Honduras: The Lodge at Pico Bonito Feb 08—15, 2014

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 provides a wonderful base for exploration of the Caribbean lowlands of Honduras. On the days we left the lodge to bird other areas, we had to pry ourselves away from the myriad birds that call the lodge grounds home. When we did escape, we were thrilled by a miniature train ride (the burra), the mangrove lagoons of Cuero y Salado, the hummingbird show at Rio Santiago, the desert-like Aguan Valley, and the forests of the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. German Martinez provided local insight into much of our birding.

Lovely Cotinga

Lovely Cotinga— Photo: Brian Gibbons

On our first afternoon we were mesmerized by the Violet Sabrewings, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Long-billed Hermits, and White-necked Jacobins warring over the feeders. The next morning we barely made it 200 yards from the lodge, birding at glacial speed enjoying parrots, trogons, woodpeckers, manakins, motmots, and those Lovely Cotingas. Time and again we dined on great food while watching the comings and goings of agoutis and various beautiful avian life forms. A Black Hawk-Eagle soared up for us midmorning, proclaiming its territory over the landscape below. The roosting pair of camouflaged Great Potoos blended into the branch each time we passed; some of us even lucked into a potoo that was hunting from the tower one night during our Red-eyed Treefrog hunt.

The next morning found us cruising through agricultural fields on the way to Cuero y Salado. It was worth stopping the train for a Laughing Falcon spotted by Donna. We also saw our first Turquoise-browed Motmot and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures during our journey to the lagoon. Once aboard, we cruised quiet waters, spotting jacanas, kingfishers, herons, and some Howler Monkeys. Each day we were delighted by the Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Aracaris that fed on Cecropia and Aguacatillo fruits around the grounds.

Our third morning found us traveling to Lancetilla Botanical Garden near Tela. Again, our walking was minimized by simply watching the birds that came to the roadside for us: Black-headed Trogon, Common Black-Hawk, Squirrel Cuckoo, and warblers galore, including a rare and cooperative Swainson’s Warbler. Along the road we observed the refurbishing of a Montezuma Oropendola colony; they were coming and going with long strands of grass to tidy up the pendant nests. Giant Cowbirds watched the process, waiting for an unattended nest in the coming weeks in which they could pawn off their eggs! Lunch at Rio Santiago Nature Resort was distracting to say the least. Hummingbirds of eleven species zipped about our heads as we enjoyed our lemonadas. Band-tailed Barbthroat, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Brown Violetear, and Green-breasted Mango were new for us. In the woods, on the simple Keel-billed Motmot trek, we failed. On the longer march, after a strenuous hike, we called in a pair that watched us for fifteen minutes.

Crowned Woodnymph

Crowned Woodnymph— Photo: Brian Gibbons

The Aguan valley is just 40 kilometers away, but it took us four hours to get there. Our quarry for this expedition was the endemic Honduran Emerald in the rain shadow valley. Acacias, cactus, and other succulents replaced the verdant forest of the Caribbean slope. The Emerald proved easy for us and we enjoyed the very different habitat. White-lored Gnatcatchers and White-bellied Wrens were a couple of the other goodies we found in the Emerald reserve. Along the way, a birding stop along a river produced several new birds for us. White-fronted Parrot, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Black-crowned Tityra, Tropical Mockingbird, Mangrove Swallow, and Gray-breasted Martins were all tallied. That night a few hardy souls went owling; we got great brief views of a Mottled Owl over the trail.

On our final morning we enjoyed the grounds of The Lodge at Pico Bonito again. Slaty-tailed and Gartered trogons plucked fruit from the trees and called their partners on this Valentine’s Day. We enjoyed great looks at many of the birds we had seen earlier in the week, but also managed a few new sightings like a very cooperative Emerald Toucanet eyeing the fruits like the other toucans we’d seen. After hearing the Gray-chested Dove daily, one finally obliged by walking down the trail in front of us. Our stealthy approach to the frog pond paid off as Gwen spotted a furtive Sunbittern sneaking away from us. As it flew, I thought that would be the last we’d see of it, but to our amazement it landed in the wide trail and then disappeared over the edge to stalk along the river. Also delighting us on this last day were a very cooperative Keel-billed Motmot and a Pale-billed Woodpecker that allowed great views. Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Royal Flycatcher were a couple more confiding birds on our last morning.
 
Finally, after exceptional birding and eating well for several days, we were off to Copan and new sights and birds. Thank you for traveling with VENT. I look forward to the next time!