Monday, April 1, 2013

Raptors in La Muralla

Swallow-tailed Kite

La Muralla National Park in Olancho, Honduras is one of the lesser-known birding destinations in Honduras, at least if gauged by eBird checklists. Maybe that's because it's far away from the north-south axis of San Pedro Sula / Tegucigalpa, or because there are no mayan ruins nearby, or because there is little tourist infrastructure in the park. The birding itself, however, is as good as any in Honduras, and this place has quickly become one of my favorite birding destinations.

King Vulture

Roselvy and I went there this weekend, and stayed at the rustic visitor center inside the park. We went to bed with a calling Mottled Owl outside, and woke up with the songs of Black-faced Antthrush and Pheasant Cuckoo. Highlight species for us included Black-throated and Unicolored Jays, Scaled Antpitta, Dusky Antbird, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, King Vulture (seen both days), Great Tinamou and Nightingale Wren - to name a few birds that we don't usually see or hear closer to home.

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

When we got there Saturday afternoon, sunny weather made for pleasant birding, and for decent lighting for photos. Sunday however was overcast. We saw some great birds, but practically all raptors I photographed against an off-white sky, not the best lighting conditions for raptor photography. Here goes anyway:

Ornate Hawk-Eagle

Ornate Hawk-Eagle was high on our wish list for the trip, so we were pleased to see this spectacular raptor make an appearance over the open space around the visitor center, right after we had birded the El Pizote trail for nearly six hours. 

Double-toothed Kite

It was soon followed by a very high Double-toothed Kite, and a Short-tailed Hawk.

A little later, our guide Naim Torres spotted this Plumbeous Kite perched on a snag at the edge of a coffee plantation. The bird allowed close approach and would occasionally fly out to catch a dragonfly, and then return to its perch to consume it.

Plumbeous Kite

Elsewhere in the park, we saw two more Plumbeous Kite hunting insects.

Plumbeous Kite

For good measure, a White-breasted Hawk made a brief appearance. Still not its own species, this tropical subspecies of Sharp-shinned Hawk is nonetheless distinctive. 

White-breasted Hawk

Although a solid five and a half hour drive from where we live, we will probably come back soon get a little more of that sweet Honduran Atlantic Slope birding in. (The drive ain't so bad though when you have to stop twice to look at little groups of Swallow-tailed Kites...)

Swallow-tailed Kite

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