Saturday, 23 March 2013

Guatemala Fam Trip - 5

After the Horned Guan trek we left behind Volcán Atitlán and headed instead to Lake Atitlán for a one-night stay at Eco Hotel Uxlabil.  American Coots were numerous on the lake and there were a few Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks but regrettably we were more than 25 years too late to see the Atitlán Grebe.  Among the many birds in the hotel gardens were Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Black-vented Oriole and Greater Pewee.

 Azure-crowned Hummingbird

Lake Atitlán

During our evening at the hotel we talked to the people involved with about their birding tours, their guiding, their website and anything else that we thought might help them.

The following morning we took a 30-minute boat ride across the lake to the Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort where we spent about three hours on the trails in their nature reserve.  There was only one target species here, Belted Flycatcher, another species with a very restricted range and eventually we were successful in seeing one.  A bonus was that we also found Rusty Sparrows, a species that is said to occur as far south as Costa Rica but which I hadn’t come across before.

After a night in the Las Farolas Hotel in Antigua we made an early start in order to catch the 6.40am flight from Guatemala City to Flores.  This hour-long flight was followed by a transfer by road to the Hotel Jungle Lodge at Tikal.  By taking this early flight and a late flight back the following day we effectively had two days to see Tikal National Park, one of the major sites of Mayan civilisation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important tropical rainforest reserve.

Our flight to Flores was on a TACA Airlines ATR 42 turboprop aircraft.

The birding at Tikal was superb and two days were not really enough to do the place justice.  The temples, palaces and other Mayan ruins were extremely impressive and probably deserved much more of our attention but it was the birds that made this place a must-visit part of any tour in Guatemala.  More than 300 bird species have been recorded here but if I had to name just one species as the highlight amongst the many we saw it would be Pheasant Cuckoo.  I had been looking forward to seeing the Ocellated Turkeys for which Tikal is well known but they were so habituated to tourists that they somehow lost their appeal.  The Pheasant Cuckoo, on the other hand, is a bird that although widely distributed in Central and South America, in my previous experience has not given itself up as easily as two of them did here.

 Pheasant Cuckoo

Mayan temple

More Mayan ruins at Tikal

Ocellated Turkey

Before returning to Guatemala City we also visited Lake Petén Itza, where at last we saw shorebirds, terns and gulls, and Cerro Cahui, a 1600-acre forest reserve near the lake, where Mayan Antthrush, Grey-throated Chat and Northern Barred Woodcreeper among others were all seen very well.

 Royal Tern

Collared Plover

And that was it!  The trip was over all too soon.  We recorded (saw or heard) something in excess of 280 bird species in our eight days and more than 40 of them were ones I hadn’t seen before in spite of my many visits to Costa Rica and, of course, the USA.  And that really is one of the major attractions of Guatemala; it presents good opportunities to see a selection of species that are restricted to the highlands of Guatemala and neighbouring Chiapas, El Salvador and Honduras.  These include Highland Guan, Horned Guan, Bushy-crested Jay, Black-capped Swallow, Rufous-collared Thrush, Black Thrush, Pink-headed Warbler, Belted Flycatcher, Bar-winged Oriole and more.  The scenery is spectacular, the food (including the coffee and the bananas!) was excellent, the accommodation was very comfortable, the people were friendly and there was magnificent Tikal!  I’m already planning a tour for Avian Adventures.

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