Sunday, July 9, 2017

Bulletin 296 - Guatemala 2017 #2 - Warblers and Vireos

I went for a second visit to Guatemala at the end of May. Once again, I used the wonderful local guide Knut Eisermann of Cayaya Birding. On this visit, we concentrated on the western highlands and Pacific lowlands along the Mexican border, as several Mexican species just make it into Guatemala here. I had a list of 10 species in particular I wanted to see and we got 9 of the 10 and saw the other, but I was not able to get a photo of the bird.

There were 3 target warbler species for the trip. The first was the absolutely stunning 5" Golden-browed Warbler (Basileuterus belli). It is hands down the most beautiful warbler I have seen so far.


Golden-browed Warbler
The second was the 5.5" Goldman's Warbler (Setophaga goldmani). If you are not familiar with this bird yet, it is part of the split of Yellow-rumped Warbler, but the AOU hasn't accepted it yet, although the IOU has. It is shown in current guide books. It has a black head, back and breast with a yellow throat.


Goldman's Warbler - male
The female is streaked below rather than solid black.


Goldman's Warbler - female
The third was the Fan-tailed Warbler. But despite chasing it for an entire day and seeing it flying around, it never alighted long enough to get a photo.

We also saw several other warblers. The 4.5" Crescent-chested Warbler (Oreothylpis superciliosa) is olive with a white eye stripe, yellow breast and rufous spot in yellow.


Crescent-chested Warbler
We again saw the fabulous 5" Pink-headed Warbler (Cardellina versicolor). It has a pink head and bright red body.
Pink-headed Warbler

The last was the 5" Grace's Warbler (Setophaga graciae). This bird is a target bird for southeast  Arizona, but its range extends south to Nicaragua



Grace's Warbler
We also found 3 vireo species, 2 of which I had seen and but had poor photos. The 5" Mangrove Vireo (Vireo pallens) is similar to our White-eyed Vireo with yellow spectacles and wing bars, As his name suggests, he inhabits mangroves on both coasts in Middle America from Mexico to Costa Rica.


Mangrove Vireo


And another photo of the same bird.


Mangrove Vireo

The 5" Brown-capped Vireo (Vireo leucophyrs) has a light brown back and dark brown cap. His range is Mexico to Bolivia.


Brown-capped Vireo
We also saw a 7" Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius melitophrys). .This bird is very distinctive with a yellow green back, gray cap, black line through the eye and yellow stripe above the eye. He also has a chestnut collar and streaking on his flanks. He stays in the canopy of the trees. His range is in mountains from central Mexico to Guatemala. He was a lifer for me. The first shows his head pattern.


Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo
And this shows his back.

Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo
I have put the different bird families in single folders for easy perusal.

I have photos of 73 of the 120 New World warblers.

And I have photos of 23 of the 63 worldwide vireos.

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, June 25, 2017

Bulletin 295 - Guatemala 2017 #1 - Wrens and Thrushes

I went for a second visit to Guatemala at the end of May. Once again, I used the wonderful local guide Knut Eisermann of Cayaya Birding. On this visit, we concentrated on the western highlands and Pacific lowlands along the Mexican border, as several Mexican species just make it into Guatemala here. I had a list of 10 species in particular I wanted to see and we got 9 of the 10 and saw the other, but I was not able to get a photo of the bird.

Wrens are small active brown birds. Many of the tropical rain forest species are very wary and difficult to see and photograph. However with perseverance, you can see and photograph them. On last years trip to Colombia, I got 6 new species and added 3 more on this trip. There are 86 species worldwide, all but 1 in the Americas, and I now have 31 photos.

The 5.5" Banded Wren (Thyrophilus pleurostictus) has a brown back, gray breast and extensive horizontal black barring across the belly. He perched nicely on a fence post for me.
Banded Wren
The 4" Rufous-browed Wren (Troglodytes rufociliatus) has a rufous head and throat.


Rufous-browed Wren

The last new wren for the trip is the inappropriately named 8.5" Giant Wren (Campylorhynchus chiapensis). It is no larger then our Cactus Wren (same genus) in sw USA. One sort of expects a bird with name like that to be the size of a Blue Jay or so. Anyway, from the name you can see it is a resident in Chiapas, Mexico and just crosses a couple miles into Guatemala, although many guides list it as a Mexican resident only. It responded nicely to the tape and a pair flew in. It is brown above and plain white below.



