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GUATEMALA! Wow what a surprise we had. This country is truly something special and everyone should be planning a visit! You won't be disappointed.

Guatemala has it all, stunning scenery, friendly people, superb food, wonderful accommodations and some fantastic wildlife.


To say we were surprised and delighted with our visit to Guatemala is a complete understatement, we were simply blown away by every aspect of this wonderful country. Having travelled throughout Central and South America we have to say to everyone you need to go to Guatemala. From the wildlife side there several really good species to tempt even the most travelled of birders. Pink-headed Warblers are not only fabulous to look at they are actually quite easy to find in the right habitat. There is also the hunt for mythical Horned Guan and our guides have now found a spot where a rather steep walk of between 1 - 3 hours will take you to the prime location to see this extraordinary bird. Other key species include Blue-throated Motmot, Resplendent Quetzal, Lesser Roadrunner, Belted Flycatcher, Scarlet Mavaw, Ocellated Turkey, Yuctan Poorwill, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Azure-rumped Tanager, Grey-throated Chat, Hooded Grosbeak and Orange-breasted Falcon which can be seen perched on the Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park. Mammals include Black Howler Monkeys and Central American Spider Monkey plus Tayra and a host of cats such as Ocelot, Margay and even Jaguar. Morelet's Crocodile can be seen in some of the rivers and butterflies, dragonflies and a wealth of flora abound. 

 

THE TRIP:

We spent 2 weeks visiting the key sites where we could see the greatest diversity of species with an emphasis of finding the specialities and the most sought after. We arrive in Antigua a fascinating and most beautiful part of old Guatemala City, with cobblestone roads and tons of history and character this is a must see part of any visit and it simply will not disappoint. A great way to start our tour we found the accommodations to be as good as we have seen anywhere in the Americas and the food was probably some of the best we have ever had. Most hotels and restuarants had stunning architecture and open central courtyards full of flowers and trees. The service in all places we visited was exceptional and we all can't wait to return.

 

ANTIGUA: 

From the town we made a visit to the top of a hill at San Cristobel. Here we could see numerous volcanos appearing through the early morning mist. Birds soon appeared such as Wilsons Warblers, Western Tanagers, Blue-headed Vireo and Clay-coloured Thrushes. We then spotted our first Bushy-crested Jays, followed by a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Blue-and-white Mockingbird and a group of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. A pair of Golden-Olive Woodpeckers showed well, as did Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker and Black-vented Oriole. On a dead tree top we watched Elegant Euphonia, Grey Silky Flycatchers, Lesser Goldfinch and later on a pair of Black-headed Siskins. Amongst the warblers were Black-throated Green, Townsend's, and Hermit, while the scrubby hillside produced Band-backed Wrens, and two showy Rusty Sparrows. After breakfast we went to El Pilar private reserve where hummingbird feeders attracted Rufous Sabrewings, Magnificent Hummingbird, Beryline Hummingbird and White-eared Hummingbird. Walking further on into the forest we saw White-naped and Chestnut-crowned Brush-Finches, Slate-throated Redstart, Black-capped Swallows and some very attractive butterflies including Pink-spotted Cattleheart.         

 
TECPAN:

Pink-headed WarblerToday we drove to Rincon Suiza for a superb breakfast. Then we visited Tecpan Private Reserve where we soon found our first special birds such as Rufous-collared Thrushes and a pair of Hooded Grosbeaks. In the scrubby forest a mixed bird flock included Crescent-chested Warblers and for most of us one of the most wanted birds the superb Pink-headed Warbler. Other delights included Cinnamon Flowerpiercer, Rufous-browed Wren, Mountain Trogon, several Bushtits, Townsend's Warbler, Crescent-chested WarblTownsend's Warblerer and further on a Tufted Flycatcher on its nest. Two Spot-crowned Woodcreepers were found, then a Blue-throated Motmot and good views of Chestnut-side Shrike-vir
eo. Red-faced Warblers appeared along with Rose-throated Becard, lots of butterflies and then a Guatemala race of Hairy Woodpecker (santorum), Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Steller's Jays and even more Pink-headed Warblers.                     

