Friday, November 23, 2018

at the Murrelet Peak!

Tim and I have joked a lot over the years about being at the "peak" for whatever fill-in-the-blank heretofore unseen rarity you want to invoke.  Since it's never been seen at Tiscornia, you're always at peak time to see it!  Data don't lie.

Of course some birds, even if off course, do fall into patterns.  August 24 and November 14 are two classic Tiscornia days.  November 14 was the date Tim found probably the most chased murrelet in the state back in 2009.  Observance of "Murrelet day" the next year was rewarded with a Franklin's Gull, and then better yet a Black-headed Gull 2 years later.  August 24 has had Hudwit in multiple years.  And now November 20th gets added to the list.  After the original murrelet hung around for a week and a half Tim had another on November 20th a few years later (and his Say's Phoebe appeared November 20th even farther back).

So enter the 20th a few days ago.  We were standing on the dune and Tim yelled "Alcid! Alcid! Alcid! Over the river water ... Ancient Murrelet!"  And so it was.
Despite pretty extreme distance the camera still picked up the pale bill, and black cap and wings contrasting with the gray back.

Dovekie and Long-billed Murrelet have dark wing linings

What will the last week of the count bring?  Besides mergansers of course?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What's better than TWO antpittas?

Three more of course!

We'd actually seen this first species (though not as close) early in the week at Guango, Chestnut-capped Antpitta.

 After waiting our turn we were led down a narrow (muddy) trail to look down into a ravine holding Ochre-breasted Antpittas.
 Two of them in fact.
These tiny birds were fairly charismatic, standing still on branches and rotating their bodies while keeping their heads still.  This is another bird that's possible in a lot of places in Central America, but much more likely here.

Moustached Antpitta was our final species.
We each had no more than a few seconds to look down on this shy bird.

So there you have it, 5 species of antpitta in one day.  Honestly I'm not sure what I thought about it.  I guess it's no different than seeing birds come in to feeders, but it was almost too easy (and there were way too many people) to see these very uncommon birds.

In case you're wondering where Blackburnian Warblers get their awesomeness, well they winter in the same trees that shelter antpittas
I'm not used to Blackburnians being the easy birds to photograph (though didn't get the shutter speed cranked back up as far as it needed to be for warbler movements).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What's better than 1 antpitta?

Two antpittas of course!  Well let's come back to that.

Antpittas are the star of the show at Angel de Paz and we did very well.  The first one in the line-up was arguably the most impressive, Giant.  While I've seen photos of Giant Antpittas right at the trailhead Angel walked at least a couple hundred yards up the (very muddy, steep, and only occasionally stepped) trail before he started making calls and chucking snake-sized night crawlers into the brush.  His body language was looking a little concerned about the bird showing at all, but ultimately this (seemingly football sized!) bird worked its way out of the drizzling gloom.

A tall burly European with a really loud shutter started hammering away at this point.  I was worried it wouldn't come out (and Angel was motioning and quietly asking him to stop which was either ignored or not understood).  The bird did come out on the branch though.  Gotta love the muted shutter setting of my camera though!

It was so big I had a really hard time fitting it in the frame.  These aren't cropped.

Honestly I almost like the pic of the bird mostly obscured in the brush the best.

But crowds don't go to Angel's to see one antpitta.  I'd only seen 3 species of antpitta in my life before this morning, but number 4 was the next bird I photographed, a Yellow-throated Antpitta.
This bird was viewed from a fenceline along the road looking down into a ravine that Angel chucked earthworms into.

With that we were ushered up to the visitor center to allow the crowd snacks and a bathroom break.  A Red-billed Parrot teed up briefly along the road.

There was more activity right next to the lot with nice views of a Golden-bellied Flycatcher.

One of my most-wanted birds for the trip was alongside the lot too, Strong-billed Woodcreeper.
This species is in all the Central American books but is quite rare there and this was our first real chance to see one.  It didn't disappoint.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Well this was a crazy bird.  I'm not sure where this bird breeds in Eurasia or where it winters, but it's definitely something I don't expect to see outside of Newfoundland blogs.  So I was pretty happy that Adam and Scott re-found this bird in Washtenaw after rumors of a bird surfaced the day before (C'mon Washtenaw!  You couldn't have beaten Lansing to this bird???).

 We were there at daybreak (along with 50 of our closest friends).  The bird was too.
The orange legs (and to a lesser extent orange base of the lower mandible) really stuck out.

It tended to forage with its neck extended and held straight.

It was pretty successful at extracting some pretty good sized prey items from beneath the water's surface and spent a decent amount of time resting (and digesting?).

The bird in flight had a pretty impressive white stripe extending dowitcher-like up its back.