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Birds, Coffee & Culture in the Land of the Maya

Guatemala! Clockwise from upper left: Antigua Guatemala, Blue-throated Motmot, Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Cinnamon Hummingbird (Chris Fischer Photography)

Clockwise from upper left: Antigua Guatemala, Blue-throated Motmot, Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Cinnamon Hummingbird.

Guatemala’s Highlands and Lake Atitlan, March 9-18, 2018

Join us next March for a 10-day journey to Guatemala that will include great birding, scenery, food, world-class coffee, and cultural experiences. Along with the best montane birding opportunities in this scenic country, we will take time to experience the wonderful and colorful living culture of the Maya. We will visit Mayan markets, learn a bit about Guatemalan people and their Mayan culture and also visit the world renowned colonial city of Antigua and the picturesque Lake Atitlan (where we will also have the special opportunity to participate in the first ever Guatemala Bird Fair).

Clockwise from upper left: Elegant Euphonia, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-naped Brush Finch, Rose-headed Warbler.

Clockwise from upper left: Elegant Euphonia, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-naped Brush Finch, Rose-headed Warbler.

Guatemala is a fantastic country with a diversity of rich habitats for birds, from montane cloud forest to lowland forest. Led by Chris Fischer, this tour specifically focuses on the highlands of the Chiapas-Guatemala Highlands Endemic Bird Area, where many regionally endemic birds can be found. Our target species will include the Highland Guan, Ocellated Quail, Fulvous Owl, Black-capped Swallow, Black-throated Jay, Bushy-crested Jay, Rufous-browed Wren, Rufous-collared Robin, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Pink-headed Warbler, Azure-rumped Tanager, Bar-winged Oriole, and Black-capped Siskin, among others. There will be an option for those who are physically fit to endure a steep and difficult hike up a volcano in search of the rare but spectacular Horned Guan.

Horned Guan, locally known as "Pavo de Cacho," on Cerro Paquisis, near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

Horned Guan, locally known as “Pavo de Cacho,” on Cerro Paquisis, near Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

Hummingbirds will make an impression with a great diversity of shapes and colors. Some lodges have started using hummingbird feeders, so species that were once quite difficult to find are now much more reliable. These include the Rufous Sabrewing, Slender Sheartail, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Azure-crowned, Blue-tailed, Amethyst-throated, Garnet-throated, Sparkling-tailed, Wine-throated as well as tiny and local Emerald-chinned hummingbirds! We will have a great chance to leisurely observe many of these little gems.

Rufous Sabrewing, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

Rufous Sabrewing feeding on a banana flower at a coffee plantation near San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala.

Part of the focus of this tour will also be to enjoy, study and learn about North American birds in their wintering areas. Guatemala is vital to northern migrants, including many species that summer here in northeast Pennsylvania. Seeing “our” birds in a different context adds immensely to a fuller understanding of their lives and also of how these birds unite people across borders.

Joining this tour will make you a partner in helping international conservation. The National Audubon Society and Asociación Vivamos Mejor, based in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, have teamed up to train Guatemalans to become birding and nature guides. Along with our primary tour leader, we will have their local guiding help throughout this trip, and in turn are helping them make a living while protecting a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Birders who choose to take these tours in order to see and enjoy the natural riches will have a direct economic impact on the local people resulting in preservation of local habitats that maintain a healthy, viable ecotourism industry.

To reserve your place on this tour, contact Chris Fischer at (570) 446-9597 or cfischer@nepaaudubon.org. This tour will be limited to a maximum of 8 participants.

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ITINERARY

DAY 1: Friday, March 9 – WELCOME TO GUATEMALA!

Arrive at the International Airport La Aurora in Guatemala City, where you will be met by your guide upon arrival. Our tour begins with a short 45-minute flight to Flores in the evening. Greeting at Flores airport and transfer to the hotel by hotel shuttle.

Overnight and Dinner at Hotel Isla de Flores. (D)

DAY 2: Saturday, March 10 – YAXHÁ

Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll make our way to the atmospheric lakeside site of Yaxhá, a former ceremonial center and city of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. This is the third-largest archaeological site in Guatemala with more than 500 structures, including about 40 stelae, 13 altars, 9 temple pyramids, 2 Mesoamerican ballcourts, and a network of causeways. Yaxhá is situated within the Maya Biosphere Reserve and is also part of the National Park Yaxhá-Nakúm-Naranjo, which protects lowland rainforest.

