Sunday, August 18, 2013


Rufous Sabrewing
"Bromance" is what my friend titled my new relationship with a fellow birder.  I wasn't sure what that was but I was thrilled to find another birder on our trip.  Together we planned a day in the nearby Finca Pilar close to the Central Park of Antigua.
An ancient cathedral surrounded by the rain forests around Antigua
His name was Justin and worked at the Earth Lodge.  He is a Scottish guy hanging out in Guatemala for awhile discovering all of the incredible birds around the area. Plus he was learning about the culture and language while doing some work at the lodge.  During my investigation for places to bird, the Earth Lodge came up on my internet search and with it a bird list!!!  And then I began to dream......
This bird is a mouthful to say.....Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush
The owners were great and emailed me back quickly letting me know that one of their employees also birded and would have a better idea about the birds in the area.  When I arrived there, I met Justin and was truly excited to hear about the birds found around his area.  He spoke "bird" and offered to take me to Finca Pilar near Antigua.
Band-tailed Pigeons
The following day we took off.  I brought my water pack as my body was still adjusting to the humidity factor.  We arrived at Finca Pilar and paid the entrance of 50 Quetzal(somewhere around 5 bucks).  I had read about this place on Ebird and noticed that there were hummingbird feeders on the property.  At the time, I didn't realize how rare this would be around Guatemala.
Golden-olive Woodpecker
As we entered through the gate, I noticed powerful looking hummingbirds.  More like hummingbirds on steroids.  Today I'd focus my efforts on a group of birds known as the Sabrewings.  Even the names were exotic sounding......something alien straight out of Star Wars.  The Rufous and Violet Sabrewings were two that came regularly to the feeders.  And they were such brilliantly colored birds with a large and wide flight pattern.  They are large Neotropical Hummingbirds.
Violet Sabrewing
These birds swung widely from one feeder to the other and cleared out the area for a few moments before the Magnificent hummers and gang returned.  Justin, who was familiar with these birds, gave me a heads up on the characters we might find.  I think on this trip I learned about how invaluable it was to have someone who knew the birds from around the area.  It would be one of the few times on our trip that I would go birding with someone who was indeed a birder.
At the hummingbird feeders of Finca Pilar
Justin moved closer to the area and filmed the birds up close.  It was a beautiful place full of wonderful trails and covered hideout areas to observe birds.  This is definitely a place for birders and A MUST VISIT!  The Violet Sabrewing was fast. It was brilliant in the sunlight as its glowing purple colors sped in and out of the covered canopy.  But oddly it wasn't the Violet Sabrewing that attracted my attention.......
In fact, the bird distracted from the other less colorful characters around the area and I had to really pay attention to who was coming in and out of the feeders. And not all of them were on the feeders.....some were going to the flowers.
Green-throated Mountaingem
The Magnificent Hummingbirds dominated the area and were EVERYWHERE!  I found comfort in that experience.  Usually in Southern Arizona, they are much fewer in number.  Common.  But not as numerous.
So I stood in one area for quite a long time and observed the hummingbirds and their habits.  There was so much going on that I had to focus on one bird at a time.  I crossed my fingers and began shooting off pictures.
Azure-crowned Hummingbird
And it was difficult.  I was still brand new to the area.  It was my 3rd day in Guatemala and we were in a new area full of new birds!  Just changing the habitat slightly brought in a whole new crew of characters!

