Honduras: Pico Bonito Lodge and Spa
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Day 1: Arrival in Honduras and transfer to Pico Bonito Lodge (2½ hours drive): – After a mid-day/afternoon arrival into San Pedro Sula International Airport, we head east along Honduras’ North Coast, to The Lodge at Pico Bonito, the acclaimed birding/rainforest resort within 270,000 acre Pico Bonito National Park. If needed, we can stop for a snack break along the way, and a late afternoon arrival at The Lodge will afford us time to unpack, refresh and enjoy some birding before dinner. This will give us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the common birds of surrounding area, the lodge grounds and feeders. At dinner, we’ll go over the plan for the week.
Day 2: The Lodge at Pico Bonito, Lovely Coatings – Our first day at Pico Bonito will begin with an early breakfast/orientation on the spacious, front deck of The Lodge’s Itzama Restaurant. Then we will tour the Lodge grounds, spotting numerous bird species that are common in the early hours. A climb to the top of the “Toucan Tower” observation platform, offers a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy that can include heart-stopping views of the coveted Lovely Cotinga.
Throughout the morning we will bird areas of tropical, secondary and gallery forest and plantations areas along the Rio Coloradito. Along this route, diversity is the rule and examples of sightings include Lovely Cotinga, Masked and Black-crowned tityras, Lesson’s, Turquoise-browed and, Tody motmots, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Black-cowled Oriole, Black-headed, Gartered, Collared and Slaty-tailed trogons, Royal Flycatcher, Green, Shining and Red-Legged Honeycreeper, and up to 20 species of hummingbirds including Crowned Woodnymph, Blue-throated Sapphire, Violet Sabrewing, Purple-crowned Fairy, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Brown Violetear and, White-necked Jacobin.
In the afternoon, after lunch and a siesta, we’ll ascend along The Lodge’s loop trail system in search of the more interior forest birds this rain forest paradise has to offer. In addition to the Toucan Tower at the trail’s beginning, this route offers an elevated ridge platform, which overlooks the Rio Coloradito and surrounding forested slopes. We’ll also visit observation Tower #3 along the way, set amidst an area of bird-rich secondary forest and overgrown plantation. White-collared and Red-capped Manakin occur at various locations here and the Grey-headed Piprites may (rarely) be seen as well. Both Keel-billed and Tody Motmot are frequently encountered along this route. Other species here include the Great Curassow, Crested Guan, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Keel-billed Toucan, Emerald Toucanet, Collared Aracari, a host of flycatcher species, including the coveted Royal Flycatcher, and many of the trogons, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, tanagers and oriole species on The Lodge’s 420+ bird list.
Day 3: Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge – Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge is named for the Cuero and Salado Rivers which here meet the ocean, The Refuge comprises over 35,000 acres of rivers, lagoons, mangroves, and forests that are home to diverse wildlife and a variety of birds exceeding 350 species. We’ll meet for an early breakfast and depart for the refuge. Access into this wilderness is via a small motorized train, which takes us along a century old track through bird-rich ranchlands, marshlands and plantation areas, ultimately arriving at the mouth of the Salado River and the Refuge itself. Birding from the train is always fun and exciting, as the conductor is eager to stop and point out species of interest along the way. Depending on season, a variety of raptors, wading birds and edge-habitat species abound along the railway. Once at the Refuge, we will explore the various aquatic and forest habitats from a small, motorized skiff. Our guides and boat handlers are superbly trained spotters and prefer to silence our boat’s motor and quietly paddle in for a better look when something interesting is spotted.
Agami Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Tricolored Heron, Pygmy Kingfisher, Sungrebe, Laughing and Bat falcons, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, and Russet-naped Wood Rail, are but a few potential highlights of a visit to Cuero y Salado. During the right season (Feb. – March), we sometimes have the opportunity to visit an established Boat-billed Heron rookery, consisting of several hundred pairs of these broad billed, wide eyed, bill clacking mangrove inhabitants. Other tropical wildlife commonly seen here include: Mexican Black Howler Monkeys, White-faced Capuchin, Lesser Anteater, Central American Coati, Northern Raccoon, Green Iguana, American Crocodile, Spectacled Caiman, and of course West Indian Manatee.
After lunch at The Lodge we’ll have an afternoon to visit The Lodge’s butterfly farm, or birding the Lodge’s grounds and gardens.
