Guatemala: Los Tarrales ReserveBy
Three generations have lived on and protected that portion of the Atitlan volcano that is now the Los Tarrales Reserve. I’d wanted to visit ever since I first met Andy three years ago; his commitment to this land and its preservation was impressive even in conversation, but just how deep it runs is immediately apparent when you see him in situ.
And what a situs!
And, of course, what birds. Eager as I’d been to get to Tarrales, I was glad, too, that we’d saved this magical place for last. Apart from a day along the coast at Monterrico, we’d spent our entire time at high, cool elevations. Tarrales, which reaches down to 2,300 feet (a bit lower than Tucson), is, at least at its lower elevations, decidedly more tropical than any place else we’d visited, and as a result, our last full day in Guatemala turned up a number of birds we hadn’t encountered elsewhere.
The birding started even before we hopped off the bus, with Cinnamon Hummingbirds and Common Tody-Flycatchers right along the driveway. The feeders just outside the cool, charming dining room hosted everything from Spot-breasted Oriole to Yellow-throated Euphonia; the snazzy adult male in the photo above was joined by a nice selection of immature males and females. Rufous-naped Wrens also enjoyed the fruit and the insects attracted to it.
But we couldn’t tarry all day–there were birds to be seen on the trails, too! After our days in the cooler highlands, it felt warm, and this desert boy noticed the humidity, but there was a light breeze that literally invigorated every time it reached us. I’d made the mistake of wearing shorts and tevas–I never do that in the tropics!–and the biting gnats that were a mild annoyance for the sensibly clad were fair reward for my foolishness.
But who cares? Orange-fronted Parakeets perched, uncharacteristically, in easy view along the trail.
Orange-chinned Parakeets flashed overhead in noisy flocks. A Violaceous Trogon and a couple of Blue-crowned Motmots gave us better views than we’d had all week, and by trailing behind the group, I had the best study ever of Yellow-olive Flycatcher, a bird I’d seen a number of times before and never really had a chance to get to know. And the same with Tropical Pewee: this time I resisted distraction and took the time to really watch one hunting from a low perch nearby.
Distraction was a real temptation, though. While the pewee flycaught in front of us, a cluster of fruit above our heads was drawing White-winged Tanagers and the day’s target bird, Long-tailed Manakins. We started hearing manakins not long after entering the forest, and had our first looks in a huge fruiting fig about twenty minutes in (apparently the place to be at Tarrales, hosting everything from White-throated Thrush to Slate-colored Redstart). Even seen just in bits and snatches, the manakin is a startlingly pretty little bird, but when a male perches out in the open to show off his powder-blue back, red crown, and wiry tail feathers, it’s almost enough to make you look away from a pewee.
Lingering over the manakins, I missed the group’s departure (and thus a bird I’d really wanted to see)–my own fault. We reassembled for lunch at the house, pausing for only a moment inside before carrying our laden plates into the yard.
Tarrales has large, comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, and the food more than held its own against anything else all week. There are Horned Guans on the higher slopes of the volcano–one of these days, I think I’ll spend a week!