Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 5, December 9, The Second Star Bird

There is only one true endemic bird found in Honduras, the Honduran Emerald. This hummingbird is an endangered species found only in the dry forest of Honduras. It is one of the most wanted species for birders coming to Honduras. There is a reserve across the mountains from Pico Bonito. As the crow flies it is only about 12 miles, but, to drive there takes a bit longer. This is not a bad thing, as the lack of roads across the mountains is a protection for the many birds, mammals and reptiles found there.

Because the drive is so long, we had to depart at 4:00 AM. We dragged ourselves out of bed at 3:30 AM, got dressed and staggered up to the van. Besides the driver and our guide Esdras, we were joined by another birder, Paul and his guide, Jose. We had met Paul briefly on our first day. He was a lot of fun, very funny. His guide, Jose, is a total hoot, so we didn't mind a bit. We all snoozed on the van, except the drive, thank goodness. At about 8:00 AM we stopped on the road at a gas station that had picnic tables for breakfast and a bathroom break. Breakfast consisted of baleadas, a Honduran breakfast taco, with eggs, beans, cheese and some type of meat. They are really good, and very filling!

After breakfast we took off, making several stops before reaching the Honduran Emerald reserve. On our first stop we checked some fields and a small road that ran perpendicular to the highway. There were a lot of White-collared Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquits and at least one Indigo Bunting. Esdras was very excited to see a Tri-colored Munia, an Asian exotic that has become established in Honduras. He said it was a new bird for him. I teased him a little by saying "Haven't you ever been in a pet shop?" He laughed, but I know he was excited to see it. A pair of Red-lored Parrots perched in the top of a tree and preened each other. We found a fairly rare bird for the area, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Unfortunately, we did not see our target bird, Double-striped Thick-knee.

We made a couple of other stops and finally found one a couple of our targets. White-lored Gnatcatcher had eluded me in the Yucatan. We found a pair in some scrub by the side the road. We also found Spot-breasted Orioles, another new bird.  We stopped and played the call of Lesser Roadrunner in a likely looking place and were very happy when one answered. It sounded like it was getting closer. Martin spotted it sitting in a distant tree. We got great scope views.

We arrived at the reserve at about 10:00AM. We pulled into a small farm with a house. The family was sitting on the porch, the father, holding a rifle, the mother nursing a toddler, and several older children. The father pointed up in the tree by the house, and there was a Honduran Emerald. That was the easiest bird of the trip! We gathered our stuff up and took a hike into the reserve. We climbed through a narrow spot in a barbed wire fence, and Martin and I got a few tears in our shirts. I wore sneakers instead of boots, because it was dry forest, right? Big mistake. There were horses and donkeys in the field and quite a few puddles. The combination was not great for sneakers. Those shoes are still in Honduras.

Esdras pointed out the plant that the emeralds feed on. It is a succulent, similar to pencil cactus, with a tiny flower scattered here and there. I have no idea how these birds make a living on it. We found several more emeralds fairly easily. Cinnamon Hummingbirds were rather aggressive, chasing them off almost every time I tried to take photos. We tried for Lesser Ground Cuckoo, with no success. I asked Esdras if they ever miss the emerald there and he said no. I told him I was way too superstitious to ask him that question before we saw it.

After we left the reserve, we stopped for lunch. Instead of a restaurant we ate at a private home, where the woman of the house prepares traditional food for guests of the lodge who go the reserve. It was really nice to eat true Honduran food in a home. We had fried chicken, pork, some home made cheese, beans and tortillas. It was really good! While we ate, I sneaked tiny pieces of chicken and pork to their cat, a half grown calico. I know I was misbehaving, but the cat was really cute. After lunch I wandered around a bit and photographed some butterflies, including a Blue-eyed Sailor and a Gray Cracker. We looked for the Double-striped Thick-knee on the ride back, but had no luck. 

Photos for the day:

Birds seen:
Anatidae        Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  
Anatidae        Blue-winged Teal              
Odontophoridae  Crested Bobwhite              
Ardeidae        Great Egret                   
Ardeidae        Cattle Egret                  
Cathartidae     Black Vulture                 
Cathartidae     Turkey Vulture                
Cathartidae     King Vulture                  
Accipitridae    Gray Hawk                     
Scolopacidae    Spotted Sandpiper             
Scolopacidae    Least Sandpiper               
Columbidae      Rock Pigeon                   
Columbidae      Inca Dove                     
Columbidae      Common Ground-Dove            
Columbidae      Ruddy Ground-Dove             
Columbidae      White-tipped Dove             
Cuculidae       Yellow-billed Cuckoo          
Cuculidae       Lesser Roadrunner             
Cuculidae       Groove-billed Ani             
Strigidae       Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl         
Caprimulgidae   Common Pauraque               
Trochilidae     Honduran Emerald              
Trochilidae     Cinnamon Hummingbird          
Alcedinidae     Amazon Kingfisher             
Picidae         Golden-fronted Woodpecker     
Picidae         Lineated Woodpecker           
Falconidae      Crested Caracara              
Falconidae      American Kestrel              
Psittacidae     Olive-throated Parakeet       
Psittacidae     White-crowned Parrot          
Psittacidae     Red-lored Parrot              
Psittacidae     White-fronted Parrot          
Tyrannidae      Brown-crested Flycatcher      
Tyrannidae      Great Kiskadee                
Tyrannidae      Social Flycatcher             
Tyrannidae      Tropical Kingbird             
Tyrannidae      Fork-tailed Flycatcher        
Corvidae        Brown Jay                     
Hirundinidae    Northern Rough-winged Swallow 
Hirundinidae    Mangrove Swallow              
Hirundinidae    Barn Swallow                  
Troglodytidae   White-bellied Wren            
Polioptilidae   White-lored Gnatcatcher       
Turdidae        Clay-colored Thrush           
Mimidae         Gray Catbird                  
Mimidae         Tropical Mockingbird          
Parulidae       Gray-crowned Yellowthroat     
Parulidae       Common Yellowthroat           
Parulidae       Yellow Warbler                
Parulidae       Black-throated Green Warbler  
Thraupidae      Blue-gray Tanager             
Thraupidae      Blue-black Grassquit          
Thraupidae      White-collared Seedeater      
Thraupidae      Yellow-faced Grassquit        
Cardinalidae    Indigo Bunting                
Icteridae       Eastern Meadowlark            
Icteridae       Melodious Blackbird           
Icteridae       Great-tailed Grackle          
Icteridae       Orchard Oriole                
Icteridae       Spot-breasted Oriole          
Icteridae       Altamira Oriole               
Icteridae       Baltimore Oriole              
Fringillidae    Yellow-throated Euphonia      

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