Monday, 8 April 2019

Guatemala 2019, Part 8: Los Tarrales Natural Reserve

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Thorn forest in the Motagua Valley (January 18-19, 2019)
Part 3: Los Rachitos del Quetzal (January 19-20, 2019)
Part 4: Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes (January 20-21, 2019)
Part 5: Reserva Natural Atitlán (January 21-22, 2019)
Part 6: Volcán San Pedro (January 23, 2019)
Part 7: Cerro Rostra Maya, Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 24, 2019)
Part 8: Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 25, 2019)
Part 9: Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 26-27, 2019)
Part 10: Parque Nacional Tikal (January 28, 2019)
Part 11: El Caoba former airstrip, Tikal former airstrip (January 29, 2019)
Part 12: Parque Nacional Tikal, Uaxactún (January 30, 2019)
Part 13: El Remate and Flores (January 31, 2019)


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January 25, 2019


The rollicking squawks of White-bellied Chachalacas provided a natural alarm clock, signalling the beginning of a new day. Dan and I were excited to have the full day at our disposal, with no time wasted driving to a new location. 

As dawn broke we stationed ourselves near the base of a large flowering tree that had attracted a number of birds. Among the various tanagers, orioles and parakeets were a few new ones for us - Spot-breasted Oriole and Scrub Euphonia. 

Spot-breasted Oriole - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

White-bellied Chachalaca - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

We watched for other species for a while, turning up a few new hummingbird species (Blue-throated Goldentail, Blue-tailed Hummingbird) followed by a hearty breakfast at the main lodge. After wolfing down our food we traced our steps back to where we had hiked during the previous evening, into the forest located down the road from the main lodge buildings. One of the trails encircles a small valley, with enough openings in the vegetation to provide excellent near-eye-level views of many species. A nice selection of birds were found while the hot morning sun was also good for butterflies and lizards.

Banded Peacock Butterfly - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Rainbow Ameiva (Holcosus undulatus) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Rusty-tipped Page - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Sleepy Orange - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

This is Dasymutilla munifica, a species of Velvet Ant that Dan spotted on the trail. The wingless females of this wasp species resemble large, gaudy ants. Velvet Ants are known for their extremely painful stings and are sometimes referred to as cow killers for that reason.

Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla munifica) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Julia Butterfly - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Anole (Anolis) sp. - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Metalmark (Calephelis) sp. - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Among the new birds on our morning walk were our first Northern Bentbills of the trip, as well as a few lekking Long-tailed Manakins. On the way back we spotted a locally rare White-necked Jacobin, capping off an excellent morning of exploration.

White-necked Jacobin - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Some readers may be surprised to hear that White-tailed Deer are in fact quite common throughout Central America, ranging south all the way to Peru. The ones at Los Tarrales are quite tame.

White-tailed Deer - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Cerulean Dancer - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Dan and I had been going pretty hard for the first week of the trip and the five hours of sleep a night was starting to catch up to us. As the lodge at Los Tarrales is located at only 750 masl the temperatures become quite warm during the middle of the day. We decided to (mostly) take it easy for a few hours during the heat of the day, exploring a few areas close to the lodge. New for me were a couple of species that Dan had seen before - Berylline Hummingbird and Spot-breasted Wren. We tried playing the tape again for Rufous-breasted Spinetail but had to settle for only hearing the bird respond once.

Spot-breasted Wren - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

A bunch of bananas had been strung up outside of the main lodge building and at various times of day different species could be seen here. I took a few moments to photograph some of the Yellow-winged Tanagers who frequented the banana bonanza.

Yellow-winged Tanager - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Yellow-winged Tanager - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Yellow-winged Tanager - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

By 3 PM the bird activity had begun to pick up a bit. Dan and I hopped in the pickup truck and headed up a dirt road that led away from the lodge and up the side of the volcano. Perhaps 10 km up this road is a little settlement called Vesubio, home to a few families that farm coffee beans in the area. Vesubio is also one of the most reliable places in the world to search for the range-restricted Azure-rumped Tanager, one of our main bird targets of the trip. We had planned on driving up there the following morning anyways, but decided to scout it out ahead of time during the daylight, given how rough the road was.

