Guatemala Scouting Trip: March 2013
By Mike Nelson and Eduardo Orameche
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For some time the lure of Horned Guan had drawn me to Guatemala. Having looked through a few itineraries in the past and having done some research into the many unique species in the region, it was with a keen sense of expectation that I looked forward to visiting the region and scouting some of the fantastic birding spots this country has to offer.
Along with the Horned Guan in its cloudforest-draped volcanic slopes there are plenty of great birds in other biomes, like in the humid forest of Petén to the north, the rainforest just to the south of there, the dry forest along the Motagua Valley, the aforementioned cloudforest, pacific lowland forest, and much more. Guatemala holds many species unique to the region, like Pink-headed Warbler, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Bar-winged Oriole, Highland Guan, White-bellied Chachalaca, Ocellated Turkey, Fulvous Owl, Belted Flycatcher, Bushy-crested Jay, Cabanis’s Tanager, Grey-throated Chat, Yucatan Flycatcher, and Blue-and-white Mockingbird among those that only inhabit this region. Most of the best birding spots are within a short drive of Guatemala City or a short flight to the Petén lowlands and the fascinating Mayan city of Tikal.
March 3rd. Arrival – Cayalá Ecological Park
As I was the first to arrive, our hosts suggested we visit Cayalá Ecological Park. After lunch we were within the park and picked off our first regional endemic, the Bushy-crested Jay, no further than 50 feet from the parking lot. Some nice trails go through here, and within a short time we had found a group of noisy Band-backed Wrens along with several Great-tailed Grackles. Further along the trails we picked up Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Clay-colored Thrush, and White-eared Hummingbird, while in an open area we found a female Painted Bunting and, circling above us, several Vaux’s Swifts. On the journey back we found a Buff-crowned Wood Partridge feeding in a willow downslope from us. Several Townsend’s Warblers moulting into spring plumage were seen along with a few Black-and-white Warblers. Soon enough it was time to meet the others at the airport. Once the entire group was assembled we headed to the old capitol of Antigua, where we spent the night.
March 4th.FincaEl Pilar – Patrocinio Reserve
We rose early and took our van high up above Antigua to Finca El Pilar. We parked at the entrance and birded around while enjoying a packed breakfast. In quick order we had Black-headed Siskin, Eastern Bluebird, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Acorn Woodpecker, and Rufous-collared Sparrow, to name a few.
After sating our appetites with some nice cakes and coffee we traipsed off into the dry pine oak woodlands above the parking lot. Soon the mechanical and beautiful song of Brown-backed Solitaire was ringing in our ears. Though not the most attractive bird on the planet, it makes up for these shortfalls with an amazing song. We also managed to find the local orange-bellied and crested version of the Slate-throated Whitestart, quite a contrast to the vivid yellow farther south. Several warblers banged about above us, including Townsend’s, Tennessee and Wilson’s. These were soon forgotten when the single hoot call of Blue-throated Motmot was heard. Although we hiked upslope and used some playback, we could only catch a glimpse of the bird in flight, and as we had to make our way back we couldn’t expend any more time on it. All around us Collard Trogons called, with several coming into view.
In a clearing on the way back we found Vaux’s and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, as well as several Black-capped Swallows. An unidentified Empidonax flycatcher sat voiceless atop a snag, peering around at us, and playback of both Hammond’s and Pine yielded little response but some head movement.
More Slate-throated Whitestarts were found on the way out as well as a fantastic Red-faced Warbler, which showed particularly well in a vine tangle. A pair of Social Flycatchers sang out as they alighted on a tree across from us as we exited the forest, accompanied by several Grey Silky-flycatchers in flight. Back at the bus we loaded up and headed down to the hummingbird gardens to check them out. We found Rufous Sabrewing and Blue-tailed Hummingbird; after a few minutes we continued west towards Patrocinio.
At the Patrocinio Reserve we did some afternoon birding, finding Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, and Violet Sabrewing. Later in a stand of bamboo we found several singing White-throated Thrushes, before emerging on the far side onto some more open trails through the coffee plantation. Here we found White-fronted Amazon, Grey Hawk, Black-headed Saltator, Blue-diademed Motmot, Northern Flicker, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Yellow-winged Tanager, Plain Wren, and several others, before the approaching darkness ushered us into the lodge for the night. We did sneak out a bit later to try and find a Mottled Owl, but it was only heard, calling in the distance.
March 5th. Patrocinio – Fuentes Georginas — Takalik Abaj – Las Nubes
We started off the morning in the approaching dawn on Patrocinio’s canopy tower, accompanied by a rather loud pair of Common Black Hawks that called out above us. The loud, rising whistle of Highland Guan came from the forest behind us, and several were seen in flight with their whirring wings, crossing from one tree to another. The dawn chorus began to emerge properly once the light started in earnest. A Spot-breasted Oriole sang in the distance, while a small Northern Beardless Tyrannulet called above us. A Gartered Trogon called from deep in the forest, as several White-fronted Amazons landed on a nearby tree. Having got an appetite and a zest for more birding, we headed down for breakfast and then off to the other side of the finca, where we found the lek of the Long-tailed Manakins and enjoyed their antics for a while, before making our way back. Soon we had some nice scope views of a pair of White-bellied Chachalacas in a tree across the gulley.
As we approached the lodge we came through a banana grove, where several Violet Sabrewings were taking up residence and the Gartered Trogon, probably the same one we heard this morning, was sitting just below an umbrella of leaves made by a tall cecropia.
As we loaded up, a Tropical Pewee and several Great Kiskadees called around the parking area, accompanied by a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a Boat-billed Flycatcher, and several Clay-colored Thrushes.
From here we took the slightly bumpy road back to the main road, catching some side out of the side of our bus of another White-bellied Chachalaca, and the new continued to Fuentes Georginas. Once at the top of the road we disembarked and began to bird our way down. Several Black-capped Swallows circled around the gorge, and the constant mechanical music of Brown-backed Solitaire echoed off the cloudforest-draped mountain side. We found White-eared and Garnet-throated Hummingbird, but alas dipped on Wine-throated. We had already given up on Pink-headed Warbler, when near the bottom, where the terrain opens up into vegetable gardens, we heard two. They were quickly spotted and recorded, and with the recording I played back they took some interest in us and moved about the foliage below us for some fantastic looks. The male began to sing above us and crossed back over the road, continuing his song right in front of us, a really magical experience so very close to us. The female joined him, and then they crossed back over the road and up the slope and out of sight, with only the sweet song left in our ears to remind us as they disappeared into the verdant green.
With much relief we continued down the road to the lowland ruins of Takalik Abaj. The ruins are semi-open and surrounded by foliage, and the place was brimming with birds when we got there at lunch time. We figured it would be quiet, but no sooner had we gotten out of the vehicle that a group of Collared Araçaris kicked things off, and the wild chase through the ruins began. Altamira Oriole, Rose-throated Becard, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Townsend’s, Tennessee, Black-and-white, and Magnolia Warblers, Warbling Vireo, Ovenbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, White-throated Magpie-Jay, and Blue-tailed Hummingbird, just to name a few, were seen in short order. Across the grounds in a patch of forest we found a Blue-diademed Motmot and Roadside Hawk while looking for some owls, which we found none of. As we circled back we heard the calls of Turquoise-browed Motmot and went to the back of the grounds, where we found the bird perched high up. On our way back to the van we found another pair of Turquoise-browed Motmot and many of the birds we had found earlier when we got here. Sadly the ruins themselves got little attention, and the guide we had to explain them gave up shortly as we kept getting distracted by the birds. Soon enough the wave of birds that had passed through became quiet, about the time I got my mic from the van, no less, and we decided to head on as we needed to collect our local guides before we hit Las Nubes.
