3 – 5 April 2014
After our adventures on Cerra Musún, we headed to Granada to enjoy the city for a few days. Granada is one of Nicaragua’s gems, with many historic buildings dating from Spanish Colonial times. Though quite a warm climate (about 95-100F / 35-38C daily), it is a pleasant city to wander around and soak up the architecture as well as great food and culture. We thoroughly enjoyed our down time there, one of the most charming and interesting towns we’ve encountered yet!
Outside of the city, bird-wise, the real highlight in the region is the Nicaraguan Grackle… Yep, a grackle… one that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the more common Great-tailed Grackle. We headed to Lake Nicaragua to try our luck with the grackle. We spent the entire morning staring at grackles trying to figure out who is who.
We’ve redacted a bit of this article as it looks like we made some mis-ID’s on Grackles and do not want to confuse anyone else!
After our Grackle adventure (which in hindsight may not have been terribly successful) we were keen to head to the beach! San Jan del Sur is a popular beach town along the Pacific Coast and we were worried it would be too posh, too overrun with gringos, too expensive, or otherwise off-putting. It is indeed gringo-tastic, but in a cute and enjoyable way and still charming despite the sprawling mansions on the hillsides above.
However, just a few kilometers north is a quiet and beautiful beach called Playa Majagual were we spent two days relaxing, enjoying the amazing ocean, getting a bit of sun, and before the blast-furnace sun hit each morning, enjoying a few thorn-scrub birds along the Pacific Coast. We birded the road into Playa Majagual and found many of the expected thorn-scrub species including Rufous-naped Wren, White-throated Magpie Jay, Streak-backed Oriole, Ferruginous Pgymy-Owl, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Orange-chinned Parakeet, and Steely-vented Hummingbird (a new bird for us; eBird list). We also explored areas around San Jan del Sur and randomly stumbled upon a few good birds. While driving outside of San Juan del Sur we spotted a medium size bird with black and white in the wings fly through a field and thought it was a Southern Lapwing, a species that has been expanding northward. We doubled back around to search for what we thought was a lapwing and found instead two Double-striped Thick-knees and an Upland Sandpiper! As soon as we turned to leave, though, we spotted another bird in the field which was indeed a Southern Lapwing.
If you visit the area, there is a great little place to stay on the beach with rooms and spaces for camping at reasonable rates called Camping Matilda’s.
Our time in Nicaragua was much too brief and we wish that we had had more time. There is so much to explore and many amazing birding destinations that we did not have time to visit. We really wanted to visit Refugio Bartola, located in the Indio Maiz Biosphere Reserve in the eastern lowlands along the Río San Juan, but the Discovery Channel had booked the entire month of April. The birding in Refugio Bartola is supposed to be spectacular, perhaps the best in Nicaragua, and accesses one of the largest Caribbean slope lowland rainforests left in Central America (along with Rio Platano National Park in Honduras, Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Northern Nicaragua, and some very remote parts of Panama, all of which are quite a bit harder to access than Refugio Bartola).