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The New World tropics harbor the most species-rich ecosystems anywhere in the world whose amazing rainforests begin in southern Mexico and extend well down into South America. The forests of Mexico and Central America alone harbor some 2,000 species and include the dazzling blue Morphos, giant owl’s-eyes, dazzling metalmarks, jewel-like hairstreaks and a seemingly endless variety of skippers.
 
Not long ago Honduras’ butterfly diversity had remained poorly known until Robert and Olivia took it upon themselves to start studying these flying jewels in detail beginning in 2016. The list quickly rose from 861 species to its current state of nearly 1,250 and within the first fourteen months of surveying, they discovered three undescribed species.
This tour focuses on two areas in Honduras: a private property called Bio Parque Paradise located at the species-rich Lake Yojoa basin and an area in the southwestern highlands called Opatoro-Guajiquiro. The trip provides a nice combination of variable habitats and elevations to reveal a large diversity of hairstreaks, brushfoots, skippers and the country’s first endemic species.
 
The trip starts out in the s.w. highlands of La Paz. This area is known for its great bird watching and scenery but is also the site for great butterflies. This is the only area in the country where one can drive to over 7,100 ft. along a ridgeline that extends for nearly twenty miles. During the dry season (March and April) the Mountain Fuchsia (Fuchsia paniculata) shrubs bloom and attract a nice variety of sulphurs, skippers, brushfoots and a special swallowtail. Robert discovered the country’s first endemic butterfly (photo on cover page) there feeding on Mountain Fuchsia in March 2018 and was recently featured in the June 2021 issue of Tropical Lepidoptera.
 
Bio Parque consists of a large shade-grown coffee plantation, gardens and natural forest which covers nearly 300 acres. It has been surveyed intensely for several years and has revealed an incredibly rich suite of species. One group, in particular, the hairstreaks, really stands out. Seventy-nine species (nearly ½ of all lycaenids recorded in Honduras) have been documented there and includes many that were country records. During the dry season large amounts of butterflies congregate in the cooler parts of the coffee plantation and provide wonderful photographic opportunities.
 
This tour will be lead by Robert Gallardo, author of two editions of the Guide to the Birds of Honduras and co-author of the future Guide to the Butterflies of Honduras.
 
Prices based on 6 PAX minimum
Tour Highlights
· Explore tow different regions of Honduras
· See various species of clearwings, swallowtails, firecrackers, and many skippers in the mid-elevations at Bio Parque Paradise and Emerald Valley.
· Explore Lake Yojoa, home to over 500 bird species, surrounded by wetlands and rainforests
· Observe both birds and butterflies with expert guides.
· Help support the Pro Nature Honduras Foundation.
 

Itineraries

Day 1

April 20-(Day 1)-arrival into San Pedro Sula-transfer to Marcala

Participants arrive today into San Pedro Sula. We will begin our 3 ½ hour journey by travelling southward along the main north-south highway before veering west at Siguatepeque. The flat Sula valley will give way to mountain after mountain. We will have dinner en route before reaching Marcala.

Day 2

April 21-(Day 2)-travel to Opatoro-Guajiquiro highlands. All day

After breakfast we will depart for the highlands. Our one hour trip will take us up to the 7,100 ft. ridgeline where we will spend most of the day. After passing farmland and reaching the area where cloud forest begins we will make our first stop. During our time in this area we will focus much attention to the blooming Mountain Fuchsia which attracts a wide variety of skippers, sulphurs and brushfoots. We will, of course, see butterflies not utilizing the fuchsia.
One of the trip highlights will be looking for and seeing Elizabeth’s Firetip, the country’s first endemic. This small genus contains only four species and Elizabeth’s is the only one that has orange margins and a pinkish-purple sheen when observed in good light. We will spend ample time with this beautiful endemic skipper.
We will spend a good part of the day at patches of Fuchsia as different species of butterflies come and go. Another stunner that is frequently seen at these flowers is the Magnificent Swallowtail (Pterourus garamas) which occurs in the highlands of Mexico to Panama.
Other common species we are likely to encounter on the flowers include: Pure-banded Dartwhite (Catastica teutila), Cloud-forest King (Anieta thirza), Mexican Silverspot (Dione moneta), Mexican Longwing (Heliconius hortense), Montane Crescent (Anthanassa sitalces), Urania Skipper (Phocides urania), Many-spotted Ridens (Ridens crison), Todd’s Skipper (Ridens toddi) and the ‘Central American’ Umber Skipper (Poanes melane poa).

