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New Bird Species for Belize – Red Headed Duck

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  • Feb
  • 26

It’s every birdwatchers dream to one day find a new bird species for the country. This is why having seen two new bird species on the same day in the same place was quite a stir early this December. It all started on the afternoon of December 11 when Jonathan Urbina left La Milpa Ecolodge and decided to stop over at one of the rice fields near the Rio Bravo by Blue Creek. There he spotted large flocks of shore and wading birds like American Coot, Long Billed Dowitchers, Blue Winged Teal and Greater Yellowlegs. Among these large flocks of birds there were many others in much fewer numbers and lots more exciting. Two of these birds turned up being new bird records for the country of Belize and included a duck called Redhead and another called Gadwall. Mr. Urbina relayed the information to the bird group staying at La Milpa and a trip was organized the very next afternoon after lunch.

The most important requirement in reporting a new bird species is a good look and evidence of that good look. Photographs are the best way of quieting any skeptics but having an expert on site is perhaps just as important. We had all these in place when we headed out on the afternoon of December 13 2011. Bird experts along in the group were Bill Gette from the Massachusetts Audubon Society and someone who was very familiar with all the birds we were seeing. Another key individual and perhaps the one who was the most important in confirming this sighting was Lee Jones, the author of the Bird of Belize book. The other participants included Programme for Belize staff from La Milpa and Hill Bank including Vladimir Rodriguez(La Milpa Manager), Jorge Estrella (Hill Bank Manager), Melvis Valdez(LaMilpa guide), Marcos Corado(Hill Bank guide) tour guides from other companies, rangers and general bird enthusiasts from all over the country participating in our 2011 bird Banding Training Program. The afternoon was electric as was expected since confirming two new bird species in one day is not something that happens every day. As one participant put it as he called a friend by cell phone “We are here at the Blue Creek rice fields seeing two new bird species for the country of Belize and I think I am being part of history.” A feeling of great happiness and accomplishment befell all of us not just for the rare sighting but for having shared it with friends and companions who understood the importance of the moment.

The Blue Creek fields are usually this good but only when there is a certain level of water covering the fields that have not been overgrown with weeds. I took the time four days later to stop once again and take a look at what was in the same patch of watery field and it seemed the same as on Monday. I took along the facilities high powered Swarovski scope and a small camera and I was able to get a descent picture of a male Redhead. This was important since getting any picture of any individual bird was difficult as they were several hundred yards out and getting too close would make them fly. This sighting also places the Rio Bravo reserve in a critical location as La Milpa Ecolodge is only 20 minutes drive from the fields and any person visiting us at this time could have the same opportunity. For more information on this and other sightings in the area please contact Vladimir Rodriguez at lamilpa@pfbelize.org or call 3230011. 

Male Redhead at Blue Creek Rice Field on December 16 2011.

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