Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Species for Nicaragua: American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)!

As part of the second annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) organized by El Jaguar Reserve, a team surveying the canal at the west end of Lago Apanás near Jinotega discovered an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) in a flooded pasture north of the canal on Sunday, December 19, 2010. This species' normal winter range extends south to southern Mexico and northern Guatemala.  While vagrants have been reported as far south as Panama, this represents only the second known record of American Bittern in Nicaragua.*

Cornell biology student Jack Hruska located the bird, which was subsequently observed for several minutes through a spotting scope by Jack Hruska, Sally Gladstone, Rob Batchelder, Grace Hruska and Rachel Greenwood.  The bird was posed with its bill pointing skyward, facing the observers who had clear views of its light-colored bill, yellowish face, contrasting dark malar stripes, and whitish throat and breast with dark brown vertical median stripe.

The team is preparing a detailed report of this sighting for publication in a regional ornithological journal since it represents a potential new addition to the Nicaragua checklist.

Other noteworthy species seen at Lago Apanás include Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Northern PintailPlain-breasted Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Greenish Elaenia, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and White-collared Seedeater.

*the only other known record of American Bittern in Nicaragua, seen by a single observer during a wetland survey in Matagalpa nearly a decade ago, was considered "unconfirmed" and the species was not included in the 2007 update of Martinez-Sanchez's Checklist of the Birds of Nicaragua.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Palm Warbler at 1400m near San Rafael del Norte

While hiking through montane pine-oak forest near San Rafael del Norte (Jinotega) on the morning of December 19, 2010 -- part of the annual El Jaguar Christmas Bird Count -- Francisco "Chico" Muñoz, Rob Batchelder, and Sally Gladstone observed an adult, non-breeding Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) foraging on the ground on a dirt road.  The bird showed a characteristic wide, whitish supercilium, whitish underparts with a yellow vent, and pumped its tail before flying into nearby bushes where it was again seen well a few minutes later.  Palm Warbler is a rare and localized winter resident in pine savannah and forest edges along Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, but this individual was unexpected so far west and more than 1,000 meters above its published altitudinal range for Nicaragua.

Other noteworthy species seen on the same hike include Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Great Swallow-tailed Swift (Panyptila sanctihieronymi), five very vocal male White-eared Hummingbirds (Hylocharis leucotis) defending territories, eight Dendroica warbler species including Golden-cheeked (D. chrysoparia), Townsend's (D. townsendi), Hermit (D. occidentalis) and the aforementioned Palm Warbler, Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus), White-naped Brush-Finch (Atlapetes albinucha), and Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava).

More common birds typical of pine-oak montane forest, such as Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), Greater Pewee (Contopus pertinax), and Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) were seen in large numbers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

White-crowned Parrot at Finca El Nisperal

While conducting an annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) at Finca El Nisperal on December 17, 2010, Sally Gladstone, Jack Hruska, and Rob Batchelder observed four very obliging White-crowned Parrots (Pionus senilis), just one of 62 species seen at the Finca.  Other noteworthy birds recorded at El Nisperal include Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus), Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina), Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons), Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum), Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus), and Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus).

El Nisperal is one of several sites within the 15-mile diameter Sierra de Managua CBC count circle.  Participants at nearby Montibelli recorded a number of additional species not seen at El Nisperal, bringing the final tally for this year's Sierra de Managua CBC to a respectable 100 species.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Resplendent Quetzal at El Columpio

While conducting their third census of wintering Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) at El Columpio near Yalí, Jinotega on November 25 & 26, 2010, Liliana Chavarría and Georges Duriaux observed a total of 55 species. A female Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), seen both mornings feeding in the same tree, was an especially interesting find. Other noteworthy species seen include Crane Hawk (Geranospiza caerulescens), Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana), Barred Parakeet (Bolborhynchus lineola), Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis), Sepia-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon amaurocephalus), Red-capped Manakin (Pipra mentalis), and MacGillivray's Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei).

Liliana reports that, although El Columpio is a protected area (part of the Reserva Natural Volcán Yalí), she and Georges found that nearly all the understory had recently been cleared for coffee cultivation. As a result of this habitat destruction, their census found fewer Golden-winged Warblers than anticipated.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Managua Green-breasted Mango

A male Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevostii), seen November 29, 2010, near the U.S. Embassy's sewage treatment facility, appeared to be defending a territory. This bird has been spotted in the same location off and on since last December, but was noticeably absent from mid-February to early October.

Magnificent Frigatebird over Managua

Though common along Nicaragua's Pacific and Atlantic coasts, a juvenile Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) seen soaring east to west over a residential neighborhood in southeast Managua on September 18, 2010, was an unexpected "yard bird" for Rob Batchelder. Rob saw a second Frigatebird - possibly the same individual - a couple days later soaring amongst a large kettle of Black Vultures near Laguna Nejapa in southwest Managua.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lesser Ground-Cuckoo at Laguna de Apoyo

A Lesser Ground-Cuckoo (Morococcyx erythropygus) seen at Laguna de Apoyo on October 10, 2010, was one of two new life birds for Managua-based birder Rob Batchelder during a weekend visit to the lake. The other was a very confiding Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi), which responded to playback. Other birds seen included Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis), Blue-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanura), Blue-crowned and Turquoise-browed Motmots, Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), and large numbers of Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma).  Non-avian highlights of the weekend included dozens of nightjar-sized Greater Bulldog Bats (Noctilio leporinus) diving for fish at night, and a spider-like Tailless Whipscorpion (Phrynus whitei) found in a bathroom sink.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Green Shrike-Vireo at Finca Esperanza Verde

During a weekend visit to Finca Esperanza Verde near San Ramon, Matagalpa in July 2010, Rob Batchelder observed a juvenile Green Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius pulchellus) foraging in short trees in an open area along the Red Trail, about 200m north of the main lodge. The Shrike-Vireo was one of 72 species recorded over the weekend, which also included seven hummingbirds; Gartered (Violaceous) and Collared Trogons; Plain-brown, Ruddy and Olivaceous Woodcreepers; seven tyrant flycatchers, including Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet; six wren species including Gray-breasted Wood-Wren; seven tanagers including Yellow-winged and Golden-hooded; Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch; Black-striped and Rusty Sparrows; and Chestnut-headed Oropendola.

