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HONDURAS

14 February–1 March 2017

Honduras is a true hidden gem for birdwatchers. It holds the highest percentage of forest cover in Central America and possesses a wide range of habitats: arid, thorn-scrub forests, montane cloud forests, vast pine-oak forests and a part of the largest lowland rainforest wilderness in the region. The country is home to nearly 750 species including a good number of Mesoamerican endemics, many of which find their southern range limit in the highlands of western Honduras. Birdfinders is the only European company which offers a trip that has a high probability of seeing the endemic Honduras Emerald and the highly-prized Ocellated Quail, often considered to be one of the top ten birds to see in Central America. This tour combines an excellent mix of highland, wetland, dry forest, rainforest and Mesoamerican endemic birding.

Day 1 We will catch a flight from London to Houston, Texas, where we will spend the night.

Day 2 An early-morning flight to Tegucigalpa will be followed by a three-hour drive to Choluteca for an overnight stay.

Day 3 Starting early we will take a short drive to Cerro Guanacaure, one of the last remaining tracts of Pacific deciduous forest in Honduras. The main water source for Choluteca is a well-protected 1,000 metre high forested mountain where we will search for Pacific-slope species including Long-tailed Manakin, Fan-tailed Warbler, Banded Wren, Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Thicket Tinamou, Pacific Parakeet, Elegant Trogon, Blue Bunting and Plain-capped Starthroat. After lunch we will leave for Danli El Paraiso, where we will stay overnight.

Day 4 Ocellated Quail, a spectacular northern Mesoamerican endemic, will be today’s primary target. The species is still found throughout Honduras but the area we will visit hosts one of the highest concentrations in its entire range and we will walk the forest for a good part of the day, if necessary, in search of it. Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Olive Warbler and Lesser Roadrunner are also found here. We will then depart for the mountains high above Tegucigalpa, where we will spend the next two nights in El Hatillo at a small hotel with a large, shaded coffee plantation and some natural woodland. We must keep looking skyward here for the large Great Swallow-tailed Swift as this is one of the best places in Honduras to find it. The red Coral Tree should be in bloom, attracting various hummingbirds, tanagers, orioles, woodpeckers and jays. Also found here are the raucous and colourful Band-backed Wren and the spectacular Blue-and-white Mockingbird.

Day 5 Today we will visit Honduras’s first official park. Although much of the mountain was originally mined for gold and silver one can hardly see the remains of its historic past. We will traverse the park by starting at one visitor centre, walking an old access road up to the pass and dropping down a trail to the other visitor centre for lunch, after which we will continue our descent to a village where our bus will meet us. The total walking distance is about 3.2 miles with an elevation gain of about 300 metres and with most of the walk being in the shade. Along the way we will look for White-faced Quail-dove, Resplendent Quetzal, Scaled Antpitta, Singing Quail, Tawny-throated Leaftosser and Golden-cheeked Warbler. This is the best place in Honduras to see the northern Mesoamerican endemic Black-throated Jay. There is often a Barred Forest-falcon near the parking lot and it will be our first chance to look for the near Honduran endemic Green-breasted Mountain-gem. A true highlight of the park is the male Wine-throated Hummingbird which has a favourite perch!

Day 6 This morning we will do some birding around the hotel to see if we can spot any more highland specialties: there are almost always Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Slate-throated Redstarts, Orange-billed Nightingale-thrushes and Golden-olive Woodpeckers in the grounds. We may also have the option to explore the lower entrance road to La Tigra. We will have an early lunch then travel for some four hours to our next destination: the southwestern highlands. After settling in to our new hotel for a three-night stay, time permitting we will go birding in the hotel grounds comprising about 200 acres containing pine-oak forests, tilapia ponds and citrus plantations that attract a wide array of species. We will look for Grace’s Warbler, Painted Redstart, Buff-breasted Flycatcher and Black-vented Oriole and today will most likely be our first chance to see Bushy-crested Jay. In the evening we will search for Whiskered Screech-owl, which hunts in the pine-oak woodland.

Day 7 A pre-dawn start will see us heading into the highlands known as Opatoro-Guajiquiro, the only place in Honduras where one can drive to an elevation of over 2,000 metres. The area is very rich in northern Mesoamerican endemics and we will spend two days trying to find the majority of them. Species to be seen today should include Blue-throated Motmot, Black-capped Swallow, Rufous-collared Robin, Mountain Trogon, Rufous-browed Wren, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer and Slate-colored and Brown-backed Solitaires. We will stay until dark to look for Fulvous Owl, another highly-prized Mesoamerican endemic.

Day 8 The same mountain will be our destination today, but we may visit some different sites. The more difficult-to-see species include Highland Guan, Red-faced and Golden-browed Warblers, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Buffy-crowned Wood-partridge and Ruddy Foliage-gleaner. We will also be on the lookout for the rare Maroon-chested Ground-dove.