                                              

LOS TARRAMottled OwlLES RESERVE:

Moving on we spent the next couple of days staying at Los Tarrales Reseve. Here we enjoyed great views of Cinnamon Hummingbird and Central American Agouti right outside our cabins. In the tall trees and nearby scrub were Pacific, Orange-chinned and Orange-fronted Parakeets, Yellow-throated Vireo, Shining Honeyeater, Black-headed Saltator, Spot-breasted Oriole, Rufous-chested Spinetail, several stunning Long-tailed Manakin at their lek, Greenish Elaenia, Scrub Euphonia, White bellied Chachalaca and two Yellow-naped Parrots that flew over. One morning we set off eaAzure-rumped Tanagerrly and drove one of the tracks that took us up to the high coffee plantations. As the sun rose we spotted a Long-billed Starthroat and then nearby a Long-billed Gnatwren called, while lots of Western Tanagers appeared as well as Western Kingbirds and then a fabulous White Hawk was seen perched in a lone Cecropia tree. Other species included a Painted Bunting and some fly over Pacific Parakeets, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and then our main target bird was spotted in a tall tree the rare Azure-rumped Tanager which we watched for a while and then noted they were building a nest. Next up were a Smoky Brown Woodpecker, Red-legged Honeycreeper and White-throated Thrushes. As we ate our picnic breakfast raptors started to appear including Black Hawk-Eagle, King Vulture and another fabulous White Hawk. Prevost’s Ground
Sparrows showed well amongst the coffee bushes and then we enticed a Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge to show itself briefly. Back down the hill we saw Brown Basilisk and a very nice Ornate Helicopter, one of the largest damselflies in the world. Back down at the lodge,Tayra there was a perched Laughing Falcon, and nearby some White-throated Magpie-Jays and a roosting pair of Mottled Owls. After lunch went down to the pond and saw Least Grebe and Green Kingfisher plus some really nice dragonflies. A Cassin’s Vireo and Plumbeous Vireo were found, then a little later was an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, followed by Summer Tanager and super views of several very smart White-winged Tanagers, plus a pair of Turquoise-browed Motmots.

 

Click here to view Los Tarrales Lodge                                                                                                    

 

LAKE ATITLAN:

Today was the hike up to see the mythical Horned Guan, a rare and localised bird that because of its scarcity and often difficult to access habitat has become a very sought after bird. Our guides had found a new place so instead of a 4 hour hike each way we were offered just a 3 hour hike each way up a steep volcano. Leaving our hotel at 5.00am we set off on a boat across Lake Atitlan. Here we saw hundreds of Coots, Osprey, Laughing Gills and Ring-necked Ducks. We then drove by 4x4 to the start of our hike. It was pretty steep but we managed it in a record time of just 1 and a half hours, and that was withHorned Guan plenty of rest stops! Along the way we saw several Bushy-crested Jays and good views of the tricky Black-throated Jay. We found the fruit and flowers where the Guans had been recently feeding but then it took us an agonising 6 hours before we evBelted Flycatcherentually found 2 fantastic Horned Guans high in the tree tops. Very happy with our find we headed back down the mountain stopping near the bottom section where we found a really rare bird the Belted Flycatcher. 

 

Click here to view Posada Santiago

 

DRY FOREST:

Moving on to the dry cactus strewn hillsides we found a different range of species such as White-lored Gnatcatcher, Canivet’s Emerald, and both Russet-crowned and Turquiose-browed Motmot, Streak-backed and Altamira Oriole, as well as Grey Fox. Given more time we would have looked for Lesser Ground Cuckoo and Lesser Roadrunner, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher and Stripe-headed Sparrow. 

Resplendent Quetzal

 

BIOTOPE QUETZALES:

Moving on to the area near Biotope Quetzales we visited Los Rachitos Reserve. This beautiful place often has Resplendent Quetzals right beside the dinning area and on a good day you can be sipping coffee and watching one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Feeders attract Unicoloured Jays while the surrounding forest plays host to numerous species including Highland Guan, Slate-coloured Solitaire, Collared Trogon, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Tufted Flycatcher, Yellowish Flycatcher, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Eye-ringed Flatbill and a host of warblers.  


