Sunday, October 2, 2016

Brown Noddy at Corn Island!

September 14th to September 17th, Mangua-based birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner took a trip to Corn Island to do some snorkling and see some of the birds that are unique to that location, particularly Smooth-billed Anis and White-crowned Pigeons. They also saw a number of herons and shorebirds, including Black- and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, large numbers of Ruddy Turnstones, and more.

 Swallows were also present everywhere - mostly Barn Swallows; but Purple Martins and Cliff Swallows (both new for the highly under-birded hotspot) were also regular sights. Rarities included Short-billed Dowitchers, seen in a little wetland along with Blue-winged Teals, a Greater Yellowlegs, and a number of small sandpipers. The highlight of the trip, however, was a Brown Noddy, only the second report of this species for Nicaragua, and the first in over seven years! (There was one old report previously from very close to the Costa Rican border back in 2009.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Harpy Eagle at Bartola!

Harpy Eagle (immature)
Canadian birder G. Elliott Whitby submits the following description of his February 16, 2016, encounter with a young Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)--the first known sighting of this species in Nicaragua in more than 15 years, and the first documented eBird record for the country:

"On February 16 Elliott Whitby, Ardith Ekdahl, Gordon Greer and Denise Orr were taken on a birding tour by boat up the Bartola River from Refugio Bartola. The guide was Juan Jose. At approximately 9:30 the guide told us a Harpy Eagle was passing over the boat. It landed in an adjacent tree and we all got wonderful views with our binoculars and three of us took pictures for about ten minutes. According to (eBird country reviewer Liliana Chavarria) it is the first sighting of a Harpy Eagle in 15 years in Nicaragua."

A Productive Visit to Sabalos Lodge

Janelle and Howard Freshman of Long Beach, California provide the following account of their recent visit to Sabalos Lodge, on the Rio San Juan:

My husband Howard and I birded at Sabalos Lodge February 10-16, 2016. We probably saw more species than on any previous trip to the area. We had a brief look at a pair of Royal Flycatchers (Onychorhynchus coronatus) along the path in the lodge. We saw three Olivaceous Piculets (Picumnus olivaceus) in a mixed flock that included a Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus), Plain Xenops (Xenops minutus), and two Dot-winged Antwrens (Microrhopias quixensis). We got a good look at a male Bare-crowned Antbird (Gymnocichla nudiceps). We saw plenty of wintering migrants including a beautiful male Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina), American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia), several Northern Waterthrushes (Parkesia noveboracensis), and plenty of Chestnut-sided Warblers (Setophaga pensylvanica) as usual. Resident birds that we saw included included a Bright-rumped Atilla (Attila spadiceus), Black-throated Wren (Pheugopedius atrogularis), Spot-breasted Wren (Pheugopedius maculipectus), Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus), Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus), Great Antshrike (Taraba major) and two Slaty Spinetails (Synallaxis brachyura). We also got great looks at two (Neotropical River) otters in front of the lodge!

Plain Xenops

Bare-crowned Antbird

Neotropical River Otter

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lost Canyon Reveals Hidden Treasures

Daniel Néron of Montréal (Quebec), Canada, submits the following report from his December 15-20, 2015, visit to Nicaragua:  

I spent one week at Lost Canyon, a private nature reserve 20 km North of Lago Xolotlán (Lake Managua). This 40 ha reserve is within the tropical dry forest.  It extends from a river system to a ridge, one kilometer away and 200 m higher. Near the creek, the trees stay green all year round and are a refuge for the wildlife that lives in this valley. A trail brings you to the summit and does a loop where several lookouts allow breezy halts. In October and April, the valley is a corridor for the migration of thousands of raptors.

Typical dry forest habitat at Lost Canyon Nature Reserve
I saw a total of 57 species of birds at Lost Canyon during that week. One memorable hike was done with the reserve guide early in the morning until noon. At dawn, a large group of Black-headed Trogons (Trogon melanocephalus) was vocalizing and found near the river. Before entering forest, we spent an hour in open fields and we had the chance to see one Lesser Ground-Cuckoo (Morococcyx erythropygius) and a few Crested Bobwhites (Colinus cristatus) crossing the trail. Besides many flycatchers coming and going, a Streaked-backed Oriole (Icterus pectoralis), Orange-fronted Parakeets (Aratinga canicularis), a Banded Wren (Thryophilus pleurostictus) and a Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) were seen in the bushes nearby. Upon entering the forest, a family of White-lored Gnatcatchers (Polioptila albiloris) welcomed us. 

