Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Exploring Guatemala Part 4: From Guatemala City to Tikal National Park

(Rob is recapping his March trip to Guatemala in a multi-part series. To read Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here, and for Part 3, click here.)

After meeting with the Guatemalan Tourism Board in Guatemala City, we made our way to a dry forest to search for a few specialty species. Unfortunately, we arrived at midday and it was extremely hot, making the birding somewhat difficult. We did find my most wanted species from the area, Russet-crowned Motmot!

We continued up the mountain to a higher elevation and a much more comfortable temperature. We spent the next morning at Parque Ecologico Gucumatz. This park and small lodge is a wonderful place to spend a morning birding and I wish we would have had the opportunity to stay there. We found many great birds but the main target, Resplendent Quetzal, did not appear that morning and was only heard in the distance. For me the most interesting birding on the property was at a big street light as you arrive. Overnight many moths come in to the light and in the morning, ton of birds come in to feed. The Unicolored Jays put on quite a show!

Once we finished our morning of birding, we started the long drive to Tikal National Park. We didn't arrive at Tikal until after dark and we were exhausted from a long day of travel.

One of the temples at Tikal

The view from the top of the one temple you can climb.
We started very early the next day birding around the hotel zone in Tikal, away from the ruins. This area offers incredible and very easy birding. It's also one of the best areas of Tikal to see the Gray-throated Chat, which was my highlight for the morning! You can see our full list on eBird here.

Gray-throated Chat
After breakfast, we met our local guide for the day that was an expert in all things Tikal. In addition to seeing many fantastic birds, Tikal is the most impressive Mayan archaeological site that I have ever visited! We spent almost six hours exploring the ruins and birding. Our bird list for the afternoon can be found here. For me, the best birds of the afternoon were the Orange-breasted Falcons that nest on one of the temples. No only did they give nice views, we actually saw on catch and eat prey!

Orange-breasted Falcon
After dinner, we went out for a short walk to see if we could find any night birds. Just a short ways down the path, a park guard stopped us and we figured we were going to have to go back to the hotel. We were surprised when he agreed to join us for the walk and mentioned that they had been constantly seeing one of the cats not too far from where we were. After finding a Yucatan Poorwill, we went to check on the cat. We were extremely excited to find an Ocelot! Although I held a young one in Honduras, this was the first time I had seen one in the wild.

The next morning, we left Tikal early so that we had plenty of time to bird along the road on our way to Las Guacamayas Biological Station. Look for my post about this incredible lodge soon!

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