Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bulletin 206 - Panama #13

Parrots are the another special bird. Everyone wants to see them, especially the macaws. However, as anyone who as actually done birdwatching in the tropics can tell you, they are difficult to see perched. Flyovers are very common. Despite the fact that there are 22 parrot species in the Panama bird book, we got photos of only 3. The sexes are similar.

The first was a distant photo of the Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus). This 9.5" parrot was perched at the top of a bare tree. Fortunately we were on a 100' canopy tower, so able to get him at eye level, but he was still about 100 feet from us.. He is green with a blue head and red undertail. Also this genus, pionus, is noted for their deep wing beats when flying. Most other parrots have very shallow wing beats.

Blue-headed Parrot

The other 2 species were parakeets. These birds have long pointed tails, unlike the parrots which have square tails. The first was the Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax). This is a 9" green parakeet with brown cheeks and throat. There is an orange patch under the eyes that is helps with the ID.

Brown-throated Parakeet

This bird has a more yellow than orange patch. Maybe a juvenile?

Brown-throated Parakeet

The small (6.5") Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis) gave us the best photos of any parrot on the trip when several came to a feeder. His colors are almost iridescent. And like many birds, the name of the bird is a field mark that is almost never seen because it is so small. However, his orange chin can be seen in the photo. The brown shoulders are the best ID mark. This is the most common parakeet in Panama.

Orange-chinned Parakeet

We also photographed 3 species of swallows. The first is the Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea). This 6.5" swallow has a bluish back, white chin and gray breast. It has a moderate length forked tail.

Gray-breasted Martin

The tiny (4.5") Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea) is similar to our Tree Swallow, but has a white rump. here is a frontal view showing the blue-green back and the snow white underparts.

Mangrove Swallow

Here he is turned around to show the white rump.

Mangrove Swallow

Lastly is the 5" Southern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis). It is brown-backed and has a cinnamon throat.. The underparts are light. This may be a juvenile with the rusty flanks and white edging on the wing feathers.

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Most surprising to me was that I caught a glimpse of a Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) and snapped a single photo. This bird has been a nemesis bird for me to photograph in the USA. It migrates through east Texas spring and fall but I have had only a couple of photos in 8 years. Also, I missed it last summer in Michigan on its breeding grounds. It is listed as a fairly common winter bird in Panama. It is IDed by the golden crown and wing patch and black facial pattern.

Golden-winged Warbler

We saw only a single member of the manakin family. This is a 52 member family of small fruit-eating songbirds in the neotropics. You may have seen videos of the courtship routine of these birds in which several related males will perform an elaborate dance routine to attract a mate. The males are brightly colored and the females are usually dull olive. The Blue-crowned Manakin (Pipra coronata) is a tiny (3") bird. The male is black with a blue crown and the female is bright green. We saw only the female, but she was close and sat still until we got some photos.

Blue-crowned Manakin - female
A common distinctive neotropical bird is the Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata). It is a medium-sized (7.5") mostly white bird with black on the face and wings. The bill is red and it has red periorbital skin.

Masked Tityra - male

The female has a brownish wash to the head body.

Masked Tityra - female
The last bird is called a tanager, but it is actually in the sparrow family. The Common Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) is a 5" bird with a dark head and distinctive white spot behind the eye. The back is olive and the underparts yellow.

Common Bush-Tanager

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Bulletin 205 - Summer birds

Summer tends to be the doldrums here in Southeast Texas - hot, humid and lots of biting insects. However, there are always a few good birds to find and photograph. It is also the time to see the babies and juveniles of our local nesting birds.

I had 2 notable birds at the house this summer. The first was the 14" Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississipiensis). I have seen them flying over the house 2-3 times in spring or fall migration in 18 years. However, in June and July, Lisa and I noticed a pair of adults flying low over the trees several times weekly. I was sure that they must have a nest close by. Sure enough in mid-August I found a juvenile in a pine tree on our property. One can see the wing-tips extending beyond the tail which is an ID mark for this long-winged raptor.

Mississippi Kite - juvenile

I went to Anahuac NWR several times over the summer to look for the marsh birds and waders. The baby Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) has a striped head. Here is an adult with baby.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with duckling
This pair had 13 juveniles following behind!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck family
I found a nest of Green Herons (Butorides virescens). The 2 babies have a punk rock haircut.

Green Heron babies
I watched this Neotropic Cormorant catch a catfish in the canal and manipulate it around to swallow it. He was almost at my feet as I took this out the car window. He appears to be displaying his catch proudly.

Neotropic Cormorant with catch of the day

The Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica) is considered by many people to be the most beautiful bird in the USA. There seemed to be more of them this year than at any other time in 20 years. I saw 12 - 15 adults on each visit. Normally, the adults are seen singly, but on one trip, I saw a pair together and stopped to photograph them from the car, and to my amazement, they started copulating. It was all over in 5-10 seconds, so I was extremely lucky to get a photo.

Purple Gallinules copulating

Moments afterwards, the male preened the female's head and neck.

Purple Gallinules

With so many birds to see, I got the best photos I have ever taken of the adult. Here is one preening after taking a bath.

Purple Gallinule

And here is another on a yellow bush showing the beautiful colors of his head and neck. This is uncropped. He was so close, I couldn't get the whole bird in the photo.

Purple Gallinule

The babies are cute little black fuzzballs.

Purple Gallinule - chick

As they get bigger, they molt into the juvenile plumage of warm beige back and white underparts. Here is one partially molted with still fuzzy black on head and neck. The wing feathers are just starting to grow.

Purple Gallinule molting from chick to juvenile

And here is another close up. This is the first time I have seen these partially molted plumaged birds.

Purple Gallinule molting from chick to juvenile

The juvenile plumage is here and the wings show bluish tinge.

Purple Gallinule - juvenile

Last weekend at Anahuac, I found this light morph plumaged Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). He was sitting on a fence post eating his catch. This was my first photo ever of this species at eye-level, and my first of this color morph perched. What a beautiful bird. This bird is a migrant through east Texas.

Swainson's Hawk - light morph adult

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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