From March 25 - 31, 2017 I birded the central Pacific highlands and the Parque Regional Municipal Todos Santos Cuchumatan in Guatemala. Click on the links below to see some of the great birds I saw thanks to the skills and knowledge of Guatemala-based BIRDING EXPEDITIONS.
NOTE: I was birding first, photographing second (as usual) on this trip, thus the quality of the photos below varies greatly from "very good" to "pretty crappy". In most cases our views of a bird were much better than the photos obtained of it; part of the purpose of this gallery is to show just how many good birds can be seen - if you use a really good locally based birding tour company such as Birding Expeditions.
Sierra de Cuchumatanes is a fascinating isolated high-elevation plateau in far western Guatemala (on the map below it is the gray area at the tip of the white arrow). All of it lies above 9,500 feet, with much of the western area over 11,000 feet. At times I felt as though I was in the puna of Peru, while at other times it seemed like I was in the high pine grasslands of the Davis Mountains of Texas - but at twice the elevation. Goldman's Warbler is a fairly common endemic of this plateau plus the high slopes of a couple of nearby volcanoes close to Chiapas, Mexico. To access the Parque Regional Municipal Todos Santos Cuchumatan you need to have a local Mayan guide. This park is on the western part of the plateau, and during my visit I spent most of the time birding above 11,500 feet - sometimes almost at 12,000 feet.
Rocky grassland admixed with Alpine-like low shrubs and pine woodland, c. 11,000 feet. Some of the areas in this habitat are very reminiscent of areas in the Davis Mountains of western Texas where Montezuma Quail occur, so it is unsurprising that its congener the Ocellated Quail occurs on the plateau. Our guide has seen the quail in these habitats a number of times, but despite much searching we did not find any - however at a location on the edge of the plateau we lucked-in of a pair of Ocellated Quail thanks to the male singing to us!:
The fellow with the red pants is our local guide Matteus - the red pants are traditional dress for men in this Mayan community. Marvellous Melvin is holding the 'scope and astounding Aaron is in the middle:
Rocky open grassland; home to the endemic, isolated wetmorei subspecies of Savannah Sparrow:
The southeastern part of the plateau is around 10,000 feet in elevation, and the flat, short-grass plains recalled areas in the Andes of Peru:
Just about the only place to stay is Unicornio Azul, at 10,100 feet near the southeastern edge of the plateau. This is primarily an equestrian lodge; the building in this photo is the stables: