This road ended at a mining area and we turned around after a successful morning, heading back to town. Our afternoon would be a fun-filled adventure getting into the Sierra de las Minas properly!
After returning to the valley we took a different approach road into the Sierra de las Minas. This road would go all the way to the top. This mountain range runs east/west with the north side facing the tropical Caribbean and all the moisture that comes with it. The upper reaches of the mountains maintain an extensive cloud forest habitat, with a large amount protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Getting to the top and our camp location for two days was not trivial. The road is good, but VERY steep with slick mud and rocks. Thankfully we met up with John and Sunshine's parents, Rob and Tara, so would have two vehicles. This worked out pretty well as John's Toyota 4X4 pickup ran out of traction with a couple of miles remaining to the summit, but Rob and Tara's Toyota Land Cruiser made short work of most of it (one hill did require a winch assist). But it all turned out well as we got us and our provisions and luggage to the top. Here we would spend the next day and a half doing some serious rainforest birding.
|Orchids along the way|
|The top of the mountain is up there somewhere|
|Winching the Land Cruiser up a particularly nasty slope|
|Susan, John, and I birded our way up for a while|
|The heart of the biosphere reserve in Sierra de las Minas|
Our accommodations for the two nights exceeded expectations considerably. These cabins had been built over 10 years ago, but due to local unrest had gone unused until very recently. They were basic, but considering we were atop a 8,500 foot elevation rainforest mountain in the middle of an untouched wilderness, it was pretty amazing.
|Hooded Grosbeak (close relative of the North American Evening Grosbeak)|
After lunch we started out for another trail walk, but that was quickly sidelined by a pair of Horned Guans not 100 meters along the trail from our cabins. We had talked to the full-time rangers and knew there were guans in the general area, but even the rangers rarely see them. To bump into them so close to camp, and then spend the next hour plus observing the pair - all I can say is WOW!
|The trail we started out on is named for the Horned Guan, but we never expect to see them|
December 9, 2021. Another day in the cloud forest, another day with almost no rain. How could we be so lucky? A morning bird walk with the specific intention of finding the bamboo obligate Maroon-chested Ground Dove turned into a huge success. This is another tough one to find, and to see. They are serious skulkers rarely visible in the thick forest. And as they hang out around limited large stands of bamboo, there aren't many places to look for them. As always, John pulled out his magic wand and produced a pair for us to see. "See" is relative as we got a couple quick fly-by looks on the trail, and the female perched in a nearly impossible location that was just barely visible through a tiny hole in the forest with the scope.
|Maroon-chested Ground Dove (digiscoped)|
All too soon it was time to head back down the mountain. But on the way down we did manage to pick up another target species - Guatemalan Yellow Grosbeak.
|Sunshine, Susan, Bob, and John|
|Looking back up at Sierra de las Minas|
Next up, the Central Highlands!