We arrived late in the afternoon at Las Nubes, had a look around, and got settled in. Red-legged Honeycreeper and Tropical Pewee were seen before we had dinner.
After a pleasant meal we loaded up into some jeeps and bumped our way to the forest above the coffee plantation. Once set up we played some Fulvous Owl, and before long a pair had come in to investigate and started calling back and forth. We had some great looks at the birds as they circled around a few trees, before we killed the lights and left them in peace for the night.
At about 12:30a.m. a Mottled Owl began calling outside the lodge, which I got up to record. It was hiding in a large stand of bamboo, and as I wasn’t appropriately dressed I decided against the spotlight.
March 6th. Las Nubes
We woke to a lovely dawn chorus, and soon after some coffee we returned to the forest we had been in last night. No sooner had we arrived that we heard and saw a Crested Guan up a ridge in the tree line. We also heard our target, Resplendent Quetzal. With our local guide I hiked around to get a better angle to make a recording, but once in the brush we just weren’t close enough. So we decided to head upslope to find it. After a bit of scrambling we came across two birds singing farther up the steep slope, and I managed to get a recording. But getting no response from them we were just about to give up, when a male crossed over a coffee plantation and into the pine forest on the other side. We all made our way along a path that lead to the pine forest, where we found a female and farther along also a male. He eventually came into the open and flew to the back of the pine forest, allowing us some flight views but never any perched looks. He eventually dropped down, so we headed back to where our vehicles were.
Tired of chasing these birds around we went back into the forest, where we heard several Collared Trogons and located one after a while. We also again heard quetzals in this thick patch of forest, along with some northern migrants like Swainson’s Thrush and Tennessee Warbler.
With the cool patter of rain we began to worry that we might get rained out, but it soon stopped, and we caught a glimpse of a raptor, possibly a Red-tailed Hawk or Common Black Hawk, being chased by what probably was a pair of Social Flycatchers. We never got a good luck but only saw the shape through the trees. When we tried to follow the birds we came into an open area of coffee that led to the edge of a huge valley with steep, forested sides. We decided to bird around here for a while and were rewarded with Townsend’s Warbler, Flame-colored Tanager, and Elegant Euphonia, as well as a few Emerald Toucanets, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and Rufous-naped Wrens.
Hiking back up through the coffee plantations and into the woods we made our way back to the jeeps. At the gathering point we found a Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner before we headed down to an overlook point for a late breakfast – or early lunch.
The vista here was great and afforded us a view over the vast coffee fields below to the distant towns gathered below the volcano. From here we were eye-level with a large gathering of swifts and swallows, including Violet-green and Black-capped Swallow and White-throated Swifts. Several Northern Rough-winged Swallows were also seen here. The real treat came when a Peregrine Falcon began circling up from the valley below, presenting us views of both top and bottom as it passed us for close inspection. It was clasping a prey item, but we couldn’t make out what it was.
After some great food we headed to another overlook, from where we could view some primary forest. There was a trail here too, which allowed us some access to the forest. Sadly, though, it began to rain a bit heavier, so with regret we decided to head back to the lodge and let it pass.
Back at the lodge we could bird from the cover of the porch and picked up Painted Bunting, Paltry Tyrannulet, White-eyed Vireo, and Townsend’s Warbler before the rain finally cleared.
While we had some down time I headed off into the garden to try for some hummers. Soon I found myself
at the back of the garden near some bamboo. I could hear several birds in there, and a gap gave me a clear look in. To my surprise the first bird I got in my bins was a MacGillivray’s Warbler. As I had not done much birding in the western US this was a lifer for me, so I dove into the bamboo for a better look. I also found Masked Tityra, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, and a little tyrant, which I ignored as I tried to locate the warbler again. It eventually gave great views, and I was able to get several other people onto it as it circled its little territory.
Later that afternoon we once more went back up to the top – and got rained out again! We did stop on the way down at a bridge, where we found Bar-winged Oriole and Grey-breasted Wood Wren before we gave up hoping that the rain would go away.
Back at the lodge we found a Spot-breasted Wren that, however, wouldn’t show, but we did get a Plain Wren at the edge of the fields. A Yellow-breasted Chat showed briefly, and a stunning male Painted Bunting was hanging out by the water pool. A pair of Yellow-backed Orioles sang from close by, accompanied by a House Wren.
We did some owling after dinner and tracked down the Mottled Owl from the night before; we managed to get views of it for all those who came out.
March 7th. Las Nubes – Los Tarrales Reserve
This morning we headed back up to the overlook, where we hung out for a while, catching up with species like Bar-winged Oriole, Nashville Warbler, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Emerald Toucanet, Slate-throated Whitestart, Northern Flicker, Cooper’s Hawk, Brown-backed Solitaire, Paltry Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Common Bush Tanager, and Berylline Hummingbird. We did manage to hear a Cabanis’s Tanager that came to the other side of the valley but didn’t show itself, and I got onto a Blue-crowned Chlorophonia before it flew off, that no one else was able to see. There were plenty of Tennessee Warblers hanging about in groups, foraging. As we had to leave we decided to stop at the bridge again.
Once there we waited for a while, seeing Pacific Parakeet and Common Black Hawk, before our target, the Cabanis’s Tanager, came in to be viewed at the top of the ridge. It sat motionless for some time, allowing us some great scope views, before it moved down a little and faced us for some more excellent views.
On the way back we also spooked up a White-bellied Chachalaca, which showed well in a cecropia across the way, and a female Masked Tityra shone in the late morning sunlight.
Back at the lodge we loaded up and continued our journey after a few group shots. We dropped off two of our guides, who had been with us for the last couple of days, before we continued on to the Los Tarrales Reserve. We hit a bit of a traffic jam along the way, but eventually we managed to get through to our turn off with some deft negotiating from our local leader, who managed to clear a path to the road. Soon enough we were at the lodge and grabbed a late lunch before heading out to do some birding.
The local guide Josue is a very good birder and took us to a few good spots, the first of which was a place to find Tody Motmot. Soon enough we heard the pair, and with Josue’s perfect imitation one of the pair was showing itself quite close to us. We all enjoyed some nice looks at the birds before making our way back, finding both Yellow-throated and Scrub Euphonias and White-collared Seedeater.
We turned right into some semi-open woodland, where we found Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, SummerTanager, Masked Tityra, and a nice male Scrub Euphonia. We continued from here into the forest, finding a load of species along the way: Orange-fronted Parakeet, Long-tailed Manakin, Highland Guan, Pine Flycatcher, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Gartered Trogon, and more, before emerging back at the lodge in the late afternoon. We relaxed for a bit around the lodge and headed to bed soon after dinner, as we had an early wake up next morning.
March 8th. Los Tarrales – Lake Atitlán
The alarm went off at 2:00a.m., way too early in my book, but we needed to be up at this time to make the hike up to the Horned Guan. At 2:30a.m. we had coffee, then loaded up into the 4×4 and got started down the bumpy road to the small village of Vesuvio. An hour and two opossums later we arrived at the village while it was still pitch black. Our local guide met us, we adjusted our gear to be comfortable, and began walking through the coffee plantations. A steady winding pathway led up past indistinct coffee plants. The dark mass of the Atitlán volcano in front of us stood out against a slightly lighter sky with pin hole stars peeking through on either side, and the lights of a small town below us winked in the darkness. Head lamps and flashlights illuminated the pathway around us, but with heads bowed to the task at hand we saw little but the next few steps in front of us.
Once past the coffee plantations the trail took an abrupt steep turn and shot straight up the side of the volcano. Already sucking air by this time, I didn’t look forward to the next couple of hours. With loose dirt and a top layer of leaves you felt like you were slipping back with each step. My heart was pumping oxygenated blood through my arteries as hard as it could, and all I could hear was the conga line beat in my ears as I continuously panted for more breath. We would pause a few times to catch our breath and get a drink. The party began to spread apart half way up, and I knew if I stopped again I would never make it. So I continued on with two of the guides, while the others paused behind with the last guide.
