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Monday, October 24, 2011

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua: Birds #27-#34 plus Volcanoes and Monkeys!

Well folks, it's time for the second installment of James's adventures in Nicaragua. He saw some great birds, a great mammal, and some great landscapes, so read on to see what he found!

With an area of over 3,000 square miles, Lake Nicaragua is the nineteenth-largest lake in the world. In the middle of this massive lake is the small island of Ometepe. Leaving from Granada, a painfully slow four-hour ferry ride will put you on the island, where the first thing you see is the massive Concepcion Volcano. However, our hostel (Monkey Island Hostel, the best hostel I have ever stayed at) was on the other side of the island at the foot of Concepcion’s twin, Maderas Volcano.

I bet there's some great birds in the courtyard!

Despite being around 20 miles away from our hostel, the taxi ride took over 2 hours. Ometepe has only one road, and it’s in terrible shape in most places. However, after a surprisingly grueling six-hour trek from Granada, we had finally arrived at our hostel. We woke up the next morning ready for our hike to the top of the extinct Maderas. It’s the smaller of the two on the island, but it’s still a grueling eight-hour hike to the summit of 4,600 feet.

I dunno, doesn't look so far from here.

Ometepe Island is covered in dense rainforest, meaning that the breakfast itself provided me with three lifers. I looked into a tree and found a nice Hoffmann’s Woodpecker hanging out. ::Robert’s Note:: Helping James ID this guy was a nightmare – turns out Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and Hoffmann’s Woodpeckers look exactly the same to me, and we only settled the ID by looking at range maps.

Something about where and where there isn't yellow on the bird...

Our guide then pointed out that hanging out a few branches away was a very nice Red-billed Pigeon.

Way cooler than the pigeons we've got around here!

After finishing our breakfast of eggs and pancakes, I was walking back to my room when I noticed a very impressive Great Kiskadee parked on top of a nearby bush.

Birds and breakfast - a winning combination!

After getting those nice shots, it was time to start the climb. One of the birds that Ometepe is famous for is the massive White-throated Magpie-Jay, or urraca in the native Spanish. For whatever reason they are very common on the island, and this particular one elected to sit still for me. 

::Robert's Note:: Only the second-most envious I was about a bird James
found on the trip... I wonder what the first could be?

The hike continued, and as we gained altitude we got into more farmland, which was apparently nice habitat for this Dusky-capped Flycatcher who wanted to hang out for a little while.

You thought Empids were hard? Try IDing tropical Myiarchus!

The hike gave us magnificent looks at the island and the nearby Concepcion. Unfortunately that meant that I wasn’t always prepared when a bird showed up. That was the case when a beautiful Northern Caracara flew overhead, and the result is a blurry picture that only the savviest of birders could identify. ::Robert’s Note:: I must admit, I had help with this one!

Ooooh, wait! I see it now!

In the midst of photographing all these birds, I heard some loud howling. Our guide pointed out a family of aptly named Golden-mantled Howlers, complete with an absolutely adorable baby.

A howler can shout at over 140 decibels... that's as loud as a jet engine!

After three and a half hours and almost 2 liters of water we arrived at the top of the volcano and were sitting in a cloud. After taking twenty minutes to recuperate, we started the climb back which our guide told us can be even more difficult then the ascent. He described a group of American girls who were so exhausted from the hike that they took eight hours just to get back to the hostel.

At least you'd have a nice view to pass the time.

Thankfully we were able to persevere and make it back in just three. During those three hours I ran into another two new birds. First was the almost impossible to identify Mountain Elaenia. This one took almost a year to successfully identify, and I wouldn’t have had any chance at id’ing it in the field. ::Robert’s Note:: This one was all me, though admittingly I had no idea when James first showed it to me. Experience with flycatchers, and Empidonax flycatchers in particular, made me realize this was a large-bodied, small-headed flycatcher – an Elaenia for sure, and the wing-bars make it a Mountain Elaenia.

::Robert's Note:: I don't want to gloat or anything, but... boo-yah!

The next bird was quite a bit easier to identify, with a pair Groove-billed Anis hanging out in the middle of Ometepe’s so-called “road”. 

Oh, to live in a country where anis are commonplace!

We finally arrived back at our hostel, and after a victory cigar, we headed to sleep, with the beach town of San Juan del Sur next in the Nicaragua itinerary.


  1. One Word: Jealous!

  2. Tell me about it! lol It only gets worse from here.

  3. Lol! Hey, btw, what is the whitish bird with the spoon like bill called? In your site header? I believe I've seen it before, but I have such a hard time remembering names of foreign birds for some reason. lol

  4. It's a Eurasian Spoonbill, something James found while he was in Spain. Regrettably, yet again, I was not present for this amazing bird.

  5. Yeah, That's it! it's such a cool bird! Aw darn, well, you'll just have to make a few trips here soon ;) And I'll have more blog posts to reads! ^_^

  6. I am eagerly anticipating my next big birding trip... just gotta figure out where to go!