Night Walk: After dinner, we’ll wander around the Lodge’s gardens and plantation areas where Mottled Owl, Vermiculated Screech Owl, Black and White Owl, Great Potoo may be found. A stop by The Lodge’s frog ponds nearly always delights with the sounds and sights of a breeding Red-eyed Tree frog colony there.
Day 4: Rio Aguan Valley and The Endemic Honduran Emerald. We’ll spend this full day of birding in Honduras’ unique dry forest habitat. The target of our search is the beautiful but critically endangered Honduran Emerald which survives only in remaining pockets of tropical dry forest to the south of Pico Bonito National Park. Descending the “rain shadow”, or southern side of the Park, cloud forested peaks and pine studded slopes give way to an arid, almost desert-like plain, once dominated by tropical thorn or dry forest. Although endangered, the Honduran Emerald is considered common within its habitat. As such, regardless of season, our chances of seeing the Honduran Emerald are very good. Our ride into Emerald country can be equally exciting, as a surprising number of bird species inhabit dry forest. Along the way, we’ll also visit localized wet areas within this arid region. These sites can be magnets for wading birds and other species. We’ll go after species such as; Double-striped Thick-knee, Lesser Roadrunner, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Beardless Tyrannulet, White-lored Gnatcatcher, White-throated Magpie-jay, Banded Wren, White-bellied Wren, and Stripe-headed Sparrow, and Salvin’s Emerald among others. We’ll enjoy lunch in the nearby ranching town of Olanchito, and return to The Lodge in time to enjoy a little free time before dinner.
Day 5: Hummingbirds of Rio Santiago – Rio Santiago Nature Resort is a 150 acre, private preserve located 30 kilometers west of The Lodge at Pico Bonito. The secluded, rainforest location and impressive numbers of hummingbird feeders has earned it the name of “hummingbird capital of Honduras”. Throughout most of the year, Santiago’s trails and main garden areas abound with bewildering numbers of some of Honduras’ most well-known hummingbird species. Rufous-tailed, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Brown Violet-ear, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Violet Sabrewing, Crowned Woodnymph, Stripe-throated and Long-billed hermits, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, White-bellied Emerald, and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird are but a few of those species that frequent Santiago’s feeders. Black-crested Coquette can also be seen on Santiago’s main trail. In addition, both the spectacular Keel-billed Motmot and Rufous-tailed Jacamar are frequently seen along with Red-capped and White-collared Manakins along Santiago’s trail system.
Day 6: Snorkeling/Birding Cayos Cochinos Archipelago – After breakfast we depart early for the true tropical island paradise known as “The Cayos Cochinos”. This small, Caribbean archipelago is a group of 15 remote islands located about 9 miles north of the Honduran mainland and due south of the island of Roatan. The entire system of pristine islands and surrounding coral reef is designated as a biological reserve. Birds here can include Yucatan Vireo, White-crowned Pigeon, Brown Booby, Brown Pelican, Caribbean Dove, Bridled Tern, Roseate Tern, Canivet’s Emerald, and others. The Cayos are also home to Honduras’ endemic pink Boa Constrictor (often seen). We’ll return to The Lodge in time to relax before dinner.
Day 7: Lancetilla Botanical Gardens – Set amidst a coastal valley flanked by low, rain-forested hills, The United Fruit Company founded Lancetilla as a station where tropical fruit and wood trees were studied for commercial value. The Gardens were founded in 1925, and some of that work continues. However this diverse tropical treasure, composed of a mosaic of forest and edge habitats, is today best known for its superb birding. Honduras ‘annual Christmas Bird Count is held at Lancetilla, and every December, bird watchers flock to confirm, and add, to the Garden’s growing list of colorful, tropical species. The current bird list reads like a who’s who of tropical birds, and includes Motmots and Manakins, Woodcreepers and Warblers, Woodpeckers, Toucans, Tanagers, and scores of others. Thanks to this diversity; a typical day of birding here could yield: Little Tinamou, Common Black Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Ruddy Crake, White-fronted Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-headed, Collared, and Gartered trogons, Turquoise-browed and Lesson’s motmots, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Great and Barred antshrikes, Long-billed Gnatwren, and a host of other resident and migrant species.
We’ll complete our morning at Lancetilla with lunch in the beach-side town of Tela, and return to The Lodge by late afternoon.
Day 8: Early Departure for San Pedro Sula Airport – We will be up early today and say goodbye to our wonderful lodge and head back to the airport for our flights home.
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