Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Open ocean means albatrosses

The first full day of the trip was spent entirely at sea.  I've never been out of sight of land on the Pacific and I had high hopes for my first ever albatross.  High enough hopes that I was awake at 4:00 am local time (not that hard when it's the same as 8a eastern).  The first bird I saw off the deck turned out to be ... a Black-footed Albatross.  I didn't actually believe myself, but as I strained to see in the early half-light it turned out they were the only thing big enough to see. 

All the pics in this post are really heavily cropped.

I started seeing other smaller sea birds and it took a while to figure out that they were Fulmars, another lifer.

Fork-tailed Storm-petrel was another bird I was hoping for, and was even harder to pick out with the scope or camera.  Here's a couple montages...

The ship was large enough that I could manage the scope, but it was really difficult to transition from bins to scope with zero landmarks or from bins to camera.  Most of the birds were really far away and quartering away from the ship so it usually took several looks at new species to convince myself that I was seeing what I thought I was.  Even Tufted Puffins at great distance going away were tough ID's without enough experience to gestualt them.  Fortunately a few of them came a lot closer than the sea birds.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The old man of the sea

I'd never done a cruise before, and after my mother-in-law did one of sorts in the Caribbean this spring my kids were pretty amped to try one.  I found a conference on a cruise ship and we headed to Alaska.

We flew into Anchorage and were driven 2 hours south to Seward where we boarded the ship.  We'd barely gotten settled aboard when I noticed a speck floating in the harbor ... a sea otter.  Hazel and I promptly got off the ship to get closer.  Initially it was floating in the middle of the harbor, but a seal scared it closer and eventually it was basically right next to the dock.

It paid us no mind and proceeded to groom its rear flipper feet.

We celebrated with a selfie with a sea otter.  It's the speck in the water above Hazel's right ear.  An SLR makes a big difference.

 Here's a gif of the the otter interacting with a seal.  I'm not sure what clued the otter in to the seal's presence since it starts looking all around before seeing it.  After the seal splashes the otter the otter snorkels under the water, then rolls and dives itself.

A few last pics from the harbor.  Hazel saw the magpie and asked,"What is THAT???" 

My first lifer was flying about as well, a Northwestern Crow.
Good luck evaluating the primary formula with birds molting.

Nothing says Alaska like eagles and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

The next morning we'd wake up in the open ocean ... stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

a red Red Knot

A molting adult Red Knot has been hanging out the last few days in New Buffalo and I finally made it down for it yesterday.  The bird and I managed to converge on top of each other when we both walked around a little sandspit from opposite directions and I found it suddenly at my feet. 

I actually had to back up to give it room to pass.  Oops.

It passed by slowly, working the duckweed for some sort of micro prey item.

This is the first time I've seen Red Knot in the county in back-to-back years and only the second adult that I remember; usually the birds we get are juveniles.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Velvet-purple Coronet

Another Choco endemic, this bird was our guide Jose's favorite hummingbird.  It was crazy-iridescent.

Some more views from different angles

I think the body iridescence is rivaled only by the Fiery-throateds in Costa Rica amongst hummingbirds I've encountered.

I think it's doing a trogon impersonation in this one.

I watched Chestnut-breasted Coronets perform a similar behavior on the other side of the Andes in the trip's first days.  It was no less cool to see a second time.  The first shot is one of my favorite of the trip.

With sexes similar in this genus hard to know whether this was courtship or more general squabbling.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

feeders at Mashpi

At last!  I thought I was going to go the whole trip without really having decent tanagers coming into feeders, but they'd saved one of the more exciting places for the 2nd to last day.  We visited Amalgusa Reserve in the Mashpi area and these feeders were crawling with birds.  It was mostly raining lightly, sometimes raining steadily, but at times not raining at all.  There was a covered awning though, and while it did pack a lot of people into pretty tight quarters the birds made it worth it.  I'm just going with tanagers in this post.

We start with Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, a specialty bird of a narrow elevation band of the West slope of the Andes in Ecuador and Colombia.

Next up is Flame-faced Tanager.  This bird had been teasing me the whole trip, we'd had difficult brief views of it at a couple places, each time well hidden by foliage and rain, but here it was coming close.

While Flame-faced can be found on both slopes through much of the Andes mid-elevations, Glistening-green Tanager has basically the same range map as the Black-chinned that led off the post.

I've put up a few pics of Golden Tanager, but the looks were much better here.

Like Flame-faced, we saw Golden-naped Tanager a few times, but here we had good views.

Finally a couple shots of Lemon-rumped Tanager.  Most places in the tropics have a black tanager with a very contrastingly bright rump, it was yellow here.

Clearly a bunch of the tanagers were completing their breeding cycles during our February trip.

Monday, July 16, 2018

but they're tropical LBJ's

We hung out at the hummingbird feeders for a while hoping the rain would clear.  It didn't.  We headed into the forest anyway.  It'd be nice to have some nice portraits of Spotted Nightengale-thrush to lead of with (picture a juvenile robin but with an orange bill and lemon base colors to the underparts).  It sang but didn't come in for a visual.  We did track down a Club-winged Manakin.

After being left frustrated by another very high tanager flock mostly obscured by rain, mist, leaves, and narrow windows we did find some mid-story flocks which were a lot more satisfying.  And even if the birds weren't super colorful, you won't find them in Michigan!

This is an Ochre-breasted ... Tanager.  Sexes are alike

Yellow-throated Bush-tanager is another not exactly flame faced bird.
I worked pretty hard just to get bad pics of those dull tanagers that were pretty fast moving.

There were woodcreepers, first Spotted
 Then Brown-billed Scythebill

followed by Wedge-billed
I wonder how many grad students have studied the bill differences in the woodcreepers.

Foliage-gleaners are another bird we don't find in Michigan.  They move FAST, definitely birds to study hard before confronted with them.  I'm (pretty sure) this first one is Streak-throated

and this one (a personal favorite) Buff-fronted.

Finally a pip of color with Purplish Honeycreeper

Friday, July 13, 2018

full breeding Piping Plover

We don't usually get to see Piping Plovers in full breeding plumage, but this bird found by Mike Bourdon, would seem to qualify.  It's got as full a breast band as I can remember seeing.  Pics are in reverse order as the bird worked towards and ultimately past me.

I was a little surprised that the orange flag band didn't have a number on it, the only numbers I saw were on the silver Fish and Wildlife (?) band.