Sunday, 19 May 2019

Bird Banding at SpruceHaven 18 and 19 May 2019

18 May 2019

     May has been unseasonably cold this year, and today was no exception. It was a mere 4 degrees when I left home to meet Kevin at the nets. As it turned out he was there a little ahead of me (as he often is) and was just returning with the first captures of the day.
     It seemed appropriate that at the peak of migration the first bird caught was a Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica).

     The second bird was also a warbler, a Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata), a species sometimes referred to as a Yellow-rumped Warbler and shown as such in many field guides. Birds in the east have a yellow throat and birds in the west a white throat. Previously lumped together as Yellow-rumped Warbler, each form is now considered a distinct species, with the western bird called Audubon's Warbler (Setophaga auduboni).

     Flycatchers in the genus Empidonax are notoriously difficult to identify in the field (some species virtually impossible) but when the bird is subjected to the measurements normally taken at a bird banding station, the identification can be clinched based on biometrics, as was the case with this Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus).

     Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) seem to be especially abundant this year and we captured this female.

     It was bent on letting Kevin know that it was not happy!

     The female of a Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens) is quite drab as compared with the more colourful male.

     There is nothing dull about a Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia), however.

     I would be remiss if I did not mention that we were joined by Laura Lawlor and her daughter, Aberdeen, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were able to explore the wonders of SpruceHaven. Jonathan Wilhelm also visited for the first time and expressed a desire to return. 
     Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of these guests but I will rectify that omission when they visit for a second time.

All species banded 18 May: Traill's Flycatcher (1), Least Flycatcher (1), Baltimore Oriole (2), Common Yellowthroat (2), Chestnut-sided Warbler (1), American Redstart (2), Magnolia Warbler (1), Black-throated Blue Warbler (1), Myrtle Warbler (1). Total: 12 individuals of 9 species.

19 May 2019

     The forecast was for considerably warmer weather than we have been experiencing; early morning was still cool but it did start to warm up through the day. We were all glad to feel a little warmth in the sun's rays.
     An Alder Flycatcher (Empindonax alnorum) was one of our early catches, probably just passing through here on its way north.

     We do not encounter many Orchard Orioles (Icterus spurius) in our area, so to find three individuals, two males and a female, in the same net, along with a male and female Baltimore Oriole was quite remarkable.

Orchard Oriole male

Orchard Oriole female and male
     Kevin and Heather were sharing the banding duties so in each instance we were able to hold the female and male of the species together.

Baltimore Oriole male and female

     A Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) is an exceptionally handsome species. Caught in the sunlight flitting around in a tree it can look as though its throat is aglow.

        Several visitors came to enjoy the morning's activities, including our old friend Vashti Latchman, with her children Roddy and Raya. 

     Roddy is a tremendously keen young bird enthusiast, with knowledge far beyond his years. We have been spotting a pair of Green Herons (Butorides virescens) on the pond and this morning Roddy located their nest. Well done, Roddy!

     Judy Wyatt made her first visit of the spring to observe the banding and displayed her usual keen interest, in addition to helping out whenever possible.

     As often happens, we need to consult "Pyle," the bander's bible, for finer points of sexing and aging.

     Questions about this Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) occupied Heather's attention......

     .....until she found the answers she was looking for.

     We were fortunate in catching a couple of very nicely marked Magnolia Warblers.

          As has already been noted we have been catching several flycatchers, and this Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris) was our final member of this family, retrieved from the nets just before furling them for the day.

     If my memory serves me correctly, we have only ever caught one Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) so to trap this female was especially pleasing.

     This species breeds locally so it may be an indication that it is breeding at SpruceHaven.
     Next weekend will be our final session of the spring. I hope we will have exciting birds for you to see then.

