>> Thursday, March 18, 2010
From an article by David Bird in The Gazette (Montreal, Canada):
Toucans, kingfishers offer magic moments
Every birdwatcher has a story or two about a feathered epiphany - what I call magic moments. I had two such moments in my recent trip to Belize.
This small country nestled on the east side of Mexico is a jewel of a place for birders that has retained a large portion of its wildlands. I went there in the last week of February to create contacts for setting up birding excursions and to investigate the state of ecotourism for my wildlife conservation course.
My magic moments occurred near Hopkins, a sleepy little town on the coast just south of Dandriga.
While staying at the comfortable and affordable All-Seasons Guest House, run by Ingrid Stahl and her cook, a Canadian expat, I had foolishly left it too late to book a guided bird-watching excursion. With her usual pleasant smile, Stahl said: "Why don't you take one of the bicycles and ride just down the road a mile or so? You will likely see some parrots and toucans along the river there."
Toucans! I could not grab my binoculars and get on that bike fast enough. I had never seen a keel-billed toucan, which happens to be the favourite bird of my daughter, Erin. She tells me that it has nothing to do with Froot Loops cereal.
About a half-hour later, I was driven out of the woods by voracious mosquitoes. These little monsters were biting right through my safari shirt and were drinking the DEET in my repellent.
Then I spotted a young man hacking vegetation with a machete. I asked him if there was any place nearby to see toucans. He directed me down the road to Toucan City.
Toucan City? Five minutes down the road, I turned into the driveway of Toucan Sittee. The place was named after the Sittee Rive,r upon which it is located. I was there for less than five minutes when I heard a frog-like, scratchy "krrk" from above. There, just above my head, was my very first keel-billed toucan. It was a magnificent bird, resplendent in black, yellow and red with that humongous beak of lime green, red and orange. A magic moment, indeed.