Giant Wren

The 5.5" Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) is a resident from sw Canada to Costa Rica, but this was only me third time to see this bird. It is an easy wren to see as it is usually perched in the open on a rock. This bird had a nest near by and was carrying a worm to her babies.


Rock Wren
A surprising bird for me to find was our 6.5" Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis). It ranges as far south as Nicaragua. The male of course has a sky blue back and rufous throat.


Eastern Bluebird - male
It was my first time to photograph the juvenile bird which has a spotted breast typical of many thrushes.


Eastern Bluebird - juvenile
The 10" Rufous-collared Thrush (Turdus rufitorques) I had seen on the previous trip as well. The male is brown with a bright rufous collar around his neck.


Rufous-collared Thrush - male
The female is similar but duller.


Rufous-collared Thrush - female
The 7.5" Spotted Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus dryas) was a life bird. It has a black head, orange bill, yellowish underparts with olive spotting. This is a very difficult bird to see, but we walked into a woods and one was sitting in open on a post singing. Another lucky birding day for me, as we had spent an hour on the other trip and the bird never came into the open even to see it.


Spotted Nightingale-Thrush
We also saw a Black Thrush which was another lifer, but I missed the photo.

I have put the different bird families in single folders for easy perusal.

Here are the 31 wrens.

And I have 36 of the 180 worldwide thrushes.

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, June 11, 2017

Bulletin 294 - Hong Kong - other birds

In just a single day of birding I had about 40 new species of bird photos to add to my collection. Last time, we saw the birds around water, and here are the best of the rest.

There was a single hawk, the 25" Black Kite (Milvus migrans). It is an all black hawk.


Black Kite
And in flight.

Black Kite
The cuckoo family has over 140 species and only about 40 are in the New World. I saw 2 species and photographed one, the 17" male Asian Koel (Eudynamus scolopaceus) is all black with a red eye. The female is brown. This may be a juvie male with the spots on the wings,


Asian Koel
The rest of these birds are passerines or songbirds. There were 2 members of the Corvidae family. These are the crows, jays and magpies. The 21" Collared Crow (Corvus torquatus) is black with a white collar around the neck.


Collared Crow
The other was the 15" Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus). This long-tailed bird has a black head and blue wings and tail.


Azure-winged Magpie

The New World has just 2 of the 33 species of shrikes. Here is the 9" Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach). It is very similar to our shrikes with the hooked bill and black mask across eyes,


Long-tailed Shrike
The starling and myna family is an Old World family. The birds seen in the Americas are introduced or escaped cage birds. Here is the 10" Black-collared Starling (Gracupica nigricollis) has a yellow face, black collar, black back, wings and tail and gray below.


Black-collared Starling
The other was the 10" Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus). It is all black with a red eye and small bushy crest above the bill.


Crested Myna

Bulbuls are another Old World family of birds with many being used as caged bird pets and hence, some escapes are seen in North America. Here is the 8" Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus). I had photographed an escaped bird in Miami, so it was nice to see this distinctive bird in the natural habitat. It is brown with a black head and crest and red cheek spot. 


Red-whiskered Bulbul - adult
Another was the 8" Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster). This bird is brown above, light below and a black head.


Sooty-headed Bulbul
The third was the 7.5" Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis). It is also known as the Chinese Bulbul. It has olive back and wings, light underparts and black and white head.



Light-vented Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
The cuckooshrikes are a 92 species Old World family. The one I saw looked very similar to our Baltimore Oriole. Here is the 8" male Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus speciosus).


Scarlet Minivet - male
The female is yellow and has gray wings.


Scarlet Minivet - female
The last bird is a member of the Old World Flycatcher family. It is the distinctive 8"  Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis). The male shown here is pied black and white and the female is gray and white. 

Oriental Magpie-Robin - male

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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bulletin 293 - Hong Kong #1 - birds around water

I had a quick 1 week vacation in Hong Kong last fall and had  1 day birding with guide David Dinkins of Hong Kong walks. We visited several locations in the New Territories.

Because this was my first trip to Asia, almost all the birds seen were lifers and new photos. So I thought I would start with the sandpipers and other water birds. For those bird listers, some of these names will be familiar.