White-collared Swifts - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

This turned out to be a wise decision and we needed every inch of clearance that the Toyota Hilux provided. We inched our way up the side of the mountain, eventually reaching the community. We parked the truck and introduced ourselves to one of the guys that came over to say hi, then strolled around while listening for the high pitched call notes of the tanager. Unfortunately we were not in luck, though a Greenish Elaenia and several Emerald-chinned Hummingbirds were new species for both of us.

View point near Vesubio - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

That evening Dan and I set off on foot to a pond only a short walk from the lodge that we had checked several times already, though only in the daylight hours. While the pond was surrounded by bananas, bamboo, and other disturbed vegetation types, we were hoping that with a little luck we could turn up some snakes.

The eyeshine of this Common Opossum lit up in my headlamp's beam during our walk over to the pond.

Common Opossum - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

We circled the pond but despite lots of anuran life, snakes remained out of sight. Most numerous were the Giant Toads; true to their name, several were quite large indeed!

Giant Toad (Rhinella horribilis) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Giant Toad (Rhinella horribilis) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

We also noted more Craugastor loki and Lithobates maculatus, two species that seemed to be common in the disturbed environments.

Craugastor loki - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala


Highland Frog (Lithobates maculatus) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

This frog was also numerous, though I haven't been able to figure out what species it is.

Unidentified frog - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala


Unidentified frog - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

By poking around some discarded boards we uncovered a few more goodies: a Red Forest Skink, Smith's Tropical Night Lizard and Slender Brown Scorpion. 

Red Forest Skink (Scincella assata) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Smith's Tropical Night Lizard (Lepidophyma smithii) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Smith's Tropical Night Lizard (Lepidophyma smithii) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

The genus Centruroides is notorious for having very toxic venom. This species (Centruroides gracilis) is not known to be as dangerous as many of its relatives, though Dan and I decided not to risk it and left it alone.

Slender Brown Scorpion (Centruroides gracilis) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Dan and I headed downhill to a nearby stream, hoping that the water would concentrate snakes. Almost immediately he shouted "Fer-de-Lance!". It was a hefty individual, perhaps five feet in length, which definitely got the blood pumping! Unfortunately the snake did not stick around for long as its hiding spot had been compromised, and it soon slithered off into a crevice underneath the bank.

Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

The creek was difficult to follow so we returned to the crude trail that ran roughly parallel to it. A few minutes later I was thrilled to spot a beautiful Mexican Mouse Opossum only a meter or two away, at eye-level in some bamboo. Awesome!!

Dan and I were pretty excited as this was the first mouse opossum that either of us had seen. These marsupials are as tiny as a mouse, and impossibly cute!

Mexican Mouse Opossum - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

One more snake was in store before we called it a night. My headlamp beam picked up the distinctive banding of another Blunthead Tree Snake, this time an adult, in some waist-level vegetation. We were a bit desensitized to this species after the numerous sightings during the previous evening, but duly photographed the beaut anyways. I love the big bulging eyes and calm disposition of this species.

Blunthead Tree Snake (Imantodes cenchoa) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Blunthead Tree Snake (Imantodes cenchoa) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Thorn forest in the Motagua Valley (January 18-19, 2019)
Part 3: Los Rachitos del Quetzal (January 19-20, 2019)
Part 4: Sierra de Los Cuchumatanes (January 20-21, 2019)
Part 5: Reserva Natural Atitlán (January 21-22, 2019)
Part 6: Volcán San Pedro (January 23, 2019)
Part 7: Cerro Rostra Maya, Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 24, 2019)
Part 8: Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 25, 2019)
Part 9: Los Tarrales Natural Reserve (January 26-27, 2019)
Part 10: Parque Nacional Tikal (January 28, 2019)
Part 11: El Caoba former airstrip, Tikal former airstrip (January 29, 2019)
Part 12: Parque Nacional Tikal, Uaxactún (January 30, 2019)
Part 13: El Remate and Flores (January 31, 2019)

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