|Julio Acosta (El Salvador Birding) centre, with government representatives either side.|
Filming is always a well organised event, it has to be. Months of research is needed to know when and where to visit and what species you will be able to see and film. This trip was no different. With the help of local scouts we were able to locate a nesting colony of Torogoz, El Salvador's National Bird, in advance of our arrival. These stunning birds form noisy nesting groups in bare, sandy, cliff faces where they excavate tunnels up to 2 m into the wall.
|Torogoz country - seasonally dry forests are a unique landscape|
|Torogoz or Turquoise-browed Mot-mot|
Interlopers hang around the nesting colony to try and take advantage of the work carried out by the mot-mots - here a female Ringed Kingfisher waits her turn. If she can find an abandoned tunnel or oust a bird who’s just finished excavating, she can save herself a lot of work.
|Torogoz keeping a close eye on us.|
The dry forest also holds specialist plant life, including many varieties of cactus.
Back in the lowlands, riverside vegetation is home to Central American Spider Monkeys, Boat-billed Herons and many warblers, including the beautiful Mangrove Warbler, a race of Yellow Warbler.
|Riverside vegetation is rich in life.|
|Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler|
Barra de Santiago in the southwest of the country, is an idealistic resort boasting long sandy beaches, mangrove-lined waterways and small plantations of mixed mango and coconut. This is where wealthy Salvadorans own expensive waterside, second homes and we spent a few days filming American crocodiles and endangered (in El Salvador) Yellow-crowned parrots. Naturally there were many other species to see too.
|Luxury beach side home facing the Pacific Ocean|
Barra de Santiago
|A more rustic riverside property|
|Breakfast straight from the tree!|
Sun warmed mangos were the best
I've ever tasted.
|American Redstart, male|
|Huge flocks of Franklins Gulls |
constantly streamed along the coast.
Away from the beach we headed to the river and into the mangrove swamps.
|Fiddler Crabs can be seen in their hundreds|
|American Pygmy Kingfisher|
|Lineated Woodpecker taking advantage of an open coconut.|
There's an amazing conservation program in place to help save the Yellow-crowned Parrot. Nest boxes are being placed high up in their preferred nesting locations with a very high success rate. These magnificent but very shy birds are starting to increase in numbers again after many years of decline due to habitat loss and poaching.
|Black Spiny-tailed Iguana|
America Crocodiles have also suffered from over hunting and nest destruction and are now protected and actively conserved in El Salvador. Crazy to think these impressive reptiles, that have been around since the dinosaurs, can be nearly wiped out by humans - we are such a destructive species.
After enduring the 40 degree heat of the lowlands, we headed higher to cooler conditions and coffee plantations. These provide important foraging grounds for many migratory species of birds and are home to award winning coffee of the highest standard. Coffee from here can reach $80-100 a kilo!
|An American owned Coffee finca near the town of Juayua|
|Coffee beans at various stages of drying.|
Piles of damp, discarded coffee husks are one of the best places to find the Mexican Burrowing Caecilian Dermorphis mexicanus. These strange 'snake-like' creatures are in fact amphibians and look more like giant earthworms. They do in fact feed primarily on earthworms and can grow quite large. Having only vestigial eyes, they detect prey using small tentacles (the whitish dots near the snout), which are sensitive to movement.
|Mexican Burrowing Caecilian|
|Rufous-naped Wren is a fairly common sighting.|
|Our home for two-nights, El Pital Eco Lodge|
|A harmless little Fischer's Snail-Eating Snake|
|The view at sunset was captivating|
The snake we were after lives at higher altitudes and feeds on frogs, salamanders, lizards and small mammals. Godman's Montane Pit Viper is a specialist of this habitat and is found across the border into southern Guatemala, north to Mexico. Unlike vipers at lower altitudes. it only breeds every other year. It's venom is a potent hemotoxin and a bite would cause painful, local swelling and bruising and potentially some necrosis.
|Our target species - Godman's Montane Pit viper|
|The hills just a short distance away are in Honduras.|
Hopefully I'll have more time to Blog again this year but with new films in the pipeline it's unlikely to be on a regular basis. However, I will have some exiting posts to come.