Thursday, March 31, 2016

Achiote Road

We spent our last day of birding along Achiote Rd, a location that can be good for some of the less common Caribbean slope birds though we didn't have a ton of luck with them.  Jose, our guide for the trip apparently had some conflict arise (I'm not totally sure it wasn't simply another group that he'd double-booked) and arranged for a colleague of his, a man named Ygua to guide us the last day.

A Yellow-headed Caracara perched right above our heads as we started the first trail of the day.

We had good numbers of trogons, and the first Bicolored Antbird and White-flanked Antwrens for most of the people on the trip.  Spot-crowned Antvireos were fairly common.

Song Wrens were beatboxing away in the underbrush.  This pair popped up and did some sort of mutual preening for a minute or so.

We spent at least an hour watching hawks from a sloped coffee field.  Swallow-tailed kites were quite common as they started their northward migration.

We saw a couple Black-hawks which our guide tried unsuccessfully to turn into a Crane Hawk.

A young King Vulture appeared and disappeared before I could get most of the group on it.

Gray-headed Kites are an interesting contrast to Swallow-tails.
 I don't think there's a greater contrast in wingshape between the angular Swallow-tailed and the paddle-shaped Gray-headed possible.

We saw our only poison dart frog of the trip here as well.

We chased a calling White-tailed Trogon around and found a small group of Gray-headed Tanagers that didn't turn into an antswarm and soon started walking along the road.  There were a few birds here and there, as well as decent numbers of Cracker Butterflies.
 Sometimes a person could hear the wingsnap from the butterflies which gives  them their names.

Black-cheeked woodpeckers were working together on a nest hole or granary, or maybe just communally exploring a bug-riddled snag.

One of our main targets though, Spot-crowned Barbet went unseen however, aside from one on a mural at our open-aired restaurant lunch.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fish crows and more

I took advantage of an early rise to listen for Fish Crows behind St Joe High this morning.  They didn't disappoint.  I doubt I waited more than 5 minutes before I started hearing them.  There were a couple birds to the right and several more to the left.  I watched 3 of the birds call back and forth, about 4 others were silent.  Apologies for the lack of Image Stabilization or auto-focus, both make noise and decrease the ability to record the sounds.

There's a better recording (from an even worse video) embedded in the eBird checklist.

Some other random shots that haven't quite been enough to break into the Panama series of blogs, first a Western (rufous morph) Redtail on a foggy morning next to the landfill a couple weeks ago.

I had a little bit of luck with brown geese this spring seeing Cacklers a couple times and White-fronted once.  The pics haven't been great though.

Along the waterfowl theme, a bird I don't try to photograph often enough, Wood Duck.

Finally, the best pics I've taken in Berrien this spring, a Red Fox at Tiscornia this morning.
 It was trotting along (and flushed a mallard), and then startled when it heard my shutter starting to hammer.
 He looked back at me and bolted off.
I've seen a coyote at Tiscornia once, but this was my first Red Fox there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The rarest bird we saw

Two of them actually.

After leaving the mid-elevation Anton Valley we headed back through Panama City to traverse to the Caribbean side.  While we were still west of the canal (and within a mile or 2 of the Pacific Ocean), Jose stopped us at a random retention pond that's played host to a couple overshoots/colonists from South America, a pair of Whistling Herons.

This is actually just one of the herons, I magnified the middle of the image into the right lower corner inset to try to give a little more detail on the bird.  It looks like a cross between a Great Blue and a Tri-colored but with a bright pink bill.

Even though we were there during the full-bore mid-afternoon heat we still saw more birds than I would have expected in the dry forest scrub opposite of the chain link fence guarding the ponds.  Ruddy Ground-doves were quite common.

I was very surprised when Warren found a Rufous-browed Peppershrike out in the open.
 We worked really hard to track one down last year after hearing several in the treetops of the Costa Rican highlands and mid-elevations.  I did not expect one at sea level here.

I'm not sure what this bird is.
 This photo is cropped in fairly tightly and we didn't have a scope at hand when it popped up.  In life I called it the peppershrike again, but in retrospect I think it's probably a Scrub Greenlet.

Finally a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture that Jose spotted.  Unfortunately few of the group saw it since it only made one pass and we were kind of spread out by then.
It's one of those birds that reinforces the Shoot First, Look at it Later; if I'd only seen this bird through bins then I certainly would have questioned the ID 5 minutes later when a young Turkey Vulture passed over not trusting my memory...