I found a stick that would help with each step, but soon my weight broke it as I tried to get over a particularly tall, rooted step. With a snap the stick was gone; thankfully our guide up front cut me another one and my plodding steps continued. I found a rhythm and managed to do well for a while. At one point I asked where we were, afraid of the answer, which was “less than halfway”.
I continued on for another while before I had to stop and get a drink. I recovered for a bit, had a snack, and sucked down half a bottle of Gatorade-powder-enriched water. Feeling refreshed and having caught my breath I continued on upwards into the darkness, following the small glow of the torch light ahead of me from the guides. I continually found loose footing and feared my heavy camera would drag me back down the hill with each misplaced step. Wow, was I out of shape! I should have done more volcano training before I came here. Eventually my guide said we were about an hour and a half away at the pace I was going – was that all?
The next hour was a bit of a blackout as I plodded little steps to keep going forward. I don’t remembermuch except each little step and loose leaf litter. Then the guide’s voice came to me with the welcome news of about another twenty minutes before we could stop. It was still dark when the night birds began their last throws of life before they settled in for the night. A pair of Fulvous Owls called out, and one of them flew right past us into the dark forest. Below us a Mexican Whip-poor-will called as to the east the first faint orange glow began to signal the start of the day.
Soon after we stopped and listened for a while. Then the call of a Horned Guan came to us from out in the lichen-draped forest to our right. We tried some playback with little results. Still gaining my breath I had heard little, but our local guide went out in search of it and disappeared into the brush, moving downslope through the leaves.
Josue and I continued up while listening out for birds, hearing Highland Guan and Black Thrush. Then from behind us a voice called out. Josue responded in the local Mayan dialect and then turned to me and said “let’s go, he’s found one”. We charged downhill, and when we found a small clearing with three large trees we dropped all our gear except what we needed and dropped over the side of the trail into the undergrowth, sliding downhill past vines, shrubs, and small trees. The leaves gave way underfoot, and we just slid down the steep slope. We came to a bit of a plateau, where we could brake ourselves and listen out. I was covered with dust, dirt, and a few cuts and scrapes, but we couldn’t hear the guan. Our local guide had gone ahead, so Josue and I moved more slowly down the slope to where the guan had been seen in some tall moss-covered trees.
We made our way to a dry river bed, where we found some Golden-browned Warblers moving about, and once they’d moved past we heard the deep, booming voice of a guan. We scanned skyward into the huge boughs above us but couldn’t pinpoint the voice.
Then we scrambled across the river bed and could hear the bird more clearly here. I slipped on some loose rocks as they gave way under my feet, and I crashed into the bank gashing my leg. Fearing I’d spook the bird off with the amount of noise I was making I tried to move more quietly, but my fears were unfounded. A few seconds later we found an opening in the canopy, and up on a huge bough above us was a glorious male Horned Guan.
With nervous fingers I began to snap away, trying to get a few shots in before the bird disappeared. Josue said not to worry as it wouldn’t move for a while, he thought. I gathered myself and sat on the soft forest floor to get a good position, attached my flash and beamer, and began to compose some shots in the early light. As I took picture after picture the bird took no notice of me flashing away at it. Then I took some video and finally put the camera down for a bit, got a drink, enjoyed the bird with my bins, and then took to the camera again.
At this point I heard the others crashing through the brush too, they were coming. Then I heard nothing for a while. Josue called out but got no response. Then more people came through the brush. I thought now would be a good time to move so people could get to the good spot that I was in. I picked up my water bottle and stood up, glanced up into the canopy – and the bird was gone! Panic set in: Had everyone missed it but me? Josue and I scanned all the trees again for it, but it was not to be found. Josue said he’d go and search with our local guide, so I crawled back up to the rest of the group. I chatted for a few minutes but didn’t want to hang around in case they needed to get by me to make their way down to the bird. So I squeezed past them and began the trudge back up the hill, following the trail of slide marks, bent boughs, and broken twigs.
Exhausted I made it back to the trail and sat down for a snack and some water. I ate one of my sandwiches while listening to a Hairy Woodpecker and some Highland Guans. After a short while the local guide showed up, collected the bags for the rest of the group, and told me they were waiting down below. The guan had not been found again – I was disappointed for everybody who’d not seen it, though Eduardo had gotten a good look at the bird right before it flew. But not everyone got onto it.
I joined the rest of the group and we paused while everyone collected themselves and listened out for a few birds before making the long slide back down the by now well-lit but still extremely steep slope. Along the way we managed to stop for some cool birds like Black Thrush, and at the bottom we found an obliging Blue-crowned Chlorophonia. By lunchtime we had made our way back to the vehicle and loaded up for the drive to the lodge. The grueling hike was over, but sadly it wasn’t rewarding for all of us.
That afternoon we left for Lake Atitlán, driving through the rolling foothills of the volcanic peaks till we arrived at our lodge for the night. The lodge owner talked to us about his plans for the lodge and introduced us to the local guides, one of which would accompany us tomorrow. We had an enjoyable dinner and a good night’s sleep.
March 9th. Lake Atitlán – Antigua
This morning we crossed Lake Atitlán in the light of dawn, catching the sunrise out of the lake, before we arrived at Laguna Lodge, where we hiked up into the dry forest above the hotel. Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush and Rufous-browed Peppershrike greeted us before we lured in a lovely pair of Rusty Sparrows.
We continued hiking up to the top of the ridge, where we could peer down on both sides. A nice pair of Squirrel Cuckoos showed well as they moved across the ridge line, while above us we could see several White-throated Swifts that were joined by a Red-tailed Hawk. A nice pair of Black-vented Orioles showed up before we began to make our way down the far side of the hill. This is where we began our search for the Belted Flycatcher, which we finally found on the last offshoot trail. A bit of a skulker, but we all got good looks at the bird before it vanished back into the surrounding foliage.
We made our way back to the lodge in time for some water, before we pottered around the lodge and a few of us went out to check the grounds. Here we found Black Phoebe, Great-tailed Grackle, Spotted Sandpiper, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Black-and-white Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Several obliging American Coots bobbed out in the water, and a female Baltimore Oriole put in an appearance.
After a really nice lunch we caught our boat to a flower garden at another lodge, where we hung out amongst the flowers looking for hummingbirds and finding Azure-crowned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and one of us had a Black-crested Coquette. Also found were more Tennessee Warblers, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, White-eared Hummingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Greater Pewee, another Baltimore Oriole, and several White-winged Doves.
After our time here we took the boat back to the landing and returned to Antigua for the night.
March 10th. Tikal
We woke early and drove to the airport in Guatemala City to catch our flights to Flores on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá. On the flight we crossed from the tall fiery volcanic peaks of southern Guatemala over the vast greenery of northern Guatemala, until we arrived in Flores. Even walking from the plane we managed to pick up some new species, with Barn Swallows hanging out on the wires of the airport.
We got our bags, met our local guide, and loaded up into the van for the short drive to Tikal. Along the way we stopped to get some drinks and had a nice pair of Keel-billed Toucans flying over, and just outside the main entrance to the park we had three Ocellated Turkeys. The van screeched to a halt and all cameras were stuck out of the windows as these enigmatic Tikal birds, endemic to northeastern Petén, showed really well. We needn’t have worried, though, as we saw plenty more during our stay.
