Saturday, December 20, 2014

Honduras, Day 7, We get to go in a boat! Dec. 11, 2014

 Our trip for this day was fairly close, so we didn't have to depart until 6:30 AM. We got up and left the cabin while still fairly dark. As we walked onto the porch, there was a lot of movement. Bats where flying back and forth, a few birds flushed from the side yard, and most interestingly, we saw two birds walking down the path towards the lodge. In the dark it was difficult to determine their exact size, but it was obvious one was quite a bit smaller, a youngster. We got them in our binoculars just in time to see they were tinamous, a secretive type of bird, very difficult to see normally. We had been hearing the eerie calls of Little Tinamou in the early morning, so our first thought was that species, but we weren't sure. We talked about just how big the birds were, and ending up settling that they were Littles. We told Esdras, when we arrived at the lodge, and he said that was most likely.

Cuero y Salad Wildlife Refuge is located about 30 kilometers east of La Ceiba. It is one of the oldest protected areas in Honduras, established in 1986 on a former coconut plantation. There are no roads to this area. Tourists and residents use a little narrow gage railroad, left over from the plantation days, when it was used to transport workers. The refuge is at the confluence of 15 different rivers and  watersheds. It is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea. Local boatmen take birders and other nature watchers out. There are a number of birds seen there occasionally, Jabiru and Agami Heron, which interested me greatly. Unfortunately, the Jabiru, a type of large stork, had left the area several weeks earlier. Agami Herons are rare there, but we were going to give it a try. But for me, the most interesting thing found there is Caribbean Manatee. I had wanted to see a manatee for as long as I can remember and never had. I was pretty jazzed!

We got on the little train and started off. We ran dogs and chickens off the tracks, along with an occasional bicyclist. When ever we saw something interesting we would call to the conductor and he would stop. There were flooded fields with wading birds; this is where the Jabiru, my nemesis, had been. There were small houses along the way. It was raining a bit, which was discouraging. We finally arrived at the headquarters and Esdras made the arrangements with a boatman. As we were getting ready to board the little motorized flat bottomed "john boat", I asked Esdras about manatees. He said we wouldn't see any. The river was too muddy from all of the rain. I am sure I let out a deep sigh.

We took off down the river. The rain had stopped and occasionally the clouds parted. The boatman had seen an Agami Heron a few weeks prior, so we made that a priority. We puttered up and down some narrow channels with heavy mangrove roots and hanging vegetation. Agamis are not going to be out in the open. We had a nice surprise when a Sun Grebe swam right by us, across the river in clear view. They are not usually so cooperative. A Gray-necked Woodrail peaked out, giving fairly good looks, but not great photo opportunities. Several Bare-throated Tiger-Herons watched us go by. It was a very pleasant morning. We spotted a White-faced Capuchin, the only monkey of the trip.

The Agami was not to be, but I really didn't expect to get it, so I wasn't too bummed. We saw a couple of big American Crocodiles, which was very cool. A large iguana was on the shore, so we went over for a closer look. Martin found several dragonflies, so we spent a little time there. As we pulled away the boatman said something in Spanish to Esdras that I didn't understand. Esdras said "He just saw a manatee!" We took the boat out a little way and he stopped the motor. We sat silently for a few minutes, when suddenly the water broke and a mother and young manatee stuck their heads out. The mother snorted, a fabulous sound, and they dove very quickly. It was fast, but so exciting!

We went back to shore and hopped on the train to go back. It started to rain a bit again. We spotted a Laughing Falcon on a tree and stopped for a few photos. There was a mother with a young boy of about three or four on the train. I sat next to him and we talked a little. I showed him some photos on my camera. I was really happy he understood what little Spanish I know. In the past when I had tried to talk to kids, they would just look at me like I was speaking Martian.  Maybe I am making a little progress.

