Because the sun rises early over the lagoon, the birds start singing, and the dogs start barking, it is easy to get up early at Crooked Tree Lodge.  We rolled out of bed at exactly 5:42 am, having just missed the sunrise by a few lazy minutes.  This is at least an hour or more earlier than we usually rise.  We were excited to start what we expected would be an excellent full day of birding.

After grabbing a cup of coffee in the lodge, we took a morning walk before breakfast and checked out the birds along the road. Of course we saw many, as birds are most active in the morning and again at dusk.  It was a beautiful morning, and the sun was already getting hot -- it gets hot early in Belize.   
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A morning cuppa joe in a lovely setting
Breakfast was served at 7, and what a spread it was -- scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, johnny cakes, toast, homemade jam, and freshly squeezed orange juice.  The perfect way to start a big day.  

After breakfast, we took the two touring kayaks out on the lagoon to try to find some Jabiru Storks.  We had seen them on the far side of the lagoon through our binoculars in the late afternoon of the day before, but they were too far off to photograph.  It was a gorgeous day for paddling, and so much fun to be out on the water again.  We used to own touring kayaks but sold them on Craigslist before we sold our house in 2010, and hadn't paddled for a long time.  The water was very shallow in the lagoon.  By the end of May, it might be dried up totally until the rains come again.  We were glad we made it here while we could still enjoy a paddle.
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The water was very glassy as we started out as there was very little wind, so the paddling was easy
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Observation deck at Crooked Tree lodge
Paddling towards the far bank of the lagoon, we spotted many Snail Kites in bushes and on tree branches.  We'd first seen one of these large birds on our trip to Lamanai Maya site back in January, but there were so many here on the lagoon bank it was astonishing.  There were also some large bulls along the banks checking us out.  I was hoping they wouldn't come charging into the shallow water to get a closer look, but of course, they did not.  I do have an active imagination!
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Snail Kite
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Cattle along the lagoon bank -- those horns look, uh, SHARP!
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From the far side of the lagoon -- the lodge is just visible across the glassy water
As we traveled farther up the lagoon, we eventually came upon a bank of large shorebirds in HUGE numbers.  Huge!  It took quite awhile to paddle closer to the "bird convention", but on the way there, we were rewarded by seeing a couple of Jabirus in flight, so we knew there were likely more along the bank, mixed in among the many egrets, herons, terns, and others.   
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Jabiru Storks
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A magnificent sight
Much to our delight, our suspicions were confirmed as we drew closer to the bank of birds.  There were Jabiru Storks here and there, just a few, mixed in with the many Wood Storks and other shorebirds.  We couldn't have been more delighted at seeing these massive, odd-looking birds so close.  Some of the other guests at the lodge had paid a guide to take them out in a motorboat earlier that morning, but we were hoping that we could see the same birds for free under kayak power.  And we did!
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Shorebirds a-plenty
The White Pelican is very rare for Belize, so we were excited to see this flock here.
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White Pelicans
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Egrets and Wood Storks, drying their wings
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Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and bull
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Mostly Caspian Terns
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Barry is happy at seeing so many birds
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Barry photographing a lone Jabiru Stork along the lagoon bank
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Here's the Jabiru he was photographing
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Takeoff!
After we'd satisfied our birding urges on the lagoon, we headed back to the lodge so that we'd be back in time for lunch.  We definitely didn't want to miss one of the wonderful meals here! 
Not long after pulling the kayaks back up on shore, it was time for lunch.  Angie served us a delicious baked tilapia with fresh vegetables, a green salad, wheat rolls, a banana (which we saved for an afternoon snack), and the leftover bread pudding from the night before.  It was as delicious as it looked!
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Lunch
After lunch we spent some time relaxing on our cabana's veranda.  I mentioned before that there were a lot of dogs on the property.  A lovely Doberman belonged to a young couple from the UK vacationing at the lodge (after adopting the dog in Louisiana and driving from Texas through Mexico to Belize -- now that's adventurous!), and many other dogs apparently belonging to Mick and Angie.  All the dogs were sweet and friendly, and we had fun watching them romp and play on the grounds.  One even had puppies under the lodge stairs.  They were 2.5 weeks old and just adorable!  Check out all these cute pooches (and this isn't even all of 'em)....
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A sweet little female who took a liking to me -- never did find out her name
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Friendly boy on our veranda
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Mama and her five pups
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Two precious pups
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Nursing puppies
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Another with this friendly girl
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Gentle Dolly the Dobie (with uncut ears, so she looks a bit different)
In the afternoon we took another walk up the road.  The original reason for the walk was to determine how long it would take us to walk to the bus stop the next morning, but we were having so much fun we walked all the way into the village (which is tiny, consisting of only a fruit stand and a couple of other small buildings).  Barry was interested in this hurricane shelter because the Occupancy level hadn't even been filled in.  He surmised that in Belize, the right answer is "as many as can be packed in"...
We saw quite a few loose cattle along the way...
And more cashew trees....
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Cashew nut
When we returned to the lodge, we continued bird-watching around in the back.  We discovered couple of pigs in a pen and some additional short trails we hadn't known were back there.  Turns out our friend David, who lives just up the beach from us on Ambergris Caye, stayed here with the cast and crew while filming a movie he was in, and the movie was mostly filmed right in this part of the lodge's property!  We had no idea until after we returned home and Barry told David about our stay.  Pretty incredible!
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This cutie lives at the lodge
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Pig pen
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Dog, meet Pig
After the mosquitoes drove us from the trails, we retreated back to the lodge.  We discovered this cache of drying cashew nuts in back.  Very cool!
I decided a cold Belikin would taste really good, so we hit the honor bar, then watched the beautiful sunset from the lodge deck.
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In Belize, it's not Miller time, it's Belikin time -- very few other beers are allowed in the country
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Lovely sunset in a perfect pastoral setting
Dinner was once again delicious and bountiful.  On the menu was tomato soup, shepherd's pie, sauteed fruits and vegetables, salad, beans and rice, and cheese bread.  Dessert was coconut turnovers and mini chocolate cakes.  Needless to say, we ate until we were stuffed.  Good thing we got so much exercise during the day!
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Healthy and delicious
To be continued...
Larry
4/29/2012 11:24:30 pm

They make a local wine from the cashew bloom. But beware, it is a cross between kerosene and rocket fuel!

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BeBelize Emily
4/29/2012 11:32:47 pm

Thanks for the warning, Larry! I saw some at Brodie's in Belize City but did not have any interest in buying it. I figured it was really sweet, and I prefer dry wines.

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Adam
4/29/2012 11:46:44 pm

Looks like a perfect trip... Nice variety of birds and puppies too! ;)

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