Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Guatemala Fam Trip - 2

My visit to Guatemala began with flights via Seville, Madrid and Miami to the country’s capital, Guatemala City.  There followed a drive to the picturesque town of Antigua for the first night’s stay at the very nice Hotel Casa Santa Domingo.  The nearby Volcán de Fuego is famous for being almost constantly active and its orange-red peak glowed in the night sky.  I finally made it to bed at 12.30am, roughly 29 hours after leaving Tavira!

Guatemala has about 30 volcanoes but only three have erupted this century.

The following morning I was up at 4.00am, earlier than necessary but made easier by the six-hour time difference.  The first birding of the day was in humid broadleaf forest at an elevation of about 1,600m at nearby Finca El Pilar.  Although a small area of organic coffee is grown here the finca is mainly dedicated to conservation activities with birding trails and hummingbird feeders.  Highlights for me were Black-headed Siskins, Rufous-collared Thrushes, Brown-backed Solitaire, Grey Silky-flycatcher, Black-capped Swallows, Rufous Sabrewing and Blue-tailed Hummingbird, all of them ‘lifers’.  Although familiar from many tours in Arizona, a Red-faced Warbler was also very nice to see.  The Slate-throated Whitestarts here had underparts that were almost red, very different from any I had seen before further south.

A roadside stop to buy bananas that haven't been shipped half across the world 
- my ulterior motive for visiting Guatemala!

In the afternoon we transferred to Patrocinio, another private nature reserve and coffee farm with areas of subtropical humid forest.  The birds here were mainly ones that were familiar to me from time spent in Costa Rica; species such as Long-tailed Manakin, White-throated Magpie-Jay, White-fronted Parrot, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Black-headed Saltator, Lineated Woodpecker and Gartered Trogon.  It was good to see those again and there were a few new ones such as Yellow-winged Tanager, Highland Guan and White-bellied Chachalaca.

Accommodation at Patrocinio

We stayed overnight at Patrocinio and after early birding there the following morning left at about 9.00am for Fuentes Georginas where we were to look for Wine-throated Hummingbird and Pink-headed Warbler.  Unfortunately, in the short time available, the hummingbird eluded us but we had great views of Pink-headed Warblers, possibly the bird of the whole trip for me.   It is endemic to the highlands of central and eastern Chiapas in Mexico, and to western Guatemala and currently is placed in the genus Cardellina alongside Red-faced, Wilson’s and Canada Warblers.

Pink-headed Warbler
Next stop was Tak’alik Ab’aj Archaeological National Park where we arrived in the heat of early afternoon with low expectations with regard to the birding.  How wrong we were!  The place was jumping with birds and we could only imagine what it might be like early in the morning.  And we got to see our first Mayan ruins.  Guatemala is a great place to see motmots (six species occur) and here we saw both Blue-diademed and Turquoise-browed amongst a host of other species.

Turquoise-browed Motmot

From there we went on to Finca Las Nubes, another coffee plantation cum nature reserve, where we were to stay for two nights.  Soon after arrival, a half-hour drive up a bumpy track was well worth any discomfort producing as it did excellent views of a Fulvous Owl, a species with quite a limited range that is in the same genus as Tawny, Ural, Barred and Great Grey Owls among others.

 Fulvous Owl

More on Guatemala to come… 

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