As we travelled from the western highlands in Guatemala back to Lake Atitlan, we spent a night at Los Tarrales Reserve. For us, it was a pleasant one-night stay to break up a long drive, but for most of the other patrons it was the endpoint of a pilgrimage.
Los Tarrales is one of the best-known places in Central America for bird-watching. Its location in the lowlands, next to a 3500-metre volcano, makes it home to a huge variety of bird species. (Their website lists 340 birds sighted on the property.) On one of the advanced trails, a skilled birder might see close to 100 species in a single day.
While we were there, apparently the place was full of American and English ornithologists. I say apparently, because bird lovers tend to keep different hours than we do. We went down for dinner at 6:30, and had the dining room completely to ourselves. The others had eaten early and retired to their rooms to prepare for an early morning.
How early? Well, we were up for a pre-breakfast walk around the lake and forested area adjacent to the main buildings. With the assistance of one of the guides, we saw (and heard) a variety of birds, including the lovely Blue-Throated Motmot, the Turquoise-Browed Motmot, and the Cinnamon Hummingbird. However, the really serious birders had been up since 3 a.m. to get to the upper reaches of Atitlan Volcano as early as possible, to search for the elusive Horned Guan and other varieties.
Lest you think our hike was some gentle stroll, I hasten to assure you that our trail was sufficiently dense that Andrew got lost, and our guide had to double back to bring him to
the breakfast table safety.