Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bulletin 288 - Colombia #11 - Sparrows

Pablo Florez, the main guide, has co-written a book where to bird in Colombia. In it, he has a list of the Top 30 Most Sought-after Birds by a group of 40 birders visiting Colombia. I saw 12 of them on the trip and got photos of 10. When I show one of these birds,  I will mention its placement on the list.

I know that a list of sparrows does not seem very exciting to those of us in North America where most of the sparrows are just Little Brown Jobs or LBJs as popularly known. But the tropical birds can be quite colorful and most are not called 'sparrows'.

The 7" Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch (Arremon brunneinucha) has a black face, white throat, chestnut cap and olive back.


Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch
His cousin, the 7" Gray-browed Brush-Finch (Arremon assimilis) has a black face with gray eye stripe and olive back.


Gray-browed Brush-Finch
And a third in the same genus is the 6" Olive Finch (Arremon castaneiceps). it is a very attractive bird with a gray head, rufous crown and yellow-olive body.


Olive Finch

The 7" White-naped Brush-Finch (Altapetes albinucha) has a black face, olive back, white neck, and underparts and a yellow throat. Here a pair were side by side.


White-naped Brush-Finch
His cousin is the 7" Pale-naped Brush-Finch (Altapetes pallidnucha). It is another attractive sparrow with its black face, rufous forehead, white nape and bright yellow underparts.


Pale-naped Brush-Finch
Another in the same genus is the 7" Tricolored Brush-Finch (Altapetes tricolor).It has yellow underparts, black face and a rufous crown.



Tricolored Brush-Finch
And a fourth is the 7" Slaty Brush-Finch  (Altapetes schistaceus). It is most gray with a black face and rufous crown.


Slaty Brush-Finch
The only bird called a sparrow was a pair of Rufous-collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) who were feeding a huge Shiny Cowbird baby.


Rufous-collared Sparrow
feeding Shiny Cowbird

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bulletin 287 - Colombia #10 - Cardinals, Manakins, Tapaculo, and others

Pablo Florez, the main guide, has co-written a book where to bird in Colombia. In it, he has a list of the Top 30 Most Sought-after Birds by a group of 40 birders visiting Colombia. I saw 12 of them on the trip and got photos of 10. When I show one of these birds,  I will mention its placement on the list.

The habia genus of ant tanagers were formerly in the tanager family, but have been moved into the cardinal family. We had 2 species on the trip. The 6.75" male Crested Ant Tanager (Habia cristata) looks very similar to our Northern Cardinal. The female however, is red without much of a crest. It is endemic to Colombia.


Crested Ant Tanager - male
His cousin, the 6.75" Sooty Ant Tanager (Habia gutturalis) is gray with a bushy red crest and throat. the female is similar but lacks a crest.


Sooty Ant Tanager - male


The manakins are a small (52 species) New World family of small songbirds. They are known for the elaborate displays that the males perform on a lek. I photographed 2 new species on this trip. The first was the 3.5" Western Striped Manakin (Machaeropterus striolatus). This is a recent split from Striped Manakin. The male shown here has a red crown, green back, and white underparts with red streaks.

Western Striped Manakin - male
The second one was a real treat to see several males at a lek and this allowed a half hour of viewing the birds and several photos. The 3.5" male Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala). It is an easy ID with the black body and golden head.

Golden-headed Manakin
I photographed 2 Jays on the trip. The 14" Black-chested Jay (Cyanocorax affinis) has a black face and chest and yellow eye.

Black-chested Jay
The 12" Inca Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) is similar to our South Texas Green Jay and in fact they were considered a single species until split by the IOC in 2009. 

Inca Jay
The 6" White-winged Becard (Pachyramphus polychopterus) is a member of the small family (45 species) of tityras and becards all in New world. It is black with white wing bars.

White-winged Becard
Swallows are difficult to photograph until you can get them on a wire, or perched near their nest. With their graceful flight, I have always loved swallows and  it is a pleasure whenever I can photograph a new species. I managed 1 species on the trip, the 5" Brown-bellied Swallow (Notiochelidon murina). This is a bird of high elevations in the Andes and the paramo. We drove past a farm house and they were nesting under the eaves and sitting on the tile roof.

Brown-bellied Swallow
A family of birds I have not written about previously is the tapaculos. The reason for this is I had never seen one until this trip. There are 60 species and all except one are in South America. I heard several on previous trips, but they are small (5") dark birds that stay close to the ground in thick brush. Finally, I got to see 4 species and managed to photograph the most exciting one, the large 8.5" Ocellated Tapaculo (Acroptemis orthonyx). This is the largest and only colorful one in the Colombia field guide. It has a black body with small white spots and an orange face. This bird is #14 on the top 30 target birds in Colombia.

Ocellated Tapaculo

The other ones I saw were the Stile's Tapaculo (a Colombian endemic and I missed a photo I should have gotten), the Blackish Tapaculo (they are all mostly black LOL) and a new species to science the Alto Pisones Tapaculo. This is the tentative name given to this newly discovered species, first described in 2012.

