Dispatches from Honduras - The Aguán Valley

Being based at the Lodge at Pico Bonito has big advantages – hammocks on the porch of every cabin, gourmet meals and world-class birding right on the grounds.  It does, however, mean that one full day must be dedicated to traveling for the only endemic bird in Honduras, a hummingbird called the Honduran Emerald.  The best place to see the Emerald, and the closest to the Lodge, is a 2.5 hour drive to the arid thornscrub of the lower Aguán Valley.  Fortunately, there are plenty of great birds to see along the route.

We started off with a robust picnic breakfast of baleadas, fruit salad and locally-grown coffee in the town of Olanchito.  No sooner had coffee cups been set down than binoculars were picked up!

This Gray-breasted Martin perched obligingly on a wire near our picnic tables, affording a splendid study of the head and chest pattern.  The uniformly dark head and sides of the nape separate this bird from the similarly-plumaged female Purple Martin.

Along the way to the Honduran Emerald Reserve, this Fork-tailed Flycatcher was definitely a crowd-pleaser:

 

A big surprise while cruising slowly for Lesser Roadrunner was a roadside Hook-billed Kite – thanks to Wendy for the great spotting!  I'm happy just to have managed an identifiable shot, even if through tinted windows.  Probably the best view I've ever had of this secretive raptor:

 

Several hours and 60 species later, we arrived at the Reserve.  We were greeted by several species of hummingbirds, including Canivet's ("Salvin's") Emerald, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and....yes, the crown jewel of the Reserve!  We savored views of up to a dozen different Honduran Emeralds.  There's a particular Euphorbia species in the Aguán Valley that is preferred by the Emeralds, but we enjoyed watching this one at prickly pear cactus flowers:

 

We all appreciated the chance to experience this unique habitat, and the contrast it offered to the rainforest of the north coast – not to mention a very range-restricted endemic hummingbird.  Well worth the distance traveled!

 

Cheers,

John Yerger

Borderland Tours

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Dispatches from Honduras: Day 2

Day 2 featured an excursion to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge.  We were lucky to catch up with a few birds that, although widespread, can be difficult to see.  A highlight for me was a Gray-headed Kite soaring over the mangroves, but this male Black-crowned Antshrike made for a surprise photographic opportunity:

Antshrikes are known for their skulking habits, but this bird was more cooperative than usual.  It probably helped that we were on a boat in mangrove forest instead of crammed onto a narrow rainforest trail where it could have more easily eluded us.  

A more typical denizen of mangrove habitat was this impossibly tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher:

The lovely midnight green band across the upper chest makes this a female.   Pygmy Kingfishers often remain concealed in the shade of very low branches over slow-moving water.  This bird was no exception, and it took some time before we were able to maneuver our skiff into just the right alley for everyone to catch a glimpse!

 

Northern Jacana, on the other hand, is a fairly common and easily observed bird of open tropical wetlands.  A true shock, however, came when our boat driver encouraged us to look a bit closer at the floating mat of vegetation attended by this Jacana.

 

Do you see it yet?  It was at about this distance I first noticed what he was talking about:

 

Amazing!  This is the first time I've ever been witness to the NEST of a Northern Jacana!  Quite a find on the part of our capitán.

The Jacana foraged unperturbed about 10 meters away while we marveled at the pattern of dark chocolate drizzle across wood brown base color.  Unlike many species, only the male Jacana incubates the eggs.  Pretty neat!

Good birding,

John Yerger

Borderland Tours

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Dispatches from Honduras: Day 1

Our tour to the Lodge at Pico Bonito in Honduras has been simply enchanting.  Set in a verdant paradise for birdwatchers, at a luxurious eco-lodge where no detail in comfort (or dining!) has been overlooked, we're feeling quite pampered.  And of course, the birds have not disappointed.

One of our first highlights wasn't even of the avian variety!  This Central American spider monkey, seen from the Toucan Tower, made quite a splash with the group.

 

​Back on the porch of the Lodge's restaurant (Itzama), Olive-backed Euphonia joined us at nearly every meal.

Keel-billed Toucan has been a daily treat, as well.

In the afternoon, we took a walk just down one of the short trails at the Lodge.  Elmer knew exactly where to look in a vine-enshrouded palm tree amidst a former cacao plantation for this delightful Vermiculated Screech-Owl (rufous morph).

Believe it or not, that's just scratching the surface of an incredible first day in Honduras.  Looking forward to the rest of the trip!

Saludos,

John Yerger

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Dispatches from Pico Bonito, Honduras

Our tour to the Lodge at Pico Bonito in Honduras has been simply enchanting.  Set in a verdant paradise for birdwatchers, at a luxurious eco-lodge where no detail in comfort (or dining!) has been overlooked, we're feeling quite pampered.  And of course, the birds have not disappointed.

One of our first highlights wasn't even of the avian variety!  This Central American spider monkey, seen from the Toucan Tower, made quite a splash with the group.

 

​Back on the porch of the Lodge's restaurant (Itzama), Olive-backed Euphonia joined us at nearly every meal.

 

 

Keel-billed Toucan has been a daily treat, as well.

In the afternoon, we took a walk just down one of the short trails at the Lodge.  Elmer knew exactly where to look in a vine-enshrouded palm tree amidst a former cacao plantation for this delightful Vermiculated Screech-Owl (rufous morph).

 

Believe it or not, that's just scratching the surface of an incredible first day in Honduras.  Can't wait to see what the rest of the trip holds!

Saludos,

John Yerger

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Honduras 2016 preview

​Just returned from a fantastic week scouting for my Honduras trip at the Lodge at Pico Bonito.  This eco-friendly jungle lodge has developed a deserved reputation for both excellent accommodations and great birding, and I was fortunate to have the chance to experience it ahead of our February tour.  Highlights were too numerous to relate here, but a select few that jump to mind are half a dozen Lovely Cotingas in view at once; eleven Keel-billed Toucans gathered in the same tree; displaying White-collared Manakins; and a very cooperative Stub-tailed Spadebill.  If I was a better photographer, maybe I could have managed to capture them all in images!  But the biggest treat for me was a suite of nocturnal birds on daytime roosts, thanks to Elmer Escoto, bird guide for the Lodge at Pico Bonito (see below).

Looking forward to returning with the full tour in February!
John Yerger
Borderland Tours

 

 

 

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