Monday, January 31, 2005

Belize: Day 2, Part 1 - Belize City

What a wonderful sight to wake up to on our first full day in Belize. This is the view from our upstairs room at the far end of one of the wings of the Radisson Fort George Hotel.

Both last night and this morning we noticed the birds gliding along the shoreline outside our hotel. You could hardly miss them. Not only were they big, but they had a sense of "otherness." "You are no longer at home," they seemed to say. They were exotic. Which is a little weird on the one hand, because of the two most prominent birds, one was a brown pelican. We have them in Oregon along the coast, and that's only 10 miles from where I live. The thing was, these were flying CLOSE. You could see more than faint shape. The more exotic bird was the frigate, found only in the tropics. The frigate bird above is from the NOAA web site. Actually, the bird in this photo looks less strange than they can appear. The forked tail is one aspect I remember, but the other is the pointed "elbows." It depends on the angle. Frigates are unique in a number of respects. (Much of the following info is paraphrased from Wikipedia.) Being sea birds, you'd think they might dive or swim, but they do neither. They don't have enough oil in their feathes to keep them afloat. They have a unique structure to their bones which allows them to glide on the warm updrafts over tropical oceans where they can signal changing weather patterns along the fronts. Besides being unable to swim, frigate birds cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird, they are able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs. They are light weight, and have the highest ratio of wing area to body mass, and the lowest wing loading of any bird.

This is again outside our hotel along a broad stretch of road that skirts the waterfront in Belize City.

Below is the beautiful currency of Belize, depicting local animals. Belizean artists often used these animals in their compositions, and we would see the tapir, toucan, and flowering plant together like this on many a piece of slate carved for tourists.

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