sand. If they come across a new bigger shell, they may fight to take it over! The island is a ‘no souvenir’ place which means we could not take home any seashells.

The big gray lizard is a wish willie or a black iguana. However we were told that they are NOT iguanas. They are vegetarians. They sure did look like the green iguana I saw at Crooked Tree. And there were little anoli lizards flitting around during the day. Very quick and hard to photograph.

The big bird attraction at Half Moon Caye is the nesting colony of white-phased Red-footed Boobys and Magnificent Frigatebirds. The Belize Audubon representative said there were about 4000 boobys and 1000 frigatebirds. They do regular transects through the dense jungle to keep track of them. It seemed like a lot but I would not have guessed that many. In addition to the charismatic sea birds I also saw Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans, Great Egret several kinds of warblers including a good number of American Redstarts. I wanted to suggest to them that they’d best start thinking about migration. There are a few that breed near the Methow River in late May and early June.

Some of the Red-footed Booby chicks were already two months old while some nests still had eggs in them. I did not see any frigatebird chicks and many of the males were in full display with their red air sacks inflated for everyone to see. They looked like awkward fragile balloons and I wonder if they ever poke them on a branch or get attacked by other birds. The boobys may lay two eggs but generally only raise one youngster to maturity. That means the weaker one may fall or get pushed from the nest. Sometimes a tourist will bring one of these unfortunate birds to the Audubon staff and they will attempt to feed and raise them and teach them to fish on their own. It’s often a futile attempt.

My generous husband bought me an underwater camera to take to Belize! I was very excited to try it and you can imagine my disappointment when the first time I put it in the water, it failed. On my first day on the Caye. Oh my gosh. I decided not to let it ruin my experience and later that week, Kim gave me her underwater camera to try. She wasn’t even sure it if it still worked since it was old and not recently tested. It did work very well and I was excited to use it!

I learned that there are people who watch fish like others watch birds! They know the names and have life lists too. I am mostly content to just watch them and enjoy their colors and movements in the fluid world. I have little snorkeling experience and I feel like a complete outsider under the surface so I mostly like to float and watch. The naturalist at the camp tried to teach us the names of the fish families and how to ID them but for me, none of that stuck. I did recognize a flounder and a shark.

Half Moon Caye covers only forty acres of dry ground. There is no electricity except when the generator runs in the evening. Our tent had a kerosene lamp and we used headlamps to get around after dark. Unlike at home, there is no prolonged period of dusk and dawn – just twelve hours of darkness and twelve hours of daylight.

So how did we pass the time? Days were busy with activities like snorkeling and kayaking and birdwatching. We often had talks on the island’s natural history. One evening our guides entertained us with drumming and dancing and stories of the Garifuna people’s history (it was not a happy story for the most part). We had wonderful meals prepared from fresh ingredients and our cooks always came out to describe the food for us. Most of the other guests were retired Canadians although two couples were from the US (Chicago and Pennsylvania) and one fellow was from the UK. Maybe three people had heard of Winthrop. They were mostly urban folks except for a couple from Nelson, BC.

We learned that coconut palms are not native to the Caribbean. They were originally planted and then drifted from island to island. And they are invasive. So some of the coconut palms were being cut down on the caye in order to preserve the native habitat preferred by the birds.

Half Moon Caye is a place straight out of a movie with turquoise clear blue water, coconut palms, tropical birds, sandy beaches and beautiful marine life. Even though we planned this trip a couple of months earlier and had plenty of time to study and learn about the place, it was still pretty unbelievable. And now, just a little over a week after leaving, it seems not quite real.

Half Moon Caye is a Natural Monument and is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve. Like Crooked Tree, it is also partially managed by the Belize Audubon Society in partnership with the Belize government.

The Island Expeditions camp is comfortable and relaxing. Our weather was not as ideal as it could have been. Steady winds most of the time wreaked havoc with my sleep. The tents tended to make a bit of noise – well, they made more noise than the surf so maybe more than a bit. However I was able to overcome the lack of sleep with plenty of relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous setting.

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