There was a buzz of wildlife as the sun set over the horizon beyond the mangrove trees. The crocodiles were lazily swimming along, frogs were croaking, and the fish fry were jumping. The birds were particularly active, swooping in the air to catch that last bit of dinner before night falls and the rain creeps in. As you gaze into the landscape, the plethora of bird species painted the sky and mangroves with various colors and sounds- a birder’s paradise! Surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, one could only feel at peace…until a large gushing sound came out of the corner, possibly due to someone flushing a toilet.
No, I wasn’t far off into the wilderness this particular evening to go birding with the bird expert Roni Martinez from the Audabon Society (who has been my go-to guy for my research in relation to the birds of Belize), instead, we were at the sewage Ponds of San Pedro. Roni had come into town for a Urban bird count this weekend. Given I wanted to go birding with an expert and learn some local tricks of the trade, and of course hang out with a fellow conservationist, we decided to spend a Sunday evening together where we could encounter various bird species. And I mentioned to him given my time and croc research thus far, what I noticed was the Sewage Ponds was the place to be for birds!
Apparently, Sewage Ponds = high bird species richness/diversity. It’s not uncommon – apparently birds like flocking to the sewage ponds in Belize.
Why is that? Is it the smell of poop (maybe some of their keen sense of smell picks up a smorgasbord of food once past??? Gross thought, isn’t it)? Is it the rippling sounds of sewage flowing into the ponds? Or is it the lack of human traffic and preserved habitat around the ponds??? Who really knows- but what we do know is Sewage Ponds = great birding!!!
Usually I am at the Sewage Ponds for croc research (FYI- these crocs are likely the healthiest crocs on the island!!!!), so heading to the ponds for an extreme birding adventure was the first for me. My current research entails data and knowledge of the local wildlife community in crocodilian habitat, so that includes birds. My 90 minutes with Roni was nothing but exceptional!!!! His ability to pick up the different bird calls, and to make bird calls to get the birds out was amazing to witness. And his keen eye to pick out the various bird species was like a hawk picking out its prey from mid-air… astounding!!!
By the end of our trip, we counted about 40 species of birds (really I should say Roni counted 40 species of birds). I’ll definitely be looking at theSewage Ponds in a different perspective now, as there is a hidden beauty behind the name, which you can get lost in… But don’t go to far off the path as next thing you know there will be a Barn Swallow heading for your eye and your life flashes before your eyes!!! (Yeah, that happened to me!).