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MAYAS AND MACAWS

This trip to West Honduras combines the spectacular landscapes and fabulous birding of the mountains and the lake with colonial and Mayan towns such as Copán Ruinas and the Lenca town of Gracias, Lempira.

Rising majestically above the beautiful Lake Yojoa in central Honduras are two of the country’s more impressive mountain ranges: Montaña Santa Barbara and Cerro Azul Meambar. Here the combination of limestone and volcanic landscapes surrounding the lake supports a rich diversity of habitat types — including freshwater wetlands, pine-oak forest, lowland rainforest and cloud forest — and a corresponding diversity of plants and animals. Some species of interest we can find here are the Keel-billed Motmot, Prevost ground-Sparrow, Resplendent Quetzal, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Barred and Collared Forest-Falcons, Collared Aracari, Blue-crowned Motmot, Masked Tityra, Crimson-collared Tanager, Northern Barred Woodcreeper.

Honduras lies at what was the southern tip of the Mayan civilization that spread southwards from Yucatan peninsula through modern Guatemala. This civilization collapsed long before the arrival of Cristobal Columbus, who visited Trujillo in the North-East Honduras in 1502 on his third voyage to the new world.

The country has a rich colonial history, and towns like Gracias, Lempira and Copán Ruinas are the most visited places in western Honduras. Exploring the Mayan ruins in Copán will surely be a highlight of your adventure, as they are the finest in Central America. Gracias, with the highest peak in Honduras, combines virgin cloud forest, dry pine/oak and broadleaf woodland, with a surrounding mosaic of farmland, coffee plantations and patches of woodland. Together they make this region a birding paradise that is also rich in culture.

DEPARTURES

January 31 to February 9, 2017 (option*)
November 30 to December 9, 2017 (option*)

*min. 4 participants are needed to guarantee departure (and max. 6)

BRIEF SUMMARY

Day 1

Arrival in San Pedro Sula and transfer to Lake Yojoa

Day 2

Birding in Los Naranjos archaeological park and freshwater wetlands

Day 3

Birding in Cerro Azul Meambar National Park

Day 4

Birding in Santa Bárbara NP and visit to La Fuente de Vida project

Day 5

Transfer to Gracias and birding around Celaque NP visitors’ centre

Day 6

Birding in search of Honduran Emerald and Ocellated Quail

Day 7

Transfer to Copán and birding along the Copán river

Day 8

Birding in various Mayan archaeological sites

Day 9

Birding in Hacienda San Lucas and Rastrojon

Day 10

Transfer to San Pedro Sula airport

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The Maya ruins of Copán

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 | Arrival in San Pedro Sula and transfer to Lake Yojoa

After picking you up from San Pedro international airport, we drive to beautiful Lake Yojoa, Honduras’ only natural freshwater lake. Species like the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Rufous- breasted Spinetail, and Blue-crowned Motmot are some of the key birds of this area. If time allows, we will go out for our first introduction to the birds of Honduras, hoping to spot a Green-backed Sparrow, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Crimson-collared Tanager and many more.

Day 2 | Birding in Los Naranjos archaeological park and the freshwater wetlands

Visiting Los Naranjos Archaeological Park will give you an insight in the Lenca culture, all the while chasing a host of specialities such as the beautiful Rufous-naped Wren, Rufous- and-white Wren, and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. As we walk along the trails, we will be surrounded by Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendulas.

The freshwater wetlands and the lower hills around Lake Yojoa offer excellent opportunities to spot key species such as the Masked Duck, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Least Bittern, Tody Flycatcher, Ruddy and Grey-breasted Crake, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Pied Grebes and many more aquatic birds.

Day 3 | Birding in Cerro Azul Meambar National Park

We spend all of today birding the luxuriant rainforests of Cerro Azul Meambar where excellent trails, lookouts and towers give us the opportunity to explore the forest, take in the surrounding landscape as well as peer into the forest canopy. We are likely to see some of the most wanted birds in the area, including the rare Keel-billed Motmot, White-throated Thrush, Black-crested Coquette, Mexican Antthrush, Long-billed Starthroat, Stripe-throated Hermit, Montezuma Oropendola, Gartered Trogon, and a whole host of tanagers including Blue-gray Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Yellow-winged Tanager, Common bush-Tanager and Crimson-collared Tanager.

Chestnut-headed and Montezuma Oropendula

Keel-billed Motmot

Day 4 | Birding in Santa Bárbara NP and visit to La Fuente de Vida project

This morning we drive up to Santa Bárbara National Park. We visit the La Fuente de Vida ecotourism project that Beaks and Peaks is supporting. The communities up here are trying to protect a beautfiful parch of forest for the future. They have decided to make the change from exclusive coffee growing to providing sustainable tourism services. They have for example built a series of beautiful trails that offer excellent birdwatching opportunities.

