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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Honduras: Pico Bonito Lodge, Lago de Yojoa, and La Tigra

2016 Narrative

In Brief: Our third Honduras tour was again successful with excellent weather and a fine variety of species.  These included 20 hummingbird species including Band-tailed Barbthroat, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Green-breasted Mountain-gem, Brown Violetear, and the endemic Honduran Emerald.  We also had nine species of woodcreepers, including Strong-billed and a heard-only Black-banded at La Tigra National Park.  Other highlights included King Vulture, Great Black and White Hawks, good visuals of Ruddy Crake, Lesser Roadrunner, White-chinned, Great and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts, Keel-billed Motmots, Olivaveous Piculet, Scaled Antpitta (including scope views), Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and Pico Bonito’s signature species the stunning Lovely Cotinga.  Also noteworthy were roosting Vermiculated Screech and Spectacled Owls and a Great Potoo.  Scarcer North American migrant included Golden-winged and Nashville Warblers, and a Black-billed Cuckoo.

In Detail: Our tour began with a late morning arrival at the Tegucigalpa airport.  After lunch we ventured up to Camino Las Moras, near the entrance to La Tigra National Park.  It was a bit breezy and birding in the mountains is always slow in the afternoon, but we saw a few notable species including excellent views of White-eared Hummingbird, Mountain Trogon, Northern (“Guatemalan”) Flicker, Bushy-crested Jay, Rusty Sparrow, and Yellow-faced Grassquit.  Other species noted briefly or seen distantly included White-bellied Wren, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Rufous-collared Thrush, and Black-headed Siskin.  The most notable sighting was a scarce Great Swallow-tailed Swift that flew over us. 

We spent the next full day at La Tigra National Park exploring various trails.  Stopping first near the entrance we noted a pair of Strong-billed Woodcreepers and eventually saw two Ruddy Crakes.  Our first target along the Sundero Las Minas trail was the diminutive and stunning Wine-throated Hummingbird.  The hike was steep but we proceeded slowly, listening to the serenading Slate-colored Solitaires along the entire way.  We eventually arrived at the clearing where the Wine-throated Hummingbirds frequented.  We soon found a stunning adult male and watched it from its perch display its purple-lavender gorget.  Here and elsewhere were several Green-breasted Mountain-gems, another range-limited species.  Other species noted included Mountain Trogon, Emerald Toucanet (heard only), Resplendent Quetzal (perched for scope views), Spotted and Spot-crowned Woodcreepers,  Golden-olive Woodpecker, Tufted and Yellowish Flycatchers, Rufous-browed Wren, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Black and Mountain Thrushes, and Olive and Crescent-chested Warblers. On the way back down we were finally rewarded with good views of Singing Quail.  At lunch in the field we enjoyed a beautiful pair of Blue-crowned Chlorophonias.  Later, on a shorter walk on a trail below we had scope views of the normally secretive Scaled Antpitta.  Amongst the small flock of passerines we encountered we found a few notable North American species.  These included a Golden-winged and a rare (for Honduras) Nashville Warbler (appeared to be nominate eastern race, ruficapilla), and a Philadelphia Vireo.  Late in the day most of the group found a Fulvous Owl and heard a rarely encountered Black-banded Woodcreeper.  We had a delicious dinner at Las Glorias.

The next morning we started at Las Gloriales where we finally got excellent views of Blue-and-white Mockingbird, a pair.  Other species noted included a pair of Golden-hooded Tanagers, a party of Band-backed Wrens, Blue-crowned Motmots, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and a party of Yellow-backed Orioles.  Overhead were a mixture of swifts, including Chestnut-collared and a single Great Swallow-tailed.  At the United Nations Park just above Tegucigalpa we found a single adult male Hepatic Tanager and a Streak-backed Oriole.  Acorn Woodpeckers were numerous.  We did see a Linneated Woodpecker in the hand and eventually found a calling Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.  Late in the morning we departed to the west for Panacam Lodge.  We arrived there late in the afternoon, in time to do a bit of birding.  We noted the specialty of the Lodge, the Keel-billed Motmot, getting even better views the next morning.  Also notable were a party of Yellow-throated Euphonias, and a perched Short-billed Pigeon.  That evening we heard a Mottled Owl. 

We spent the next full day at Panacam Lodge and Lago de Yojoa down below.  This was perhaps our best day in terms of the variety of species.  We spent a good deal of time around the lodge enjoying views of three species of motmots , Collared Trogon, Keel-billed Toucans and Collared Aracaris, Squirrel Cuckoo, Northern Barred Woodcreepers,  three White-throated Thrushes, and a very territorial male Violet Sabrewing.  Walking down the road we literally ‘looked in’ on an adult Gray Hawk sitting on a nest at eye level.  Overhead were a good sized group of 30 migrating Mississippi Kites diving this way and that after bugs.  We searched unsuccessfully on the way down for Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow but did compare pairs of both Masked and Black-crowned Tityras in the same dead tree, presumably both species were looking for appropriate nest cavities.  Also noted at another site was a pair of Bat Falcons.  Around Lago de Yojoa we noted Muscoy Ducks and Limpkins.  Also noted were single Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Rufous-naped Wren, Blue-black Grosbeak (pair), Scrub Euphonia, and an adult male Painted Bunting. Two Gray-breasted Crakes and a Rufous-and-white Wren were heard.    Four Cave Swallows overhead were apparently unusual.  On the way back we saw a Green Kingfisher at Yure Reservoir. 

