Friday, April 21, 2017

Post #101 - Guatemala, Part 3 (of 4) - Petén birding: Las Guacamayas

The Guatemala birding beat rolls on! In this third installment we're going to visit the Estación Biológica Las Guacamayas, a remote research installation that has been converted into one of the coolest Ecolodges I've ever visited. If you missed the first two posts in this Guatemala series, it is advised to check out my recaps of birding and site-seeing at the Mayan Site of Yaxha (Post #99) and Tikal (Post #100). 

Leaving Tikal, we reached Flores, a small, lakeside community well worth a visit if passing nearby. The island portion of the town will appease non-birders. It is very cute and a great place to pause after a morning of birding at Tikal or elsewhere. The island's perimeter can easily be walked in half an hour, and it is possible to hire a local boat to go for an extended ride on the lake should one so desire. Flores had an authentic Guatemalan charm that I didn't see replicated until I reached the Guatemalan Highlands at Lake Atitlán (next post!).

Flores (stock photo)

Lunch fun in Flores

We left Flores and, just outside of town, turned onto a dirt road. I thought that we were making a quick birding detour, but after 30 mins on the dirt track, I realized that the bumpy, primitive track was actually the main the route to our next destination. When all was done, we spent 1.5 hours on what seemed like the dirt road to nowhere. We finally reached a small settlement where we found these waiting for us. Check out the video to see what our ride looked like! 


Once in the boats, we didn't see a single sign of civilization until 25 minutes later when we rounded a river bend and our place of lodging came into view. Snuggled between the jungle hillside and the river, Las Guacamayas was like something out of a dream. We docked and unloaded to find ourselves in a jungle paradise. It was a bit late in the day for birding, but a nice variety of hummingbirds kept us entertained as we drank fresh squeezed fruit juice as a welcome.

Las Guacamayas = Scarlet Macaws

View from the deck. Pretty sweet, huh?

We rose before sunrise the following morning and climbed the steep bluff behind the lodge for some sunrise birding. Cloud cover squashed our sunrise hopes, but the view from the overlook was still stunning!

After breakfast we piled into the boats and continued downriver a bit to look for Scarlet Macaws. Beaching the boats, we hiked into the jungle on a rudimentary motorcycle track. Twenty minutes of walking produces jaw-dropping views of the stunning birds! Their raucous calls rang out across the jungle in the most primitive and unforgettable of ways.

2 of 10 Scarlet Macaws that we found

After the macaws, we returned to the lodge, packed up our stuff, and boarded the boats to make our final exit from Guacamayas. One that exit, we picked up Black-and-white Hawk-eagle, a bird that was a lifer for even one of our guides. I rolled the entire morning into a single eBird checklist that can be found here. Other notables included Muscovy, Stripe-throated Hermit, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Linneated Woodpecker, Red-capped Manakin, and Crimson-collared Tanager.

Red-capped Manakin

The boats delivered us to our bus, and, after the return 1.5 hours on the dirt roads and a bit more paved distance, we reached the Flores airport where we boarded a small charter plane. We reached the highlands at Guatemala City after an hour flight. There we boarded another bus for the 3 hour drive to Lake Atitlán and the 2017 Gutatemala Bird Forum. It is at that location and event that I will pick up next time Please stay tuned!

Leaving Petén....

....flying over Guatemala City.....

...and finally landing!

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