Friday, February 17, 2017


I don't think there's any sound that I more associate with the tropics than the snaps of lekking manakins.  Orange-collared Manakins seem to be fairly common in Panama and the trails around Canopy Camp were no exception.

The lek covered about a 50 foot length of trail as it elevated out of camp.  The birds were mostly on the darker side of the trail but a few would display on the brighter side as well.  Their presence was heralded by a bright 2 noted Ee-berr, Ee-berr.

  They would thrust out their little beards as they changed perches.

The subject of their displays?  The plain gray-green females that would sometimes put in an appearance.

The males would then go berzerk, snapping their wings together above their backs to produce the electric "Ssnap! Snap! Snap!" sound so unique to the neotropics as they rocketed back and forth from perch to perch.

Golden-headed Manakins were also present in smaller numbers.  These cousins of the more widely-distributed Red-capped were lifers for all of our group and don't actually make a wingsnap.  They also tended to stay a lot higher in the trees, usually about 15 or 20 feet up.  A couple of us found a few much lower as they came down to bathe in the stream as dusk fell on one of the evenings.  First is an adult male.

Next is an odd little bird which looks to be an immature male molting into more adult like plumage.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Snowy-bellied vs Rufous-tailed hummer ID

Looking at the pics in the Costa Rica and Panama books, a person wouldn't expect Snowy-bellied and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird to be difficult to tell apart.  That assumes of course that a person sees the gleaming white belly of the Snowy which is prominently displayed in the plates.  The problem of course is that hummingbirds are happy to turn their back to you and don't show much of their belly while nectaring at flowers.  The first time a guide called out Snowy-bellied in Costa Rica I was really confused since it looked like a Rufous-tailed to me.  Even after more experience with the bird, I still initially mis-called these Snowy-bellied's at our lunch stop on our first full day in Torti.

What would you call this bird?

Or either of these next 2?

 All have extensive brownish on their back and tails, but all are Snowy-bellied.  There's actually more dorsal brown on Snowy-bellied than this next Rufous-tailed.

The Rufous-tailed has much more intense rufous than the browner Snowy-bellied.  This next Rufous-tailed shows some extra terminal dark with the tail spread that the Snowy-bellied's don't have.
That would be hard to see in real life without the bird frozen by the camera's shutter though.

So how to separate them?  The bill is helpful.  If you look carefully, the Snowy-bellied's looks a little shorter and straighter.  It's also blacker.  Rufous-tailed at most angles shows a quite pink bill; Snowy-bellied has limited pink to the lower mandible.  First Rufous-tailed...
 ... then Snowy-bellied.

As mentioned earlier, Snowy-bellied has some pink to the underside of the bill, but any view of the underside of the bill reveals the brilliant white belly.

One last look at Snowy-bellied in reasonable light.

The first take-home is to be aware that these two birds at many angles look quite similar. The 2nd is to study Rufous-tailed closely; it's way too easy to not look carefully at this common species in the excitement of looking for new birds in the tropics.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Panama II !!!

Well the long blogging hiatus is over.  Our group returned from Eastern Panama yesterday.  It was a great trip.  The combination of some really good birds and the best guide I've ever met (Domi Alveo) created the best experience that many of our group had ever had in the neotropics.

I'm early in the process of organizing photos and figuring out the narrative for the blog (I know I know, when has it ever had a narrative in the past?).  But there will be birds.  Lots of birds.  Camoflaged birds like a Common Potoo that materialized at our very first stop.

Striking birds like Banaquits.

Hummingbirds like this adult Black-throated Mango.

 A smattering of butterflies like this (presumed) cracker?

And viewings of the biggest baddest bird in the American Neotropics?  Yes.  Yes there will be.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

almost another Ross's Goose

I drove a bit of a central county route this afternoon.  Mary Jo and Marie were looking at a pair of White-fronted geese at the Scottdale Rd flooding when I drove up.

Four more white-fronts flew in, thought about landing, circled, and then landed across the road, drawing my eye to the Ross's that was sitting distantly close to some grapevines.

I tried a few more spots not finding much aside from Mute Swans and was heading toward home when I noticed a bunch of geese at the Anna Lane Flooding.  Not terribly surprisingly there was a Ross's type in with them as well.

It has some blue wartiness to the bill base...

but the head is less round than yesterday's Ross's Goose

And you can see that the bill base has a decent amount of curvature where it meets the face.
A curved bill base is generally accepted to indicate some Snow Goose in its not-so-recent ancestry; this bird is likely an integrade.
After finding this bird I actually drove back to Scottdale to make sure that the original Ross's was still there; it was.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

lakefront Ross's Goose

After striking out entirely on geese in the Scottdale plains where Rhoda had found a Ross's Goose earlier I did the next best thing and headed for the beach.  I wasn't expecting very much, and indeed there were few birds by the piers given the amount of boat and foot traffic on a 60 degree January day.  I was just finishing my last scan when I picked up a distant Snow-type Goose flying off the lake.  It landed off Jean Klock and I drove up to get better pics.  My camera was giving me trouble and not auto-focusing or stabilizing so I went back to phone-scoping with the scope zoomed in to 60x.

I was pretty surprised to see it also was a Ross's Goose.
 Note the round head, vertical bill base with blue wartiness, and the pale bill tip.  In the above pic shadow gives it the hint of a grin patch which was much more shadow than real.

Here's the bird with the bill not shadowing.

The bird flew after about 10 minutes and headed inland right past me.  This was total spray and pray with the shutter as I tried to manually focus through the bird and hoped a few frames would be sort of in focus.

Friday, January 20, 2017


It'd be nice if I'd had a good excuse for not blogging, like maybe that I'd taken a fun and exciting trip to Panama to look for Harpy Eagles.  I haven't though.  (Yet.)  Rainy days and few birds have conspired to make it hard to take a bloggable photo locally.  The best so far this year was the 2nd bird of 2017, and the first that I saw.
I haven't taken many night pics of owls.  I think this one flew in to investigate the screech owl I was whistling.  Needless to say, no small owls responded here.

I guess in light of today being Inauguration Day a shot of a Murican Eagle from Tiscornia yesterday wouldn't be amiss.

Maybe more appropriate is one from the dump flying away.

And maybe even more appropriate would be a herd of geese.
The attractive looking sub-group in back is interesting, they were a size smaller than the larger group and had a lot less pallor in the breast.  A person could try to make them Cacklings but their bills were just as long and thin in shape as the other Canadas.  Parvipes Canada might be considered but that one rarely has a dark breast so I think they're likely runty Canadas just from a little different location than the rest.

Friday, December 30, 2016

trip's end

All good things must come to an end, and so it went with my birding conference trip to Costa Rica.  I hiked the beach before lecture started on the final morning again hoping for Collared Plover or mangrove specialties but struck out on them.  Streak-backed Orioles were about though not particularly cooperative.  I'd seen a Whimbrel the first morning, but it was in nicer light on the final morning.

This was the first decent sized Hermit Crab that I've encountered.  It still would have fit on the palm of my hand, but before this I'd never seen one bigger than the end of my thumb.

This caracara was on the road leading away from the hotel.  I'm assuming the breast skin is some sort of breeding appendage but admittedly haven't really done any research into it.

I'd planned to put a few sunset shots into this post, but unfortunately the SD card they were on corrupted before I got them downloaded so a lot of the scenic pics from the trip are lost.
Ah well.  Just one more excuse to go back right?  But before I go back to Costa Rica there might be somewhere else to return to...  Give it a few months.