Once at the lodge we unloaded our gear and headed straight out into Tikal National Park. We followed a trail into a nice, thick forest and came across the large black and red frame of a Pale-billed Woodpecker that obliged us with some great views. We continued on deeper along the forest trails, finding some great birds like Eye-ringed Flatbill, Wood Thrush, Tawny-crowned and Lesser Greenlets, and White-bellied Wren. We had great looks at a pair of Bright-rumped Attilas, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, and a Blue-diademed Motmot that spooked a pair of Tody Motmots. At the end of the trail we came out into the main plaza of Tikal, where we had several Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Black-headed and Gartered Trogons, as well at an Emerald Toucanet. The majesty of Temples I and II were absorbed from the top of the buildings across the North Acropolis. Here several Montezuma Oropendolas were singing their liquid songs, and several noisy Brown Jays moved about the canopy.
We crossed the main plaza into the forest and continued down a few more forest trails on the way back to the lodge for lunch. We came across a nice small party of birds that allowed some great looks at Eye-ringed Flatbill, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, and a Kentucky Warbler rooting around on the forest floor. On the main causeway leading to the lodge we found a nice perched Double-toothed Kite.
After lunch we had some time at the lodge, and I spent some frustrating minutes trying to capture hummingbirds at the flowers behind the lodge. I found Long-billed and Streak-throated Hermits, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, White-bellied Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Not all made it onto my memory card, but all were enjoyed.
We took some different trails in the park this afternoon, finding a nice White-collared Manakin buzzing about and wing-snapping on several hanging vines. We eventually came out near the Lost World complex, where we found a beautiful Red-lored Amazon near a nesting tree.
We then heard at Pheasant Cuckoo, which I recorded and lured; it gave us some amazing views as its whole body shook while it sang into the forest around it. After about twenty minutes our fingers tired from hitting the shutter release and we walked away from this stunning bird. Scarcely noticed was the nice Slaty-tailed Trogon that put in an appearance during the whole proceedings.
We continued into the forest, heading for Temple IV, and along the way picked up a lovely Hooded Warbler coming to one of the small water collection pools. Behind it a Worm-eating Warbler seemed more skulking, but our next treat was right beside the trail. Eduardo heard the rustling of leaves next to our trail and soon found the culprit, a Scaly-throated Leaftosser living up to its name. We had some great views of this bird before it flew off back into the forest.
We crossed the main plaza again, this time taking in some more of the temples and the North Acropolis. The place was inundated with Ocellated Turkeys this time, and we got some great close up views. Several Montezuma Oropendolas continued to sing away, while a Couch’s Kingbird sat atop a dead snag, swinging its prodigious bill left to right in search of insects. Another Pale-billed Woodpecker was found, this time a female that banged away close to us in an old tree.
As it was getting late we continued to Temple IV past the towering Temple III. We climbed the stairs to the top of Temple IV, and near the top I could begin to see across the vast humid forest with the peaks of Temples I,II, and III reaching towards the heavens out of the grip of the forest that had once claimed them. Once on the top we had the entire array of Tikal and Petén surrounding us. Truly a majestic site! Several parrots were circling as they began to roost for the night. Sadly the Orange-breasted Falcons were still out and about and not perched up near us. It was amazing to watch the sunset and the orange glow that crept over the forest in front of us.
Nearing darkness, we headed back down into the forest to do some night birding. Ironically we heard the Orange-breasted Falcons after we reached the bottom but couldn’t locate them in the coming gloom. We tried several night birds on the way back to the lodge, without any result, and settled for a nice dinner before a good night’s sleep.
March 11th. Tikal
We woke early to check the area around the lodge and an old airstrip for night birds. A nice Pauraque was found resting in the leaf litter next to the trail, and as they began to call to signal the end of a long night we also heard a couple of Yucatan Poorwills. Some playback of recordings I made lured one close, and we could see it move across the path above us but never got great looks. Soon the light was coming up, and they had settled in for the day. This was when the cacophony of Plain Chachalacas began, and we had several cross the path as well as nice close views of a Crested Guan. Another Pheasant Cuckoo chimed in, and close by we could make out the faint song of a Yucatan Flycatcher. It was lured out from the dense vegetation it was hiding in, but soon enough the distant calls of a Mangrove Vireo had us moving towards the pond near the trail’s end.
We soon located the vireos and a Long-billed Gnatwren. White-eyed Vireo, Clay-colored Thrush, Red-lored Amazon, Grey Catbird, Gartered Trogon, and Bright-rumped Attila were all seen or heard here. The next bird came as a surprise when I recognized a Carolina Wren. So used to seeing these at home it was not what I was thinking about in the forests of Tikal. It soon showed itself well before the squeaky calls of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet got our attention. They were soon spotted as they moved about, but time was running out, so we had to get back, but not before the mechanical song of Northern Bentbill stopped us in our tracks. This tiny flycatcher was seen with its mate before we rushed back for breakfast. Several other birds were also seen with haste on the way back, like Mealy Amazon and Olive-throated Parakeet, Melodious Blackbird, and Brown Jay, plus a large collection of Ocellated Turkeys and a group of white-nosed coatis, all with their ringed tails cocked high in the air as they scoured the lawns of the lodge. They soon made their way up to the dining hall for everyone to see.
About an hour later we headed back out, stopping for White-collared Seedeater and Indigo Buntings foraging in the grass. Over by the small pond we found Grey-necked Wood Rail, Northern Jacana, and at the back a lovely little American Pygmy Kingfisher. We crossed the parking lot and went out the main gate to the entrance road, where we picked up Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Slaty-tailed Trogon, and Tawny-crowned Greenlet, and after searching for a while we found a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker.
We headed back to check out, and I spent a little while snapping away on the hermits surrounding the flowers at the back of the lodge. We then headed to our lunch stop, where they had some feeders out and we could watch several Baltimore Orioles and Blue-grey Tanagers on the fruit feeders. While we were waiting for lunch we went down to the lake, where we found several Pectoral Sandpipers, a Collard Plover, a Royal Tern, and several Neotropic Cormorants.
After lunch we went to the Biotopo Cerro Cahui nature reserve and walked the trails there. It was hot in the afternoon, but we managed to drag up some great birds. First was a long-winded Laughing Falcon that called for a while. Several Red-throated Ant Tanagers were seen in a group, and farther down the trail we stopped to try for Mayan Antthrush and were soon rewarded with a bird as it came creeping through the undergrowth. We could hear our next target singing up ahead, so we moved onto to a thick vine tangle that hung from the canopy, and in here we could hear the song of a Grey-throated Chat. Several recordings and playback saw it emerge from the dark depths of the foliage, and we got some great looks at it. Great Crested Flycatcher and American Redstart called from above, while a Long-billed Gnatwren bobbed about lower in the undergrowth.
A flyby of a woodcreeper got our attention, and playback of a Tawny-winged Woodcreeper soon had the bird alighting on the tree right in front us. We had some brief looks before it disappeared back into the forest. Along the trail on the way out we found another two Tawny-winged Woodcreepers attending an ant swarm, accompanied by a much larger Northern Barred Woodcreeper. We were able to sit next to the trail and watch as they would come close to scoop up fleeing insects.
Sadly we had to make our way back towards Flores, although we did stop for close looks at a nice Tricolored Heron, and then at another lake overlook we found Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Northern Jacana, Neotropic Cormorant, Scrub Euphonia, and several Yellow-throated Euphonias. These were the last birds we saw here as we had to make our way to the airport for our flights back to Guatemala City.
March 12th. Antigua – Guatemala City
We spent the night in Antigua and rose early, stopping at a new hotel that was working on improving its grounds. We had a quick walk around, finding a Steller’s Jay as the only bird of note. Soon enough we were at the airport and saying our goodbyes. Guatemala had been good to us with some fantastic birds and pleasant company. The ruins of Tikal and the towering peaks of active volcanoes plus some majestic lakes all added up to a wonderful place to go birding.
GUATEMALA SYSTEMATIC LIST, MARCH 04TH – MARCH 12th
PACIFIC SLOPE AND TIKAL NATIONAL PARK
Species marked as (H) are heard only
Little Tinamou (H) Crypturellus soui This bird was heard only at the Tikal archeological site. Tinamous are very shy in many parts of the Neotropics as an effect of hundreds of years of being hunted by man.
