Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bulletin 185 - Puerto Rico - endemics

Lisa, Seth, and I had some vacation and birding in Puerto Rico in early November. The island is easy to get to now that Soutwest Airlines flies there from Florida. This small island (5300 sq miles) is slightly smaller than Connecticut (48th state by area) but has 18 endemic birds. Compare that to the lower 48 states and Alaska which have only 15 endemic birds.

We hired a guide for a day of birding at El Yunque National Forest. Hilda Morales was a great guide and here is her web site. As this was our first time to bird in Puerto Rico, the endemics were lifers for all of us.

There are 2 endemic warblers and we saw one, the Adelaide's Warbler (Setophaga adelaidae). This bird is identified by the gray back, 2 wing bars and yellow underparts. There is also a yellow line above the eye. The sexes are similar.

This one came and perched on the passenger window of our vehicle and pecked at his reflection in the mirror.

Adelaide's Warbler

The Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus) is a monotypic genus (means only bird of that genus). The adults have olive back, dark head, gray underparts with some streaking along the flanks. There is a small white wing spot that is a key to the ID. It can be seen in this photo.
Puerto Rican Tanager

The Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus) is a tiny bird the size of a hummer at 4.5". I don't know why the scientific name is 'mexicanus' when it doesn't occur in Mexico.  There are only 5 species in the tody family and all are in the Caribbean. This was my first time to see any tody. It has a green back, red bill and throat, white breast and yellow belly. The sexes are similar.

Puerto Rican Tody
The Puerto Rican Woodpecker (Melanerpes puertoricensis) has a solid black back and red on the throat and breast.
Puerto Rican Woodpecker
The last endemic we photographed, was the Puerto Rican Emerald (Chlorostilbon maugeaus). This is a small (3.5") hummer with a forked tail. The male is all green as shown here. The female would have white underparts.

Puerto Rican Emerald - male
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Bulletin 184 - Anahuac NWR birds

Anahuac NWR east of Houston has always been a favorite destination of mine for birding and photography. 2013 is their 50th anniversary year.

I haven't been there this year until the summer and then several visits this fall. I am happy to see that they have recovered from the effects of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the devastating droughts of the last 2 years.

The Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) is often seen there is large numbers, when it is uncommon elsewhere on the upper Texas coast. It is identified by the rusty color, dark back and white flank stripes and rump. The sexes are similar.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Another secretive bird that is easily seen at Anahuac is the Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis). This bird is our smallest member of the heron and egret family at just 13" in length. This one was walking in the wide open. This is likely a female. The male has a mahogany colored back.

Least Bittern

An identification problem that I often have is with the juvenile night-herons. There are normally a lot of Yellow-crowned at Anahuac, but seldom do I see a Black-crowned. On a visit on 8-11-13, I found both. They are easy to tell apart if flying or standing completely in the open. But if they are in weeds or grass, so that you cannot see the leg length, it is more difficult.

The Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) has extensive yellow on the bill and large white spots on the wings.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - juvenile

Here is the facial detail showing the yellow on the beak.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - juvenile detail
In contrast, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) has a solid black bill and small white spots on the wings.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - juvenile

Here is a first summer Yellow-crowned. It is grayish, but the white facial stripe is starting to appear.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - 1st summer
An interesting sight was a group of 5 Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) on a dead bush in the middle of the pond. There were 4 on the branches and as I was taking the photos, a fifth bird flew in to land in the center between the others.

Neotropic Cormorants

At the old destroyed visitor center, many swallows nest. There are 2 species, barn and cliff and although they both build mud nests, the nest differences are readily apparent. The barn swallows have a typical nest with the opening on top. the cliff swallows build a gourd like nest with the opening on the side. Here is a Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) nest with 2 babies at the opening.

Cliff Swallows in nest

An unusual find was this European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) molting from his drab gray-brown juvenile plumage to the spotted adult non-breeding plumage. An illustration is shown in Sibley with just the gray head. This one really looks ragged.

European Starling - juvenile molting
I have about exhausted the USA birds, so it is time to extend my travels further afield and bring some new birds to the blog. Stay tuned.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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