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Lured by His Lovely
A photographer’s decades-long quest to film one of Central America’s most elusive birds proves but a window to explore the big, wild heart of Honduras.

Ornithologist, bird tour guide, and videographer Greg Homel.

In 20 years of nature travel, Greg Homel had visited every continent (Antarctica 22 times), 90 countries, and seen more than 6,000 of the world’s 9,800 recognized bird species. Yet that lovely cotinga was still out there, taunting him.

When Homel did finally glimpse the deeply turquoise bird, as lovely as its name implies, he wasn’t looking for it. The ornithologist turned professional bird tour guide and videographer was in Honduras on another quest: to be the first in the world to film the Honduras emerald hummingbird, one of the rarest avian species in Central America. Mission accomplished, he was driving to the airport when he saw a sign pointing up a dirt road: “The Lodge at Pico Bonito.” With a few hours to burn, his curiosity turned the steering wheel toward the eco-lodge—a new access point, he noted, to Pico Bonito National Park, practically an inaccessible tract of wilderness rumored to be a holdout for lovely cotingas.

Homel lunched that afternoon with the lodge’s manager, James Adams, who is also the naturalist. It was midday, making the chances of seeing even some of the area’s most common birds slim. Still, after their meal, Adams encouraged Homel to take a casual 20-minute stroll on one of the pathways leading to a lookout platform. Homel was standing there when, to his “amazement,” a streak of color swooped out of the canopy and landed within full sight only a short distance away: “the lovely cotinga.”

Homel's newly released DVD, featuring Pico Bonito and its amazing birds.

Soon Homel returned to capture on video the beauty of the bird that had been his nemesis for so long, and more fully discover the 250,000 acres of “rough and tumble” country that form Honduras’ Pico Bonito National Park. He swears that capturing footage of the rare cotinga wasn’t simply an excuse to stay at a plush eco-lodge with gourmet food and the finest amenities. “I wasn’t just sitting by the pool filming lovely cotingas,” he says, “(although that did happen too). I was bushwhacking through unscathed, and mostly unroaded, mountainous terrain—one of the biggest, most intact blocks of contiguous forest in that part of the world.”

After two decades of searching, the 45-year-old photographer from southern California, who grew up at the toe of the Santa Monica Mountains, had found his Mona Lisa. What follows are clips of the lovely cotinga, as well as a variety of other charismatic birds, featured in Homel’s newly released DVD, Introducing the Wonderful Birds of Pico Bonito, Honduras. For more information about Homel’s birding tours and films, click here. To find out how to purchase the complete film on Pico Bonito, click here or contact Natural Elements Productions/Natural Encounters Birding Tours, P.O. 6221, Pine Mountain Club, CA 93222; phone: 661-231-5013; e-mail.

Click on the images below to see each video.

Video 1: An up close look at the lovely cotinga

 

Video 2: Other amazing birds of Pico Bonito National Park

 

Video 3: Exploring Pico Bonito National Park

 

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