Lago de Atitlán – Panajachel y Santiago

23-25 January 2017

After several days in Tzununa, I take a lancha (public boat) east to Panajachel to connect with my friend, Pablo Chumil. A Guatemalan bird guide from the Lake Atitlán region, I first met Pablo at the Petén and Cobán Christmas Bird Counts. Now, we meet up to do some birding on his home turf, an area rich with regional endemic species. For our first birding adventure, we visit Finca Santa Victoria just outside of town. Here, we search for the rare and elusive Belted Flycatcher on the dry forested slopes. With a small and limited range on the Pacific slope of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and northwestern El Salvador, there are only a few reliable locations to see this species. After the bird’s fifteen-year absence around Panajachel, Pablo recently rediscovered a population at Finca Santa Victoria. Beyond successfully finding the Belted Flycatcher, we also see our other target species, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird and Slender Sheartail.

Black Thrush (Turdus infuscatus)
Azure-rumped Tanager (Tangara cabanisi)

For our second birding adventure, Pablo and I take a lancha to the south shore for some cloud forest birding. From the dock, we take a tuk-tuk to the Continental Divide high above Santiago Atitlán. With a 360-degree view, we overlook the spectacular volcano-ringed caldera lake to the east and an expansive vista towards the Pacific Ocean. Our day’s main target species include Black Thrush and Azure-rumped Tanager, both uncommon birds with restricted ranges. With Pablo’s keen familiarity of the area and its regional endemics, the Black Thrushes are promptly located gorging on the white berries of a fruiting tree with Northern Emerald-Toucanets. After a steep hike plunging into the humid forest to the west in search of other birds, we eventually return to the exact same white-berried tree. Pablo explains that the Azure-rumped Tanager often shows up to feed at ten o’clock. Sure enough, as the clock strikes ten, the Azure-rumped Tanager appears.

Northern Emerald-Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus)
Blomfild’s Beauty (Smyrna blomfildia) feeding on the sap wells of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

The Subtropical Humid Forest of the Pacific Slope

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