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps Seen well at Lake Petén Itzá
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus Several on Lake Petén Itzá
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias Two birds seen well at Lake Atitlán
Great Egret Ardea alba Common at several locations
Snowy Egret Egretta thula Common at several locations
Little blue Heron Egretta caerulea Several birds were seen well at Lake Petén Itzá, including white morph juveniles and a full adult in lovely deep blue tones.
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor One bird was seen well at Lake Petén Itzá.
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Common at several locations. First recorded in the New World in 1877 (Surinam), it has since then spread through large sections of the hemisphere, even reaching islands such as the Galapagos.
Green Heron Butorides virescens Seen well at Lake Atitlán and Lake Petén Itzá. Green and Striated Herons are known for their bait-fishing practice, which consists of attracting fish by placing bait-insects, flowers, seeds, twigs, bread, even popcorn on the water surface. The Striated Heron may also break off part of a twig to use for bait, making this bird not only one of the few tool-using animals, but one of the very few that actually make their tools.
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis Several individuals were seen well at Lake Atitlán.
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris At least 3 pairs were seen well at the Lake Atitlán.
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus Numerous and widespread. Recent genetic studies have indicated that the New World vultures are modified storks and don’t belong with the raptors at all. An excellent example of convergent evolution.
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura Many birds throughout the trip. One of the best senses of smell among living birds.
Double-toothed Kite Harpagus bidentatus One seen nicely perched at the Tikal archeological site.
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea Seen flying at Finca Los Tarrales and over Tikal.
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii Scope views of one individual at Finca El Patrocinio. Named after William Cooper a 19 century US zoologist, collector, conchologist and author (Accipiter)
Common Black Hawk Buteogallus anthracinus Seen very well at Finca Patrocinio and at a few other locations.
Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris Common at several locations.
Grey Hawk Buteo plagiatus Nice view of one individual perched along the main road on our way to Finca Los Tarrales. The species has been recently split by the AOU from Grey-lined Hawk. Grey Hawk is found from Costa Rica to the southwestern United States and Grey-lined Hawk from Costa Rica to Argentina.
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis Our first encounter was one individual flying at Finca El Pilar.
Black Hawk-Eagle (H) Spizaetus tyranus Unfortunately heard only at Finca Los Tarrales.
Barred Forest Falcon (H) Micrastur ruficollis Heard only just after dawn outside the Tikal archeological site.
Collared Forest Falcon (H) Micrastur semitorquatus Heard from the forest uphill at Finca Las Nubes early one morning.
Northern Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway One seen perched on our way to Finca Los Tarrales.
Laughing Falcon (H) Herpetotheres cachinnans One heard at Cerro Cahuí nature reserve in the Petén area.
American Kestrel Falco sparverius Seen well during our stay at Finca Las Nubes.
Orange-breasted Falcon (H) Falco deiroleucus Unfortunately heard only just before dusk at the Tikal archeological site.
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus Great looks a lone bird gliding up slope at Finca Las Nubes.
White-bellied Chachalaca Ortalis leucogastra Our first encounter at Finca Patrocinio was just a quick glimpse, but later we had scope views at both Finca Patrocinio and Finca Las Nubes. This is a Pacific coast specialist, occurring from Chiapas, Mexico, to Nicaragua.
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula Two birds were seen briefly during our scout along the airfield track outside the Tikal archeological site but many were heard there.
Crested Guan Penelope purpurascens Excellent views of one bird outside the Tikal archeological site.
Highland Guan Penelopina nigra Seen at Finca Patrocinio and Finca Las Nubes. It is listed as a vulnerable species.
Horned Guan Oreophasis derbianus
THE BIRD OF THE TRIP. This enigmatic bird occurs in Sierra de Madre de Chiapas, Mexico, and throughout the south Guatemalan highlands. However the only accessible place to see this bird in Mexico is El Triunfo, which involves some tricky logistics, while in Guatemala there are several spots with easy access to hike the steep trails to get to it, which we did at the Atitlán volcano, guided by our local Mayan native guides. After three hours of straight uphill hiking we were rewarded with scope views of this magnificent creature in the top of the trees. The world population was estimated at fewer than 1.000 individuals in 1970. Listed as an endangered species.
Although it does not have any really close relatives among living cracids, the true guans are apparently most distant. Given that the basal relationships of the living cracids are not well resolved; the Horned Guan is often placed into a distinct subfamily, the Oreophasinae. Alternatively, it might be included in Cracinae with curassows and chachalacas (Pereira et al. 2002).
Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata We were welcomed to the Tikal archeological site with the view of three birds crossing the main road to the park, and later several were seen walking easily and peacefully at the grass of the archeological complex. The birds here are very confiding as there is no hunting in the park. This bird is listed as near-threatened.
Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge Dendrortyx leucophrys For those who visited the Cayalá Ecological Park in Guatemala City before and after the trip this was one of the highlights of the place.
Spotted Wood Quail (H) Odontophorus guttatus This was heard only once above Finca Las Nubes when we were trying for the male quetzal.
Grey-necked Wood Rail Aramides cajaneus A nice pair was seen well near the entrance of the Tikal archeological site.
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata Seen well on Lake Atitlán. A recent split from the Old World Common Moorhen.
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus Seen briefly in the reed vegetation on the shores of Lake Atitlán.
American Coot Fulica Americana Numerous on Lake Atitlán and Lake Petén Itzá.
Killdeer Charadrius vociferous One seen well at the shores of Lake Petén Itzá.
Collared Plover Charadrius collaris Seen on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá.
Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa Common at Lake Petén Itzá.
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos Seen on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá.
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla Seen on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá.
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius Seen near the dock of our hotel in Lake Atitlán.
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla A few seen from the shores of Lake Petén Itzá.
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus Seen on Lake Petén Itzá.
Rock DoveColumba livia Common.
Red-billed Pigeon Patagioenas flavirostris Scope views at Finca El Patrocinio.
Scaled Pigeon Patagioenas speciosa Heard near the old airstrip at Tikal.
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica Five individuals seen very well in the gardens at Lake Atitlán.
Ruddy Ground Dove Columbina talpacoti Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales.
Blue Ground Dove (H) Claravis pretiosa Heard at Tikal.
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi Seen at few locations.
Grey-headed Dove Leptotila plumbeiceps One bird seen very well at Tikal. It was formerly considered conspecific with the Grey-fronted Dove, L. rufaxilla, of South America and the Grenada Dove, L. wellsi, of Grenada.
Pacific Parakeet Aratinga strenua Seen at Finca El Pilar and Finca Las Nubes.
Orange-fronted Parakeet Aratinga canicularis Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales. The name Orange-fronted Parakeet is also used for Malherbe’s Parakeet, a critically endangered parakeet from New Zealand.
Barred Parakeet Bolborhynchus lineola Seen flying by from the platform at Finca Las Nubes.
Orange-chinned Parakeet Brotogeris jugularis Seen well at Finca Patrocinio and Los Tarrales.
White-fronted Amazon Amazona albifrons Amazing views at Finca El Patrocinio.
Red-lored Amazon Amazona autumnales Close-up views at Tikal National Park.
Yellow-naped Amazon Amazona auropalliata Several Heard at Finca Patracinio and a few distant flyers
Mealy Amazon Amazona farinose Several seen flying by and perched at Tikal. Here the subspecies guatemalae, sometimes called Blue-crowned Mealy Amazon or Guatemalan Amazon.
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana Seen at few locations including the dry scrub around Lake Atitlán.
