22 February, 2014

Hummingbird Update - Part Two

The lovely Cinnamon Hummingbird is the feature of today's post.  The Cinnamon was the first hummingbird I took a photo of at our place here in Belize.  It was just a fuzzy speck perched on a leafless twig atop a small tree, but the completely cinnamon-colored underside is not found on any other hummingbird around here.  
Over the last 7 years, the Cinnamon has been a continuous  year round resident that we see and hear feeding on the hibiscus flowers in front of our veranda.  They give a single cht before each flower visit, and a series of chts as it flies from bush to bush.  
You can just see a little pale tongue-tip sticking out. 
Before we started living here full-time December of 2012, the Cinnamon was easily spooked by us when we would try to get a better view of it.   Once we had been here for a while it got more used to us and, while still wary, didn't fly away if it saw us on the veranda.  Now that the feeders are up, it (they, actually) is (are) bolder still.  I took these photos of the Cinnamon at the back feeder on 3 different days.  I was only 15-20 feet away, with Max (the cat) at my side, and none of the hummers seemed deterred by our presence.
At 4.25 inches, the Cinnamon is noticeably larger than the 3.5 inch Ruby-throated. 
Notice the black-tipped red bill.
The tail is also cinnamon-colored from above and below, and is bordered with a dark charcoal band.

Still wary, but the allure of the feeder is too strong to resist.
The sexes are indistinguishable.
Its head and back are a shiny greenish-gold color.
From the back you can see the cinnamon-colored tail with tis darker border and the iridescent greenish-gold of the back and head.  Unmistakable and lovely.
Next up will be the dashing Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

18 February, 2014

Hummingbird Update - Part One

I had a couple of posts a few months ago about the hummingbirds we have seen at the feeder we put out at the front of the cabana near the hibiscus where they feed (here and here).  
A hummingbird approaches the "ocean view" feeder just off the front veranda
We put up another feeder on the back deck in a more sheltered spot that just happens to be right outside our bedroom window.  :-)  Once the ruby-throated hummers started coming, it took about 2 weeks for the cinnamon hummingbirds, that feed on the hibiscus flowers year 'round, to realize that the feeder was also a good source of food.  Then the floodgates opened and we got 2 more species as regulars at the feeders - the green-breasted mango and the rufous-tailed hummingbirds.  Today's post is the first in a series and it highlights our old friends, the ruby-throated hummers.
You can see the post-ocular white spot that is characteristic of the ruby throats. Notice the drying laundry in the background.  :-)
As you can see, it is also adjacent to our clothes line, which makes for a handy perch at times.
They fan their tails out for aerial maneuvers and displays.
This female ruby-throated hummer is showing its characteristic outer three white-tipped tail feathers.
Nice profile view.
There are at least two other species of hummingbirds in Belize with similar looking females, but the ruby-throated is the only one with a totally black bill.  The others have black upper and red lower.  Whewwww - that saves me a tough session of keying out the other species.  Just in case you are wondering, the other 2 are the female white-bellied emerald (larger and with dingier greyish-white tips) and the female Canivet's emerald (smaller and with a post-occular white streak instead of spot).
Sometimes they take a quick sip without perching.
We have seen at least 2 immature males (photos in a previous post) and numerous females, but no adult males with their stunning ruby throats.  Not sure why that is.  The adult males have a slightly different migration schedule than the females and the immatures, so maybe they just haven't found our feeders listed on the hummingbird equivalent of Trip Advisor yet.  Surely we must have a good rating for abundant, fresh nectar, choice of ocean view or sheltered seating, and the featured local cuisine of hibiscus and flamboyant tree flowers!
And sometimes they sit and stay for a while.
We get lots of return business, too.
They always keep on alert for predators and competition at the feeders.  These birds may be small, but they are feisty.
Stay tuned for the next installment featuring the lovely cinnamon hummingbird.

14 February, 2014

Saturday Trip to Placencia

Last Saturday Dennis and I made a little trip to Placencia to meet our friend, Dena, and her friend, Peggy, for a visit and lunch.  We made a brief stop in Monkey River Village before driving to Placencia.  On the short boat ride to the village, we noticed waterspouts out at sea and I managed to get some photos while we were in the village.
Dramatic sky with sun beaming through dark clouds and a waterspout in the distance.  I took processing liberties using a function called "HDR-ish" in Picasa to highlight the drama.
We saw as many as seven waterspouts at a time.  They usually don't last too long, maybe 20 minutes, and their winds max out at about 100MPH - nowhere near as destructive as their tornado cousins.  Still, you don't want to be near them when you are in or on the water.
They were fairly far away, but you can make out the water spray at the sea's surface under the leftmost spout. 
Soon we were on our way up the Monkey River Road in the Subaru.  We had plenty of time and stopped to take a few other photos.  Like the gorgeous blossoms of the Provision Tree below.  The blossoms on these large trees are as big as your head.  The very phallic buds peel open like a banana and the long red-tipped stamens fan out. The fruit is roughly the size and shape of a football (American football, that is.  Not soccer) and contains edible nuts.  I haven't tried them yet, but will if I get the chance.

Pachira aquatica, Provision Tree.

We also saw what I at first thought was a bird-of-paradise flowering at the edge of the jungle.  But I am not so sure now.
Bird-of-Paradise?  Probably not - it looks different than most that I see growing in the wild round here. Maybe it is a Canna flower.  They are in the same order (Zingiberales) as the bird-of-paradise and the gingers. Another mystery to solve!

After having a delightful lunch with Dena and Peggy at Dragonfly Moon Restaurant in Placencia (which we highly recommend, also see more about them here), we had coffee at Above Grounds Coffee House (also highly recommend).  Drinking our coffee (or, in my case, a caramel macchiato) on the deck, we were approached by a Maya woman selling wooden bowls.  I bought a bowl to use as a bread bowl. It is a lovely thing, made of tamarind wood.  As you can see in the photo below, I soon put it to good use, making French-style baguettes and southern biscuits (aka "scones" or "johnny cakes", depending on what part of the world you are in).  Tamarind, which is called tambran around here, is a very hard wood and takes a nice natural polish to its surface.
The tamarind wood bowl is the perfect size for mixing biscuit or bread dough.
From waterspouts to wooden bowls, you can never tell where the road in Belize will take you.