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dECEMBER 2006 / jANUARY 2007

At the Mayan ruins of Tikal,
during numerous FONT tours,
we've seen numerous birds, including
toucans, trogons, and tityras. 


Photos of Nature & Scenery from our Guatemala Tour Dec '06/Jan '07 

Newspaper Article about Dec '06/Jan '07 FONT Guatemala Tour

Birds & Other Wildlife during our Guatemala Tour in Dec '06/Jan '07

Guatemala Birds, noting those during FONT Tours

Upcoming FONT Birding & Nature Tours in Guatemala

The following account was written by Armas Hill, leader of the tour:

At the end of our Dec 26, '06 to Jan 4, '07 Guatemala Tour, as we sat in a hotel restaurant, we each wrote on pieces of paper what it was we liked the most about our just-finished trip. 
We usually do such a thing listing the "top 10 birds" or so, but this time we opted to include also the over-all experiences, the places, and whatever else, in addition, of course, to the birds.

Number #1 for one of us was "seeing so much of a very different country - starting with the "VOLCANOES". Yes, those lofty, high volcanoes were hard to ignore when we were there, and equally hard later to forget.
The beautiful Lake Atitlan and vicinity was also high on that list, followed by Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala, with its colonial architecture, pastel colors, and cobblestone streets.

Then, in his list, there was a bird. Highest-ranking in that category, for him, was the colorful Violaceous Trogon that sat tamely in a fruiting tree above us. 
Toucans and yet other colorful birds came and went. But the trogon stayed still. (I remember , too, my first encounter with a tropical trogon years ago.)
As a reference note: What has been called the Violaceous Trogon in Guatemala has had a "name change", now being called the Gartered Trogon, due to a taxonomic revision.  

Then, in the list of favorites, there were the monkeys, both Howler Monkeys and Spider Monkeys. One afternoon, as we were traveling along a river by a remote Mayan site up above a cliff, the boatman, as we requested, turned off the motor. There was quiet, except for the song of birds (wrens were singing, others were calling), and the roaring, yes, ROARING, of the Howler Monkey. If people traveling up such a river, whenever, did not know the source of that loud sound, what did they ever imagine?

Next on the list was the aracari, another colorful culprit in that fruiting tree. A small toucan, it's a bird that exemplifies the tropics.

Then, on the list, Tikal, with its temples in the jungle. What a place it is to visit, and what a place to bird.

Early in the tour we took a boat-trip in an area of extensive marshes near the Pacific Ocean. There were birds, many of them. Late in the afternoon, it was a good time for that boat-ride. Against the sky, in the good light that afternoon, as looked inland, away from the Pacific, there were those Guatemalan volcanoes. Simply put, they were impressive. It was a beautiful afternoon. As dusk ensued, the sky, for a while, was filled with flying nighthawks - dozens of them - Lesser Nighthawks they were.

Often as we walked in the area of Tikal, there were birds in the trees. Many were small; some were large. Among the biggest was a single Crested Guan that stayed there, somewhat clumsily moving about, above us. 

Not as large as a guan, but big enough, another bird was a bit more adept as it moved about in a tree. It was the Squirrel Cuckoo, moving a bit as it did rather like a squirrel.

And last on that first list was the crocodile. It was big, very big, across the way on the bank of a pond. Its mouth was wide open, and let me say, we didn't need our binoculars to see its teeth.   

On another person's list, number #1 was the Pink-headed Warbler. And deservedly so. It's a brilliant bird, mostly red, with a frosty head, living in the pines and oaks of the Guatemalan mountains.

Number #2 was the Ornate Hawk-Eagle. One morning as we were on a high slope of a volcano, 2 of them flew by above us, one after the other. The species was the second Hawk-Eagle of the morning for us. We had just seen the Black-and-white. We were just about to see the Black. Incredible it was to encounter 3 species of Hawk-Eagles in just a couple hours.

Another morning as we were traveling in the northern Guatemalan region called the Peten, not really near anything, there was in the sky ahead of us, a large kettle of big birds lifting up in a thermal. We stopped and looked up. They were Wood Storks, about a hundred of them, soaring in circles. It was a truly nice sight.     

Next on the was the Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle mentioned a moment ago. We had such a good look at that marvelous raptor.

During the tour we were never along the seacoast, the haunt of the Brown Pelican. So we didn't really expect to see them. But twice we did in the remote Peten. Once, along a river, where it widened into almost a lake, they sat on the water, 6 of them. Another day, by the edge of what was a large lake, we saw a bigger group of those large birds, in flight. There were 17 of them, like a squadron, as they passed by. 
Also in that area, by the way, was another bird usually by the sea, a Royal Tern. And interesting also, there was a single Lesser Black-backed Gull with the Laughing Gulls on pilings. During the FONT tour there, 2 years ago, we saw one Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Did I mention that when we were on that slope of the volcano, where we saw the hawk-eagles, there was an earthquake? Well, there was. It was a mild one, but it made the list of favorite things of the trip.

The Squirrel Cuckoo got another vote. Also getting votes were the Keel-billed Toucan and the Montezuma Oropendola. It's not hard to understand why. Both were fun to watch, and the oropendola, also, fun to hear. 

Then there was the pair of Orange-breasted Falcons at Tikal. One perched high in a tree. Another called nearby. Orange-breasted Falcons have been seen during FONT tours at Tikal in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and now, 2007. Probably no where can they more readily seen than at Tikal.

Another trogon got a vote, the Mountain Trogon. Yes, it's a bird of the mountains, and a nice one at that.

The monkeys got another vote. The Iguana was not forgotten. And the Owl Butterfly that we saw so nicely along a forest trail was not only not forgotten, it was very well remembered. Photos of it, and a number of the other vote-getters that we've mentioned here, are elsewhere in this website (the link precedes this narrative).

Let me, if I may, give my "Top Ten" of the tour, before concluding. All of them, of course, are birds:
* the 3 species of Hawk-Eagles during 1 morning 
* the Orange-breasted Falcon
* an ant swarm with a frenzy of birds including: various woodcreepers, Gray-headed Tanager, Gray-throated Chat, and others, including the Kentucky Warbler
* the Pink-headed Warbler
* the Blue-throated Sapphire (a nice hummingbird in the forest; during the tour there were over 15 species of hummingbirds)
* the Prevost's Ground Sparrow (a truly dapper bird!)
* the Chestnut-colored Woodpecker (we saw it so well; it was so nice to see)
* Hooded Warblers (even though they're in our North American woodlands in the summer, they're always nice to see! - as were the many Wood Thrushes we saw at Tikal)
* the Wood Storks in the large kettle already mentioned
and lastly, 
* the Vermilion Flycatcher. In a Spanish-speaking country, I like to call the brilliantly-red male the "brazito de fuego", "that little ball of fire".
Also in terms of color, it's deserves mentioning that we saw 7 bright species of orioles during the tour. 
There were 260 species of other birds, as the total for the trip was 267.

Again in 2006/07, Guatemala was, as it has been for a number of years, the destination for our annual December/January Holiday Tour. 
Years ago, we went, for a number of years, over the holidays, to Costa Rica. We've also done Dec/Jan Holiday Tours in southern Spain and in the Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic and in the Lesser Antilles. 

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