Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Honduras Part 1: Welcome to the Tropics

Rob writes: I have been back from Honduras for almost two weeks now but am just now finally ready to start writing about the amazing experience I had in this beautiful country. As many of you know, this was my first birding trip to Central America and I couldn't have been more excited about this opportunity. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect as I embarked on this adventure but I have to say that the trip far exceeded anything I could have imagined.

After arriving at the airport in Detroit ridiculously early, thanks Greg, we set off on our way to San Pedro Sula, Honduras by way of Atlanta. I had been assured that San Pedro Sula was not the town that you always hear about in news as the "most dangerous city in the world" but until you see it for yourself, it can be hard to believe. We breezed through customs and immigration and were met immediately by our guide for the week, Elmer. Since Brian and I had an hour to wait until Greg arrived, his flight went through Miami, Elmer took us birding around the airport property. This is something that we could have never done in the US! Can you imagine how quickly you would be questioned by the police if you pulled out your binoculars and looked for birds by the fences around an airport? Never once did we feel anything other than completely safe.

It was here the I got my first lifer of the trip, a Social Flycatcher. This was one of about 100 of these that we would see throughout the week but it was extremely exciting at the time! Once Greg arrived, we started our 2.5 hour drive to the Lodge. The drive was delayed slightly by a political parade as well as a truck that was overloaded with palm oil fruit which led to a broken axle and fruit all over the road. Since we were delayed, we arrived at the lodge without enough daylight left for birding but we didn't mind once we were served the welcome drink with rum!

What a great view to enjoy while having one of the rum welcome drinks!
A view of the lobby and its great deck!
The restaurant at the lodge has an amazing view and phenomenal food!
We met back up with Elmer at 6:30 the next morning on the deck of the lobby and before we even got started on a hike, we were seeing toucans, euphonias, and parrots. Two of the most interesting birds from the deck were a Hooded and a Kentucky Warbler searching for food in some small bushes just a little ways from where we were sitting. Now, it might seem odd that a couple of species which breed not too far from where I live in Indiana would be so interesting when in the tropics, but seeing them here on their wintering grounds was pretty remarkable. It was very strange to watch them behave rather differently then they do during the breeding season, hopping around on the mowed grass lawn. Over the next week, we would learn that there are tons of "our" warblers that spend much more time in Honduras than they do in more northern latitudes.

Our first stop of the morning was at the Toucan Tower, just a short hike from the lobby. From the tower, you look out over a valley with the rushing Rio Coloradito below. As we stood and watched, an amazing number of Keel-billed Toucans flew by and then several Collared Aracari landed in a tree just behind us!

One of several Collared Aracari that seems interested in what we were doing on the tower.
It didn't take long until someone spotted our first Lovely Cotinga of the trip! Ever since learning that I was going to be traveling to Honduras, this was one on of the birds that I most wanted to see. It was distant but awesome anyway.

From the tower, we hiked all of the property that is owned by the lodge and put together quite a bird list for the morning! Here are a few photos of some of the more cooperative species.

This Black-headed Trogon perched in the open for just a bit before flying off not to be seen again.
There were an incredible amount of beautiful butterflies but this was one of my favorites!
Although I don't remember the exact name of the species, it is some type of clearwing butterfly.
Olive-backed Euphonias can be found all over the lodge property. 
After our long morning hike, we were all glad to settle in to the lodge restaurant for a nice lunch. Our friend James Adams who works for the lodge joined us here to help us plan out the rest of our week. We enjoyed great conversation with James and Elmer as well as some wonderful birds that came in quite close. Brian was able to take some great hummingbird shots and I really liked this photograph I took of a Black-cheeked Woodpecker!

This Black-cheeked Woodpecker was feeding on Lychee fruit not too far from our table during lunch at The Lodge at Pico Bonito.
We spent the afternoon covering more of the property around the lodge and ended the day with almost 100 species! Pretty incredible seeing as that we never left the lodge.

Check back soon to learn all about the other fantastic birding locations that we visited during our trip. If you are interested in the lodge, check out their website (The Lodge at Pico Bonito) and be sure to watch for a tour we will be offering through Sabrewing Nature Tours that will be announced very soon! Wouldn't you love to travel to the tropics in 2014 with me and Sabrewing Nature Tours?

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