This is a terrific location for parrots, with passing flocks easily observed from the top of the temple in the mornings and evenings – including Red-lored, White-fronted, White-crowned, and the less common Mealy parrots. We’ll also be sure to check for raptors resting on top of the nearby trees. Among the possibilities are Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, Plumbeous Kite, as well as many migrant raptors that occur in the area as their wintering grounds.

Overnight and dinner at El Sombrero Ecolodge. (BLD)

DAY 3: Sunday, March 11 – TIKAL NATIONAL PARK

We continue our way to Tikal, the largest excavated archaeological site in Mesoamerica with more than 3,000 structures in an area covering more than 6.2 square miles. Once one of the largest of the Classic Maya cities, Tikal was the first site of the Maya civilization declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. In 1955, the area around Tikal was declared as the Tikal National Park, with the preserved area covering 220 square miles. The park is within is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest Neotropical rainforest north of the Amazon basin.

Temple IV, Kapok Tree (Cieba Tree), Red-lored Parrot. (Chris Fischer Photography)

Clockwise from upper left: Tikal ruins, View from Temple IV, Kapok Tree (Cieba Tree), Red-lored Parrot.

Home to more than 400 species of birds, there’s arguably no other place on earth where you can combine birds with archaeology on this scale! We will have the opportunity to explore the trails inside the jungle and climb temples. As with Yaxhá, ancient structures amidst the forest offer great opportunities to see canopy birds and regional endemics like Ocellated Turkey and Black-throated Shrike-Tanager. Our target bird here will be the rare and magnificent Orange-breasted Falcon.

Orange-breasted Falcon, Tikal, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

Orange-breasted Falcon, Tikal, Guatemala.

In addition to the birds, we should see a variety of wildlife. White-nosed Coaties, Agouties, and Gray Foxes are commonly observed walking around the park grounds, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys and Mexican Black Howler Monkeys in the forest canopy. While rare, it is also possible to see jaguarundis and jaguars!

Overnight at Hotel Jungle Lodge. (BLD)

DAY 4: Monday, March 12 – TIKAL – ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

Our lodge is located just outside the park gate, allowing us an early morning start. Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll continue to explore the ruins of Tikal to cover more of the forest and look for species not seen before.

Afternoon transfer to Flores Airport for the 45-minutes flight back to Guatemala City followed by transfer to Antigua, Guatemala.

Overnight at La Posadita Hotel. (BLD)

Antigua, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala.

DAY 5: Tuesday, March 13 – ANTIGUA GUATEMALA

Antigua Guatemala is the most important and enchanting city of colonial Guatemala. Founded by the Spaniards in 1543, Antigua is now a beautiful blend of ruins, restored colonial buildings, and new buildings in colonial style. It was declared “Monument of America” in 1965.

Today, we’ll start with a half-day walking tour of Antigua (approx. 3-4 hrs). We’ll visit the Central Plaza, surrounded by the antique Cathedral, the Municipal Government Building, and the Palace of the Captains General; colonial churches and monasteries.

In the afternoon, we will visit La Azotea Coffee Farm and Museum, well known in Antigua for its high-quality coffee, long time tradition and commitment to Guatemalan culture. The Coffee Museum exhibits introduce you to the history of coffee in Guatemala and explain the growing and processing of the golden bean.

Overnight at La Posadita Hotel. (BLD)

Mottled Owl, Los Tarrales Reserve, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

Mottled Owl, Los Tarrales Reserve, Guatemala.

Shade-grown coffee at Los Tarrales Reserve (Chris Fischer Photography)

Shade-grown coffee at Los Tarrales Reserve

DAY 6: Wed., March 14 – ANTIGUA – LOS TARRALES

We continue our journey towards Los Tarrales Reserve, a private nature preserve and shade coffee plantation located on the southeastern slope of Atitlán Volcano. At just over 2,000 ft. in elevation, this special location lies in the heart of the Pacific foothills where the lowlands of the Pacific coast meet the western highlands.

With access to a variety of habitats, Los Tarrales has an exceptional bird list. We’ll enjoy watching Orange-chinned Parakeet, Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Rufous-naped Wren, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-throated Euphonia, and Spot-breasted Oriole among others. We’ll also be looking for such species such as Orange-fronted Parakeet, Long-billed Starthroat, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Long-tailed Manakin, Tody Motmot, White-throated Thrush, White-winged Tanager, Blue Seedeater, and Bar-winged Oriole.

