Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Guatemala Fam Trip - 3

Two nights at Las Nubes gave us just one full day’s birding there.  It began at 5.30am with a return up the same rough track that we had been on the previous evening to find the Fulvous Owl.  Our main target now, however, was Resplendent Quetzal, a species I have seen many times in Costa Rica but one which certainly lives up to its name and I was more than happy to see it again.  Those in our group seeing it for the first time were well impressed!  This is the national bird of Guatemala (Costa Rica for some reason chose the Clay-coloured Thrush - go figure!), it appears on the national flag and they even named their currency after it (currently 1 US Dollar = c. 8 Quetzales).

Resplendent Quetzal

Guatemalan national flag

The supporting cast included Mountain Trogon (lifer!), Elegant Euphonia, Flame-coloured Tanager and Crested Guan but by 10.00am the weather was just too miserable for us to stay out.  Although we tried again later, there was more rain and it turned out that we had had the best of the day’s birding in those first few hours.  The one exception was after dinner when a Mottled Owl at first gave us the run around but eventually allowed everyone with the necessary persistence to see it well.

Accommodation at Las Nubes

We heard Resplendent Quetzal the following morning but, like so many brightly coloured species, it's a bird that needs to be seen; its unmusical call has been likened to ‘a whimpering pup’.  One Mayan legend claims that it used to sing beautifully before the Spanish conquest but has been unable to do so since – an unlikely story but I understand their point!  With better weather there were plenty of birds but limited time before we had to leave.  An Azure-rumped Tanager was the highlight, not because it is a particularly striking bird in its appearance but because it has a restricted range (southern Mexico and south-western Guatemala) and is classified by BirdLife International as Endangered.   

Next on our itinerary was the Los Tarrales Reserve, located close to the Atitlán Volcano (last eruption in 1853) but again we were limited to a one-night stay where we might have wanted longer – such is the nature of these trips.  Los Tarrales stretches from the lowlands at 750m elevation to the top of the volcano at 3500m, an altitudinal range that has resulted in more than 340 bird species being recorded there.  We arrived in time to have lunch before spending the afternoon birding with local guide, Josué de León Lux, on a loop trail much of it through a shade coffee plantation.  Highlights were Scrub Euphonia, Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, Yellow-winged Tanager and Grey-collared Becard (lifer!).

One of the high altitude attractions at Las Tarrales is the Horned Guan, more of which later… 

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