Monday, April 14, 2014

Bulletin 195

I need to take a break from Panama as spring migration is underway along the Texas coast.

In the latter half of March, I had a new hummingbird species in my yard, and not one but 2 individuals, as the plumages were different. The Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) at 3.25 inches in length is the smallest bird in North America. Both birds were juvenile males starting to molt to adult plumage. The first one had a long single red feather on the left side of his throat. Notice that the wings project beyond the tail. This is the fifth species of hummer in my yard!

Calliope Hummingbird - juvenile male
He stayed around for about 10 days and was replaced by a second bird. Notice he has a few central feathers sprouting, but nothing on the left side of his throat.


Calliope Hummingbird - juvenile male
I spent some time on the coast the last 2 weekends and picked up some migrants. The Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina) is very common. The male has the black hood and yellow face. 
Hooded Warbler - male

The female has just the outline of the black hood, but is still easy to identify.


Hooded Warbler - female
A perennial nemesis bird for me was the Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica). It took several years before I saw one after starting photography, but this year, I have seen 2 already. Again, this black and white bird with bright yellow throat is an easy ID. The sexes are similar.

Yellow-throated Warbler


The Prothonotary Warbler (Prothonotaria citrea) is another favorite of mine. This bright yellow bird with a long bill and blue-gray wings is an easy ID. The sexes are similar, but the female is duller and has a more olive crown. This is the first one I am convinced is a male. This guy also gave us 10 minutes of photo enjoyment as he hung out at the drip at LaFitte's Cove.

 
Prothonotary Warbler - male
I also had my first beautiful male Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra).

Summer Tanager - male
I went to Bolivar Island twice last weekend attempting to see and photo a rare gull. I missed that gull both times, but did get some interesting photos of other birds. The most amazing was a pink plumaged gull. This is the Franklin's Gull (Larus pipixcan) in breeding plumage. Sibley's describes this bird as having a 'pink tinge'. Well this bird is not tinged, it is pink! The other ID mark is the white spots on wing tips.

Franklin's Gull - breeding

Here is one of the pair with Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls to show the contrast.

Franklin's Gull

The Least Tern (Sterna antillarum) at 9" long is the smallest tern. It is IDed by the yellow bill and white forehead.

Least Tern - breeding

On Bolivar Flats, the famous Houston Audubon shorebird location, I got photos of 2 small plovers. The Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is smaller at 6.25" in length.  It is IDed by the dark legs, thin bill, and black on forehead, behind eye and incomplete breastband. I had not noted the beige crown on this bird previously and it caught my eye in the field.

Snowy Plover - breeding

The slightly larger (7.25") Piping Plover (Charadrius melodius) has orange legs and bill. It has the black forehead and an almost complete breast band. However, the face is plain.


Piping Plover - breeding

An unusual sighting was an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) sitting on the ground. It was a very windy day and he might have been trying to get out of the elements.

Osprey

Lastly, some of you may know that Galveston Bay had an oil spill about a month ago when a ship collided with a barge in the fog. There were some oiled birds rescued and cleaned, but this White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) must have not been senn or escaped capture to clean him. He was at the Bolivar ferry landing.

White Pelican - oiled


Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald dkmmdpa@gmail.com

Lisa Kelly-McDonald lisajanekelly67@yahoo.com

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald and Lisa Kelly-McDonald

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



















Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bulletin 194 - Panama #5 - blackbirds and howlers

The icterids are a new world family of birds, popularly called the blackbirds. They include many familiar species including blackbirds, grackles, orioles, cowbirds and meadowlarks. However, crows are not in that family.

The Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) is a 9" cowbird that has a range from southeast USA to South America. The male is glossy black with a dark eye. The female is dull brownish.

Shiny Cowbird - male
Caciques are larger birds who build long hanging nests like orioles. The Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela) is 11" long. The sexes are similar. It is unmistakable with its pale bill, blue eye, yellow rump and vent and black body.

Yellow-rumped Cacique
They nest colonially and over water. We found them on the boat trip, as the guide knew a nest tree. Here is a pair beside their long hanging nest. They also have a yellow wing patch which is visible in this photo.


Yellow-rumped Cacique
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
The Scarlet-rumped Cacique (Cacicus uropygialis) is smaller (8.5") and has a much smaller rump patch such that it is visible only when the bird is in flight. The bill is whitish. It also has the blue eye.


Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
Oropendolas are larger cousins of the caciques and build even longer hanging nests, some may be 3 feet long. The Chestnut-headed Oropendola (Psarocolius wagleri) is 14" long with brown head, and rump, black body, yellow tail and large pale bill and a blue eye.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
Here is another photo. One can see the bird is just starting to weave a nest on the tip of a pine branch.

Chestnut-headed Oropendola
The Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus) is much larger at 17" long. The head and body are all black except for the brown vent and rump. The tail is yellow. The bill is whitish. He has a wispy crest.
Crested Oropendola

Here is a bird building the nest.

Crested Oropendola
The Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater) is 7.5" long with a yellow body, black face and throat, wings and tail. The sexes are similar
.

Yellow-backed Oriole
Compare this to the Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas) which is an inch longer. This bird has a black back and yellow tail.

Yellow-tailed Oriole
Most people in the USA and Canada are familiar with the Red-winged Blackbird. The male is black with a red shoulder patch that often is hidden. Well here is the stunning Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris) of South America. It is a small bird at 6.5" long. The male is shown here and is not an ID problem. The female is streaked brownish. It is the same genus as our meadowlarks.

Red-breasted Blackbird

The Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) is the largest monkey in Panama. They weigh up to 22 pounds. We heard them several times and on one lucky day, a troop of about 30 animals crossed our path. Here is one just chilling out on a branch.

Mantled Howler Monkey
We saw several babies carried by the parents. Here are an adult and baby.

Mantled Howler Monkey

A moment later, the baby rolled over on his back and scratched his back on the tree. It was fun to watch.

Mantled Howler Monkey
We even saw a newborn. This little guy was less than 24 hours old according to our guide. His mother was upside down and he was clinging to her chest. He was struggling to get to her nipple to nurse.

Mantled Howler Monkey
Lastly, as a physician, if I can detect an injury or illness in wildlife, I find it fascinationg. This large male was one of the first of the monkeys we saw. He had a large 'hole' on his neck. I thought it was a bullet hole, as the indians do eat these monkeys but probably not in this area of Panama where we were. Anyway, the guide said it was caused from a worm. I did the research and it is botfly larvae burrowed into the skin. Looking at the rest of the photos, I saw several more lumps on other monkeys, but none had a gaping hole like this guy on the right side of his neck. If you look closely on the left side of his neck, it looks like a large lump that is probably another infestation.

Mantled Howler Monkey
with Botfly larva hole

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald dkmmdpa@gmail.com

Lisa Kelly-McDonald lisajanekelly67@yahoo.com

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald and Lisa Kelly-McDonald

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bulletin 193 - Panama #4 - miscellaneous birds

Lisa and I saw several birds in different families, but not enough to make a separate bulletin. So in this one, I will show some of the these individuals.

To me, one of the most exciting birds to find was the Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus). The potoos are a tiny family of just 7 species confined to the new world, with most of them in the Amazon area. They are closely related to nighthawks, being nocturnal insectivores. They have huge eyes and mouths and catch insects from flying from a perch like a flycatcher. During the day they roost on the end of a broken limb and appear as a classic 'stick bird'. Most birders try to see these birds at night with a spotlight, as their eyes glow in the light. I have seen this bird previously, but not in the daytime. We found this bird our first morning.


Common Potoo
Chachalacas are noisy chicken like game birds, usually brownish with long tails. The species that occurs in Panama is the Gray-headed Chachalaca (Ortalis cinereiceps). It is 21" long, with long legs and tail, brown body and gray head and neck. The sexes are similar.

Gray-headed Chachalaca
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
Puffbirds are another family of birds confined to the neotropics. They perch quietly for long periods and tehn fly out to catch insects or small vertebrates. They are usually black and white or brown and white. The White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) is 9.5" long. It has a range from El Salvador to Argentina. The sexes are similar.

White-necked Puffbird
The guide watched him fly down and snare a small lizard and start to eat it. He called us to come and photo it, but we got there a moment too late. You can see something in his beak, but not enough to recognize.
White-necked Puffbird

The only species of jay we found was the Black-chested Jay (Cyanocorax affinis). He is 13" long, bluish-purplish on back with black chest and light belly. The yellow eye is also a good ID mark.


Black-chested Jay
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald

The Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) is everywhere in Panama, and we saw it often. It also can be found in the USA in the Rio Grande Valley. It is IDed by the almost uniform brown color and yellow beak.

Clay-colored Thrush
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald

The Bay Wren (Cantorchilus nigricapillus) and all the tropical wrens are elusive and extremely hard to see, let alone photograph. This one finally we were able to get. It is dark brown with a black head and some white on the face.