In the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to take a tour to observe the traditional process of coffee production. Experts will guide us through the gourmet coffee cycle, starting in the nursery and following these small grains in their process of growth, careful collection and selection. We will discover how the unique characteristics of Guatemala’s climates and terrain combine to create the perfect conditions for growing the best coffee beans. Afterwards, we’ll continue our journey towards Panajachel, one of twelve lakeshore villages surrounding Lake Atitlán.

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos (BLD)

Birds of Lake Atitlan. Clockwise from upper left: Gray-backed Solitaire, Prevost's Ground Sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Slender Sheartail. (Chris Fischer Photography)

Clockwise from upper left: Gray-backed Solitaire, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Slender Sheartail.

DAY 7: Thurs., Mar. 15 – LAKE ATITLÁN – SAN JUAN LA LAGUNA

We’ll travel by boat across the calm waters of Lake Atitlán to visit the fascinating lakeside Mayan village of San Juan La Laguna. Enjoy this bustling indigenous community where weavers work the colorful textiles. We will visit the community project of Rupalaj K´istalin (meaning “Mayan Face” in Mayan Tz’utujil language and referring to the hill overlooking the village), showcasing the daily activities, traditions, culture, handicrafts and art work of the Mayan Tz’utujil culture.

We’ll return to Panajachel, where in the evening we will participate in the welcome dinner kicking off the inaugural Guatemala Bird Fair!

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos. (BLD)

San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

The town of San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala.

DAY 8: Friday, March 16 – GUATEMALA BIRD FAIR

We’ll have a full day to participate in the 2018 Guatemala Bird Fair, with optional activities including your choice of the following sites for a birding day trip (with key bird species noted for each):

  • Corazon del Bosque – Pink-headed Warbler, Yellow-eyed Junco
  • Rey Tepepul – Azure-rumped Tanager, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Resplendant Quetzal
  • La Cascada (San Juan) – Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, Rufous Sabrewing
  • Tzankujil – Elegant Euphonia, Blue-throated Motmot, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow
  • Volcán San Pedro – Horned Guan, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo

Overnight at Hotel Dos Mundos (BLD)

DAY 9: Saturday, March 17 – BIRD FAIR – GUATEMALA CITY

Today you will be able to choose another one of the sites listed above for a birding day trip. Afterwards, we will depart towards to Guatemala City, where you will spend the last night of your visit in a comfortable hotel in the city. The tour officially ends upon arrival at our hotel in Guatemala City.

Overnight and dinner at Hotel las Americas (BLD)

Squirrel at Tzankujil Reserve (Chris Fischer Photography)

Squirrel at Tzankujil Reserve

DAY 10, Sunday, March 18 – GOOD BYE GUATEMALA!

Breakfast at the hotel. The hotel offers a free hotel shuttle for when you need to get to “La Aurora” international airport for your flight home.

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THE DETAILS

PRICE: $2,450 per person

TOUR PRICE INCLUDES

  • Internal flights between Guatemala City and Flores
  • Private transportation for all transfers and excursions, as per itinerary
  • Accommodations on a twin/double basis (single supplement $300)
  • Almost all meals as indicated in the itinerary above: (B)reakfast, (L)unch, (D)inner
  • Local birding, nature and culture guides
  • Entrance fees & permits for all birding and cultural areas visited
  • Drinking water will be available in our vehicle(s) for the duration of the tour

NOT INCLUDED:

  • International airfare to/from Guatemala City
  • Food, alcoholic beverages and services not specified in the itinerary
  • Beverages of any kind during meals
  • Tips for guides, driver, hotel maid, etc.
  • Optional tours
  • Personal expenses

TO RESERVE YOUR PLACE:

Please contact Chris Fischer at (570) 446-9597 or cfischer@nepaaudubon.org. This tour will be limited to a maximum of 8 participants.

Sunset Over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (Chris Fischer Photography)

Sunset Over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

All photographs on this page are the copyright of Chris Fischer Photography and may not be used in any manner without express permission.

PA Migration Bird Count, May 13

Birdwatching

The 2017 Pennsylvania Migration Count will be held on Saturday, May 13, 2016.

The Pennsylvania Migration Count (PAMC) was established to gather annual data on migratory bird populations, and to help answer some fundamental questions regarding their distribution throughout Pennsylvania. PAMC is an annual one-day snapshot of bird populations within our state attempting to answer which species are present, where are they and how many there are? Detecting the changes in population will help give us an early warning of possible declines and it is hoped that steps can be taken toward assisting their future survival. In many ways, the PAMC is similar to the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), with the exception that it is county-based.

Results from the count are compiled across the state and published in Pennsylvania Birds, our state ornithological journal.