El Mirador(lookout) from Finca Pilar
We trekked to the top of the hill where we could overlook the valley below.  It was such a beautiful and comfortable walk.  There were a lot of birds around the property but they were so difficult to spot in the dark woods.  By the time we'd get our eye on a bird, they'd fly off.  Many of the birds, while brightly colored, blend in very well with their surroundings.
Glasswinged Butterfly
There were lots of butterflies around the area, but this is one of my favorites for its transparent wings.   It's known as the Glasswinged Butterfly(Greta oto).  These insects are a real treat for me as they are quite unique looking.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
I also enjoyed how cactus would grow on trees.  There were a lot of Night-blooming Cereus hanging from limbs.  Here the Golden-fronted Woodpecker eats the fruits(dragonfruit!) off of this plant.
Common Ground Doves were indeed true to their name and quite common in Guatemala. After our trek, we sat down and ID'd using Justin's large but extremely helpful book on Central American birds.  It's organized a bit differently than Sibley's etc, but it's certainly the best book out there for ID questions.  For those of you looking for a guide to use for this trip, I'd highly recommend this book below.....
While it's not the greatest to pack in a tight suitcase because of its massive size, it has great info on habitat and ID questions.  Luckily Justin had a copy of his own to share with me.
Finca Pilar is a fantastic place to bird.  Once we entered the gates, I felt safe to film and record birds with my camera.  Not all places are like this and at times, I would see a life bird and not be able to take a pic of it due to a sketchy area.  With Finca Pilar, there are no worries:)  But like any place, common sense is important.
My real focus for the day was to get shots of the Rufous Sabrewing.  I don't know why but I love the orange tones of this bird.  It was massive as it fed from a variety of flowers found around the property.  Flowers from the genus Heliconia are favorites.  Around the property, you'll discover Banana plants and Birds of Paradise situated in areas with high hummingbird traffic.
Rufous Sabrewing
This is definitely a place I'd like to go back and visit again.  We arrived later in the morning to bird here before the monsoon storms arrived.  Now I may have come earlier but my target birds were the Sabrewings and they enjoy sunlight.  If it got cloudy, the birds disappeared.  The 9-10 AM hours were always the best for sunny conditions.  It was funny how a cloud would darken the sky and the birds would disappear.
By the time we left, the skies had clouded over and it was time to go.  Bring a rain poncho or umbrella during the summer.  My "bromance" with my new friend Justin would have to end as we continued our trek into new and foreign areas.  I'd like to thank Justin for his time while we stayed at Earth Lodge.  It was a great place to hang out with lots of wonderful discoveries.  We made lots of friends who we won't forget anytime soon.  I told Justin that if he ever came up to Tucson, I'd repay the favor and take him around our beautiful desert and bird.  And that's the wonderful thing about birding, it's as much about meeting new people as it is about finding new birds.  More from our trek coming up.......
Earth Lodge overlooking the volcanoes surrounding Antigua
I'm linking with Wild Bird Wednesday.


  1. marvelous hummingbirds! glad you and justin were able to share this experience!

  2. Chris, sounds like an amazing place and I love the pictures, especially the thrush and the rufous sabrewing!

  3. How fascinating that the Sabrewings disappear with the sun. Wonder if that's true of the Sugar/Sun birds in South Africa.

  4. Love the humming birds~
    Greetings from UK~

  5. Chris, what an awesome place for birding. It looks beautiful there and the hummingbirds are awesome. The Sabrewings are cool. So glad you met up with Justin, always nice to bird with someone who knows the area. Wonderful photos and post. Happy Birding!

  6. Wow! That's some Big Day Out!! But why label friendship with a fellow birder as anything?? It just IS! I lost count of the birds I'd like to see here - but I guess I make up for it downunder!!!

  7. Hola Chris!!!. Esto me recuerda a España pero con Colibries.. ja.. Lo de Bromance porqué es broma con romance= a Bromance???.. jiji.. Saluditos. .

  8. WOW - Looks like a fabulous place ....with wonderful birds and butterflies :)

  9. What a beautiful place - so glad you found a birding buddy who was so much help :) The Sabrewings are marvellous and I just love the Glasswinged Butterfly. Wonderful photos Chris :)

  10. Love the hummers and woodpeckers... I have a love for woodpeckers --so seeing your photos made me smile..

    Glad you met a new birding friend there.... That is awesome.

  11. A really nice place to have a holiday, I love the hummingbirds.

  12. That sounds perfect. A new friend to share the experience.

  13. What a contrast to the landscapes of my wordy post! I need to see places like this.

    Cheers - Stewart M.

  14. Widok kolibrów i motylka z przeźroczystymi skrzydełkami to uczta dla moich oczu. Chętnie bym usiadła obok Was, nawet na trawie, i podziwiała widoki. Pozdrawiam.
    View hummingbird and butterfly with transparent wings is a feast for my eyes. I'd love to sit next to you, even on the grass, and admire the views. Yours.

  15. It's not always the most productive situation to go birding with someone else. But it sounds as if you found the ideal companion in Justin. Local knowledge certainly makes a difference when you've travelled all that distance to find birds!

    I've really enjoyed this post, Chris, and the images have captivated my imagination! Thank you!

  16. Sounds like a trip of a lifetime, Chris. Glad it met your expectations and that you found a kindred spirit. Reading your post has been a blast from the past for me. I spent three years on St. Kitts (near Antigua)as Peace Corps teacher. Regret that I didn't do more exploring the countryside as you did.

  17. I have heliconias, banana palms and bird of paradise plants in my garden - but unfortunately NO hummingbirds! (Australia doesn't have them.) Wow! Imagine those flowering plants and those magnificent hummingbirds as well. It sounds like a fantastic place.

  18. What a great place to visit.

  19. Great Hummers!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  20. Sounds like a fabulous trip. I love the hummingbirds.


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