Day 9 Following some birding in the hotel grounds, perhaps finding new birds including Black-headed Siskin, MacGillivray´s Warbler, Greater Pewee, Azure-crowned Hummingbird and Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, we will set off on the four-hour drive to our next destination: Lake Yojoa. The ‘Lake’ offers the best birding opportunities outside of the La Mosquitia region and harbours an incredible 500 species. Its varied forest habitats and extensive wetlands make this a birder’s mecca. We will spend the next three nights at Hotel El Cortijo which sits right on the lakeshore. Over 210 species have been recorded within the hotel’s grounds and we will have a chance to see Olivaceous Piculet, Ruddy and Grey-breasted Crakes, Snail Kite, Collared Forest-falcon, Tropical Parula, Green-backed Sparrow and Fork-tailed Flycatcher. We will spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the hotel grounds.

Day 10 Apart from checking a couple of favourite haunts of Rufous-breasted Spinetail and Prevost’s Ground-sparrow en route, all day will be spent in Cerro Azul Meambar NP, which contains lush mid-elevation rainforest and is home to a wide variety of tropical species including Black-crested Coquette, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Barred Parakeet, Tody Motmot and Stub-tailed Spadebill. This will be also our first attempt at seeing the prized Keel-billed Motmot. After dinner we will make our way back to the hotel looking for Vermiculated Screech-owl, which inhabits the thick forest undergrowth.

Day 11 We will make an early-morning visit to a nearby private property which is the best place in Honduras to see the otherwise secretive Spotted Rail then visit an archaeological site that contains seasonal flood-forest and marshland which is accessible by an elevated path and boardwalk. Here we will look for Rufous-and-white Wren, White-winged Becard, White-throated Flycatcher and Sungrebe. During the afternoon we will have the option to either go back up the entrance road to Meambar in search of species we may have missed or continue birding in the hotel grounds.

Day 12 After more birding at the lakeshore in the hotel grounds searching for species that may have slipped past us during the previous days, around midday we will set off on the three-hour drive to our next destination: Tela, on the Caribbean coastline. We will spend one night here at a small hotel on a hill that overlooks the city and coast. In the early evening we will go into Lancetilla to do some night birding, looking for Mottled and Black-and-white Owls and Great Potoo.

Day 13 Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, this morning’s birding locality, was founded in the 1920s as a botanical research station; plants were brought here from all around the world and the focus was on cultivating different precious hardwoods and edible fruiting trees. Although the research has all but stopped the site offers some great lowland birding and we will spend time along parts of the entrance road and also on trails in search of Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Royal Flycatcher, Northern Schiffornis, and Black-striped and Orange-billed Sparrows. After lunch we will journey around the towering Nombre de Dios mountain range, which includes Pico Bonito N.P. We will finish our three-hour drive in Olanchito Yoro, where we will stay overnight.

Day 14 Driving for an hour or so further west into the Aguan Valley will bring us to the Honduran Emerald Reserve. This is the only reserve in Honduras set up to protect the country’s only known endemic species. This hummingbird and others have adapted to live in the desert-like environment replete with organpipe and prickly pear cacti, acacias and other xerophytic plants. We will stop along the entrance road, where there is an abundance of food in prime habitat, to first look for the Emerald. Also in the reserve are isolated populations of White-bellied Wrens and White-lored Gnatcatchers. We must be on the lookout for Lesser Ground-cuckoo and Double-striped Thick-knee and keep one eye on the sky seeking a variety of raptors including Plumbeous and Hook-billed Kites, King Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk and the rare Solitary Eagle. We will have an early lunch at a hacienda in a nearby community, after which we will make the long drive around the Nombre de Dios mountain range to finish in the city of San Pedro Sula, where we will spend the last night.

Day 15 There will be a chance to do some early-morning birding in the hotel grounds before we head to the local airport for our flight home, arriving back in London on Day 16.

General Information Daily temperatures generally vary little, with greater variations due to elevation than time of year; for example Tegucigalpa (975m altitude) reaches between 24°C and 29°C during the dry season, the time of our tour, while the coastal lowlands will be a little warmer/more humid at 28°C to 32°C. The tour pace is moderate with generally easy walking, although at altitude extra effort is needed. There are some health requirements which should be referred to your GP. Insects can be a minor problem at some localities and repellents are recommended. No visa is required to visit Honduras but a visa waiver is needed to enter the USA. The tour is run in partnership with Cotinga Tours-Honduras. Please note, this trip starts in Tegucigalpa and finishes in San Pedro Sula.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with main leaders and local guides.


Ocellated Quail

Ocellated Quail
Courtesy Robert Gallardo