“Birds of Belize” author, H. Lee Jones, and a team of experienced birders spent the early morning hours on March 24 at BFREE as part of Birdathon Belize – a competition and fundraiser for the Belize Raptor Research Institute (BRRI). Lee was joined by Victor Bonilla, Emanuel Chan and previous BFREE employee and expert birder, Wilfred Mutrie, to create a strong team of four. The team’s goal was to identify 203 birds in a 24 hour period which would surpass the Belize record of 202 in one day. For every bird counted, a certain amount of money is donated to BRRI. The rules are strict; everyone in the group has to see and/or hear 95% of the birds in order to add the bird to the count for that day, so teams have to stay together and remain quiet. The team started at 4:00am and by breakfast at 7:30am had reached 98 birds, 2 birds shy of their target while at BFREE.
After breakfast they stopped at the river and within 15 minutes had added 10 more birds to their count! The remainder of their day was strategically planned to ensure they put themselves in areas to identify specific birds within their allotted time. They were to stop in the Savannah between BFREE and the Southern Highway, then on to Aqua Mar Shrimp Farm to locate various shore birds, with a stop immediately following in Punta Gorda where they were sure to see Laughing Gulls and a particular heron roosting in the mangroves. The day would end at the Southern Highway junction known as “The Dump,” in order to bird in a wet area, overgrown with reeds where they were sure to catch sight of a variety of species at dusk. We look forward to hearing if they break the record and are excited that the majority of the birds were spotted right here at BFREE!