TIKAL NATIONAL PARK:Morelet's Crocodile

We had a long drive to get to Tikal National Park but it was well worth it. Tikal is the largest excavated site in the American continent and contains some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization. Declared a world heritage site in 1979 it comprises 576 square miles of lush jungle surrounding one of the most impressive Myan ruins you could ever see. Birding around our lodge and the surrounding forest was very rewarding and we had great views of many species. Ocellated Turkeys were seen near the lodge entrance as well as Gartered Trogon, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Mealy Parrot, Montezuma Oropendola, Green-backed Sparrow and Yellow-throated Euphonia among many others. A walk to a small pond produced the hoped for Morelet’s Crocodile aOrange-breasted Falcons well as sought after species such as Yucatan Poorwill and Grey-throated Chat. In the forest on the way to the spectacular ruins we found Ivory-billed and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, White-bellied Wren, Northern Schiffornis, Stub-tailed Spadebill, plus wintering flocks of warblers, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-headed Trogon and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. This fantastic area held many birds and should reveal other species such as Yucatan Jay, Black Catbird, Rose-throated Tanager, Great Curassow, White-fronted Parrot, Crested Eagle and Chestnut-colored Woodpecker. Our tour into the Myan Ruins was simply superb and as an added bonus we watched an Orange-breasted Falcon feeding on a kill on top of one of the monuments. This is a great place for mammals so we took an evening walk in the forest to see if we could find anything and were delighted to come across an Ocelot. There is plenty more to find here and both Margay and Jaguar are regularly seen.                                                                                   

GUCAMAYAS BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH STATION:

Guacamayas Biological StationAfter breakfast in Tikal we headed for Flores and then drove for about 3 hrs to get to the San Pedro river. The whole journey along this road provided great opportunities to see many different birds amongst the marshes and surrounding scrub and small patches of forest.  One of our hightlights was the discovery of Yucatan WoodpeckAgami Heroner which our guide found and represents the first record for this area. Other species included Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-tailed Kite, Lesser Nighthawk, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Vermilion Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, White-collared Seedeater and amongst the wetlands and marshes we found Least Bittern, Sora, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana and Limpkin. Other birds such as Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and Pinnated Bittern as always possible. Once we reached the boat at the community of Paso Caballos we set off along the river for about 30 minutes to reach the fabulous Guacamayas Biological Station. Grey-necked Wood Rail and a Prothonotary Warbler were seen as well as the localsed Morelet’s Crocodile. As soon as we were docked we were introduced to the fantastic Biological Station position beside the river. You would possibly expext a research station to be rather basic but this wonderful place is anything but. It is pure luxury in the jungle a wonderful lodge with superb accommodation and excellent food. After lunch we took our first boat trip visiting even quieter sections of the nearby rivers. Here we had great views of Sungrebe and a prolonged close views of an Agami Heron.  Other sightings included Green Herons, Northern Jacana, Ringed and Belted Kingfisher and unbelivably two more Yucatan Woodpeckers. Red-capped ManakinAround the lodge were hummingbirds such as Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green-breasted Mango and White-bellied Emerald, while watching from the observation tower we saw Collared Aracaris, Yucatan Flycatcher, Blue Bunting, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Masked Tityra and Red-throated Ant-Tanager. Our final day and after an early morning coffee we set off on our boat towards the archaeological site El Peru, where we walked a trail within the forest. This is the most important nesting area of the Scarlet Macaw in Guatemala and we eventually found the nest hole of a noisy pair. An ant swarm produced close views of Grey-headed Tanager, White-whiskered Puffbird, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike and Kentucky Warbler. A Grey-headed Kite flew over and we got to see White-collared MScarlet Macawanakins, several Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys and Brown Basilisks. There are many other good birds to be seen in this area and given a few days you could probably catch up with Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Lovely Cotinga, Rose-throated Tanager, Green-Backed Sparrow, Great Curassow and Red-capped Manakins. Since our visit the lodge will now be providing night boat excursions which will be a great way of seeing some of the more elusive creatures that often appear at night. Regular sightings from the lodge and on camera traps include Jagurundi, Baird’s Tapir and even Jaguar and Puma.

 

 

Click here to view Las Guacamayas Biological station                                                                                                                                                                                   

Guatemala is a fabulous destination with pristine areas that hold a wealth of wildlife. If considering a trip to the neotropics then there can be fewer nicer places than here. Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and ancient Mayan Ruins, Guatemala has it all.

 

 

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