After an incredible day birding the Caracol ruins deep in the Chiquibul Rainforest, we made our way back to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Taking advantage of our high clearance vehicle, we drove down a horrible track to an area known as Big Rock Falls – an ideal place to set up camp for the night
|Rio Frio Cave - en-route to Big Rock Falls|
The following morning we rose just before sunrise, broke down camp, and birded the immediate area on foot. A sharp contrast from yesterday’s tropical rainforest, the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve was predominately pine forest (Honduras Pine) with a significant amount of mixed broadleaf forests. As flocks of Mealy Parrots screeched overhead, we walk around some prime open habitat which proved to be quite birdy. Acorn Woodpeckers and Yellow-tailed Orioles were joined by our first Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Baltimore Oriole of the trip, Azure-crowned Hummingbirds zipped by and both Brown and Green Jays called ahead of us in the distance. This area was particularly scrubby yielding a nice variety of warblers and sparrows including Rufous-capped Warblers, Rusty Sparrows and the distinctive call of a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat which was soon followed by a rewarding view. When we got back to the 4x4, we set off for Thousand Foot Falls.
|Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve|
|Thousand Foot Falls|
If you’re thinking it looks a bit taller than a thousand feet, you’re absolutely correct – it actually measures 1,600 ft and is Central America’s tallest waterfall! Although the view is worth the trip alone, we were also here for a specific bird – the Orange-breasted Falcon. We parked ourselves at the overlooked waiting for the falcon but it never showed. We passed some time and birded the surrounding area – it was mid-day, getting hot and birds were inactive. Two Hepatic Tanagers were the most interesting. We headed back to the overlook and asked the gate keeper if he knew when the falcon would be around. We didn’t expect him to know but sure enough, he told us wait 15 minutes. He called it – soon enough we were watching one make several passes across the valley and in front of the waterfall and it was soon followed by a second individual!
The rest of the day was spent driving the gravel roads back to San Ignacio periodically stopping along the way to get out and explore the surrounding area. Arriving back at the main junction in the reserve, we ran into a nice feeding flock consisting of the typical species along with two new trip birds – Plumbeous Vireo and Grace’s Warbler. Interestingly, it’s not that often you get to see a Yellow-throated and Grace’s Warbler in the same tree!
|4x4 came in handy|
Continuing on we made several more stops in broadleaf forested patches picking up a an interesting trio of Plain Xenops, Northern Royal Flycatcher, and Worm-eating Warbler in one flock and several Golden-hooded Tanagers further up the road. Upon arriving in town, we settled down in a hostel for the night and prepared for our trip into Guatemala the following morning.
Once again, sorry for the lack of bird photos – the others in the group focused more on the photography! Some of the next posts will certainly have more bird photos as I start talking about Rio Lagartos and all of the birds of the mangroves.