Patrocinio Private Nature Reserve is part of a region called Palajunoj, south of Volcano Santiaguito, which is a secondary cone of Volcano Santa María (3,770 m, 12,370 ft). Santiaguito appeared after a major blow-up in 1902, and it is one of Guatemala’s active volcanoes. The scenery for birding at Patrocinio Reserve is set up by the volcanoes, steep river canyons, forest patches, and different plantations.
Some 100 years ago Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) and Red-throated Caracaras (Ibycter americanus) roamed through the humid forests on the Guatemalan Pacific slope. Both species became extirpated along the whole slope due to large scale deforestations. However, Patrocinio Reserve is one of the dispersed patches which greatly support biodiversity. In addition to plantations, the site has 25 ha of old growth humid forest and 45 ha of regenerated forest. We recorded 107 bird species during one day of birding in March 2006.
Patrocinio Reserve ranges in altitude from 750 to 850 m, and supports therefore bird species mainly of lowlands and mid-elevations. Birding at Patrocinio is easy; most of the existing trails are two-tracks for the maintenance of the plantations. All plantations (coffee, macadamia, and others) are interspersed with trees and natural secondary growth. Trails offer good views into the canopy, and also into the open sky to see soaring raptors (we saw 12 species of hawks, vultures, and falcons in one day!).
For more endemic bird species of the north Central American highlands, a day visit from Patrocinio Lodge to Loma Linda is well worth, giving the chance of seeing specialties such as Azure-rumped Tanager, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Highland Guan, Rufous Sabrewing, and Green-throated Mountain-gem.
For the total area and the existing network of trails, Patrocinio Reserve is well worth two days of birding. Ten families live in the reserve, and some local guides were trained to lead visitors along the trails. Patrocinio is a destination for non-birders as well and invites to enjoy the scenic beauty and an environment without urban noises. You can see how coffee, macadamia, cacao, and other tropical crops are grown.
Access and accommodation: Patrocinio Reserve is located 15 km northeast of the city of Retalhuleu. The last 5 km of the way are cobble stone and dirt roads. No 4-WD is necessary.
The lodge has currently 3 rooms with private bathroom (photos of the lodge). Electric power is generated by a small water power plant. Meals are served in the cafeteria.
When is the best time for a visit to Patrocinio Reserve? Any time of year.
How do you support conservation and development in Patrocinio Reserve? Finca Patrocinio is in the process of being declared a private protected area. Each site which conserves forested area on the Guatemalan Pacific slope is highly valuable. With your visit you support Patrocinio’s efforts to protect forest remnants. Tourism creates alternative jobs for local people, and helps also to develop environmental awareness among the local population. Finca Patrocinio is part of the Santiaguito Volcano Important Bird Area (IBA GT014).