Monday, May 2, 2016

Exploring Guatemala: Part 3 - Lake Atitlan and the Horned Guan

(Rob is recapping his March trip to Guatemala in a multi-part series. To read Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here)

We arrived at our hotel, Pasada de Santiago, in the late afternoon and just did a bit of birding around the property, followed by drinks at their bar overlooking beautiful Lake Atitlan.

We witnessed a beautiful sunrise over Lake Atitlan
We had a very early start the next morning to start our quest for the Horned Guan. After a quick breakfast, we caught a boat across the lake, then loaded into the back of a pickup truck for the ride to the trailhead. Instead of going to where most birders have gone for Horned Guan, we visited a newer site called Cerro Paquisis. We had been prepared for a three hour hike up the mountain, but our group took just over 1.5 hours!

The forest along the lower part of the trail at Cerro Paquisis.
Unfortunately for us, the hike up was the only "quick" part of the day. The guans decided they wanted to make us wait! Although there were some birds around, one of my favorites being Black-throated Jay, we mostly just slowly walked around waiting and hoping to hear or see a guan.

Our local guides put in a huge amount of effort covering the mountainside trying to find us our big target for the day. Just when we had mostly lost hope, Aarón heard a guan in the distance! He and Cruz Chikibal headed back off trail to see if they could find the bird for us. After almost 30 minutes, Cruz came running back to us with great news - they had found the guans!

We all quickly followed him down the mountainside, slipping and tripping over things all the way. When we finally got to Aarón, we were relieved that he still had eyes on the birds! Although they were high up in the trees, we got very nice views. It was a difficult climb back to the trail since we had dropped about 100 meters in elevation to get to the guans, but we were all so excited that we didn't really care.

Once we got back down towards the trailhead, we stopped to try for another target bird that we had missed on the way up, Belted Flycatcher. We started to lose hope again after awhile, but Aarón saved the day and found the bird!

After over seven hours on the mountain, we figured our adventure for the day was done. But as it turned out, there was still some adventure to be had. On our drive back, the pickup truck started to have some trouble and finally something broke and brought us to a quick stop, almost knocking several of us in the back over. Since the truck was not going to be fixed quickly, we decided to walk the last bit to the dock to catch our boat. Just as we go to the dock, it started to rain, and we initially were relieved to be undercover on the boat. But mother nature had another plan, and soon there was nothing to keep the rain from coming into the boat. By the time were were back at Posada de Santiago, we were all completely soaked.

We were all exhausted from the day, but it was worth it for the incredible birds that we saw!