Can you join us in covering Wayne County?

It’s a great way to spend International Migratory Bird Day! Birders of all skill levels can help out with the count. Beginning at midnight with the songs of the Whip-poor-wills (if we’re lucky!) and the hooting of the Great Horned Owls, the PAMC is a great way to spend time outside. Whether you tally birds in your backyard, at your feeders, the local little league ballfield, along the river, on a lake, at your camp or spend time hiking through a state park, your observations count. While observations can be made over a 24-hour period, it’s up to you to decide how much time you will contribute.

Submitting Your Observations

In 2017 for the first time all PAMC sightings will be submitted to eBird and summarized using the eBird data only. eBird has specific requirements that are different from our past ways of reporting PAMC results. The eBird goal is to associate the birds you are reporting with habitats on the ground. The main difference is that we are looking to report your specific area checklists rather than your total county list. This means more accounting and keeping track of all birds seen in smaller areas and making separate checklists for each area of effort.

As in the past we want to keep track of where we went birding and how much time was spent. For each birding area a separate checklist should be made. A new checklist should be made when different habitats are encountered, when the area exceeds 5 miles one way, and whenever a new area is entered. For each checklist made the location is recorded and the start time. All birds are counted as before meeting eBird’s criteria of a complete checklist. Each checklist also needs a stop time or length of effort in minutes.

CHECKLIST EXAMPLES

Pinchot State Park in York County consists of the 3 mile long lake with access on both sides. Each side of the lake called Day Use areas should be on a separate checklist as the two sides would exceed the 5 mile limit. If birding both sides of the lake, birds seen on the lake could be in either list.

The John Heinz NWR has two distinct areas defined as hotspots by eBird. One is called the Wetlands and the other is the Impoundment. When birding both areas, a separate checklist should be made as together the areas would exceed 5 miles.

The Allegheny National Forest is a large contiguous forest area on the Allegheny plateau. Much of the remote areas are under birded and under reported to eBird. For those birding on jeep trails or walking trails the reported location can be a GPS coordinate or a road land mark that is preferably near the mid point of each 5 mile linear segment measured one way only.

Before leaving the house you spend 10 minutes counting birds at the feeders. The checklist should have your street name, number of birds of each species, the start time and the duration. If you chose not to use the house address, provide the nearest road intersection or give a street midpoint. Stationary counts such as this should be at least 5 minutes long.

After walking out to Gull Point at Presque Isle a single stop at at one of the Beach 9 or 10 entrances is made. A new checklist is started for that new effort even though the habitat is similar to that at the far end of Gull Point. If multiple stops with the car are made along the beach all of those bird sightings would be part of the new checklist.

While driving between birding stops three crows are seen harassing a red-tailed hawk. An eastern kingbird was also in the same area. At your next stop you record the time, location and numbers of each species for a single, complete checklist. If you wished to also record the multiple sightings of cardinals, starlings and blue jays that also flew across the road at various places in transit, the checklist location should be attempted to be placed at the mid-point of each 5 mile section of the route and a close estimate made of the species seen to make a complete checklist.

The PA Migration Count is part of Global Big Day.

Click here for answers to common questions about using eBird.

AUDUBON ANNOUNCES 117th ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT – A DAY OF NATURE AND ADVENTURE

Winter Cardinal

Northeast PA Audubon Society is asking for volunteers to join the 117th Annual International Christmas Bird Count on Saturday December 17, 2016. Volunteer birders will travel the area beginning at dawn and ending when the last volunteer is finished! This is a wonderful way to take note of the many birds that are here at this time of year. You might get a chance to see late migrating birds if the weather permits. The count was established in 1900, as an alternative to the year end “side hunt”, when hunters would take to the fields to shoot as many birds as possible before sitting down to Christmas Dinner!

Today’s Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes over 70,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,300 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The CBC utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that professional scientists could never accomplish alone. Because birds are an early indicator of environmental threats to habitats, tracking and recording changes in their location are valuable to the understanding of weather patterns and consequently, the changing climate and its affect on our world.

White Mills is the center of the count circle which was established over 25 years ago. During that time volunteers have counted as many as 45 species including waterfowl and wintering hawks. We have seen an increase in Bald Eagles in the area and the occasional Common Loon. Counters travel by car and on foot within designated areas of the 15 mile wide circle.

If you are interested, call Barbara at (570) 253-2364. You don’t have to be an expert birder because we will partner you with those more experienced volunteers. You can also count from your window feeder. If you love nature, birds and adventure this day is made for you!

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