The best sandpiper was the 10" Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), This is the Eurasian counterpart to our Wilson's Snipe and were considered a single species until split in the last 20 years. If you have looked for the Wilson's Snipe, you know they flush and fly rapidly away and are hard to see clearly. Well we were on a boardwalk in a marsh. This bird flew in and landed on the boardwalk about 20 feet away, allowing a few photos before taking off again.


Common Snipe

The 9" Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) is plain in winter plumage with dark wings.


Green Sandpiper

The 9" Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) has a white eye stripe and dark spotted wings.



Wood Sandpiper


The 6" Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) is a typical small plover with 1 ring on his chest.



Little Ringed Plover


The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is of course an easy ID with the long pink legs.


Black-winged Stilt
There were several herons and egrets, some of which have an obvious North American counterpart. The 38" Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) is a large gray and white heron.


Gray Heron
The 24" Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) also has yellow feet like our Snowy Egret.



Little Egret

The 35" Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is said to be a secretive bird feeding in reed beds and usually only seen when flying between feeding spots as this bird.


Purple Heron
The 19" Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) is brownish with streaked neck in winter. It has no obvious New World counterpart as this genus is confined to the Old World.

Chinese Pond Heron - non-breeding
The 36" Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a Eurasian species that also appears on east coast of North America and is in the Sibley guide. The non-breeding adult here is black with a white throat.


Great Cormorant - adult non-breeding
The juvenile has white underparts.


Great Cormorant - juvenile

There are over 100 species of kingfishers but only 6 are in the Americas. Many of the Old World kingfishers are beautiful. The 6" Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is blue above and orange below with red feet.


Common Kingfisher
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, May 14, 2017

Bulletin 292 - miscellaneous local birds from winter and spring

I did not get out as much recently due to work requirements and I guess some degree of boredom, as I already have pretty good photos of most local birds. I do take photos when a good opportunity pops up to improve my existing photos of various species. And also, having been to Ecuador and Colombia, it does not seem nearly as exciting here. So here are my interesting photos since the New Year.

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)  returned to the same place at Anahuac NWR for a second winter.


Burrowing Owl
A funny looking leucistic American Coot (Fulica americana). A leucistic bird is one with some white feathers, but is not an albino.


American Coot - leucistic
I had a Buff-bellied Hummngbird (Amazilia yucatanensis) once again in my yard this winter, but he was not there regularly. I saw or heard him maybe a half dozen times, but at least I got a nice photo. Such a treat to have this bird as a winter visitor.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird
The cute 13" Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is our smallest duck in North America. The male appears almost all white with just some purple on his head. The female is all brown with a white stripe across her cheek. This pair was at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston.

Bufflehead - pair

This spring I got several good photos of various birds. Photographers are told to get the best photos, it is necessary to be at eye level with the subject. So a bird on a fence is a better photo than one on the ground or way up in a tree.

Here is a beautiful male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyranus forficatus).

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - male
I also got a nice 13" Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) on a fence post. The small size and bicolored bill is the ID for this bird.

Forster's Tern - breeding

There were 2 birds that I saw in the ponds at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston this spring, that I do not recall having ever seen there before. The first was a 30" Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens). This bird is normally in salt water rather than fresh water ponds. It is IDed by the gray body, shaggy reddish neck and pink bill with black tip.

Reddish Egret
Also, last weekend I saw Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) in the ponds at LaFitte's Cove for the first time. Phalaropes are sandpipers that swim. They are unusual for birds in that the female is more colorful and the male looks after the eggs and raising the babies.


Wilson's Phalarope - female
A 23" Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was found at LaFitte's Cove last weekend as well. This bird has raised considerable discussion on Texbirds as to whether it is a Glossy Ibis or aberrant White-faced Ibis or possibly a hybrid. The discussion is still ongoing, but it sure looks classic to me for a Glossy and a number of other experts who saw it. It has classic Glossy field marks with the dark face and eye, pale blue lines above and below the face and dark legs.

Glossy Ibis

And a second photo.

Glossy Ibis
I also got photos of a new turtle at High Island this year. This large turtle (estimated 10-12") had a very long neck with a streaking. I looked in my guide book and came up with the ID of a Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia). I confirmed the ID with a Texas reptile expert.

Chicken Turtle
And a close up of the head.

Chicken Turtle
Overall, spring migration was very quiet for the second year in a row. The most warbler species I saw in a day was 8. Normally mid teens is average and 20 or more is possible in a good day. I hope this is not indicative of a severe decline in the bird populations.

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.