Very early in the morning, we drive up to the community. That should take us about an hour. Upon arrival we enjoy breakfast with one of the local families and after that we start looking for birds such as the Prevost-ground Sparrow, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Resplendent Quetzal, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, White- breasted Hawk, Green-throated Mountain- Gem, Buffy-crowned Woodpatrigth, Slate- colored Solitare, Rusty Sparrow, Collared Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, Scaly-throated Foliage- Gleaner, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Chesnut- capped Brush-Finch, White-naped Brush Finch, Spot-breasted Wren etcaetera.

Day 5 | Transfer to Gracias and birding around Celaque NP visitors’ centre

Gracias was once the first capital of Honduras and is still a very pleasant town in West Honduras, located in the shadow of Honduras’ highest peak — Cerro de las Minas. The area combines virgin cloud forest, dry pine/oak and broadleaf woodland, with a surrounding mosaic of farmland, coffee plantations and patches of woodland, making this region a birding paradise that is also rich in culture. The diversity of habitats support motmots, hummingbirds and toucans amongst many other species. Also, Gracias is home to the Meso-american endemic Bushy-crested Jay, the elusive Ocellated Quail and to the only Honduran endemic so far — the Honduran Emerald! Upon arrival in Gracias, we go out for some afternoon birding in Villa Verde, a community at the foot of the park, and along the lower elevation trails in Celaque National Park itself.

Day 6 | Birding in search of Honduran Emerald and Ocellated Quail

This morning we go in search of the only endemic bird of Honduras so far: the Honduran Emerald! A small population of this gorgeous hummer was discovered here in April 2013. Before, it was thought that it only occurred in hard-to-access Olancho! The region is also home to many other drier-country birds, amongst others the Elegant Trogon, Striped Cuckoo, Turquoise-browed Motmot and many more. Along the Río Grande, we will also see some water birds such as Green Herons, Black Phoebes, different Kingfisher species etc.

In the afternoon we drive up into Celaque National Park to get one of our targets birds: the elusive Ocellated Quail, another bird which only recently was documented here! A hard bird to get, but Celaque NP offers some excellent opportunities, so keep your fingers crossed that you are one of the lucky few to get a glimpse of this shy quail. Other species we may see up hare are the King Vulture, Crested Bobwhite, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Whiskered Screech-Owl and many more.

Honduran Emerald

Ocellated Quail (chick)

Day 7 | Transfer to Copán and birding along the Copán river

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Copán Ruinas offers a grand combination of Mayan history and bird watching. Although not the largest Mayan city, Copán was the principal Mayan cultural center during the 400 years when the city was at the peak of its development, far ahead of other larger Mayan cities in its development of sculpture, astronomy, and hieroglyphic writing.

Copán lies in a fertile valley traversed by the Copán river, an excellent location for our afternoon birding. We are on the lookout for White-fronted Parrots, Green Kingfishers, Rufous-naped Wren, Barn Swallows, Blue-black Grassquits, Squirrel Cuckoos and others.

Day 8 | Birding in various Mayan archaeological sites

Our visit today to the main archaeological sites and Sepulturas offers the perfect combination of history and birding, with good chances to see Red-throated Parakeets, Turquoise-browed Motmots, Elegant Trogons, Rufous-browed Peppershrikes, Rufous-naped Wrens, Streak- headed Woodcreepers, Streak-backed Orioles and many more.

Copán was the cultural and artistic heart of the Mayan empire.

Day 9 | Birding in Hacienda San Lucas and Rastrojon

On your last full day of birding in Honduras, we enjoy an excellent Honduran-with-a- twist lunch in the beautiful Hacienda San Lucas, nestled in the hillls of Copán valley and overlooking the Mayan sites Copán is known for. The pine-oak forest in this Hacienda is home to the stunning Elegant Trogon, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, White-throated Magpie- Jay and Cinnamon Hummingbird. Afterwards we visit another Mayan site called Rastrojon, where we search for the Spot-breasted Wren, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rose-throated Becard, Yellow-throated Euphonia etcaetera. Upon return to the village, we gather for our farewell dinner, enjoying both the company and the food.

Day 10 | Transfer to San pedro Sula airport

Your trip unfortunately has come to an end and we will drive you to San Pedro Sula international airport in time for your flight. We hope you enjoyed the tour and wish you a safe journey home. And who knows… hasta la próxima?!

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