The day began early -- actually, every day began with coffee, tea and pan
(bread) at 4:30 a.m. -- and off we went to Patrocinio Reserve
. The bumpy road to the plantation's main facilities provided welcome glimpses of the abundant green vegetation in the southwestern region of Guatemala.
Clambering off the two buses, we walked to the cafeteria and its large viewing platforms, where we enjoyed views like these. Aaaahhh.
While our hosts prepared breakfast, we soaked up that scenery and a few species. A Violet Sabrewing took my breath away; what an incredible hummingbird! Clay-colored Robins abounded, and Rufous-naped Wrens intrigued me with their plumage. A Blue-gray Tanager looked decorative while perched on a branch, and a Gray Hawk appeared to preside regally from its distant perch.
After eating a delicious and filling breakfast in a beautifully decorated setting...
we split into three smaller groups and set out to explore the trails. I benefitted from the company and skill of one of our Guatemalan guides, Hugo Enriquez (far left); Jessie Barry (tan shirt), who writes book reviews for WildBird and now works at Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library
; and Ben Lizdas (green jacket), a seasoned field trip leader.
The trail led us through coffee plants, where Jessie and I sampled coffee cherries. Ick. The outer skin takes a while to chew, too. The hanging bridge proved much more fun albeit in a slippery way.
While enjoying looks at Yellow-winged Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper (three bright males!), Masked Tityra, Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture, I also enjoyed peering at the colorful bugs.
My favorite birds of the morning, aside from Red-legged Honeycreeper, included Rose-throated Becard -- male and female -- and White-winged Tanager. Hugo traded calls with the male becard for many minutes before we finally glimpsed him, and the bright red color on the tanager made me envious (my hair never will match that shade of red).
After seeing a perched Laughing Falcon on the other side of a gorge, we enjoyed this view...
before trekking back to the cafeteria amid light drizzle. We came across a stream of leafcutter ants, which combined with another stream to create a river of ants carrying small, bright-green and red leaf bits. What an interesting spectacle.
Back at the cafeteria, we enjoyed another tasty meal while chatting about the morning's sights. Some of the group ventured into the drizzle for more birding on the observation tower, while many of us remained under cover.
The birding didn't end when we reboarded the buses. From the back of one vehicle, I could hear birders in the front asking the driver to stop so they could get better looks at this or that species. Those of us in the back briefly spied the Blue-crowned Motmot perched in a tree near the road -- very cool bird.
Sitting in the back of the bus can lead to amusing moments. We heard someone in the front ask "Can I sit on your lap?" while trying to get a better look at a bird. Needless to say, we chuckled.
Our first day of birding with the new Nikon EDG binocular ended at the hotel with a discussion about the model's development and a dinner accompanied by a mariachi band. The highlight: Another restaurant guest, a woman, spontaneously joined the band and sang a few tunes. Such a delightful finish.