Friday, January 7, 2022

Guatemala - The Central Highlands

Scaled Antpitta

December 10, 2021. By this morning we had moved up into the Central Highlands north of Guatemala City, in Baja Verapaz Department. A short morning visit to Los Ranchitos del Quetzal produced a nice assortment of new species. 

eBird list Los Ranchitos

After breakfast we headed out to the famed Pantin Road, an elevation gradient from cloud forest to thorn forest. The birding along this road was outstanding including the much sought after Belted Flycatcher and Slender Sheartail. 

eBird list Pantin Road 1

eBird list Pantin Road 2

eBird list Pantin Road 3

Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata)

Birding Pantin Road

Fire-star Orchid (Epidendrum radicans)

Oak forest along Pantin Road

Black-headed Nightingale Thrush

Guatemalan Tyrannulet

Slender Sheartail

In the late afternoon we went to a marsh to hunt for rails. A Ruddy Crake was very cooperative. 

eBird list Chicoy

December 11, 2021. Today was the day we would finally get to see first-hand the efforts of John and Sunshine's parents at the Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC). But not before checking out the Resplendent Quetzals feeding in a native avocado tree at our lodge. 

Some of the locals enjoy looking at the Quetzals through our scope

Male Resplendent Quetzal

A Mottled Owl put on a show next to our cabin as we packed up at dawn

We arrived at CCFC in plenty of time for the grand tour before lunch. CCFC was founded a dozen years ago by Rob and Tara Cahill who moved to Guatemala at first to teach. Their mission statement reads, "Alleviating Poverty and Protecting Forests in the Highlands of Guatemala. Education, reforestation, sustainable development, leadership scholarships, and ecological improvements to agriculture." They do this by inviting and educating young people from villages all over Guatemala in a number of programs taught throughout the year. It is quite amazing work they do and I encourage you to visit the website for the Community Cloud Forest Conservation [link] where you can read much more than I have space for here. They really are making an impact in Guatemala. 

Arriving at Finca Rubel Chaim, the site of CCFC

Rob Cahill gives us the grand tour

Outside we walked to a nearby cave where the river is underground for over a kilometer

Vertical panorama of the cave

View out of the cave mouth

Heading back to the CCFC after our tour and a bit of birding

We did some afternoon birding on the property which is surrounded by cloud forest. 

One of several eBird lists for the afternoon

Azure-crowned Hummingbird

Black-throated Green Warbler

December 12, 2021. Our luck finally ran out. After 10 perfect days with no rain, this day didn't want to cooperate. But we were in the cloud forest, so...

We did manage to sneak out in the drizzle early for a few minutes to get Scaled Antpitta and a few other goodies, so there's that. 

eBird list CCFC

But the rain just kept coming and got much harder, to the point where any birding was pretty much a lost cause. So, let's have some other fun!

There's always something going on around the CCFC and I got invited to watch hot chocolate made from scratch. 

Cocoa beans and a stick of cinnamon

Toasting the cocoa beans on the stovetop

The grinding process. The beans go through this grinder three times for drinkable chocolate

A little water is mixed in after the grinding

The ground cocoa and sugar, and then some hot water

Yes, it was outstanding

But we weren't done yet! It's coffee roasting time!

Locally grown unroasted coffee beans

Sunshine takes a turn on the roaster which has to be continuously turned over the wood stove

Getting a light/medium roast took about 30 minutes

The finished beans

A pedal powered grinder!

A little exercise for me and we had ground coffee!

Yes, the coffee was amazingly good too. As the afternoon wore on and the birding day was abandoned, the Cahill family went out wild mushroom hunting. Their bountiful success was part of our delicious dinner thanks to Sunshine's culinary skills. A huge thanks to Rob and Tara for hosting our wonderful visit.

Wild rainforest mushrooms

Our final dinner at CCFC

December 13, 2021. We were up and moving early with one more highlands birding location to visit. We stopped in at Max's, a Cahill family friend. Max owns a large farm with an emphasis on cloud forest habitat protection. It was a lovely morning with lots of good birds. 

eBird list Finca las Nubes

Crimson-collared Tanager

Nightingale Wren

It was all down hill from here as we headed north toward the Caribbean lowlands. Next up, Tikal !!

1 comment:

  1. A very nice tour of some of your activities. Good people you met. Bird life wonderful as well as orchids. What a variety of both.
    Somehow I had seen your coffee making venture before, but great to see your fun again.
    Thank you