The next morning we started down the hill early and stopped at a cemetery where we eventually located and got good views of the striking Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow.  Also noted in the area were Red-lored Parrots, Passerini’s Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreepers, and Blue-black Grassquits.  At Cortijo del Lago we had breakfast and afterwards eventually located a Rufous-breasted Spinetail. Two Roadside Hawks were also noted along with a somewhat distant Cooper’s Hawk (rare in Honduras).  A Cinnamon Hummingbird and a Willow Flycatcher were present along with a Common Tody-Flycatcher, Crimson-collared Tanagers, and a pair of Green-backed Sparrows. Then it was back on the road stopping only for lunch where we said our good-byes to Alex.  We arrived at Pico Bonito in the mid-afternoon.  We met our new guide, Elmer, and promptly noted a stunning male Red-capped Manakin in the garden.  Three Scarlet Tanagers this afternoon and daily afterwards were indicative that the spring migration for eastern passerines was on. An Eastern Wood Pewee was also seen and heard. Both species winter in South America.   We did have time to climb the near observation tower where we observed the signature species of Pico Bonito, the Lovely Cotinga.  We had scope views of a pair, the male literally being a glowing blue color. Overhead were at least 300 White-collared Swifts.  Two White-chinned Swifts, a rare and very local Central American species, were also noted.

We spent the entire day at Pico Bonito.  From the lower tower we watched the raptors rise in the mid-morning noting Short-tailed and Zone-tailed Hawks, plus a pair of Great Black Hawks and a pair of stunning White Hawks.  Species noted along the trails included Chestnut-collared, Lineated, and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Violet-headed Hummingbird, White-collared Manakin, Spot-breasted Wren and a male Red-throated Ant-Tanager.  A lucky few even briefly saw a rare Tayra (a large member of the mustelid, or weasel, family) along the river. After lunch Elmer led us to a roosting Great Potoo, and later to a Vermiculated Screech-Owl. 

The next day we visited the Lancitilla Botanical Garden where numerous swifts were passing overhead.  These were mostly Chimney Swifts, but also included a number of Chestnut-collared, close enough to see the actual color of the neck.  A single Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift also passed over and gave the group good views.  The birding for the morning hours was excellent and we found many new species including Olivaceous Piculet (pair), Great Antshrike (pair), Black-headed Trogon, Sepia-capped and Acadian Flycatchers, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Blue-black Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cacique, and both Orange-billed and Black-striped Sparrows.  Late in the morning we headed up to Rio Santiago Lodge where we had a delicious lunch and enjoyed hundreds of hummingbirds visiting the feeders.  These included over 100 White-necked Jacobins and 50 Violet-crowned Woodnymphs, and numerous Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds and Green-breasted Mangos. Eventually all saw the distinctive Band-tailed Barbthroat, and some of us saw a single Brown Violetear, a species that is apparently common here in summer.  A Shining Honeycreeper was visiting the feeders too.  Late in the afternoon two King Vultures flew overhead and later we were led to a roosting Spectacled Owl. 

The next day the rest of us departed well before dawn for the Aguan Valley, a hot and arid valley to the south.  We had both breakfast and lunch at Olanchito.  Our first stop was at a river crossing where two Amazon Kingfishers were well seen along with several Gray-breasted Martins and two Mangrove Swallows.  A couple of Tropical Mockingbirds were also seen and later just before the reserve, a Lesser Roadrunner was ably spotted.  At the reserve itself we located a half dozen Honduran Emeralds, an endemic (only Honduran endemic bird species) and very localized species.  Also noted were Roadside Hawks, Salvin’s Emerald, White-bellied Wren, and White-lored Gnatcatcher.  Cuckoos were numerous.  Nearly all were Yellow-billed but a Black-billed was also carefully noted.

On our final full day we birded Refugio Cuerro y Salido Wildlife Refuge, investigating the waterways with two boats.  Some five Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures were noted overhead along with a Hook-billed Kite.  Notable species recorded included Pale-billed Woodpecker (at a nest hole), American Pygmy Kingfisher, Western Slaty-Antshrike, and Coco Woodcreeper.  Some seven Scarlet Tanagers were noted in the garden at Pico Bonito.

On our last morning we had a final delicious breakfast and watched Black-cowled Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers in the garden.  A few enjoyed a final view of a Lovely Cotinga from the lower tower.

- Jon Dunn

Created: 20 July 2016