For those birders who may be heading to Colombia to see the avain wonders, there is a new guide book in second edition (2014)  "Field guide to the Birds of Columbia" by McMullan and Donegan. I was unaware of this book and just had Hilty's 1986 huge book which is quite out of date with splits and new species. My guides in Colombia had this newer book, but it is sold out in Colombia. A few copies are available from 3rd parties on Amazon however. New it is $34.95 with one vendor and $90 at 2 others, but used $170, so buy a new one before sold out! It is published by ProAves, a Colombia non-profit that uses the proceeds to buy habitat to protect the rare species. The first edition was in 2010 and this one has all 1903 species recorded at the end 2013.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bulletin 286 - Colombia #9 - Flycatchers

Pablo Florez, the main guide, has co-written a book where to bird in Colombia. In it, he has a list of the Top 30 Most Sought-after Birds by a group of 40 birders visiting Colombia. I saw 12 of them on the trip and got photos of 10. When I show one of these birds,  I will mention its placement on the list.

The Tyrannidae family of Tyrant Flycatchers is the largest family of birds with more that 430 species, all of which are in the New World. Many are rather plain, but I did see some new interesting flycatchers in Colombia.

The 3.5" Southern Bentbill (Oncostoma olivaceum) is IDed by the unusual bill and white eye.


Southern Bentbill


The 4.75" Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea) is gray with a black head and wings. It is found along mountain streams. I had seen this bird at a distance before, but several were rather close on this trip.



Torrent Tyrannulet

The large 9" Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant (Myiotheretes striaticollis) put on a wonderful show the first morning as we were having breakfast at a farmhouse with hummingbird feeders.  What a beautiful flycatcher.


Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant

Another of the same genus is the 8" Smoky Bush-Tyrant (Myiotheretes fumigatus). It is gray brown overall with no other markings.


Smoky Bush-Tyrant


The 6" Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant (Ochthoeca fumicolor) is IDed by the white eye stripe and overrall reddish brown.


Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant
A long time favorite of mine is the 5" White-headed Marsh-Tyrant (Arundinicola leucocephala). I had seen this bird in 1991 in Venezuela, but this is the first time to see it since then. The cute male is black with a white head. the female has a white head and underparts with gray back. They sit up on exposed perches near wetlands and is a snap to ID.


White-headed Marsh-Tyrant - male

The 5" Pied Water-Tyrant (Fluvicola pica) is also found near water but is mostly white with black back, wings and tail.


Pied Water-Tyrant



The 4.5" Handsome Flycatcher (Nephelomyias pulcher) has a gray cap and a rusty breast and wing bars.


Handsome Flycatcher

Another bird I saw in Venezuela in 1991 and did not see again until this trip is the 8" Cattle Tyrant (Machetornis rixosa). It is IDed by the black eye strip and bright yellow belly. It is found in open farmland and often may be on the ground or perched on the back of a grazing animal.


Cattle Tyrant
And lastly is the 4" Black-throated Tody-Tyrant (Hemitriccus granadensis). These tiny flycatchers are difficult to see well as they flit around constantly,. So it is always exciting for me to get a good photo of one of them. Then I can really see what the bird looks like. It is olive above, white below with a black throat.


Black-throated Tody-Tyrant

I have updated my Tyrant Flycatcher family photos. There are 435 species and I have photos of 114 of them here.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Bulletin 285 - Colombia #8 - Cotingas, Blackbirds and Warblers

Pablo Florez, the main guide, has co-written a book where to bird in Colombia. In it, he has a list of the Top 30 Most Sought-after Birds by a group of 40 birders visiting Colombia. I saw 12 of them on the trip and got photos of 10. When I show one of these birds,  I will mention its placement on the list.

The cotinga family of songbirds (66 species) is a diverse group that hardly even look similar.  It is as if they just couldn't place the remaining birds anywhere else, so they dumped them all here. On this trip I saw more cotingas than on any previous trip.

The most spectacular is the 12" male  Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus).  The males congregate at a lek and perform for females. I had seen this bird before at a lek in Ecuador, but this lek is supposed to be the best in the world. There were at least a dozen males when we arrived in the late afternoon. The male is red with a bushy crest, black wings with a large grey patch. He has a yellow eye.


Andean Cock-of-the-rock - male

And another bird.


Andean Cock-of-the-rock - male

Pihas are cotingas that once were thought to belong to the flycatcher family. I had seen some on previous visits to the tropics, but this was first time to get some photos. They are plain looking birds, but still nice to see as both were lifers for me.

The 13" Dusky Piha (Lipaugus fuscocinereus) is a drab charcoal colored bird.


Dusky Piha
The 10" Olivaceous Piha (Snowornis cryptolophus) is olive colored of course.


Olivaceous Piha
The fruiteaters are mostly green cotingas. I had seen one before in Ecuador, but got much better photos on this trip as well as a second species that was a lifer. The most common is the 7" Green-and-black Fruiteater (Pipreola rifferii).This is the one I had seen before, but it was weird that the birds came to the antpitta feeder location and were eating worms, despite their name. The male is green with a black hood bordered in yellow, and orange beak and feet.



Green-and-black Fruiteater - male

The female is uniformly green all over.