The slope of the hill is composed of many small flats sheltering recent plantations. Groups of passerines were feeding there. They were often composed of the Summer or Western Tanager (Piranga rubra or P. ludoviciana), Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons), Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons), Brown or Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus or M. crinitus), Greenish Elaenia (Myiopagis viridicata), without forgetting our Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). One of the groups was joined by the Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa), Nicaragua's national bird. The flower beds were patrolled by the Cinnamon Hummingbird (Amazilia rutile) or the Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantii).

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris)
One of the treasures of the park is “the bench”. Installed in front of a pool along the river, it is a calm and shady place to wait for birds at bath time, which is late morning. This is where I met the Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans) in the large tree in front of me. The Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana) and Hoffmann's Woodpecker (Melanerpes hoffmannii) also came by. The last day, I was rewarded by the visit of a group of finches that included Painted Buntings (Passerina ciris). An abundance of doves can be observed in the Reserve. They have to drink a lot each day and they are easily seen in the river bed. Over five species of this family, including the Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris) and the White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi) were seen.

Richard Leonardi and his family, owners of the Reserve, were the best of hosts. They were always proactive in organizing things to suit our needs. Richard is an enthusiastic naturalist always eager to hear about one's observations at Lost Canyon and happy to share his own.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Corn Island Specialties and Rarities

White-crowned Pigeon
For the Thanksgiving holiday, Managua-based birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner took a three-day trip to Corn Island, one of many places in Nicaragua that is highly under-birded. They were seeking out Smooth-billed Anis, Palm Warblers, and White-crowned Pigeons, all of which are difficult to find anywhere else in Nicaragua.

Smooth-billed Ani
Previous eBird reports from the island noted 31 species, mostly shorebirds. Cal and Jessie were able to bring that number up to 42, including several rarities. There were ducks, gallinules, herons, one Peregrine Falcon and one Palm Warbler, and plenty of shorebirds. Besides the anis and the pigeons (both of which were fairly abundant in Barrio Sally Peachie and Quinn Hill), highlights from the trip included a Gray Kingbird (one of the rarities), a Ring-necked Duck (also a rarity), and several Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Gray Kingbird
Also exciting was a small group of Brown Boobies seen every day through a scope, hanging out on a large, rusty piece of metal reported to be a sunken pirate ship! They were about half way between Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island.

Sanderling with Ruddy Turnstones
This tiny Caribbean island most assuredly still holds some birding surprises. Local islanders were able to point out a number of other species in the book "A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua" that they've seen over the years that still have not shown up on any eBird lists, including migrating tanagers, periodic owls and hummingbirds, and even a Red-billed Tropicbird! Hopefully, more birders will go back and get official documentation of some of those species some day. If you're interested in visiting the island - be sure to do some snorkling too! And for birds, the best parts of the island are Sally Peachie, Long Bay, and the North End. Mount Pleasant and Quinn Hill offer some great lookouts and views; they are also highly recommended!

Black-bellied Plovers

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Los Farallones Yield Seldom-Seen Seabirds

Magnificent Frigatebird diving for fish
On September 11, 2015, Managua-based birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner joined Chinandega-based birders Orlando Jarquin and Milton Salazar, and Leon-based birders Gordon and Peggy Tans, for a trip to Reserva Volcan Cosiguina with the ultimate goal of visiting the islands of Los Farallones. We were all very excited to see some pelagics, and energy was high in the van when we arrived at the reserve. As we crossed through some farmlands on our way to the little beach town of Potosi, suddenly there were cries of “What is that?! Stop the car!” At about the same time, several of us spotted a bird of prey on a nearby fence post. It turned out to be a Barn Owl, in the clear light of early evening – great for taking photos! Just a minute or so down the road, we were yelling to stop the car again, this time for what turned out to be a pair of White-tailed Kites hunting above a field. There were also some Double-striped Thick-knees and a variety of other smaller birds getting their last meal before going to roost for the night. We hadn't even been at the Cosiguina reserve for more than 20 minutes yet, and already the trip felt like a success!

Barn Owl
After spending the night in Potosi, we headed out early to meet our boat pilot and guide. On the beach were the usual egrets, herons, and vultures. In the distance, you could see the mountainous shores of both Honduras and El Salvador. The boat ride was definitely wet and a bit rough. We were all trying to keep cameras and binoculars dry as we bounced along away from the shore. Not too far out, we began to see Black Terns and Black Storm-Petrels scattered all around us. The petrels had been reported in the area several times the last month and a half, mostly by birders from the Honduran shore; but they were new to all of us on board – very exciting!

