Thursday, April 21, 2016

Exploring Guatemala: Part 2 - Los Tarrales and Quetzaltenango

(If you haven't read Part 1 of my trip to Guatemala, click here.)

We arrived at Los Tarrales in time for a late lunch and a short rest before hitting the trails. Throughout our trip, a guide in training, Aarón, joined us. He is a great birder and is going to be a great guide very soon! While at Los Tarrales, we learned that two of his brothers are also guides and they work locally at the lodge. Throughout our stay here, it was really fun to bird with the three brothers. Be sure to also hire Lester and Josue when you are at Los Tarrales! Not only is it good for the local economy, they know where all of the birds you want to see are. It was hot when we started out that day, but the birds didn't seem to mind. Just a short way down the path, we heard a Striped Cuckoo, but even though it sounded very close, we couldn't hunt it down. A bit later we had wonderful views of a Blue-throated Goldentail.

As we approached part of the trail that is good for Long-tailed Manakin, a much larger creature caught our attention - a Tayra! The Tayra is a large weasel. We spotted it high in a tree, and after a short time it ran straight down the trunk and out of sight. It was a life mammal for me!

This Tayra was one of the highlights of the trip. Thanks to Maynor Ovando for the photo!
Just after seeing the Tayra, we got fantastic views of the Long-tailed Manakin that we were searching for then headed back to the lodge to get some rest.

We rose early the following morning and loaded into 4x4 vehicles to make the trek up the mountain to look for the highlight bird of Los Tarrales, Azure-rumped Tanager. It was a beautiful drive through coffee plantations with the plants in full bloom and wonderful forest. Although our views of the tanager were from a distance, we did get to watch them build a nest! In addition the the tanager, other highlights included  Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, White Hawk, and Prevost's Ground-Sparrow.

Our 4x4 ride up the mountian.
The Azure-rumped Tanager one of the best birds at Los Tarrales.
We spent the afternoon and the following morning exploring more of the property and adding many species to our growing list. By the time we packed up and started for Quetzaltenango, we had seen 125 species at Los Tarrales.

This Collared Trogon posed nicely for me.
Two Mottled Owls were roosting in the bamboo.
Until this trip, I had never been able to get good photos of a White-winged Tanager.
It took the entire afternoon to travel to our next hotel, so we didn't get much birding in. Our day started early again as we moved to our next birding spot, Fuentes Georginas. This area is situated up in a valley and is a popular hot springs with fantastic birding!

Unicolored Jays are extremely common at Fuentes Georginas.
As with many higher elevation areas, the number of species isn't high, but the quality of each bird is! Highlights for the morning included Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Pine Flycatcher, Unicolored Jay, and Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer. Once we were done with our morning birding, we packed up and made our way towards Posada de Santiago on Lake Atitlan where we would making a very difficult hike in search of Horned Guans.

Check back in a couple days to hear about our adventurous day in search of the guans!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Exploring Guatemala: Part 1 - Antigua to Los Tarrales

Last month, I visited Guatemala on a tour sponsored by the Guatemalan Tourism Board and led by Maynor Ovando from Birding Expeditions. I had never visited the country before, and I really wasn't quite sure what to expect. But I'm so glad that I went, because Guatemala was nothing like what many people had told me!

After a very late arrival in Guatemala City and a transfer to our hotel in Antigua, I was ready to get some rest before an early morning of birding the next day. Since it was dark when we arrived, we didn't see much of the town but it was clear the next morning that this was a special place. As we walked a few blocks to our van, we were in awe of the wonderful architecture in the old town.

Walking along the streets of Antigua.
Our first morning of birding took us to the hills above Antigua. Not only was there wonderful birding, but the view of the town was incredible as well. I saw my first of many lifers while birding the hills, Gray Silky-flycatcher.

This Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl was very active in the area we birded on the first morning.
You can't come to Guatemala and not spend some time exploring Antigua, so we spent the afternoon on a city tour. That would have been a neat experience itself, but we were treated to an incredible Holy Week parade with thousands of people in attendance. We spent a couple hours just enjoying the event!

Iglesia La Merced had amazingly intricate designs on the building.

These works of art are made from flowers and will then be walked over by the parade.

This huge "float" was carried by dozens of people though the streets.
We departed early the next morning for Reserva Natural Privada Los Tarrales with a stop along the way for a very special bird. After a very nice breakfast at Restaurante Rincón Suizo, we hit the trails around the restaurant. These trails led us through a beautiful pine forest which is home to the incredible Pink-headed Warbler. This was one of the main birds I wanted to see on the trip, and they did not disappoint! Other highlights here included Blue-throated Motmot, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Golden-browed Warbler, and Hooded Grosbeak.

Pink-headed Warbler
Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo
Check back soon to hear about the next part of my Guatemalan adventure!