Pheasant Cuckoo Dromococcyx phasianellus A highlight for everybody, and a magical moment indeed, when one individual flew straight in front of us and remained perched for several minutes, singing. A second bird was seen briefly the next day along the old airfield track at Tikal. This is one of only three parasitic Neotropical cuckoos, laying its eggs mainly in nests of Tyrannid flycatchers.
Fulvous Owl Strix fulvescens Another highlight of the trip. Two birds were seen very well in response to the tape above Finca Las Nubes; we also had a pair while climbing Volcan Atitlán.
Mottled Owl Strix virgata Great views of one bird around the lodge grounds at Finca Las Nubes.
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis One seen briefly above Finca Las Nubes.
Pauraque Nyctidromux albicollis Nice views of one bird outside the Tikal archeological site.
Mexican Whip-poor-will (H) Antrostomus arizonae One heard before dawn above Finca Las Nubes.
Yucatan Poorwill Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus One bird seen briefly before dawn at Tikal National Park.
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales and Lake Atitlán.
Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila A small group seen circling over the coffee plants at Finca Las Nubes.
Vaux’s Swift Chaetura vauxi Seen well at Finca El Patrocinio and Cayalá Ecological Park. Named after William Samson Vaux, a 19th century US archeologist and mineralogist.
White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis Seen well at Lake Atitlán.
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift Panyptila cayennensis Seen at Finca Patrocinio and the Takalik Abaj archeological site.
Long-billed Hermit Phaethornis longirostris Great views of several birds in the grounds of our lodge in Tikal.
Stripe-throated Hermit Phaethornis striigularis Great views of several birds in the grounds of our lodge in Tikal. It was formerly lumped with Little Hermit P. longuemareus.
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Phaeochroa cuvierii One bird photographed at Tikal.
Rufous Sabrewing Campylopterus rufus Seen well at both Finca El Pilar and Finca Patrocinio.
Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Campylopterus pampa Seen well around our lodge at Tikal.
Green-breasted Mango Anthracothorax prevostii Seen perched at the Tikal ruins.
Emerald-chinned Hummingbird Abeillia abeillei Nice views of one bird at Finca Los Tarrales.
White-eared Hummingbird Basilinna leucotis Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales.
Berylline Hummingbird Amazilia beryllina One male seen and recorded at Finca Las Nubes.
White-bellied Emerald Amazilia candida Seen well around the grounds of Tikal.
Azure-crowned Hummingbird Amazilia cyanocephala Seen very well around Lake Atitlán.
Blue-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia cyanura Seen well at Finca Tarrales, El Pilar, and Las Nubes.
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl Common around Tikal..
Cinnamon Hummingbird Amazilia rutila Great views of one bird at Finca Las Nubes.
Green-throated Mountaingem Lampornis viridipallens Seen well by some at Finca Las Nubes.
Black-crested Coquette Lophornis helenae A female was seen very briefly at the gardens of our hotel at Lake Atitlán.
Long-billed Starthroat Heliomaster longirostris One individual perched well at the bamboo at Finca Las Nubes.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris One male seen and photographed at the gardens of our hotel at Lake Atitlán.
Black-headed Trogon Trogon melanocephalus Cracker views of one male around the Tikal ruins.
Slaty-tailed Trogon Trogon massena Several males were seen nicely around the Tikal ruins.
Gartered Trogon Trogon caligatus Seen well at Finca Patrocinio, Finca Los Tarrales, and Tikal. A recent split from Violaceous Trogon. T. violaceus.
Collared Trogon Trogon collaris A pair was seen well above Finca Las Nubes, and many were seen at Finca El Pilar.
Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno One female was seen well, while several males were seen in flight in the forest above the coffee plantation at Finca Las Nubes. The quetzal plays an important role in Mesoamerican mythologies. The Resplendent Quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. Quetzal is also the name of the local currency.
Tody Motmot Hylomanes momotula Another great bird for most! One bird was seen very well at the bamboo patch of Finca Los Tarrales and a second pair at Tikal National Park. It is monotypic within the genus Hylomanes.
Turquoise-browed Motmot Eumomota superciliosa Excellent views at the Takalik Abaj archeological site. The national bird of both Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Blue-throated Motmot Aspatha gularis It proved elusive during this trip. Its silhouette was seen in the poor light of the pine forest at Finca El Pilar, and it was heard many times. Northern Central America endemic. It is monotypic within the genus Aspatha
Blue-diademed Motmot Momotus lessonii Seen well at several locations.
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata Seen well on the way to Finca Los Tarrales.
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon One bird seen well at the pond near the entrance of Tikal National Park.
American Pygmy Kingfisher Chloroceryle aenea Seen at the pond in Tikal National Park.
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda Seen very well along the Tikal road.
Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus Heard at Finca El Pilar and seen well later at Finca Las Nubes and at Tikal.
Collared Araçari Pteroglossus torquatus Great views at the Takalik Abaj archeological site.
Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus Two flying bananas crossing the Tikal road. A third bird seen well from the top of Temple IV of Tikal. The more appropriate name Rainbow-billed Toucan is now more and more often used. This is the national bird of Belize
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus Seen well at several locations including Finca El Pilar and Finca Las Nubes.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons Seen at several locations throughout the tour.
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus One bird seen well above the Horned Guan spot on Volcan Atitlán.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius Only one bird seen well above Finca Las Nubes.
Smoky-brown Woodpecker Picoides fumigatus Seen well at Tikal National Park.
Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus Three birds were seen throughout the tour.
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus Scope views of one male above Finca Las Nubes.
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus Seen at Finca Los Tarrales.
Pale-billed Woodpecker Campephilus guatemalensis Great views of two birds at Tikal.
Chestnut-colored Woodpecker Celeus castaneus One individual was spotted very well in the tall forest along the Tikal road.
Scaly-throated Leaftosser Sclerurus guatemalensis Great looks of one individual tossing leaves at Tikal.
Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner Anabacerthia variegaticeps One individual seen well at Finca Las Nubes. It used to be call Spectacled Foliage-gleaner.
Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner Automolus rubiginosus Heard during two days above Finca Las Nubes and seen briefly on one occasion.
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper Dendrocincla anabatina Only seen at Cerro Cahuí reserve.
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus Common at Tikal.
Northern Barred Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae Excellent views of one bird following an ant swarm at Cerro Cahuí reserve.
Ivory-billed Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus flavigaster The most commonly encountered woodcreeper along the tour.
Barred Antshrike (H) Thamnophilus doliatus Heard only at Finca Los Tarrales and outside of Tikal National Park.
Mayan (Black-faced) Antthrush Formicarius moniliger Full views of a bird at the Cerro Cahuí reserve. The subspecies moniliger is sometimes considered a full species, the Mayan or Mexican Antthrush. Genetic data show that Formicarius and Chamaeza antthrushes are in fact more closely related to furnariids and tapaculos than to the antbirds!
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe Seen well at Tikal.
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum One seen in the bamboo thicket at Las Nubes.
Stub-tailed Spadebill Playrinchus cancrominus One see briefly at Tikal moving with a small group of flycatchers.
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher Mionectes oleaginous One seen well at Tikal. The members of this genus are known as frugivorous flycatchers.
Sepia-capped Flycatcher Leptopogon amaurocephalus Nesting beneath the roofs of the Mayan temples at Tikal.
Paltry Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus Seen at Finca Las Nubes. The name means lacking in importance or worth. It’s also call Mistletoe Tyrannulet.
Northern Bentbill Oncostoma cinereigulare Great views of one bird outside the Tikal archeological site.
Eye-ringed Flatbill Rhynchocyclus brevirostris Great views of one bird at Tikal.
Yellow-olive Flatbill Tolmomyias sulphurescens Seen well at Finca Patrocinio.
Belted Flycatcher Xenotriccus callizonus It took a while to find this very restricted and handsome flycatcher, which is a Northern Central American rarity listed as near-threatened. The dry scrub above Lake Atitlán is perhaps the most accessible place to look for this beauty.
