Thursday, March 13, 2008

Guatemala Day One

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I arrived in Guatemala City in the early afternoon on Saturday, March 1. My friends from INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourism Bureau, were there to meet me and whisked me off to the hotel where all the Encounter participants would be gathering.

Julie, Jeff, Liz, & Lisa were scheduled to arrive by 4 pm so I had time to check in, clean up, and prepare to spring the surprise. Terry Moore from Leica and by Ohio birding pal Jim McCormac were in the hotel courtyard so we sat down for a cold drink and some conversation.

The gang finally arrived after 6 pm. Jim devised a clever ploy to lure Julie up to where I was sitting, obscured by potted palm trees. He told her he had a ferruginous pygmy-owl in a tree in the courtyard. She followed him to the "bird" and peered around the corner to where he was pointing. When she saw it was me, she lost it.

Friends gathered around for hugs, high-fives, and much back-slapping. I was really glad to be there, at last. I have a few photos of the surprise being sprung and even a short video, but they are on my small Canon camera which is missing currently. If I find it, I will share the pix.

For the next couple of hours I enjoyed hearing about the week's experiences, adventures, and birds. We had a late dinner and then hit the hay. The next day's trip to The Peten would be starting at 3:30 am.

Sunday morning we headed to the Guatemala City airport for a flight to Santa Elena, near Flores in The Peten Department of northeastern Guatemala. It's a 30 minute flight, which is much better than an 8-hour drive in a car or an all-night bus ride.
Julie and our dear friend Marco Centeno from Guatemala City on the flight to Santa Elena.

Our group gathered onto shuttle buses and we went for breakfast in Flores, at a hotel overlooking Lago Peten Itza. And it was here that the birding and the Encounter began in earnest. I'll let the images take over from here...

The cathedral in the town of Flores on an island in the middle of Lago Peten Itza.

The birders lined up on the rail overlooking the lake.

A Flores boatman casts a reflection on the smooth water.

Purple gallinules were obvious, along with American coots and common moorhens.

Welcoming us to our first breakfast was a croc made of bread.

After brekky we got back on the buses and drove to our hotel for the next three days, Villa Maya. More birding ensued, including our first jungle species: collared aracaris, though in horrible light.

After a passing rainstorm the warm sun felt good to us birders, and also to this basilisk lizard.

Old friends human and avian were encountered, including this black-and-white warbler.

A rufous-tailed hummingbird returned every few minutes to sip nectar on the hotel's courtyard flowers. I love this bird's over-the-shoulder technique.

Tropical birding enthusiast Jim McCormac used all of his field skills to sneak up on some unusual palm trees for identification purposes.


On March 13, 2008 at 7:21 PM elizabird said...

It was truly fantastic to have you there.

On March 13, 2008 at 9:55 PM Mary said...

This is what I wanted to hear...a nice surprise. Glorious photos!

Lost the lost Canon. Hope you find it :o)

On March 13, 2008 at 10:29 PM Anonymous said...

Great story Bill....gave me love chills. What a lovely surprise for Julie.

.....Praying to St. Anthony, Patron of Lost Things.


On March 14, 2008 at 6:36 AM Jayne said...

How fun! Would love to see the image of Julie's face as she peered around to see that odd bird! :c)

On March 15, 2008 at 2:39 PM JP said...

For a guy who doesn't lose things, you sure lose a lot! ;-)

I enjoyed this series, thanks for sharing.