Wednesday, August 12, 2015

GIANT Expectations

White-nose Coati at Zoomat
After a long stressful week of intense birding, we ended it all with the Wonder Team, Matt Hale and Francesca Albini.  They worked so well together that I had thought they were married! Their amazing teamwork made the last day very special.  

Matt sets up the scope to begin the search for buntings
Out of the 10 participants scheduled, 4 of us remained.  It was by far the easiest and best day for birding and photography.  I had been looking forward to this day since we arrived.  Why?  Well, I have never birded the Pacific Lowlands before.  And even though there were birds I had already observed, I wanted to see them again!  It was a magical day out for our group.  The heat was oppressive but the birding and crew were some of the finest!

We spot our first White-nosed Coati in the wild.  There are several in the background. 
We headed into the protected Sepultura Reserve which is southwest of Tuxtla Gutierrez.  And then, the show began. White-nosed Coati walked out on the limbs of trees.

White-throated Magpie Jay
At sunrise, we stopped at a great overlook area with a beautiful view of protected rain forest that went as far as the eyes could see.  A gentle breeze blew through the canyon. I also saw dinosaurs, but I'm keeping their gps location secret.  However, I will report some very special bird sightings.....:)

La Sepultura at dawn
Even in the darkness, I could make out something blue and pink flitting around the leafy canopy. Francesca silently moved towards the bird and pointed.  Matt directed the scope towards her aim.  And then.....

The majestic male Rose-bellied Bunting(formerly named Rosita's bunting) made an appearance!  People just dropped their jaws and uttered things like "WHOA!", "That is one beautiful bird.", "#%^!", or "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they're like..." Just kidding on that last part. It was a real make out session with this bunting. 

Rose-bellied Bunting(formerly called the Rosita's Bunting)
I wished this moment would last forever.  Gorgeous weather.  Beautiful views.  Fascinating wildlife. And wonderful people. Yeah, I'd like to write, "Perfect moment."  There.  I just did it:)

But it wasn't just enough to find one group of gorgeous buntings.  We had to find ANOTHER!  Both were in the same area.  As a birder, I can tell you that I've never had a "Bunting Day" like this one.  We went down the slope further and there, from within the forest, a gorgeous Orange-breasted Bunting appeared. 

Orange-breasted Bunting
As a child growing up, these bunting's colors were my personal favorites.  And if I had to choose between the two, I think I like the color scheme better on this one.  But it's a hard call.  Both were very beautiful birds. 

Great Egret
I knew water was near when the group had an unexpected flyover by a Great Egret. It just came out of nowhere.  But it was hanging out somewhere, I imagine, near a hidden stream. 

Bare-throated tiger heron
As we moved further down into the lowlands, I could feel the steamy oppressive heat that made many locals shed their clothes.  My skin had a beautiful shine to it from all the sweat.  I engaged my "water pack". As an Arizonan, I am familiar with this nasty type of heat.  Me and the Gordon filled up our packs with ice in the morning and were refreshed the entire trip.  I'm glad we brought our camel packs with us on this trek.  It felt good observing awesome birds without feeling heat exhaustion. Ice and a water pack. They are the answer to all of your hot travel woes my friends. 

We stopped at a local pond and had the most amazing show of birds and reptiles. 

Ruddy-breasted Seedeater

There were so many awesome birds in one spot that it made it difficult to focus. It was a bird bonanza and we stayed here for a long time soaking up all the incredible that was this pond.  Rose-throated Becards, Ruddy-breasted seedeaters, Groove-billed Ani's, Crested Caracaras, and Northern Jaçanas.  Finally, I got my answer to how one pronounces this last bird's name.  I always pronounced the word in Spanish as Ha-Ka-Na.  But Mr. Matt said it was a Portuguese word and that would mean it was pronounced Ja-Sa-Nah. 

Of course, life would not be complete without a gnatcatcher sighting.  They are another favorite of mine. 

White-lored Gnatcatcher
No such thing as Mallards down there.  I put one into ebird just for fun to see if the bird was rare.  And indeed it was!  So who was the duck-of-the-day?  Well, the Black-bellied whistling duck took their place:) Not a bad duck to see over and over again:)

Black-bellied whistling ducks with Bare-throated tiger heron
We had a couple of friendly local people warn us not to get into the water because there was a family of caiman swimming around the pond.  I would never enter any water near mangrove areas because I learned the hard way in Panama, thanks to Tito, a Saltwater Croc, who decided to interrupt my birding session on the beach.  That's when I learned that there were bigger reptiles out there who wouldn't mind the taste of "gringo". 

Gordon could've taken this caiman on:) 
In time, I knew I would eventually see the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.  They barely make it into Southern Arizona and the ones that do are kept secret.  This owl is considered rare in our state and is protected by law.  I know a couple sites but they are located in several sketchy areas that are several hours away from Tucson.  For now, our sightings of this bird in Chiapas will suffice. 

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Finally today, I'd like to introduce the bird that brought us here on this trek, the Giant Wren.  It is a large and spectacular wren that is endemic(there's that word again) to this region. 

Giant Wrens
Eventually it was time to turn around and go back home.  I didn't want to return.  I wanted to stay in Puerto Arista and see the estuary that had Roseate Spoonbills, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Tricolored Herons, Wood Storks, etc flying over the waterways.  It. Was. Incredible. 

Wood Stork
While not the greatest collage I've put together, here's a Magnificent Frigatebird going after a Great Egret for dinner.  The bird is trying to get the Egret to spit out or vomit whatever it has in its' gullet. They are known as the pirates of the sea. Sorry about writing the word "vomit".  It sounds vile, but the Magnificent Frigatebird loves it:)

Unfortunately, this day had to come to a close, but there were still many adventures ahead for us that we would take on our own.  As the group tours ended, we took to the trails ourselves and came up with some great birds on our last two days.  Stay tuned for more. 


  1. What an amazing variety of birds. The buntings are so beautiful but also enjoyed the magpie jay, heron, egret and frigate bird. Thanks for sharing this adventure.

  2. What an amazing trip. Fantatic to see the 2 Buntings adn the Giant Wren. Awesome!

  3. Fantastic trip. The Coati are so interesting and seeing the Caiman would have been exciting. Awesome bird shots as always.

  4. I am feeling rather jealous of all the beautiful birds you saw there! The Bare-throated Tiger Heron reminds me that dinosaurs and birds are related. :)

  5. The Bunting is simply amazing!
    What a trip!

  6. Great post - much as I am a birder at heart, I would have been happy with the Coati! (we have them in Melbourne zoo, and they are a family favourite - 'crazy tree badgers' as we call them!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne


Thanks for stopping by!