All species banded 19 May: Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (1), Alder Flycatcher (2), Least Flycatcher (2), Common Yellowthroat (3), American Redstart (2), Magnolia Warbler (3), Blackburnian Warbler (2), Black-throated Blue Warbler (1), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), Baltimore Oriole (2), Orchard Oriole (3), Indigo Bunting (1). Total: 23 individuals of 12 species.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Trip Report - Panama Part 6 - 10 and 11 April 2019

10 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - Altos del Maria - Canopy Lodge

     We were looking forward to a full day out to Altos del Maria, with Moyo as our guide. Two four wheel drive vehicles were used for this journey, and we were joined by Joseph, a guide in training if I am not mistaken, and Aidan the manager of Canopy Lodge.


     Before leaving the lodge, we were treated to a range of insects, none of which we are able to identify as to species!

     We stopped at various point along the way, birding in areas that were known to be productive, based on Moyo's past experience. For the most part the terrain was open woodland, very attractive indeed.

     We were fortunate to have a Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) approach very closely providing us with the best looks we have ever had of this species.

     It is a singularly attractive little bird in my estimation and I was very pleased to observe it at close range.
     A pair of Blue-throated Toucanets (Aulocorhynchus caeruleogularis) was almost as cooperative.

    The taxonomic ranking of this species seems to be in a constant state of flux and it may be classified by some authorities as Emerald Toucanet or Northern Emerald Toucanet (A. prasinus).
     The neotropics are renowned for the number of wrens in a wide range of genera that coexist there.  Grey-breasted Wood Wren (Henicorhina leucophrys) is quite common, but not always easy to view in the open, so we were very happy with this encounter.

     Among the many species of Euphonia to be found in Panama, Tawny-capped Euphonia (Euphonia fulvicrissa) is among the most distinctive, especially the male, and is easily identified.

     At one point, we all saw a raptor fly in, and it perched in a relatively good position for viewing. It turned out to be our only Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus) of the entire trip.

     The two tomial "teeth"of this oddly-named bird, are formed by notches on the upper mandible, but are of little use as a field character.
     Following on the heels of the Double-toothed Kite, Moyo became very animated, and pointed us in the direction of a Great Jacamar (Jacamerops aureus). Never common, this species was outside its normal range, and Moyo had never before encountered it at Altos del Maria.
     For a really superb picture of this species I am indebted to my friend Masaru who took this picture in the Darien area of Panama.

     Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) is a small compact falcon, widespread throughout Central America, and fortunately not shy.This pair was not perched in an ideal spot for pictures but Miriam did her best.

     Despite its name, bats are not its main source of food, and one of the birds above can be seen consuming what is probably a large insect. Where bats are taken the bird is generally a crepuscular hunter.
     Anyone who has visited Central America has probably at one time or another seen a Helicopter Damselfly in the family Pseudostigmatidae, a family that specializes in feeding on web-building spiders, and in fact seems to be the prototype for the flight style of a helicopter. Some members of the family are very large indeed. 


     A Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naeviodes) is a very attractive inhabitant of the lower levels of the forest.

     Antpittas, as a general rule are very difficult birds to see. They skulk in the densest parts of the forest understorey, often on or close to the ground in gloomy, thick vegetation. Moyo was determined that we would see Black-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma michleri), a lifer for everyone, and he worked at it for about twenty minutes until we had one in view, in fact at times in full view, albeit for brief intervals.

     The genus Pittasoma indicates the family known as Gnateaters, sometimes even referred to as "Gnatpittas!"
     It was a stellar sighting by any standards.  Moyo wryly commented that he enjoys most of all finding difficult birds, and one can easily understand that a fellow who earns his living taking people out to see birds every day, would embrace that challenge, especially if he is with people who really want to see them. I was very, very happy to have the opportunity to observe Black-crowned Antpitta! It is also quite wonderful that Miriam managed such a good picture of an elusive bird.
     Following this splendid success we repaired to a lovely area, next to a pond to have lunch.

