Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Exploring Guatemala Part 5: La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas

(Rob is recapping his March trip to Guatemala in a multi-part series. To read Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here. For Part 3, click here. And for Part 4, click here.)

As we left Tikal very early in the morning, none of us really knew what to expect as we headed to our next and final stop of the trip. Although we had our itineraries in advance, we hadn't had time to do much research on this part of the trip to La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas. To be honest, since it was a biological station, we weren't expecting the most luxurious of accommodations.

I was thinking about this as we bumped down a gravel road towards the village of Paso Caballos (where we would catch our boat to Las Guacamaya) and made birding stops along the way, adding many species to our trip list. As we neared the village, our guide Arron heard a very special bird out the window! His incredible ear had picked out a Yucatan Woodpecker as we cruised down the bumpy road. There aren't very many records from Guatemala of this species, so we spent a long time working to get photos. Some people got decent photos, but I unfortunately didn't end up with anything worthwhile.

As we arrived in Paso Caballos to catch our boat, it was immediately evident how poor this village is. Hopefully in time more birders and naturalists will visit Las Guacamayas and the conditions in the village will improve. There were many birds to see as we made our way to the lodge. Although not an unusual bird for me, our guides were very excited to see a Prothonotary Warbler feeding along the edge of the river. After spending some time watching the Prothonotary, we quickly made our way to the lodge for lunch.

The boat to La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas
Las Guacamayas was nothing like I envisioned. This remote lodge turned out to be one of the nicest lodges that I've ever been to! The rooms were beautiful and comfortable, and the food was absolutely incredible. I'll let the photos of the lodge speak for themselves.

Welcome to La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas
Rooms at La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas
Bathrooms at La Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas
Each room has a beautiful carved
chair featuring a different animal
that can be found in the area.
After lunch, we took the boat back out on the river to search for some of the incredible birds that call this area home. It didn't take long for our excellent guide, Cornilio, to located some wonderful birds! We were all excited about great views of a Sungrebe when Cornilio spotted a bird I had been hoping to see for a long time - Agami Heron! Arron helped paddle us in really close which gave us fabulous photo opportunities even in the low light conditions.

I was very excited to finally see this beautiful Agami Heron.
The next morning, we headed back out in the boat to go hiking at a place called El Peru. This is a long trail to some Mayan Ruins that passes through some fantastic habitat. Highlights along this trail were Gray-headed Kite, White-whiskered Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Scarlet Macaw, and Gray-headed Tanager.

White-whiskered Puffbird
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Scarlet Macaw near its nesting site
We unfortunately only had time to spend one night at this beautiful biological station and didn't get to fully explore all of the birding that it has to offer. After lunch, we made our way back to Flores to catch our plane back to Guatemala City for our flights home the following day. Since we arrived early, we stopped at Benedicto Grijalva's (owner of Martsam Travel) restaurant, Capitan Tortuga, for a drink before heading to the airport. It was a wonderful way to end our time in this incredible part of Guatemala.

This is the smallest plane I have ever flown on.
Our trip ended with a total of 355 species. I would like to thank INGUAT for inviting me to visit this incredible country and Maynor Ovando from Birding Expeditions for setting up such a great itinerary. Many thanks also to Benedicto Grijalva and Lileana Martinez de Grijalva from Martsam Travel. Look for Sabrewing Nature Tours first Guatemala tour to be announced soon!

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