Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Birding on the coast of Chiapas

We had a marvelous time at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, then visited our friends in Huehuetenango before catching a ride to San Marcos near the coast, then on to Tapachula and west to Puerto Madero and Puerto Benito.  I enjoyed swimming in the Pacific (almost bath water temperature).  The local transport is 3-wheel motorcycle or bicycle with a seat in front.  Really cool, because you can see everything from your seat.

We took a very interesting motorized and pole-driven canoe ride from Puerto Benito up a shallow mangrove-lined canal and into a huge lake - there were lots of birds, some that came from Canada for the winter, including pelicans.  We were in a bio-reserve and part of the lake was blocked off from boaters.  On one side of the canal poor people live and the other side is the bio-reserve.  The canoe owners also have a cooperative for harvesting shrimp and crab.

I think these two are called Gabiotas.  He makes the red bag under this beak get really big.

We took another canoe ride in the evening because our guide told us there were crocodiles and turtles that you can only see at night.  I don't think he knew what he was talking about, but it was a moonless night and we trusted our lives to two strangers - alone in the dark on the big lake, with machetes - and an owner who was unhappy with us for our negotiating the price down to what we had paid earlier in the day.  The most remarkable part of the trip was the flying fish - several jumped right into the boat and one came within an inch of hitting me in the head!  More pictures of Puerto Madero and Benito...

The next day (December 23) we went to Puerto Arista and stayed at Jose's Camping Cabanas.  There are a few expensive tourist hotels in Puerto Arista, but Jose's wasn't quite as bad - still, it was more like U.S. prices, so we only stayed one night.  I got up at dawn and wandered around the huge yard taking pictures of birds. Later, we rented the canoe, and from the back yard explored the channel through the mangroves.  Gerry paddled while I took pictures of the birds.

This hawk has a bird in one talon. 
More pictures...