John Hits 700 sp. milestone for Guatemala

John Cahill of Xikanel finds Southern Lapwing, his 700th species for Guatemala.

At 4 o’clock, Friday afternoon, John Cahill and Michelle Tapasco encountered a Southern Lapwing. As they were scouting a route at Laguna Chichoj for the October Big Day, John spotted the contrasting plumage of the Lapwing in a field clear on the other side of the Lake. After snapping a quick ID shot, they notified the Pajareros de Verapaz local birding group, and within the hour five of the regions top birders showed up to marvel at the spectacle.

To date John has now observed, 92% of the country’s total bird species.

From all of us at Xikanel, we would like to congratulate John on reaching species number 700 for Guatemala! This is a huge accomplishment, especially given that there are 762 species recorded in the country. Meaning that to date John has now observed, nearly 92% of the country’s total bird species.

The Southern Lapwing, is a rare species for Guatemala, being at the northern boundary of its range. Most range maps show this species only as far north as Costa Rica or southern Nicaragua, and eBird records list only six locations north of Honduras. In 2014, our friend Maynor Ovando encountered this species as a first record on eBird for Guatemala. John who was on his second Big Year at the time, unsuccessfully attempted to twitch this bird, which disappeared by the next day.

Farther south in Central and South America, this Lapwing is quite a common sighting in pastures and especially near water. Lapwings often will announce their presence with raucus far-carrying calls, in drier climates people sometimes follow them to find water.

John is very familiar with this striking species from his years spent birding in Colombia. However, has been attempting to find the Southern Lapwing in Guatemala since 2014. The individual they encountered on Friday stuck around for the October Big Day and through the Global Bird Weekend, offering spectacular views to all of the local birders who were able to show up to see it.

Rudy, Erwin, John, Luisa, Samuel, and Rob watching Southern Lapwing at Laguna Chichoj, San Cristobal Verapaz. photo: Tara Cahill

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