Greater Pewee Contopus pertinax Seen on two occasions at Lake Atitlán.
Eastern Wood Pewee (H) Contopus virens Heard only at Finca Los Tarrales.
Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus Seen atfincas Los Tarrales, Patrocino and Las Nubes.
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris Seen at Finca El Patrocinio and at the Takalik Abaj archeological site and another possible at Tikal.
Hammond’s Flycatcher Empidonax hammondii Seen well at Finca El Pilar. Named after William Alexander Hammond, a 19th century US neurologist and collector.
Yellowish Flycatcher Empidonax flavescens Seen well from the platform at Las Nubes.
Buff-breasted Flycatcher Empidonax fulvifrons Only seen at the pine-oak forest of Finca El Pilar.
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans Common around Lake Atitlán.
Bright-rumped Attila Attila spadiceus Great views of one bird in the canopy forest at Tikal National Park
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer Seen at Finca Las Nubes.
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus Seen at the Takalik Abaj archeological site.
Yucatan Flycatcher Myiarchus yucatanensis A very close bird seen well in the morning at Tikal.
Great Crested Flycatcher(H)Myiarchus crinitus Heard only in the canopy above us at Cerro Cahui reserve.
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus Common at several locations.
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis Seen well at several locations.
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua Seen well at several locations.
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Myiodynastes luteiventris Seen well at Finca Patrocinio.
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus Common.
Couch’s Kingbird Tyrannus couchii One bird was seen at Tikal. Named after Major General Darius Nash Couch, a 19th century US army officer and naturalist in New Mexico.
White-collared Manakin Manacus candei A handsome male was seen very well at Tikal National Park. It hybridizes extensively with the Golden-collared Manakin in a limited area in Bocas del Toro Province, Panama. The hybrids, which show a lemon yellow collar in males, were at one time considered a distinct species, the Almirante Manakin (Manacus x cerritus) (Brumfield et al., 2001; McDonald et al., 2001).
Long-tailed Manakin Chiroxiphia linearis A splendid male was seen well at the lek in Finca El Patrocinio, and another bird was heard at Finca Los Tarrales
Red-capped Manakin Dixiphia mentalis Only a female was seen at Tikal. Shame!
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata Common at several locations.
Grey-collared Becard Pachyramphus major Excellent views of one bird along the steep trail of Finca Tarrales. Its genus, Pachyramphus, has traditionally been placed in Cotingidae or Tyrannidae, but evidence strongly suggests it is better placed in Tityridae.
Rose-throated Becard Pachyramphus aglaiae A pretty bird seen well at Finca Los Tarrales.
Sulphur-rumped Myiobius Myiobius sulphureipygius Great views of one bird at Tikal, these are now considered part of the Tityras.
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus Seen briefly at Finca Los Tarrales and well at Las Nubes.
Mangrove Vireo Vireo pallens Several seen near the mangroves at Tikal..
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus One seen briefly at Takalik Abaj.
Yellow-throated Vireo (H) Vireo flavifrons Heard at the Cerro Cahui reserve.
Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius One seen well at Lake Atitlán.
Red-eyed VireoVireo olivaceus Seen well at Takalik Abaj.
Tawny-crowned Greenlet Hylophilus ochraceiceps Seen at Tikal National Park.
Lesser Greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus Another bird seen at Tikal National Park.
Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo (H) Vireolanius melitophrys Unfortunately only heard at Volcan Atitlán.
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales and at Lake Atitlán.
White-throated Magpie-Jay Calocitta formosa Splendid bird! Seen at Finca El Patrocinio and Takalik Abaj.
Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri One seen briefly above La Antigua city. The species is named after Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746), German naturalist and explorer in the Russian service, who took part in Vitus Bering’s expedition to Alaska, 1740-1742.
Brown Jay Psilorhinus morio Seen very well at Tikal and heard quite often.
Bushy-crested Jay Cyanocorax melanocyaneus Seen well above Finca Las Nubes and at Cayalá.
Gray-breasted Martin Progne chalybea Seen at Las Flores airport in Petén.
Mangrove Swallow Tachycineta albilinea Seen flying above Lake Petén Itzá.
Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina This gorgeous swallow was seen nicely above Las Nubes.
Black-capped Swallow Notiochelidon pileata Common at Finca El Pilar, Finca El Patrocinio, and Finca Las Nubes.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis Seen at several locations
*Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis ridgwayi Seen at Tikal. This former species is now considered to be a subspecies of Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Named after Robert Ridgway (1850-1929), US ornithologist and bird’s curator, and author of the book The birds of North and Middle America,1901.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Seen briefly at the airport of Petén.
Band-backed Wren Campylorhynchus zonatus Common at several locations.
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus Only seen well outside the Tikal National Park. A distinct population in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Belize, and extreme north of Guatemala is treated either as a subspecies, Thryothorus ludovicianus albinucha, or as a separate species, White-browed Wren, Thryothorus albinucha.
Spot-breasted Wren Pheugopedius maculipectus Heard at Las Nubes and seen well at Tikal.
Rufous-backed Wren Campylorhynchus capistratus Several seen at Las Nubes.
Rufous-and-White Wren (H) Thryophilus rufalbus Heard only once at Las Nubes.
Plain Wren Cantorchilus modestus Seen well after some hard trying at Finca Las Nubes.
House Wren Troglodytes aedon Quite a few encounters throughout the trip.
White-bellied Wren Uropsila leucogastra Seen well at Tikal on a few occasions.
White-breasted Wood Wren Henicorhina leucosticta Only seen briefly at the Cerro Cahuí reserve and skulking around Tikal.
Grey-breasted Wood Wren Henicorhina leucophrys A pair seen well at Finca Las Nubes.
Long-billed Gnatwren Ramphocaenus melanurus One bird responded well to playback at the Cerro Cahuí reserve and another was seen at Tikal.
Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis Nice views of females and males at Finca El Pilar.
Brown-backed Solitaire Myadestes occidentalis One of the common bird sounds of the Guatemalan cloud and pine forests. We had great scope views of one bird at Finca El Pilar.
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus aurantiirostris Seen at Finca Los Tarrales.
Swainson’s Thrush Catharus ustulatus Seen well at Finca Los Tarrales. Named after William Swainson, a 19thcentury British artist, naturalist, and collector.
Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina Great views at Tikal.
Black Thrush Turdus infuscatus Good views at Finca Los Tarrales.
Clay-colored Thrush Turdus grayi Common at several locations. It is the national bird of Costa Rica, where it is well known as the yigüirro. It was known as the Clay-colored Robin until 2010.
White-throated Thrush Turdus assimilis Seen well at Finca El Patrocinio.
Rufous-collared Thrush Turdus rufitorques Seen well at Finca El Pilar. It is also known as the Rufous-collared Robin.
Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis Seen briefly near the Tikal entrance and well at Cayalá.
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus Seen around Lake Atitlán.
Blue-and-white Mockingbird Melanotis hypoleucus One bird seen well at Cayalá.
Grey Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinereus Great views at Finca El Pilar and Fuentes Georginas.
Tennessee Warbler Leiothlypis peregrina The most common migrant warbler encountered in Guatemala. This bird was named from a specimen collected in Tennessee where it only appears during migration.
Nashville Warbler Leiothlypis ruficapilla We had good views of this North American warbler at Las Nubes.
Chestnut-sided Warbler Setophaga pensylvanica Good looks at Tikal.
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga festiva Good looks at Finca El Patrocinio and Lake Atitlán.
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia Seen at several locations. This warbler was first discovered in a magnolia trees in the 19th century by famed ornithologist Alexander Wilson while in Mississippi.
Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata Seen well on several occasions.
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens Seen well at Lake Atitlán.