I was kind of hoping/expecting that we would have made more afternoon stops over the course of the trip like this one, targeted checks for specific birds or new habitats that might not have been otherwise visited.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beware of Cows

On our last morning in Anton Valle Jose led us along a random appearing side-road/path running between some pastures and 2nd growth forest.  Supposedly Yellow-eared Toucanet was possible there though one didn't get the sense that our chances were that high.  We certainly didn't see one.  Orange-bellied Trogons were fairly common though, and we had a couple more good looks at a male.

We watched this male Thick-billed Euphonia swipe nesting material from a (presumably old) nest.

We were about most of the way up the trail when someone noticed 4 cattle right on our heels.  They nervously approached us, and we tried going up a side fork to let them pass.  They showed some interest in following us before they finally were herded past.

We headed back down not long after.  A Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer perched trailside.
 It was so close we could see mites crawling on the bill (and we suspected that the white pip at the right base of the bill was an eggsac.
 For some reason I've been thinking this bird was named (for good reason) Red-legged Plumeleteer, but both my Panama books, my Costa Rica book, and eBird all call it Bronze-tailed.
I was happy to finally see Flame-rumped Tanager.  I had expected this bird to be common; I think we only saw them here.

It seems like there's always at least one black tanager with a bright rump in the Neotropics, in Costa Rica it's the two scarlet-rumped sister species, Passerini's and Cherrie's.  The females are usually grayer with breasts washed with the rump color.

A last look at a random mixed flock in the middle of the road.
From left to right in the foreground is Male White-lined Tanager, Yellow-faced Grassquit, female White-lined tanager (the rusty bird) and then a Variable Seedeater (the little black bird)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

my first real Emerald

We stayed at the Hotel Campestre in the Anton Valley and before breakfast on our first morning (and through breakfast that I skipped on the 2nd morning) I birded behind the motel in some brushy open stuff that was re-growing. 

There were a few birds, a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches, my first Barred Antshrike of the trip, White-vented Antbirds skulking unseen in the darkest thickets bemused by my hopes to photograph one, as well as a Garden Emerald.  I've seen 2 Emeralds before, Coppery-headed in Costa Rica and one in Belize that has a white belly, but never a solidly incredibly entirely greener-than-green hummer.  Until now.

This is a young Streaked Saltator, I think my lifer.

There were a few birds singing.  I tried to turn a Plain Wren into the similarly sounding Buff-breasted.  A Black-striped Sparrow teed up very nicely

I don't remember which female Euphonia this is.

The male is a Yellow-crowned though.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cerro Gaital trail (I think)

Jose took us on a couple trails at midday and into the evening after the motmot and owl stakeouts.

The first (I think the La Mesa trail) was fairly narrow and we didn't have a lot of success.  Some of the group saw Dusky-faced Tanagers, we saw some fairly distant Red-somethinged Ant-tangers and a few Tawny-crested Tanagers, but I didn't have a ton of photo-ops.  This Dusky-capped Flycatcher was probably the most cooperative.

We found both Plaintains
 and then appropriately a Bananaquit.

I think we took a lunch break and then started up the Cerro Gaital Trail.  This was a very pretty walk (which ascended considerably) through a nice neotropic jungle with interesting flowers and insects, though we didn't have a ton of birds.

This was the view from the top, where we were entertained by distant Broad-winged and Short-tailed Hawks.
We slowly made our way back down the trail and in the last hour of light, and probably no more than a hundred yards from the van, Jose spotted a female Orange-bellied Trogon
 and then even closer to us, the male.
 I had no idea it would be so orange.
 We watched the trogon fly down and grab a cicada which buzzed furiously until it escaped or the trogon gave up on it and let it go.

A little mixed flock materialized, led by a Scaly-crested Pygmy-tyrant.

My first Spot-crowned Ant-vireo bludgeoned a caterpillar it captured into submission.

Associated with this group was a Spotted Woodcreeper, what looked to be a Stripe-breasted Wren (eBird would want a pic of that one though and I tried to get the group on it instead), a quick look at a young White-ruffed Manakin for some of us, and probably a few others I'm forgetting, along with a quick moving flock of more Tawny-crested Tanagers.

We found 3 sloths, 2 of which were presumably a mother and its nearly grown young doing some sort of mutual preening (being a moth haven is itchy work!)
Finally a shot of one of two Yellow-headed Caracaras which escorted a 3rd raptor (that I didn't get on) away from their territory