Green-and-black Fruiteater -female
We also saw this bird which is not described in guide books, but must be a juvenile male, as the green hood is distinctive and bordered in the yellow.


Green-and-black Fruiteater - juvenile male
The other was a 7" male Orange-breasted Fruiteater (Pipreola jucunda). This one is green with the black hood and an orange breast. It was another fantastic bird in Tatama National Park.


Orange-breasted Fruiteater - male
The last is the 15" Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus). This is a black bird with an extensive red throat and rufous belly


Red-ruffed Fruitcrow
The icterid family is a New World family (108 species) of blackbirds, grackles, meadowlarks, orioles and relatives. Those of us in North America are familiar with several species. I photographed 2 new species on this trip and both were lifers.

The first is the 7" male Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus). It resembles the Yellow-headed Blackbird of western North America, but is a different genus.


Yellow-hooded Blackbird - male
The other is the 12" endemic Red-bellied Grackle (Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster). This bird is #27 on the list of 30 most sought-after birds in Colombia. I saw this bird the first morning in the mountains near Medellin. It is unusual for what we know as grackles, as it is  a forest bird.


Red-bellied Grackle
The last family  got new photos were the warblers. I saw 2 new lifers and photographed them.
The 5" Golden-fronted Whitestart (Myioborus ornatus) is found only in Colombia and Ecuador. It is all golden and except for black back, wings and tail. The tail has white edges.


Golden-fronted Whitestart
The 5.5"  Russet-crowned Warbler (Myothilypis coronata) has a range from Venezuela to Bolivia. here is an adult above with a hungry baby begging below.


 Russet-crowned Warbler - adult and baby
Russet-crowned Warbler - adult and baby
I have updated my families lists for both warblers and icterids.

I have photos of 71 of the 120 warblers here

And 43 of the 108 icterids here..


Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bulletin 284 - Colombia #7 - Tanagers part 2

Pablo Florez, the main guide, has co-written a book where to bird in Colombia. In it, he has a list of the Top 30 Most Sought-after Birds by a group of 40 birders visiting Colombia. I saw 12 of them on the trip and got photos of 10. When I show one of these birds,  I will mention its placement on the list.

As everyone knows, the tanager family (Thraupidae) has some of the most colorful birds. In the first part we saw a number of them, so here are the rest from this remarkable trip.

The Bangsia genus consists of just 5 species of tanagers. These are birds of the mountains and until recently some of them have been rarely seen. These tanagers have relatively short tails. One of them is resident in Costa Rica and Panama, the Blue-and-gold Tanager. I saw and photographed it earlier this year. in Costa Rica. The other 4 are in Colombia and 2 are endemic and we saw both at Tatama National Park in the cloud forest.

The 6" Black-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia melanochlamys) is more common than the next one, but it still is an uncommon bird and is #8 on the list of most sought after birds in Colombia. It is listed as vulnerable.  This was a lifer.


Black-and-gold Tanager 
The 6" Gold-ringed Tanager (Bangsia aureocincta) is perhaps the most famous tanager in Colombia as it is on the cover of both 'Field Guide to Birds of Columbia' and 'Birdwatching in Colombia'.. In the Steven Hilty 1986 classic "Guide to the Birds of Colombia", he says this bird is poorly known from only 2 mountainous areas. It is listed as endangered and is #5 on the list of most sought-after birds in Colombia. The male is green with a black head and an incomplete gold ring on sides of head. This was a lifer.


Gold-ringed Tanager - male
The female is similar, except the black of head is replaced by green.


Gold-ringed Tanager - female
The 7" Blue-capped Tanager (Thraupis cyanocephala) is blue and yellow. It is much more colorful than the illustration in the guide books. This was a lifer. 


Blue-capped Tanager
The 7" Purplish-mantled Tanager (Iridosornis porphyrocephalus) has a purple hood and yellow throat. This was a lifer.


Purplish-mantled Tanager
The next one is a bird that I have loved the photo in the guide books for 20 years and finally I saw it on this trip. It is the 6" Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis). The male is turquoise with a black face and a pale blue belly with some horizontal black streaks on flanks.


Swallow Tanager - male

The female is green and she lacks the black face.



 Swallow Tanager - female
The tangara genus of small tanagers are often the most colorful and here are 2 from the trip. Both were birds I had seen before. The 5" Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata) as the name suggests is the exception to the rule. It is gray with a blue wing patch.


Plain-colored Tanager
The 5" Scrub Tanager (Tangara vitriolina) is aqua with a rufous cap.


Scrub Tanager
Finally, flowerpiercers are tanagers with a specialized hooked upper beak for making holes in the base of flowers and directly getting the nectar. 2 of them were colorful on this trip. The 6" Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea) is bright blue with a black mask and bright red eye.


Masked Flowerpiercer
The 5" Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer (Diglossa gloriosissima) is black with a rufous belly. This endangered species is endemic to Colombia and found only on two mountain tops. This bird was photographed at Tatama National Park. 


Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer

I have updated my tanager family photos and have 97 of the 370 species here.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

dkmmdpa@gmail.com

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.