where we met Olga and her father, Jim. They spoke of the property's history and habitats on the slopes of the volcano; the land lures species such as Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-throated Motmot, Cabanis Tangager, Green-throated Mountain-gem and White-throated Magpie-Jay.
We split into groups, and the first group -- which included me -- climbed into the bed of a small pickup truck. Like sardines in a tin, about 10 of us stood in the bed and tried to maintain our balance as the truck trundled, fish-tailed and spun its wheels on the muddy road up Atitlan volcano. We dismounted a couple times when the mud thwarted the driver's skills, adding to the sense of adventure.
At the beginning of the quetzal reserve, we enjoyed views of the coffee and tea crops.
On the trail, we were surrounded by lush vegetation everywhere. It felt dazzling and overwhelming and breathtaking (and not just because we kept going up-up-up).
Then the clouds rolled in and added an ethereal atmosphere to an already incredible scene.
While in the cloud forest, I didn't see many birds, but that didn't diminish my pleasure or awe. The forest looked like a wonderland, and the birds provided a soundtrack to the sights. I did glimpse a Forest Falcon that had called almost continuously, and I watched a Golden-winged Warbler perform a distraction display across the trail about five feet in front of us.
Back at Casa Oliver, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and a couple hours of relaxed birding on the grounds. I soaked up views of a Cinnamon Hummingbird, Red-legged Honeycreeper (Thanks again, Pete!) and a Green-throated Mountain-gem. The lawn chairs offered a perfect spot to sip the incredible iced tea, give attention to the resident pooches, and watch hummingbirds buzz into the plants below...
before zooming back to the feeders and foliage. Los Andes also stands out as my first encounter with fire ants, which found me during the group photo. Despite that, I easily could spend a few days at the reserve, walking the trails, soaking up the cloud forest and reveling in the location.