Canyon Honda is a narrow canyon at 4800' elevation high up the Pacific slope of the Sierra de Chiapas ("Canyon Honda" means deep canyon). It is below the western crest of the valley in the cloud forest at El Triunfo. It is a traditional camping spot on a small stream before it drops in a series of waterfalls and rapids into a steep canyon below the camping site. Resting by the water here either enroute to or away from El Triunfo is a welcome respite. In the 1986 photo (right), Allan Keith (center) and others relax at the end of a long hike (it is six miles down from El Triunfo and about 12 miles up from Paval).
The canyon below the camping site hosts several very large fig trees that are usually fruiting in spring, attracting many frugivores. The surrounding subtropical forest is rich in birds, and the combination makes this a high point of any El Triunfo trip hike.
Above Canyon Honda are habitat zones that feature pines and, farther
up the hill, an odd mixture of dry forest and cypress patches with fingers
of cloud forest working down the steep ravines. In the 2002 photo (below),
Greg Lasley and part of the VENT group stand at the continental divide
above Canyon Honda; Greg is pointing back east toward El Triunfo. The habitat
shot (below right) shows hikers about to enter the pine zone farther below.
The pine zone has a number of special birds, including three rather
elusive species that I had the good fortune to try to photograph in March
2002. These are not the world's greatest shots, but they are of some very
impressive birds. Left to right (below) are Blue-throated
Motmot, Elegant Euphonia, and Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo.
The loud sneeer call of the shrike-vireo reverberates for long distances
in these canyons but the bird itself is extremely difficult to locate,
and I felt very luck to get any type of shot at all. Ditto for the motmot....
Canyon Honda is best known as the world's primary site for the endemic Azure-rumped Tanager, limited to this mid-elevation habitat on the Pacific slope of Chiapas, Mexico, and nearby Guatemala. It has one of the smallest ranges of any tanager in the world and, next to the Horned Guan, is usually considered the second-best bird to locate on an El Triunfo trip. Lou Jost did research on the tanager in 1986 and obtained the spectacular close-up photo (below left) by climbing a fruiting tree up to the bird's level in the canopy. It remains one of my favorite bird photos. My own shots (below right, top & bottom) from March 2002 show the bird up in the canopy among mossy limbs and small fruits.
And I thought I'd conclude this set with a typical camp scene from 2002 (below). That's Roy Rodwell, who has done the El Triunfo hike three times just as a great way to "get away from it all," at extreme right.
More bird photos are on the El Triunfo introduction page and a complete annotated bird list is also on-line.
PHOTOS: The photos are © 2002 Don Roberson except Lou Jost's 1986 photo of Azure-rumped Tanager at Canyon Honda (used with permission), all rights reserved.
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