Townsend’s Warbler Setophaga townsendi Seen well at many locations; after the Tennessee Warbler it was the most common warbler of the trip. Named after John Kirk Townsend, a 19th century US ornithologist, collector, and author.
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia Seen at several locations.
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla Nice views of a pair at the Tikal archeological site.
Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina We had several good observations of this species.
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum Great views in the Tikal forest. Worm-eating Warblers eat insects, usually searching in dead leaves or bark on trees and shrubs, also picking through dead leaves on the forest floor. Despite their name, they rarely if ever eat earthworms. Worm-eating Warblers have disappeared from some parts of their range due to habitat loss. They are vulnerable to nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbird where forests are fragmented.
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla Seen walking quietly at the Long-tailed Manakin lek at Finca El Patrocinio and at Takalik Abaj.
Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla Seen well along a waterway at Tikal.
Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis Formosa We had some great looks at this species in the undergrowth at Tikal.
MacGillivray’s Warbler Geothlypis tolmiei Excellent views of this lovely bird at the bamboo patch around Finca Las Nubes. Named after William MacGillivray, a 19th century Scottish professor and painter. Townsend suggested naming the bird after William Tolmie, but Audubon named it after MacGillivray but used Tolmie in the scientific name.
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas Seen well in secondary vegetation at the shores of Lake Atitlán.
Wilson’s Warbler Cardellina pusilla Seen on several occasions. Named after Thomas Wilson, a 19th century US ornithologist.
Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons Great views at Finca Los Tarrales.
Pink-headed Warbler Cardellina versicolor One of the best birds of the trip. A pair was seen amazingly well at Fuentes Georginas during the heat of the day; they played very cooperatively and were well photographed. This is a Northern Central America endemic and listed as vulnerable.
Golden-browed Warbler Basileuterus belli Seen well on Volcan Atitlán.
Golden-crowned Warbler (H) Basileuterus culicivorus Recorded at Las Nubes.
Rufous-capped Warbler Basileuterus rufifrons Seen well at Cayalá Ecological Park.
Slate-throated Whitestart Myioborus miniatus Seen well at Finca El Pilar. These were orange-bellied birds, quite different from the yellow-bellied forms in lower Central and South America.
Black-throated Shrike-Tanager Lanio aurantius Seen briefly at Tikal National Park.
Blue-grey Tanager Thraupis episcopus Common around Lake Petén Itzá.
Yellow-winged Tanager Thraupis abbas Great looks at Finca El Patrocinio and Finca Las Nubes.
Cabanis’s(Azure-rumped) Tanager Tangara cabanisi One of the targets of the tour that eluded us at first, but we finally got everybody scope views at Finca Las Nubes. Named after Jean Louis Cabanis, a 19thcentury German ornithologist and founder editor of the Journal für Ornithologie.
Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus Good views of this lovely bird at Finca El Patrocinio and a few other locations.
Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer Diglossa baritula Great views a Fuentes Georginas.
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina One pair seen briefly at Finca Los Tarrales.
White-collared Seedeater Sporophila torqueola Common at both Finca Los Tarrales and Petén.
Green-backed Sparrow Arremonops chloronotus Seen well at Tikal National Park.
Prevost’s Ground Sparrow Melozone biarcuata Superb views of this handsome bird at Finca Los Tarrales.
Rusty Sparrow Aimophila rufescens Seen nicely during the Belted Flycatcher search above Lake Atitlán.
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis Common around the shores of Lake Atitlán.
Common Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus flavopectus Seen by some at Finca Las Nubes. This wide-ranging species exhibits complex geographic variation. The birds here belong to the race postocularis. Genetic data indicate Chlorospingus to be in fact an Emberizid (sparrow), with the AOU recently accepting this change.
White-naped Brush Finch Atlapetes albinucha Seen at Las Nubes and Lake Atitlán.
Grey-throated Chat Granatellus sallaei Superb views of one bird at the Cerro Cahuí reserve. A highlight for many.
Red-throated Ant Tanager Habia fuscicauda Seen well at Tikal National Park.
Red-crowned Ant Tanager Habia rubica Seen well at Tikal National Park.
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra Seen at several locations.
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana Great views at Finca El Patrocinio and a few other places.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus Our first encounter was at the Takalik Abaj archeological site, then it became quite common after that.
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Nice flock near our cabins at Tikal.
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris Several males seen well at Las Nubes and a female at Cayalá.
Black-headed Saltator Saltator atriceps Seen well above Finca Las Nubes and at Tikal.
Greyish Saltator Saltator coerulescens Seen well at a few locations.
Mexican Yellow Grosbeak Pheucticus chrysopeplus Seen briefly at Finca Las Nubes.
Blue-black Grosbeak Cyanocompsa cyanoides One bird was seen well at the Tikal National Park.
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens Two different birds seen at Las Nubes.
Melodious Blackbird Dives dives Seen well at Finca Patrocinio and at other locations. It is a resident breeder from coastal eastern and southeastern Mexico to Costa Rica. Its range is expanding. El Salvador was colonized in the 1950s, and eastern Guatemala in the 1960s. Prior to 1989 there was only one Costa Rican record, but it is now easily seen at least as far south as San José, and it is expected to colonize Panama.
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus Abundant.
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus Seen outside Tikal National Park.
Black-vented Oriole Icterus wagleri A pair seen outside the lodge at Lake Atitlán and above the lodge in the dry forest.
Bar-winged Oriole Icterus maculialatus A pair seen at the bridge at Las Nubes and a lone male seen in thick foliage near the top of the finca.
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius Several seen at the gardens at Lake Atitlán and around Takalik Abaj.
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis A few seen at the fincas along the tour route.
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula Great looks at several birds coming to feeders at Lake Petén Itzá.
Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater A male from a pair heard singing was seen at Finca Las Nubes.
Yellow-billed Cacique Amblycercus holosericeus This secretive species was seen only around our cabins at Finca Las Nubes. Usually found solitary associated with jay flocks and in bamboo in South America.
Montezuma Oropendola Psarocolius montezuma Splendid views in the forest around the ruins of Tikal. Named after Moctezuma Xocoyotzin (1480-1520), Emperor of the Aztecs, who died of wounds inflicted by his own subjects, enraged at his support for the Spanish conquistadores under Cortés.
Hooded Grosbeak Hesperiphona abeillei A female seen well at Finca Las Nubes.
Scrub Euphonia Euphonia affinis Seen briefly but well at Los Tarrales and Lake Petén Itzá.
Yellow-throated Euphonia Euphonia hirundinacea Seen at Finca Patrocinio and Los Tarrales.
Olive-backed Euphonia Euphonia gouldi Seen at Tikal.
Blue-crowned Chlorophonia Chlorophonia occipitalis Great views of this splendid bird at Finca Los Tarrales when we descend from the Horned Guan forest.
Black-headed Siskin Carduelis notata A large group seen at El Pilar.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Seen at a couple of locations.
Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctata Seen briefly crossing trails at the Tikal National Park.
Variegated Squirrel Sciurus variegatoides Seen well at Finca El Patrocinio.
Deppe’s Squirrel Sciurus deppei Seen well above Finca Las Nubes.
White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus Seen briefly at Finca Los Tarrales.
Black-handed Spider Monkey Ateles geoffroyi Incredible views of several groups at Tikal National Park.
Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus Seen briefly along the main track above Finca Las Nubes.
White-nosed Coati Nasua narica A nice group was seen in Tikal National Park.
Morelet’s Crocodile Crocodylus moreletii Two individuals were seen in the pond at the entrance of Tikal National Park. It’s known as the Mexican Crocodile. It’s a modest sized crocodilian found only in fresh waters of the Atlantic regions of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Named after the 19th century French naturalist who made its discovery, P.M.A. Morelet.