The Honduran Emerald is the only endemic species of bird in Honduras. There is a Honduran Emerald Reserve in the Augan Valley where almost everyone who sees a Honduran Emerald sees the bird. It is long why from everywhere a birder might be staying and generally involves spending much of the day on a bus coming and going. Plus it is dry thorn forest, and the temperatures can reach over 100 degrees most days. A few people, however, know about a second population, quite near Panacam Lodge, in the mountains above Santa Cruz near the hydroelectric project. It is much easier to get to, and being higher, mixed pine and oak forest, is much more pleasant to bird. My guide Alex, first found the birds there, and his friend, another Alex, who owns a local restaurant, has located several populations in different areas of forest. We went yesterday and found the Honduran Emerald almost immediately (after a visit to the resident Yellow-tailed Orioles and a nesting White-necked Puffbird). The Emerald is easy to see in the area, and lines of sight are better for photography, but the light in the semi-open forest can be a challenge. I caught this Honduran Emerald yawning (I think). Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode, +1 EV. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 500. Processed in Polarr.
On our way up to La Tigra National Park the other day, we stopped just before the gate to look for, among other things, a Ruddy Crake. There was a little overgrown stream there, just what Crakes like…and typically difficult to see a Crake in. Hence Pieces of Crake. But then you can’t have your Crake and photograph it too…or something like that. Only the last of these shots is critically sharp, and that not by much, but still, you get the idea of Ruddy Crake. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic. (I am again posting this early, as we are off in search of the Honduran Emerald tomorrow early.)
We are off to the mountains of Santa Barbara above Panacam Lodge in Honduras early tomorrow in search of the Ornate Hawk Eagle (and maybe Resplendent Quetzals 🙂 so I am making tomorrow’s Pic for today post early. This is a Snail Kite along the edge of Lake Yojoa, below Panacam Lodge. Lake Yojoa is the largest natural lake in Honduras and major attraction for both birds and vacationing Hondurans. They farm a lot of tilapia in the lake as well. And, evidently, there are a lot of snails, as both Snail Kites and Limpkins are plentiful. I always say wildlife photography (any photography for that matter) is mostly about being in the right place at the right time and ready. I was experimenting with a new focus mode and having some success when this Snail Kite came banking in and snatched the snail from the water. I was ready. The camera was ready. And the rest is told by the image. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode with modifications for birds and wildlife. The focus mode I was using was “lock on Auto Focus (which is what Sony calls “follow focus”) using the small flexible spot”. It works really well. I have the complete sequence of the kite striking the water and flying off with the snail (which I will post when I get home). 1/640th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
This Wine-throated Hummingbird at La Tigra National Park in Honduras made us work for our shots, but it was certainly worth it. It is tiny and gorgeous. The large (by hummingbird standards) wine-colored gorget is often flared and catches the light brilliantly. This male was working a patch of flowering trees down off the trail and we had to bushwhack through raspberry briars, over downed pine trees and all their branches, and through man-high ferns to find a vantage where we could observe and photograph it. Alex, my guide, encouraged me by saying it would be the shot of the trip, and it comes close. Certainly one my favorite birds so far. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 640. Processed in Polarr.
A Singing Quail responded to their calls and came right up to the edge of the trail in La Tigra National Park on my visit with Alex Alvarado and Honduran Birds yesterday. And sang. And sang loudly and with great vigor! It is dark in the cloud-forest at the best of times and a real challenge for photography, but I am pleased with the results. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/50th @ f4 @ ISO 6400. Processed, including some noise control, in Polarr.
We got to Los Gloriales Inn near across the valley from La Tigra National Park in time for some afternoon birding in intermittent rain. My best views ever of Emerald Toucanet! Not ideal lighting, but what a bird. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 1250.
We spent the day yesterday in the Opatoro Highlands, down near the El Salvadoran border in Honduras…searching for mountain specialties…this Mountain Trogon, among them. Certainly a beautiful bird. It took a while for the male to show himself in the open, but patience paid off. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 1250. Processed in Polarr.
In the field dawn to dark tomorrow here in the highlands of Honduras right down along the El Salvador border, so here is an early Pic for today from yesterday at Copan Ruins. Turquoise-browed Motmot delivering a spider to growing chick in a hole between two of the stones of the ancient structure. We watching this pair of Motmots for more than a hour and saw them make 20 or more deliveries to their hungry chicks. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 1250. Processed in Polarr.
A few years ago, efforts were made to reintroduce Scarlet Macaws to the Mayan Ruins at Copan, Honduras. The Macaw was sacred to the Mayans, and figures in the stone works and carvings of the site…and was, during Mayan times, a common bird of the region. It was expatriated many years ago, in the United Fruit era, when changes to the landscape for agriculture drove it out. The reintroduction has been a success, and there are about 20 pairs of Macaws flying free at the Ruins and nesting. There are chicks in the nests. And they have spread out from the Ruins to the surrounding area, so you see Macaws nesting in the hills and mountains around town. We were at the Ruins at feeding time…9 AM sharp, when fresh fruits are put out on feeding platforms along the entry-way to the main ruins. The birds come in close. As you stand near the feeders you have Macaws all around you. The challenge with big bright, hyper-active birds like the Macaws, is to get them in the frame at all, and I found myself resorting to a radical “point and shoot” method. I did not even attempt to frame the birds in the viewfinder or on the LCD, I simply pointed the camera at them and shot off a burst, moving the camera with the birds and hoping that the tracking auto-focus and auto-exposure would take care of the rest. It worked remarkably well…better than I had hoped, and I have some wonderful images to prove it. 🙂 This shot is of two birds contesting the feeding platform and is part of sequence of maybe 30 shots. It is all about color and action! Magnificent Macaws indeed. Sony RX10iv at 290mm. Program mode with birds-in-flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 500. Processed in Polarr. Full frame shot.
This is not the first bird I saw in Honduras this trip, of course. There were flybys on the road and both Black and Turkey Vultures everywhere, blackbirds around the hotel and doves…but this Lesson’s Motmot is the first bird I stopped to photograph in Honduras…just as it was the first bird I photographed in Costa Rica last year. Lesson’s Motmot has to have a high chance of being the first compelling photograph worthy bird in any Central American country you visit…and if the Lesson’s Motmot does not stop you and get your camera up, then you really are just too jaded to be in the tropics anyway! This bird, typically, was sitting on a branch under deep canopy in the semi-darkness, but it was very cooperative, turning on its branch so to give me a view of all sides. That tail is really something. They tell me that the tail feathers are not that way when they first come in…that the bob at the end is a wear pattern, but it is so consistent in Motmots that I, with my limited knowledge of their behavior, can not imagine how it always wears just that perfect way to produce the bob. It was dark in the tropical dry forest where I found this bird, and the exposures are pushing the limits of my Sony’s 1 inch sensor. I hope to find more Lesson’s Motmots in better light before the trip is over. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode with the ISO set to keep shutter speed at 1/500th. 1/500th @ f4 @ ISO 2000. Processed in Polarr.