28 October, 2013

Rainy Days

The scene below, with the view of Greater Monkey Caye obliterated by heavy rain, has been with us off and on for the last 4 or 5 days.  And during each of those days (and nights), several inches of rain has fallen.  The good news is that our water vats are full.  The bad news is that Monkey River and Black Creek are full - and overflowing.  We hear that there are places on the Monkey River Road that are under seven feet of water!  Three or four sunny days with no rain is all it will take to dry out the road.
We run to lower the sun shades and get them lashed down when see rain like this approaching!  They do a good job of keeping the driving rain out of the veranda. 
The heavy rains and high winds have pushed in some higher than usual tides for us; a beachcomber's delight.  Below are a few of the items of interest that have washed up.  This site is wonderful for exploring sea beans.
Except for the green striped sea urchin, the rest of the objects are loosely called sea beans and are seed of various sorts.  There are 2 sea hearts (middle or top row and bottom right), 2 very different coconuts (top left and top right), a hamburger bean, Mucana sp. (bottom left),  bull's eye (bottom right).  Still haven't ID'd the one in the middle. 
During the rainy spells, we do chores inside the cabana.  Dennis is putting little foam sheets behind all the wall cover plates for electrical outlets and switches since they seem to be an entry point for small insects.  Behind one outlet cover plate he found these little pieces of shell.  They are gecko eggshells.  Apparently the geckos also realized that small insects where coming entering through the wall plates.  We love the geckos because they do eat the insects; we love to have them in the cabana.
Delicate shells leftover from gecko eggs fell out of the wall outlet.
It looks like all but one of them was successfully hatched.

The rain has not been constant.  In fact there has been some very pleasant sunshine.  I get outside whenever possible to see what is going on.  The sun drew out this wonderful pair of baselisk lizards.  They are also called Jesus Christ lizards because they can run on water.  They have an extra row of wide scales on the long third toes of their hind feet that give them this ability.  You can see the scales in the photo below  and on the photo of the female if you click on them to see them bigger.
This guy held his ground as I took pictures.
He let me get quite close for a good look at his crest, which is folded back here.
This female does not have a crest, but is more richly colored than the male. Look at the scales on the long toe of her left foot.  These scales enable her to run on water.
She, too, let me get quite close, although she was poised to run into the wood pile if I made any sudden moves! 
The rains also brought out lots of small flying insects, which brought out lots of dragon flies!
The air was thick with dragon flies! 
Nice photo ops when they would land. 
I have not delved into dragonfly ID's yet, but there are at least 4 different kinds.
During breaks in the rain, I managed to walk along the jungle path and saw a large butterfly or moth flitting along.  It finally landed and I was able to take the photo below.
Owl moth with a great eyespot!
Dennis came out of the generator shed after turning the generator off and said "get your camera!"  So I did, and followed him back into the generator shed to see another  impressive moth.
Ascalapha odorata, Black Witch moth.
This moth also likes to fly into our window screen at night when we have lights on. At such a large size (4 to 5 inches across), it looks and sounds like a bat or a bird trying to get inside.

With all the rain also come rainbows.  This one arched across Greater Monkey Caye and seemed especially broad. 
 At this point we will forego the pot of gold and settle for some dryer weather!  Of course, we will look back on this rain fondly when we are in the midst of the dry season, so I will try to enjoy the rain while we have it.
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13 October, 2013

Yellow #1

Seems that things yellow have been predominant lately.  First up is this formidably handsome Lesser Yellow-Headed Vulture.

