On the lagoon at Bird's Eye View Lodge
Debbie Sturdivant Jordan

Trip Report: Protecting Central American Flyways with Audubon

Trip Report: Protecting Central American Flyways with Audubon

Jul 9, 2020|Holbrook in the FieldBirdingWhere we travel| by Holbrook Travel

We reflect back on a past birding trip to Belize and Guatemala, where Debbie Jordan traveled to learn more about National Audubon Society and its ongoing work in these countries through its International Alliances Program (IAP). During this familiarization trip, she birded and explored these remarkable countries with representatives from Audubon, local NGOs, other travel providers, and the Belize Tourism Board. Debbie witnessed firsthand how IAP’s work has positively affected local communities.

This trip took place in March 2017.

Day 1

I arrived in Belize City and went directly to the Belize Audubon Society, whose building is near the waterfront. I was delighted to be this close to foraging Ruddy Turnstones. Our evening event brought together guides, tourism boards, NGOs, and tour operators/hotels, with presentations regarding how the IAP work has affected many communities, touching around 7,000 people all together! Later, we headed on the Northern Highway for Crooked Tree.

Day 2

We enjoyed an early bird walk on the grounds of the Bird's Eye View Lodge, spotting the Tropical Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal–an uncommon bird for the area–and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. After breakfast we boarded a boat that took us along the lake for a remarkable birding experience. This area boasts 100 species, with its best months being periods with higher water. Later in the day we ventured to St. Herman’s Blue Hole, where we stayed at Jaguar Creek. 

Day 3

Today we stopped to bird along the Hummingbird Highway at the “gra gra” and then continued to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s first jaguar preserve. The super rustic field station is in a great location for walks and birding. We hoped to see one of the 200 jaguars that reside within the 150-square-mile reserve full of tropical forest.

Day 4

Today we headed to Guatemala as we traveled to El Sombrero Ecolodge near Yaxha. The lodge faces Lake Yaxha and is just outside the park with an earthy ambiance. During the afternoon walk at Yaxha we saw several trogons, including my favorite, the Gartered Trogon, and climbed up a temple for a gorgeous sunset to end the day.

Days 5-6

We departed Yaxha and spent the next two days venturing through Tikal. We explored the temples of Tikal, beginning with Temple II where we spotted the nesting Orange-breasted Falcon at eye-level. We came across Ocellated Turkeys, a Black Headed Trogon, and even a Bare-throated Tiger Heron on the way back.

We also travelled to the small town of Flores in Lake Peten Itza. Here we received an authentic lunch and watched the women prepare tortillas. The town is small and quaint, with plenty of shops, a church, a square, and a park on top of the hill. This is a stark contrast to the city of Pasco Caballos, home to over 1,500 residents, where we later arrived. Here we took a 20-minute boat trip downriver to the Estacion Biologica Guacamayas (EBG).  It was an incredible opportunity to experience both the fascinating nature and varying societies within Guatemala.

Days 7-8

At EBG, the food was fantastic and the staff was very welcoming. We got up early to hike to the observation tower to watch the sunrise and hear the forest wake up. Birding continued on the grounds and was followed by a great breakfast on the veranda.

Next was our 12-seater plane charter to the sprawling Guatemala City. We headed about three hours to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, where we would spend the next day exploring the Parque Ecologico Corazon del Bosque.

Here, the Pink-headed Warbler is the target species. Despite their speed, we managed to get a glimpse! We also got a good look at the Brown-backed Solitaire, Red-faced Warbler, Emerald Toucanet, and the Mountain Trogon. After lunch I got the chance to sit in on an IAP panel discussing how to spread the wealth to create economic development.

Days 9-10

Early in the morning, we journeyed to Mirador Rey Tepepul, another bird hot spot. This area is great for birding, however better-suited for more experienced birders due to the difficult terrain. Here we were able to see the Crested Guan and, not too far from there, the Resplendent (Guatemalan) Quetzal.

When we arrived at the airport the next day, I reflected on my extraordinary journey. This was an incredibly educational trip for me, a wonderful group of travelers and the guides were outstanding.

Originally published April 2017; edited July 2020