Day 3

April 22-(Day 3)-travel to Opatoro-Guajiquiro highlands. All day

Today we return to the Opatoro-Guajiquiro area to continue our search for highland specialties. Along with searching for butterflies along the road we will also explore short side trails to search for species that may not be found on Fuchsia. These may include forest-dwelling skippers, hairstreaks and satyrids. This mountain range has yielded many country records and without a doubt more are yet to be found.
Other species we will be on the lookout for include: Marbled White (Hesperocharis graphites), Frosted Mimic-White (Lieinix nemesis), Mexican Azure (Celastrina [echo] gozora), Donysa Sister (Adelpha donysa), Anna’s Eighty-eight (Diaethria anna), Godman’s Mapwing (Hypanartia godmani), Many-spotted Ridens (Ridens crison), Todd’s Skipper (Ridens toddi), Levona’s Zestusa (Zestusa levona) and Highlands Skipper (Aethilla chiapa).

Day 4

April 23-(Day 4)-morning at travel to Opatoro-Guajiquiro highlands. Continue to Lake Yojoa

Today we leave the hotel packed and return to the highland site on last time. With each visit we increase the chances of getting better views and photographs of the more common species, but also of finding rarer ones as well. Some of the rarer species found there include: Guatemalan Copper (Iophanus pyrrhias), Oceia Hairstreak (Laothus oceia), Clench’s Hairstreak (Ocaria clenchi), Entheus Skipper (Entheus sp.) and Red-headed Firetip (Pyrrhopyge zenodorus).
We will stay until lunchtime then descend the mountain via another dirt road, dropping back to the lowlands then continuing north to our next destination. At Lake Yojoa we will be utilizing the lodging facilities at Cerro Azul Meambar N.P. as a base for our outings during the next three days. The Lake Yojoa area harbors the highest indices of per acre biodiversity anywhere in Honduras. This is due to the close proximity of numerous, distinct habitats.

Day 5

April 24-(Day 5)-Parque Nacional Cerro Azul Meambar

Our lodging facilities are located at the edge of a lush mid-elevation rainforest. There are numerous gardens filled with porterweed as well as trails where we will explore. The porterweed often attract a variety of swallowtails such as the splendid Green-celled Cattleheart (Parides childrenae) and the less common Green-patch Swallowtail (Battus laodamas). A variety of sulphurs and skippers can also be seen at the porterweed. Inside the forest along the trails one can usually find the near-invisible Rusted Clearwing-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta) and true clearwings (ithomiids).

Day 6

April 25-(Day 6)-Bio Parque Paradise

Right after breakfast we leave Meambar N.P. and travel to the n.w. corner of Lake Yojoa. We will spend the next two full days at Bio Parque Paradise searching for many of the wonderful butterflies that inhabit this special place. Whatever factors and conditions are involved, they have converted this property into a butterfly haven, especially for hairstreaks.
Some species can be observed alongside the trails and access roads, but to find many we must walk the inside of the shade coffee plantation. As we carefully maneuver through the plantation we will watch for the slightest of movements. Often times a variety of skippers and metalmarks will get flushed up that were resting on the undersides of leaves, but they often land nearby and allow to be photographed. As the day warms up many species will concentrate under the largest trees.
There are far too many common species to mention, but the most notable hairstreaks include: Imperial Arcas (Arcas imperialis), Mexican Arcas (Arcas cypria), Pearly Hairstreak (Theritas theocritus), Meton Hairstreak (Rekoa meton), Togarna Hairstreak (Arawacus togarna), Barajo Hairstreak (Laothus barajo), Two-toned Groundstreak (Lamprospilus collucia), Shining Groundstreak (Calycopis demonassa), Calus Groundstreak (Calycopis calus), Red-spotted Hairstreak (Tmolus crolinus), Syedra Hairstreak (Strephonota syedra), Black-spot Hairstreak (Parrhasius polibetes), Anderson’s Hairstreak (Iaspis andersoni) and Celmus Hairstreak (Celmia celmus).

