Thursday, November 13, 2014

First Snow and Dreaming of the Tropics

Today we are getting our first snow for the 2014-15 winter, a somewhat steady fall of medium-wet flakes accumulating in soggy sheets under a dreary gray sky. Fortunately, I've been saving up for this day, and instead of reflecting on the drab, I'm remembering a rainbow - rich green jungle foliage, stunning creamy hibiscus blooms, sweetly yellow pineapple wedges, russet red cacao pods, and wow, the shades of plumage... Turquoise, magenta, gold, chestnut, neon blue, iridescent purple, stark white, scarlet, and every shade between all of them.

Collared Aracari
But where can you find this rainbow? The Lodge at Pico Bonito in La Ceiba, Honduras. I was privileged to be invited on a press trip to this luxury birding destination in early May, and even months later, my life is more colorful for the experience. For five days, it was all birding, all the time, and in just those few days, 25 new lifers joined my list, including wading birds, tropical passerines, toucans, hummingbirds, and more.
  • Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron
  • Boat-Billed Heron
  • Grey Hawk
  • Northern Jacana
  • Red-Billed Pigeon
  • White-Crowned Parrot
  • Mottled Owl
  • Violet Sabrewing
  • White-Necked Jacobin
  • Violet-Crowned Woodnymph
  • Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird
  • Black-Headed Trogon
  • Violaceous Trogon
  • Blue-Crowned Motmot
  • Turquoise-Browed Motmot
  • Collared Aracari
  • Keel-Billed Toucan
  • Social Flycatcher
  • Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher
  • Lovely Cotinga
  • Brown Jay
  • Yellow-Winged Tanager
  • White-Collared Seedeater
  • Montezuma Oropendola
  • Black-Cowled Oriole
Of course, my standards for actually counting lifers are very strict. There were dozens of other birds I saw on the trip without being acutely convinced of the proper identification, and dozens more were already familiar to me. But wow, the diversity and beauty of avifauna in Honduras is phenomenal, and I didn't even have all the opportunities to explore different habitats in the region, and it wasn't even close to the local peak birding season.

Despite being the off season and coping with my inexperience with tropical species, the birding was spectacular - in particular, the hummingbird feeders on all the public buildings of the lodge, including the restaurant, lobby, and connecting boardwalks attracted all manner of flying jewels within just feet of visitors. Feeding stations in the gardens offered snacks to birds as well as other local wildlife, and different birds were nesting in nearby trees.

That much fantastic birding can leave you famished, but you won't be starving for long. Whether you opt for fresh fruit, comfortable pastas or chicken (I highly recommend the chicken cordon bleu), Mesoamerican fusion dishes, or local specialties including fresh tacos and seafood, the restaurant is superb. And if you'd like some liquid libations, the bar is at your service from the moment you arrive and are greeted with a tropical welcome cocktail. And of course, the bedtime truffle waiting back in your cabin is a deliciously decadent way to end any day.

After a full day of activities - snorkeling, hiking, different birding tours, a visit to the Serpentarium and Butterfly Farm, a night hike for owling or looking for all manner of nocturnal natives (I found it very unnerving to get an up close look at how bloody fast a scorpion can be, though the tarantula stayed reassuringly still) - the cabins are the ultimate in restful escapes. From the hammock on the porch (ideal for a cozy nap or thumbing through your field guide while waiting for the afternoon rain to pass) to the comfortable beds and spacious rooms, you have the perfect options for stretching out and rejuvenating for another day's delights. And if your muscles are a wee bit sore from having so much to explore, an in-room massage can always be arranged.

Lodge Entrance - Lobby

Five days was a terrifically long time to be immersed in the tropics of this gorgeous lodge, but it wasn't nearly long enough. There are more tours I want to take, more delicious dishes I want to sample, and of course, always more birds to see. And more tales to come as I revisit these fantastic experiences to escape from Utah's winter doldrums!

For more information about The Lodge at Pico Bonito, see my complete birding destination review!

1 comment:

Töyhtötintti said...

Oh, so many birds I never even heard of them!

If only I would get a lottery win, I would travel around of world to see these fantastic birds!