The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture is similar to turkey vultures, but has this fantastic colored head!
 They often perch low or even on the ground.  This one was on a 15 ft tall dead tree next to the marsh.  They are not as abundant as turkey vultures.
This profile view shows the orange to yellow to blue and purple color on the featherless head.
They like to hang out with turkey vultures, which are abundant around here.  In the evenings, the vultures soar in mixed groups on the thermals right along the coast. They are full-time residents of Belize
The adults have red eyes. You can also see some of the lighter grey feathers of the tail and primaries.
Some of the winter birds are beginning to show up.  Some will migrate on through to their way further south and some will stay here.  The yellow warblers showed up in large numbers and made a small ruckus as they flew back and forth between the palm trees and sea grapes. 
They made their chipping calls as if they were doing a roll call to see who made it here so far.
Some of the yellow warblers will be around all winter.  This one seems to like the sea grape right next to our veranda. 
They are never still for very long. 
This fellow just finished his bath in the raindrops caught on the leaves of the sea grape.
Keeping with the yellow winged creatures is this lovely black and yellow butterfly - the Polydamas Swallowtail,  Battus polydamas.  It is also called the tail-less swallowtail.
Hard to get a good photo of this very active butterfly.
I took lots of shots, counting on luck that one or two would be useable.
It never did alight on anything, just flitted around.
Hard to believe they are the same species of butterfly; they looks so colorful on the underside. 
I love the bright orange Ss at the edge of the wing.  And its thorax is polka dotted!
The beautiful Allamanda cathartica vine is growing wild at the edges of the jungle.
The yellow flowers are large and stunning.
In addition to the flowers, the seed pods are quite noticeable. 
Here, I focused on the seed pod in the background of the flowers. 
This spiky seedpod is an impressive 3 inches in diameter.  
I got a three-for-one deal with the Allamanda - flowers, seed pod, and surprise flower resident! 
A big spider had made a temporary home hanging upside down inside the flower. 
One of the most entertaining of the yellow-themed entities was this energetic yellow-throated warbler.
It hopped along the edge of the deck, just a few feet away from me.
It was actively hunting for insects on the outside of the cabana.  In one of my bird guide books there is a comment on finding it at the eaves of buildings. 
It hopped all along the gutter.
It was very conversational with me.
Definitely one of the friendliest wild birds I have encountered.
I'll end with a rainbow that appeared to the west over the jungle after a morning rainstorm.
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02 October, 2013

Hummingbirds and the First Dawn of October

Every spring in Minnesota, we put up hummingbird feeders to attract the ruby throated hummingbirds that migrate north from Mexico and Central America (including Belize) to nest and rear young before making the return trip south in early autumn.  We brought some feeders with us and put one up in hopes of attracting the migrants that pass through or even entice some to overwinter right here in Englishtown, Belize.  Although it did seem odd to put the feeder out in late September instead of taking down, it was not even 24 hrs later that we had our first ruby throated hummer sussing out the feeder.  We hung the feeder off the deck in a place we can see it from the screened veranda and quite near the red hibiscus that should attract the ruby throats.
The feeder is easy to reach to change out the sugar water.  The red hibiscus is just below it. In the background, you can also see the foundation for our addition.
It took the 2 ruby throats only a few visits to get comfortable enough at the feeder that I could take photos if I didn't make any sudden moves.  The next photos were taken from the veranda through the screen, so they aren't crystal clear.  But they will be good enough for us to ID other hummers and maybe even learn to recognize some individuals. 
For the first visits, they just hovered to feed.  The streaks that look like rain drops are on the screen that is between the camera and the feeder.  I cleaned the screen later!
Ruby throated hummer females can live up to 9 years in the wild and the males up to 7 years.  The females migrate first and so far we have seen only females; the males should arrive within the next couple of weeks.
The females take a look at us through the screen before they alight to feed.  See her little tongue sticking out?
There are at least 2 individuals and they chase each other away from the feeder.  I didn't realize that they would be so territorial when not nesting.
These little birds are only about 3.5 inches long.  They migrate a fearsome distance for such little birds.
The next shots are totally unrelated to the hummers, but they were just too beautiful not to share.  This is sunrise on October 1st.  
The moon was a waning crescent preceding the sun by a bit and the solar light at the end of our dock was still on at 5:25 AM when I took this photo yesterday.  Sunrise was at 5:42.
The high clouds caught the sun's warm rays before sunrise. 
The intervening rows of clouds make the horizon looks very distant.  I wish these photos could truly communicate how amazing this dawn was to witness in quiet solitude from our little dock.
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