Day 7

April 26-(Day 7)-Bio Parque Paradise

On our last full day we return to Bio Parque and continue our search more of the flying gems. We will find some of the species seen yesterday, but we also hope to locate some of the more uncommon or rarer ones. These are also many, but include: Thara Hairstreak (Enos thara), Gossei Hairstreak (Gossenia gossei) Bates’ Hairstreak (Evenus batesii), White-scalloped Hairstreak (Brevianta busa), Blue-spotted Hairstreak (Ocaria arpoxais), Thales Blackstreak (Ocaria thales), Janthodinia Hairstreak (Janthecla janthodinia), Vespasianus Groundstreak (Camissecla vespasianus), Aquamarine Hairstreak (Oenomaus ortygnus), Ochus Hairstreak (Panthiades ochus), Variegated Hairstreak (Michaelus jebus), Norax Hairstreak (Ignata norax) and Calchinia Hairstreak (Nesiostrymon calchinia).

Day 8

April 27-(Day 8)-to San Pedro Sula-departures

This morning after breakfast we will depart Meambar N.P. and make the short drive to the San Pedro Sula airport for international departures.

The prices include the following:
  • Guiding services 
  • Entry fees into private properties, museums & butterfly festival 
  • All planned meals and tips at restaurants
  • Hotel nights on the itinerary 
  • In-country transportation.
The prices do not include the following:
1. International flights.
2. Alcoholic beverages.
3. Phone calls, laundry or other items of a personal nature.
4. Tips at hotels or guides.

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  • Pricing Name Honduras Hairstreaks and Highlands
    Start Thursday May 26, 2022
    End Thursday May 26, 2022
    1 - 15 Pax
     

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The airport is Ramón Villeda Morales International (SAP)-San Pedro Sula
For the main tour please plan your arrival flight into San Pedro Sula no later than 2:00pm. If you are not planning to attend the Copan extension please plan your departure flight from San Pedro Sula no earlier than 12:00pm.
For the Copan extension please plan your departure flight from San Pedro Sula no earlier than 12:00pm.
Assistance can be provided for those needing to arrange a hotel stay in San Pedro Sula upon arrival or before departing.

The local currency is the “Lempira”, named after a legendary Lencan warrior who fought the Spanish until his treasonous demise. The current exchange rate is approximately Lempira 24.5 to U.S. 1 Dollar. Money can be exchanged at the airport upon arrival.

Each client is solely responsible for bringing an ample supply of their personal meds, if taken. On occasion, however, if someone forgets their meds we can often find something nearly identical in local pharmacies. Each client is also recommended to purchase some trip insurance plan. Each client will also be asked to fill out and send both a release of liability and health form. We will be travelling in areas where malaria is uncommon, but known to occur. Each client is therefore responsible to decide if they will take anti-malarial medicine.

Campbell, Jonathan A. 1998. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatan, and Belize. Univ. of Oklahoma Press.

DeVries, Philip. 1987. The Butterflies of Costa Rica and their Natural History. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Fash, William L., E. Wyllys Andrews, and T. Kam Manahan. 2005. “Political Decentralization, Dynastic Collapse, and the Early Postclassic in the Urban Center of Copán, Honduras”. Boulder: Univ. of Press Colorado.

Gallardo, Robert. 2014. Guide to the Birds of Honduras. Mountain Gem Tours. Available in the U.S. through Buteo Books.

Glassberg, Jeffrey. A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America.

Kelly, Joyce. 1996. An archaeological guide to northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Univ. of Oklahoma Press.
Reid, Fiona A. 1997. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and southeast Mexico. New York. Oxford Univ. Press.

Average highs range in the low to mid 80s, however, it can be cool in the evenings and mornings. This is typically a drier time of year but it wouldn't hurt to be prepared for the occasional rain shower. Skies are generally clear, but we have experienced times of fog as weather systems move through the area.