Bay Wren

Cotingas are another neotropical family, many of which are beautiful. We saw a male Blue Cotinga (Cotinga nattererii) too far away to photograph, but this female landed 10 feet over our heads. She is just brown on the back, and a scalloped appearance on the undersides. She has a wide-eyed look.



Blue Cotinga - female
We also saw several mammals. They are always exciting to find. The White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) is also known as a coatimundi. It is about 3.5 feet long, 1/2  the length is tail. They are members of the raccoon family and unlike some others in the neotropics, do not have a prehensile tail. We had one run across the road in front of the car. We jumped out and watched a group of 3-4 fighting in the adjacent trees. Apparently they can be found in the USA in southern Arizona and also, they have been introduced into Florida, either as escapees from zoos, or being released as pets.

White-nosed Coati
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
I managed to get a photo of one peeking through some branches while sitting on his haunches.
He has a really cute face.

White-nosed Coati

 
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald dkmmdpa@gmail.com

Lisa Kelly-McDonald lisajanekelly67@yahoo.com

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald and Lisa Kelly-McDonald

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




Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bulletin 192 - Panama #3 - Waders and shorebirds

Lisa and I had the pleasure of 7 days birding in central Panama in early February. We hired a guide to show us around and find the birds. The guide was Gonzalo Horna, whom we found on the Birding Pal web site. Gonzalo knew his birds and where to find them. You can contact him by his email.

We saw several of the same herons and egrets that we have in Texas, but also there were 4 new ones.
The first is the smallish (19") elusive Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) This bird appears similar to the Black-crowned Night-Heron, but has a huge bill. As it is nocturnal primarily, it is difficult to find unless you know where they roost. Even roosting, they tend to be deep in the foliage. Our guide knew of a roost and we saw perhaps a dozen birds. I have only seen a single bird before in 4 previous birding trips to the tropics. The range of this bird in Mexico to Argentina.

Boat-billed Heron - adult

The juvenile is brownish.




Boat-billed Heron - juvenile

The next new bird was the beautiful Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus). It is IDed by the black cap, yellowish neck and blue bill and facial skin. The range of this bird is from the Canal Zone in Panama south to Brazil.

Capped Heron

The Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi) is a tall (40") heron similar in size and color to the Great Blue Heron. However, the neck is white rather than gray. It replaces the Great Blue Heron in South America. We had to take a boat trip to find this bird.

Cocoi Heron

The last of the new herons was the Rufescent Tiger-Heron  (Tigrisoma lineatum). This bird is 27" tall and has a rufous neck.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Here he is skulking away from our car as we took his photo.


Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald

The Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is a dark ibis that occurs in eastern USA and throughout much of the world. It is a rare visitor to Texas, and is listed as uncommon in Panama, but we found a flock in some rice fields. In breeding, it is rufous on the body.
Glossy Ibis - breeding
This bird shows the distinctive facial markings of light lines on a dark face.

Glossy Ibis

Lisa photographed a juvenile Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)  who was in a tree perched at eye level, the ideal spot for a photo. The juvies are all white, and only the blue bill gives the ID. This bird occurs in the USA and all the way to Brazil.

Little Blue Heron - juvenile
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald

An unusual and unknown shorebird (at least to non birders) is a jacana. There are 8 species world wide of this unique bird. They have very elongated toes enabling the bird to walk on lily pads and other floating vegetation. 2 species occur in tropical Americas. The Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana) ranges from Panama to South America. The birds have yellow wing linings which can be seen in flight. The bird is IDed by black body, red face and yellow tip of bill.


Wattled Jacana - adult

Here is one in flight showing the yellow wing linings.


Wattled Jacana - adult
The juvenile has a striped neck, and is brown and white. Notice the long toes.

Wattled Jacana - juvenile
We also saw a downy chick.

Wattled Jacana - chick
And another photo with his foot up, showing he is all toes.

Wattled Jacana - chick
A beautiful shorebird we saw was the Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis). This long-legged plover is unmistakable with its brown body and black facial and chest markings. It also has a wispy black crest.



Southern Lapwing
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald

In flight, the wing pattern is also distinctive.

Southern Lapwing
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald dkmmdpa@gmail.com

Lisa Kelly-McDonald lisajanekelly67@yahoo.com

photos copyright 2014 David McDonald and Lisa Kelly-McDonald

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