Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Las Guacamayas Ecolodge

Our final days of birding were at Las Guacamayas Ecolodge, just a half hour by road upriver from Chajul. This is the only hotel in the region that offers accommodations with the hopes of attracting people interested in wildlife observation. They offer a boat trip up a small river into the heart of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve as well as a community-owned forest reserve with trails. They are known for having one of Mexico's few remaining Scarlet Macaw populations, which they are trying to augment with captive breeding and artificial nest box programs.

The cabins are nice, the biggest drawback being that most of the guests here are noisy Mexican families on vacation (at least during this pre-Easter weekend).

The highlight of a stay here is the boat trip up the Rio Tzendales.

One of the guides that Steve met in the birding guide class in Palenque was back home now and was our guide and boatman, Celedonio.

The rio Tzendales is a gorgeous, small river that drains from an area dominated by limestone topography. As a result there are many small travertine waterfalls, giving it a lovely character. We saw lots of good birds here, including American Pygmy Kingfisher, Sungrebe, Blue Seedeater (in the bamboo), and Royal Flycatcher.

We thought we had come to the end of our boat ride at the first waterfall, but then Celedonio gunned it at the narrow stream of water pouring off of it, and before we knew it, we were in the next stretch of river. We did this 13 times, but once we had to get out on an islet and watch him do it solo.

Mangrove Swallows on the lower stretch of river.

This damselfly is Amelia's Threadtail, Neoneura amelia.

This is a damselfly in the genus Argia, but it's not a good match any known species.

This darker one is Dusky Dancer, Argia translata.

Here are some Dusky Dancers mating; the males get these prominent stripes on their thorax when mating. Thanks to Bob Behrstock and Dennis Paulson for the identifications.

This dragonfly is a Red-faced Dragonlet, Erythrodiplax fusca.

I understood enough of the Spanish between Celedonio, his son, and his brother-in-law to hear that they were going to catch fish for our lunch. Here is is brother-in-law searching for bait by scooping up some sort of larvae (stone fly?) from the algal mats.

And here is the results of their efforts, including some fish that we got from a passing boat. They all appear to be members of the family Cichlidae, probably being (top to bottom) Vieja intermedium, Vieja argentea, Cichlosoma urophthalmus, and Vieja synspila (thanks to Gavin Bieber for the names).

The beach were they cooked our lunch had some nice butterflies. These are Dark Kite-Swallowtails, Eurytides philolaus.

On the same beach was Salvin's Kite-Swallowtail, Eurytides salvini, apparently very rarely photographed in the wild. Neither Jeff Glassberg's book,,, nor a Google image search come up with anything other than photographs of specimens.

This lilac blooming tree in the pea family was common in the forests here; they were always full of orioles – Baltimore, Orchard, Black-cowled, and Yellow-backed.

A shrubby Lythrium species was common on the islets in the travertine waterfalls.

We also took a walk on the trail through the forest reserve, just a mile or so from the village of Las Guacamayas.

This White Hawk was one of the first birds we saw, perched in the forest mid-story.

A metalmark in the genus Emesis had a deformed right hindwing.

At the very edge of its range here is the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird. In this area there were three singing birds, perched about 30 feet up. The loud song included mimicry of other birds that live in this area. In the background you can hear Mexican Black Howlers, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Barred Antshrike, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar.

After 19 full days of birding in Mexico I tallied 501 species of birds. It's a fantastic area, and I look forward to returning here with Steve and a group of birders next year.


  1. Awesome photo of the Eurytides salvini. Isn't it a wonderful feeling to take a photo of something so poorly documented, and then have the photo turn out that well?

    In the sandy areas where you saw all the puddling activity, did you notice any tiger beetles?

  2. Thanks, Doug. Sure is. At the time I knew only that it was a kite-swallowtail I'd never seen before. Luckily, the ID is very straightforward.

    Never saw a tiger beetle. Butterflies were actually quite low in numbers, as were most insects, surely because of the dry season. I'd love to come back here in June-August, after the rains have started.

  3. re your unidentified Argia, I have seen this species in Belize too, is it perhaps Argia gaumeri?

  4. Thanks for the comment, Phil. I had forgotten about that photo. I had to look up what I knew about it, and I see that several experts I sent it to were puzzled. I don't really know A. gaumeri, and there are few photos of it on the web, so you could be right. But a search on Flickr brings up one photo of a male that is mostly black with just blue rings at the end of each segment.