     Lunch in the field was always very agreeable. We so much enjoyed the curried tuna sandwiches prepared by the staff at the lodge that we asked Aidan to provide the recipe to us, which he did, and we will now to be able to make it at home. There was lettuce and tomato to add to the sandwich, and to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth cantaloupe, water melon, pineapple and carrot cake. 
     Trogons came to visit, Kiskadees serenaded us, Joseph amused us......we were happy birders all.
     After lunch, in another display of dogged determination, Moyo, spent a good deal of time and effort finding Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata) for us. We were unable to get a picture of this diminutive, fast-moving little hummingbird but we were delighted to see it.
     A Plain Brown Woodcreeper ( Dendrocincla fuliginosa) proved to be much easier to observe - and focus a camera on too!

     This must surely be known as our "Toucanet day" in Panama. We had already seen one species (and there are only two in Panama) and we came upon the second. A pair of Yellow-eared Toucanets (Selenidera spectabilis) were plainly visible and we were all elated to see them.

     As we returned to the lodge we enjoyed driving through the various habitats of the region and seeing small towns and villages along the route.
     Moyo joined us at Happy Hour to complete our checklist, followed by a splendid dinner of garden salad, chicken in cilantro sauce, cauliflower au gratin and squash soufflé. There was chocolate cake for dessert for those who wanted it.
     Just before dinner it had started to rain and the intensity increased. The ferocity of the winds through the valley had caused the power to get knocked out and the lodge was plunged into darkness for a few minutes before the emergency generator was pressed into service. 
     It had been another great day in Panama enhanced in no small measure by Moyo's excellent knowledge of the avifauna of Altos del Maria and his superb skill at finding the birds.

All species 10 April: Grey-headed Chachalaca, Black Guan, Pale-vented Pigeon, Scaled Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, White-collared Swift, Stripe-throated Hermit, Snowcap, Crowned Woodnymph, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Double-toothed Kite, Common Black Hawk, Barred Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Collared (Orange-bellied) Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Great Jacamar, Blue-throated Toucanet, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Caracara, Bat Falcon, Blue-headed Parrot, Barred Antshrike, Russet Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Spotted Antbird, Black-crowned Antpitta, Plain Brown Woodcreeper, Spotted Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail, Red-faced Spinetail, Eye-ringed Flatbill, White-throated Spadebill, Tufted Flycatcher, Rufous Mourner, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, White-ruffed Manakin, Black-chested Jay, Grey-breasted Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Ochraceous Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Song Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Pale-vented Thrush, Clay-coloured Thrush, Thick-billed Euphonia, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Common Bush Tanager, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Great-tailed Grackle, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Buff-rumped Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Black-and-Yellow Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager.

11 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - Candelario Trail - La Mesa - Mato Ahogado - Canopy Lodge

     We had been advised that we would be going out with Danilo Sr. at 07h:30 but by 08h:00 he was nowhere to be seen and we checked with Aidan as to what might have happened. Apparently there had been some confusion as to which period he was supposed to work and he had thought it was in the afternoon.
     Tino Sanchez was assigned to us and based on the birding which ensued we lost nothing in the trade.
     As was often the case a Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus) was on the feeder as we left.

     Miriam decided to stay behind this morning so the photographic record for the outing is scant.
     Our principal target on the Candelario Trail was White-tipped Sicklebill (Eutoxeres aquila), a bird known to feed there on its favoured species of heliconia. I was looking forward with great anticipation to the possibility of locating this species, for on three trips to Costa Rica, a prior trip to Panama, two visits to Ecuador and one to Colombia I had failed every time. To make a long story short, at the end of the morning I had still not seen a Sicklebill! I think this is destined to become my nemesis of all nemeses. 
     But there was more than adequate compensation in the form of two Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoos (Neomorphus geoffroyi), a highly sought after species. I have no pictures to memorialize the event, but we saw the birds at varying intervals for several minutes and the experience is indelibly etched in my mind. Sighting of this species verge on mythical. 
     A couple of Isthmian Wrens (Cantorchilus elutus) put on quite a show for us, far more concerned with each other than the human observers close by.

    Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis) are a constant threat to their host species, but they were quite numerous.

     Tino, clearly feeling bad that he had been unable to connect us with a Sicklebill took us to another location nearby where there was a stand of heliconia known to attract the bird. Not on that morning, however.
     I assured him that this was the nature of birding and being in the right place at the right time is a great part of success. Obviously we had been in the right place, but not at the right time!
     It was interesting to find a Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) on its nest.

      If you look carefully you can see its head at the top left in the picture above.
     On the way back to the lodge a sighting of a Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) was very agreeable, and we watched it for several minutes.

     When we arrived back Miriam was anxious to share her experiences around the lodge while we were away and had pictures to illustrate her successes.

Red-tailed Squirrel (Sciurus granatensis)

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia edward)

Flame-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus flammigerus) ♂
Thick-billed Euphonia (Euphonia laniirostris)

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, dorsal view

     You may recall that I mentioned earlier that Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons) seems to take a good deal of pleasure from bathing and we frequently saw it in the stream.

     Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) was common around the lodge, usually announcing its presence with its signature onomatopoeic call.

     House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) was also easily found, often hopping around on the steps going down to the feeders.

     After lunch we were left to our own devices until 15h:00 when we departed with Danilo, Sr to go to Mata Ahogado to see what we could find there.

     At the first stop Miriam saw this old sewing machine stand and could not resist taking a picture of it.

     I suspect that it is not going to be pressed into service any time soon!
     Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus) was not seen with anything like the frequency with which we saw Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri) so we were happy to be able to take this picture.

     Southern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) by contrast was seen almost every day, usually in swift flight, however, so this individual perched was the exception to the rule.

     Elaenias in general are fairly nondescript little flycatchers and it takes  practice and keen attention to learn the various species. Yellow-bellied Elaenia (Elaenia flavogaster) is perhaps easier than others.

     A boldly marked Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus) presents less of a challenge.

     The "best" bird of the afternoon was an Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus aurantiirostris) but it played hide-and-seek with us so successfully (more hide than seek) that I don't believe anyone got a picture.
     We returned to the lodge for the evening ritual of Happy Hour and the check list update, followed by dinner.
     Miriam and I had arranged for a night tour with Danilo, Sr, and Joseph tagged along too. Danilo played his tape and almost instantly a Tropical Screech Owl (Megascops choliba) responded and perched on the corner of one of the buildings. It was interesting to walk around at night, but it terms of wildlife it produced very little.
     I believe that these pictures are of Giant Toad (Bufo marinus), also known as Cane Toad, a voracious species. Just talk to an Australian about the folly of introducing alien species to places where they don't belong, and the enormous problems that have resulted from the importation of Bufo marinus into Queensland.

     A Vaillant's Frog (Rana vaillanti) is a little more benign.

     Throughout our walk, which lasted about an hour and a half, we heard Mottled Owl (Ciccaba virgata) almost continuously and I estimated that there were at least four calling, possibly more. Finally Miriam managed to get a picture - and everyone will appreciate this is "just for the record!"

     We were in bed a little after 22h:00 and asleep soon afterwards.

All species 11 April: Scaled Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Band-rumped Swift, Green Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Garden Emerald, Bronze-tailed Plumleteer, Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Southern Lapwing, Eastern Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black Hawk-Eagle, Tropical Screech Owl, Mottled Owl, Collared Araçari, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Carcara, Blue-headed Parrot, White-bellied Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Black-chested Jay, Grey-breasted Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Rufous-breasted Wren (heard), Rufous-and-white Wren, Isthmian Wren, Bay Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Song Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Pale-vented Thrush, Clay-coloured Thrush, Thick-billed Euphonia, Tawny-capped Euphonia (heard), Chestnut-capped Brush Finch, Black-striped Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cacique, Crested Oropendola, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Tennessee Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Canada Warbler, Dusky-faced Tanager, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, White-lined Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Bananaquit (heard), Yellow-faced Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Black-headed Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator.