Taking a picture of a Toucan in the wild was one of my goals on a recent trip to Belize.
Was I in for a surprise. Somehow I imagined that, if I sit quietly and patiently, all the amazing animals of Belize would reveal themselves. The jungle taught me a lesson in camouflage and concealment though. Yes, the birds and butterflies were right there but they were so hard to see no less take a picture. And, the Toucan? I could hear them on occasion but I was always seemed to be on the edge of their range and they were invisible in the dense canopy.
It seemed that my consolation prize was seeing Red-lored parrots in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. First heard on the drive into preserve, then seen in multiple places, flocks of parrots were near by. But, for 3 days, the flock nesting on the far side of the canyon circled overhead, never getting close enough for a picture. The groups of 2’s and 3’s in the pines zoomed in and out of sight before I could even pick up the camera. I didn’t even get the consolation prize.
A week later, I was in the Bocawina/Mayflower National Park dejected at hardly seeing any wildlife, when I heard the parrots again. Right above me, yet I could not find them in the bright green canopy. They were teasing me now. At least I knew where to look now and the next day I finally got my picture. Flying over trees on the edge of a clearing, I was able to get some pictures. Now I could prove that at least I saw a parrot.
The following morning, a group of us took a hike to Antelope Falls in the Bocawina National Park to watch the sunrise. I have never sweated so much as I did in Belize and there was no difference between 5 am and noon. As we returned, I saw the parrots in the trees again, raised my camera and found the viewfinder covered in condensation. Without a dry piece of clothing on me, I couldn’t clean the viewfinder so I clicked away at the parrots unable to see what I was shooting. As I reviewed my photos for the day, I may have seen parrots fly into the trees but got a picture of a Collared Aracari. Wow! One step closer to a Toucan.
I went to Belize thinking that the early bird gets the worm. I was up by 5 each morning to run, and was constantly on the lookout, figuring the earlier I was out the door, the more that I would see. By the end, I learned that the large birds only seemed active between 7 and 9. I would go for a run, get my exercise in, then pick up my camera and head out for a leisurely walk. Accepting the consolation prize was okay after 2 weeks of constantly scanning jungle. Then it happened. On my second to last day, I followed this routine and found Toucans. Three of them in the clearing with the parrots. What a sight! At first I only saw one from a distance mixed in the dense jungle. As I approached, it flew off. After a couple of attempts to get close only to watch it fly off as I crossed some imaginary line, I learned the distance where it felt comfortable. From the demarcation line, I stood and watched it perform acrobatics on the tree branches, twisting, contorting and hanging upside down. What a reward for patience as 2 more appeared. I was able to photograph them for 10 minutes as they moved along the edge of the clearing. Finally, they disappeared again into the jungle only to be heard and not seen again. What an experience!
On my last morning, I didn’t see Toucans but I was happy and saw plenty of other fascinating wildlife on my walk.