Birding beyond Chan Chich: Laguna Seca, Upper Escarpment, Gallon Jug, Lamanai Maya Site

Chan Chich Lodge has excellent birding but they also offer day trips and shorter trips to nearby birding spots. To maximize our birding options we chose several of these options. 

Laguna Seca

About an hour's drive northeast of Chan Chich is a very non-seca lake where we hoped to see some new birds. Luis drove us in one of the open air vehicles and was more than happy to stop for birds along the way.

Luis driving us through Gallon Jug

Post-coital Roadside Hawks

Mayan skink

You can almost see the red patch on this TK's head

Terrible pic of a White-bellied Emerald

Olive-throated Parakeet

Black-headed Trogon, the first bird we saw at Laguna Seca

We walked down to the edge of the lake, stopping to watch three Pale-billed Woodpeckers interacting. 

 Luis heard then spotted one of our target birds for the trip, a Royal Flycatcher! 

We had some distant looks at Pinnated Bittern and Northern Jacanas, heard Northern Bentbill (best sound!), and finally got a lone Mangrove Swallow for the trip list. Full checklist here.


Night drives

In addition to wandering around on our own with flashlights at night we joined two night drives from Chan Chich. Luis and Kris did the driving and spotting, and later the changing of the flat tire while we watched some kind of insect lighting up in the grass.

We had high hopes for these drives but we never had any owls or cats, mostly deer and a couple Virginia opossums. 

Common Pauraques were abundant on the night drives

We saw quite a few Northern Potoos

I lied, we saw an owl, a single Barn Owl on both night drives

We also had a number of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and snoozing Great Curassows.

Upper Escarpment

The Upper Escarpment is located an hour's drive north of Chan Chich and is the highest elevation around at 900 feet. The open area at the top is known for being an excellent spot to view soaring raptors and we had high hopes. 

Luis drove us and was again happy to stop for birds along the way.

Lesson's Motmot

We drove through Sylvester Village, a small community where most of the farm workers live. The fellow that drove us to Lamanai later that week told us about how no one is allowed to have a dog at Chan Chich, but that for awhile they were allowed to at Sylvester Village. Unfortunately when they had dogs outside their houses the jaguars came and ate them all. No one has dogs anymore. 

Jacob at the Upper Escarpment

We made it to the escarpment and began scanning for raptors. Some distant King Vultures were cool, then a slightly closer Ornate Hawk-Eagle cruised by. Apparently they used to nest in a big tree that was visible from this spot but a hurricane last November took the tree out. This was also a tree the Lovely Cotingas liked.

Ornate Hawk-Eagle

We saw a couple of Bat Falcons and not much else here. As an aside, I do suspect that this is where some kind of insect found its way into my pants. We returned to Chan Chich for lunch and after lunch I discovered my legs were covered in bruise-like bites and oh yeah, they itched. No clue what attacked me but I showered and scrubbed and stuffed the clothes I had been wearing into a corner.

White-whiskered Puffbird on the drive back to the lodge

Roadside Hawk on the drive back to the lodge

Gallon Jug

 One morning we asked Luis to take us birding at Gallon Jug which is mostly open pastures and farms. He had said it was his favorite area to bird and we knew the different habitat would produce some new trip birds if not lifers. 

Tropical Mockingbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Aplomado Falcon

Aplomado Falcon

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Complete checklist from the outing here.

Lamanai Maya Site

The longest day trip we took from Chan Chich was to Lamanai, a Mayan site along New River that was once a major city. A guy from Chan Chich whose name I have forgotten drove us the 2 hours (more like 3 hours) to the river where we were to meet a guide that would take us by boat to Lamanai. On the drive we were very excited to see a Jabiru very close to the road. 


We made it to the river and met up with our guide who was nice enough but definitely not a birder. He did know exactly where to find certain birds though and it was just fine. 

Lesser Nighthawk

Morelet's crocodile (lifer croc!)

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Proboscis bats

Squirrel Cuckoo

Boat-billed Heron

Lifer Great Black Hawk!

Our only Bare-throated Tiger-Heron of the trip

Yucat√°n black howler monkey

We made it to Lamanai where our guide unpacked lunch for us before we started a tour of the site. The only rice and beans of the whole trip? I think so. 

The first temple we visited was the Jaguar Temple, named for the jaguar faces on each side. 

Jaguar Temple
Jaguar Temple

View from the top of the Jaguar Temple

A temple that has not been excavated yet
Jacob and our guide at High Temple

Us at the Mask Temple

Mask Temple

It was very cool to visit a spot like this with so much history! Our guide mentioned only 5% of this site has been excavated which is hard to imagine. 

We took the boat back from Lamanai and managed a couple terrible photos of a Sungrebe, a bird we had lifered earlier in the day. 

Sungrebe on New River

Green Kingfisher

We made it back to Chan Chich in time for dinner! A very fun adventure that I would highly recommend. 

One interesting thing about this drive was that we learned that the roads going into Chan Chich are gated, and at this north entrance (never saw the south entrance) there is a guy that lives in a little house by the gate. He is in charge of opening the gate for vehicles with the appropriate documentation. That's all he does. There's not a lot of traffic so he has a lot of free time I imagine. An interesting life. 

So those were all the trips we did while staying at Chan Chich. There were several other options for day trips including one to Tikal in Guatemala that I would still love to visit someday.

Good times!! More to come soon from Chan Chich.