Day three began with a quick drive to Chocoyero Reserve a small 41 square kilometer reserve which lies in a small canyon between Montibelli Reserve and Volcan Masaya and is only 28 kilometers from Managua. The forest is dry tropical much like Montibelli Reserves forests but we saw quite a different group of birds here.
Chocoyero Nature Reserve is most famous for being the home of the Chocoyo – a variety of the Pacific Green Parakeet. These beautiful birds make their nests on the cliffs of the canyon, near any water that may trickle down.
Chocoyero Nature Reserve also happens to be the main supplier of water to Managua, supplying twenty percent of the town’s water consumption and about twenty million gallons of water each and every day. The water comes from two waterfalls that flow down the cliffs of the canyon – both nearly twenty-five meters long. The one waterfall, El Brujo, falls, but instead of flowing away in a river it disappears into the earth. The other, Chocoyero, is so called because of all the parakeets that make the walls of the cliff their home (http://www.nicaragua.com/).
When we arrived at Chocoyero, we hardly had gotten out of the bus when an absolutely incredible flurry of bird activity literally enveloped us. We were all pointing out new birds and I would be trying to focus on one bird when two other people would be telling me about birds they had found. One of the first I had a great look at was the striking common-Tody Flycatcher.
A bird I had missed seeing in Montibelli (some in the group had gotten a brief glimpse of one on our last hike) was the Masked Tityra. This is a bird of the canopy so even when one is seen, it is often at quite a distance as it rarely comes down from the canopy. Although the picture below was taken from a fair distance and thus is not the clearest, it is as good as I was able to get with this bird.
Another American migrant that I was thrilled to finally see was the Summer Tanager. I narrowly missed seeing one at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin during the summer of 2015 so was glad to finally be able to see this beautiful bird at Chocoyero.
The funniest moment of that day was when our guide Martin excitedly said “look at the Chocoyo’s!” I was saying “where are they?!” and he kept pointing up in a tree and saying “right there!” I kept searching and searching until I finally focused about 7 feet in fromt of me in a small tree right in front of me. I was so used to looking for birds in the distance that I was not seeing that they were literally right in front of me.
The cliff-side near the waterfall Chocoyero is home to the reserves nearly 600 pairs of nesting Chocoyo’s.
From a purely photographic sense, nothing excites me as much as getting good shots of wrens because they are so hard to focus on due to their quick, jerky movements and tendency to stay in thick undergrowth. So getting this elusive banded wren when it gave me just a quick moment was a great feeling. I really cut me photographic teeth using a high-powered telescopic lens on the warblers that migrate through Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin. This is a mostly frustrating but occasionally very rewarding hobby to say the least. While a lot of people tend to use 600 mm lenses for more stationary photography in more open areas, I relish the challenge of using this magnification in tight, poorly lit situations with small, flighty subjects that stick to heavy foliage.
On the way to Granada, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Laguna de Masaya. We had this breathtaking view with scores of Black Vultures soaring in the thermals that rose up from the lake and hot lava plains below us. I have never seen as many vultures anywhere as I did in Nicaragua and nowhere were they as prevalent as in the thermals over Laguna de Masaya. I found myself wondering
Although it was hard to do, you quickly learned to ignore the beggars and sellers of trinkets because they were simply everywhere. However, I could not resist this cute litte girl who made really neat things out of palm fronds. She really tugged at my heartstrings so I bought a flower and insect that she made. She was actually quite talented, but her beautiful smile coupled with my inadvertent sense of guilt of bearing witness to such a young child having to be out selling things at the market instead of playing or being in school got to me. I brought that insect home with me and can’t help but hope the best for that little girl that so reminded me of my own daughter. Ah, the accident of birth that dooms us all to be what our place of birth so dictates in all too many cases.
Day three ended with our arrival at the Colonial Hotel in the colonial city of Granada for a three night stay. Day four’s blog will cover some of my experiences in Grnada as well as a fantastic boat tour that began in Asese Bay and traveled aroured some of the isleta’s of Lake Nicaraugua.