Martin and I had talked about how we had not seen any ibis, which was surprising, considering the habitat. We stopped at the flooded fields we had seen on the way out, and sure enough, there was a nice sized group of White Ibis, both adults and immatures, and one dark plegadis ibis, which would either be a White-faced or Glossy. We assumed it was a Glossy, as it was on the Caribbean coast. Martin said to Esdras, "There is a dark ibis." Esdras thought he meant a young White Ibis, which are brown. We had no idea how rare a plegadis ibis was in Honduras and didn't bother to take any photos. When we got back to the lodge, we discovered there was only one previous record for Glossy Ibis and no records for White-faced for Honduras. We were sick that we hadn't tried to get photos. As a side note, the next day, another birding group went out there, but didn't see it. There were only a couple of White Ibis, not the big flock from the day before.

We had a leisurely lunch, watching Variable Crackers, a butterfly, chasing each other across the lawn, sounding like frying bacon. There are a number of species of crackers. They are called crackers because males have the ability to make noise with their wings. The noise seems to be a territorial display. I have never heard it when only one is present. After lunch we admired a snake that James had brought out, a young Mussurana. James said it was probably about a year old. It was really attractive, red and white, with a black head. James said that it would grow to be very large black snake. They are not venomous.  James also said it appeared to be getting ready to shed its skin. It then started moving through his fingers and the skin slid off. It was really cool!

During the afternoon we birded a little bit around the lodge. I hung back on my own and had a nice Kentucky Warbler. We were getting a pretty nice collection of our home warblers. We headed back to the cabin to pack for our departure the next day. Martin and I were still mulling over the tinamous, not quite sure what they were. We ate our final dinner at the lodge that evening, and bid our waiter, Howard, goodbye. My final dessert was Key Lime Pie. If you go, do not miss it!

Here are my photos from the day:

Here is the bird list:
 Tinamidae          Great Tinamou             
Anatidae           Blue-winged Teal          
Pelecanidae        Brown Pelican             
Ardeidae           Bare-throated Tiger-Heron 
Ardeidae           Great Egret               
Ardeidae           Snowy Egret               
Ardeidae           Little Blue Heron         
Ardeidae           Tricolored Heron          
Ardeidae           Cattle Egret              
Ardeidae           Green Heron               
Ardeidae           Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Ardeidae           Boat-billed Heron         
Threskiornithidae  White Ibis                
Cathartidae        Black Vulture             
Cathartidae        Turkey Vulture            
Pandionidae        Osprey                    
Accipitridae       Common Black-Hawk         
Accipitridae       Gray Hawk                 
Rallidae           Gray-necked Wood-Rail     
Heliornithidae     Sungrebe                  
Jacanidae          Northern Jacana           
Scolopacidae       Solitary Sandpiper        
Scolopacidae       Least Sandpiper           
Laridae            Caspian Tern              
Laridae            Sandwich Tern             
Columbidae         Ruddy Ground-Dove         
Cuculidae          Groove-billed Ani         
Caprimulgidae      Common Nighthawk          
Trogonidae         Black-headed Trogon       
Momotidae          Blue-crowned Motmot       
Alcedinidae        Belted Kingfisher         
Falconidae         Laughing Falcon           
Falconidae         Bat Falcon                
Psittacidae        White-crowned Parrot      
Psittacidae        Red-lored Parrot          
Tyrannidae         Great Crested Flycatcher  
Tyrannidae         Great Kiskadee            
Tyrannidae         Boat-billed Flycatcher    
Tyrannidae         Social Flycatcher         
Tyrannidae         Tropical Kingbird         
Corvidae           Brown Jay                 
Mimidae            Gray Catbird              
Parulidae          Worm-eating Warbler       
Parulidae          Louisiana Waterthrush     
Parulidae          Northern Waterthrush      
Parulidae          Kentucky Warbler          
Parulidae          Magnolia Warbler          
Thraupidae         White-collared Seedeater  
Cardinalidae       Indigo Bunting            
Icteridae          Melodious Blackbird       
Icteridae          Great-tailed Grackle      
Icteridae          Montezuma Oropendola       

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