When we arrived at the little islands, we were only allowed to stay for 20 minutes due to a new, nearby naval post. They're not very welcoming of visitors, and we didn't want to get a fine or cause trouble for our guide. Still, it was plenty of time to take some great pictures of Blue-footed Boobies, Brown BoobiesMagnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Pelicans. There were also a few Bridled Terns.
Blue-footed Boobies
On the way back to Potosi, we passed closer to the sandy shores around Punta San Jose. There were a variety of terns and other shore birds to be seen, including Willets and Whimbrels, and Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns, and much more. The highlight of that part of the trip was a Common Black-Hawk on the edge of the shore eating from a fresh kill.

Brown Booby
Finally, as we were heading back home, we stopped again on the road through the farms of Cosiguina, where we had seen the Barn Owl the day before. It was earlier in the day this time, and there were much more birds active. The pair of White-tailed kites was replaced this time by a pair of Pearl Kites; and a group of hundreds of Red-Winged Blackbirds definitely caught our attention! As we watched a Roadside Hawk rest in a nearby tree, we could hear several species of trogons and woodpeckers hiding in the woods nearby. All in all, by the time the trip was over, we had seen 55 different species, including some that you couldn't easily find anywhere else in the country. Then, just for fun, we stopped at Reserva Hato Nuevo for lunch on the way home - but that was a separate adventure!

--Submitted by Jessie Mentzer Stuebner

Hummingbird Heaven

Los Angeles, California-based birders Janelle and Howard Freshman submitted the following report from a recent visit to Nicaragua:

"My husband Howard and I visited El Jaguar Reserve on Aug 3rd and 4th 2015 and had a great time. Georges was a wonderful host and Moises helped us find many birds. The hummingbirds were the highlight of the trip. We saw a female Black-crested Coquette and what George believed was a young male. We saw a female or young male Plain-capped Starthroat close to the lodge. In total we saw 7 species of hummingbirds (Black-crested Coquette, Plain-capped Starthroat, Green-breasted Mountain-Gem, Violet Sabrewing, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, and Long-billed Hermit). We also heard two male Three-wattled Bellbirds singing but unfortunately could not see them (although Moises tried his best!).
Green-breasted Mountain-Gem
"Thank you to George for loaning Howard his lens- Howard's lens was not working. George saved the day! We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and hope to return to El Jaguar soon!"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lifers Galore at El Jaguar!

Florida-based birder Bill Boeringer submits the following report from a recent visit to Nicaragua:

Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird
On June 30-July 2, 2015, I birded El Jaguar with Moisés Siles. Although I’ve been to Nicaragua on family trips several times (my wife is Nicaraguan), it was my first opportunity to bird the Central Highlands. The weather was beautiful the first day, but deteriorated the next two. Nonetheless, I ended up with a very good list, including 38 life birds! Highlights were the hummingbirds: 12 species, including both male & female Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird (Tilmatura dupontii), Black-crested Coquette (Lophornis helenae), plus area specialties Emerald-chinned Hummingbird (Abeillia abeillei) and Green-breasted Mountain-Gem (Lampornis sybillae). We had great, open looks at both Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra) and Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus), and surprisingly good looks at Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis) and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus aurantiirostris). We heard close Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus mexicanus), but they would never get into the open for looks. We also had good looks at Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris) and Blue-crowned Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia occipitalis), and a decent look at White-breasted Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucosticte).

Blue-tailed Hummingbird
Both oropendola species were nesting next to the common area, and we saw them at every meal, along with Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus). Tanagers were well-represented, with Crimson-collared (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus), Passerini’s (Ramphocelus passerinii), Blue-gray (Thraupis episcopus), Yellow-winged (Thraupis abbas), Golden-hooded (Tangara larvata), Rufous-winged (Tangara lavinia), and Common Chlorospingus (aka Common Bush-Tanager, Chlorospingus flavopectus) seen.

My “goal” bird was Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), and we saw about a dozen over the last two days, along with Emerald Toucanets (Aulacorhynchus prasinus) and Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), the latter two seen in and out of nest holes.

Moises heard but did not see one bird which I did see, a Slate-colored Solitaire (Myadestes unicolor). However, he got a quick glimpse of a Scaled Antpitta (Grallaria guatimalensis) which disappeared (and could not be coaxed out) before I could get on it!

For some reason, flycatchers were scarce, except for Dusky-capped (Myiarchus tuberculifer). Aside from that, we had only a couple of Social Flycatchers (Myiozetetes similis), and single Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris) and Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata).

I recommend El Jaguar to anyone traveling to Nicaragua--just bring mosquito repellant for the forest! Moises was an excellent guide, and Georges and Lili could not have been any nicer.

Green-breasted Mountain-gem

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