Honduras: The Lodge at Pico Bonito Feb 09—16, 2013

Posted by Brian Gibbons

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Brian Gibbons

Brian Gibbons grew up in suburban Dallas where he began exploring the wild world in local creeks and parks. Chasing butterflies and any animal that was unfortunate enough t...

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The Lodge at Pico Bonito exceeded our expectations. The lodge, rooms, grounds, food, and let’s not forget the birds, were all simply spectacular. And there was that cat too.

Beginning our first afternoon, we enjoyed the luxury of birding from one of Central America’s great lodges. Lovely Cotinga must always be among the first birds listed when visiting Pico Bonito. The audacious combination of plum and electric-blue defies expectation, and to have them so common was a treat. That cooperative Margay that most of us enjoyed as it lounged on a limb before melting into the woods was marvelous. We watched the Great Potoo at our leisure, and enjoyed the feeder raids of the White-nosed Coati troop and the late evening appearance of the rare Highland Guan on the lodge grounds. Every day around the lodge we enjoyed the gurgling sounds of the local Montezuma Oropendolas. We also were able to observe a Boa Constrictor rest after what must have been a large meal; the Brown Jays pointed out this beautiful creature to us with their raucous calls.

Our first morning found us on the tower, expectant of our Lovely Cotinga; a few fly-bys and subsequent disappearing acts were tantalizing, but later in the morning we would catch up with many of these beauties and their ladies. Far below us in the clear rocky stream a pair of Sunbitterns stalked the shallows for unlucky critters. Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Aracaries enjoyed the same fruits that the cotingas feasted on. At the forest edge Little Tinamous called, hidden from view, and a White Hawk circled overhead. In the afternoon we birded the open regenerating forest and were rewarded with frugivores, warblers, flycatchers, and our first Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

The next morning we hiked into the quiet forest where a few small flocks mostly evaded us. A stunning White Hawk and a Black Hawk-Eagle soared overheard, Rufous Mourner sat quietly in the branches overhead, and both manakins came into view. A flock moved through with a female Collared Trogon, a White-shouldered Tanager, and the rare Slate-colored Solitaire down from the cloud forest for some fruit. Hiking back to the lodge we encountered a pair of calling Laughing Falcons; eventually we saw them in the scope across the valley.

Cuero y Salado Reserve was on our radar for this morning; we traveled by van, rail, and boat to see kingfishers, Mantled Howler Monkeys, herons, storks, kites, and a few iguanas. One of the favorites was a pair of Sungrebes that eventually came out for all to see well. Boat-billed Heron and Amazon Kingfisher were also excellent finds. In the afternoon we cruised around Pico Bonito, enjoying the birds of the forest and edge.

Our next adventure took us the long way around to the Aguan Valley where we sought and found the endemic Honduran Emerald in the hot thorn forest in the rain shadow of Pico Bonito. We also enjoyed some other birds that wouldn’t be caught dead in the moisture of the rainy side. White-lored Gnatcatcher, Tropical Mockingbird, Eastern Meadowlark, displaying Roadside Hawks, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo teasing us with its nearby calls, and a stunning male Canivet’s Emerald were all tallied in the dry Aguan Valley.

Lancetilla Botanical Garden hosts a wonderful variety of tropical birds. We enjoyed toucans, aracaries, parrots, orioles, woodcreepers, trogons, and flycatchers galore. After lunch we made VENT’s inaugural visit to the hummingbird reserve at Rio Santiago Nature Resort. I have rarely seen so many hummers zipping around. We tallied nine species: Scaly-breasted, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Long-billed Hermit, Violet Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, and the common Rufous-tailed. The true star of the show was surely the Keel-billed Motmot that sat for several minutes allowing excellent scope views of this rare Central American beast.

Another morning of birding the lodge grounds produced many more great sightings. Excellent views of the Vermiculated Screech-Owl on its day roost and a variety of North American warblers, vireos, and flycatchers were all had. I particularly enjoyed the pair of White-crowned Parrots trying out a natural cavity near the entrance station.  First the female went in and out, out and in, head first then tail first. Then the male tried the same thing many times.

Before we knew it our time at the lodge was up. Dave and Vicki and I headed to Copan and others headed back to the frozen north. I hope everyone had a wonderful trip and that we bird together again soon.