Wildlife encounters in the coastal wetlands of the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.
Drifting on the slow moving waterways, the sun starts to rise in the early morning dawn. The rich colours in the sky reflecting on the surface of the still waters are perfect for contemplation of the natural wonders of the Pacific Coast. The backwaters of the coastal wetlands near Estación Biológica el Banco are rich hunting grounds for large numbers of great egret who wait patiently for the perfect time to ambush unsuspecting fish below the waters surface.
What better way to start the day at Estación Biológica el Banco than sitting in a boat on the lake. It’s a wonderful place to witness the sun rise over the volcanos of Guatemala. The scene changes constantly as the clouds and the colours shift, made even more special by a rich, chocolatey, Guatemalan coffee!
As dawn really kicks in, the birds come alive, and the great egrets take to flight to return to their daily hunting spots. These huge birds are an impressive sight as they fly past you on the boat. One of the most striking herons of the wetlands, the bare-throated tiger heron stands tall among the floating vegetation on the waters edge. Its booming call can be heard echoing across the landscape.
At the edges of the wetlands the ground is high enough for trees to take root. These little wooded areas are fantastic birdwatching spots. Many are home to great egret heronries. The trees around the wetland also provide perfect roosting spots for Neotropical cormorants. These sea going birds also make their nests and rear their young here.
Northern jacanas are a common sight in the wetlands of the Pacific Coast. The floating vegetation around the edges of lagoons and in ponds are the perfect places for these small waterbirds to walk on top with the leaves with their highly enlarged toes.
Ospreys are migratory visitors to Estación Biológica el Banco. They can often be found resting in trees, or fishing over the lagoons and in the sea close to the beach.
The red-winged blackbird is a common resident of the reed-beds of the Pacific Coast wetlands of Guatemala. Males stand sentinel and make their strange mechanical sounding calls while flashing their red striped wings.
After spending a morning on the water in search of fabulous bird species, what better way to relax than lunch at Estación Biológica el Banco. A fresh chicken and avocado salad, garnished with crunchy walnuts and crispy lettuce. Or alternatively a freshly caught mojarra, a local freshwater fish, caught by the local community of el Banco, served with an avocado and red onion salad, and a baked potato brimming with sour cream and chives, all finished with a squeeze of lime.
As the heat of the day passes and the black volcanic sands cool down, it’s time to release todays hatchling olive ridley turtles. The spectacle of watching hundreds, sometimes thousands, of little turtles make their urgent way to the surf is awe inspiring, and the culmination of lots of dedication by the local community of el Banco to safeguard turtle populations in this region of Guatemala’s Pacific Coast.
As the last few remaining turtles finish their journey to the sea, the sun starts to set over the ocean. Every night a different painting is created – each as inspiring as the last. Then, as the night sets in, adult females start come on to the beach to lay their eggs. They will lay around 80 to 100 eggs before disappearing back into the Pacific Ocean.
Olive ridleys are the most common species of the sea turtles that come to the beach at Estación Biológica el Banco. Although the majority of females arrive between July and September, they can be seen making their way up and down the beach to lay their eggs throughout the year.
The team from Tortugario el Banco, receive the clutches of olive ridley eggs where they will be incubated and released into the Pacific Ocean when they hatch. This long term community led project has been successful at releasing 100’s of thousands of olive ridley hatchlings, and over the last few years the adult population has significantly increased, a great conservation success story.