Estero Real "Big Day"

During an informal "Big Day" on May 9, 2010, Steven Fondriest, Rob Batchelder, and Lili Nigaglioni tallied a total of 70 species in Chinandega's Estero Real.  Highlights included nine heron/egret species, Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus), Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), Black and Least Terns, a nesting Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae), Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis) and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Sporophila minuta).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dickcissels at Gran Pacifica

During a March 2010 visit to Gran Pacifica resort, Rob & Karen Batchelder observed wintering flocks of hundreds of Dickcissels (Spiza americana) on a low-cut corn field along the main entrance road, just before the golf course. The birds were feeding in the field and congregating in trees where the dirt road to the beach bisects the field and enters an area of dry forest scrub.  During the same weekend, Rob recorded a total of 62 species including Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula), the "Mangrove" race of Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Double-striped Thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus), Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantii), Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans), Belted, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) and Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).
Double-striped Thick-knee at Gran Pacifica

New Birds for Selva Negra Checklist

During a visit to Selva Negra on the weekend of March 6-7, 2010, Rob Batchelder recorded three species not previously found on SN's published checklist:  Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa), Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis), and Spot-breasted Wren (Thryothorus maculipectus). The Wren, an Atlantic slope species, was seen at nearly 1500m above sea level, more than 1000 meters higher than its published altitudinal range in Nicaragua.

Other interesting birds seen at Selva Negra on the same visit include Stripe-tailed Hummingbird (Eupherusa eximia), Eye-ringed Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris), Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus), Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius), Slate-colored Solitaire (Myadestes unicolor), Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), White-eared Ground-Sparrow (Melozone leucotis), Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima), and Blue-crowned Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia occipitalis).

Nicaraguan Grackle at Mateare

On February 9, 2010, Rob Batchelder observed a female Nicaraguan Grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis), in the company of several Great-tailed Grackles and Groove-billed Anis, stalking cows in a lakefront pasture on the Chiltepe Peninsula just north of Mateare.  Other birds seen in the vicinity included Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), and Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).
Cow pasture and wetlands on Chiltepe Peninsula north of Mateare

Northern Harrier at Laguna de Tisma

On a visit to Laguna de Tisma on February 7, 2010, Rob Batchelder recorded a number of open country species and waders not otherwise easily found near Managua. A hunting Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) was a particularly nice surprise. Other noteable species observed included Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris), Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), and Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Monday, November 15, 2010

May 2010 Trip Report (Part 5)

During the final day of his visit to Nicaragua last May, Miami-based birder Stephen Paez recorded 35 bird species behind his aunt's home at Carretera Sur, Km 14.5.  Noteworthy species included White-fronted Parrot, Canivet’s Emerald, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Yellow-green Vireo, Banded Wren, Plain Wren, Black-headed Saltator, and Scrub Euphonia.

May 2010 Trip Report (Part 4)

Miami-based birder Stephen Paez recorded nearly 40 species on a May 16, 2010 visit to Chocoyero-El Brujo National Park, including a new lifer and two other species new to his Nicaragua list:
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Rock Pigeon (near entrance)
  • Red-billed Pigeon
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Plain-breasted Ground Dove (LIFER)
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Pacific Parakeet
  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • White-crowned Parrot
  • Vaux’s Swift
  • Black-headed Trogon
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Turquoise-browed Motmot
  • Collared Aracari
  • Hoffmann’s Woodpecker
  • Golden-Olive Woodpecker (my first for Nicaragua)
  • Dusky Antbird
  • Greenish Elaenia
  • Common Tody-Flycatcher
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Boat-billed Flycatcher
  • Masked Tityra
  • Long-tailed Manakin
  • Yellow-green Vireo
  • Rufous-browed Peppershrike
  • Rufous-naped Wren
  • Rufous-and-white Wren
  • Plain Wren
  • Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush
  • Clay-colored Robin
  • Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
  • Gray-headed Tanager
  • Blue-black Grassquit
  • Bronzed Cowbird
  • Streak-backed Oriole
  • Yellow-throated Euphonia (my first for Nicaragua)
Heard, but not seen, at Chocoyero: Plain Chachalaca, Collared Forest-Falcon and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper

May 2010 Trip Report (Part 3)

During a May 14, 2010, visit to Rivas and Rancho Santana, Miami-based birder Stephen Paez recorded the following bird species:
  • Brown Pelican
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Great Egret
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Crested Caracara
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Willet
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Red-billed Pigeon
  • Inca Dove
  • Groove-billed Ani
  • Lesser Ground Cuckoo
  • Orange-fronted Parakeet
  • Great Kiskadee
  • White-throated Magpie-Jay
  • Stripe-headed Sparrow
  • Great-tailed Grackle

May 2010 Trip Report (Part 2)

Miami-based birder Stephen Paez observed the following species at his aunt's house near Managua on May 14, 2010:
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-billed Pigeon
  • White-winged Dove
  • Common Ground-Dove
  • White-fronted Parrot
  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Orange-fronted Parakeet
  • Cinnamon Hummingbird
  • Vaux’s Swift
  • Collared Aracari
  • Turquoise-browed Motmot
  • Hoffmann’s Woodpecker
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Rufous-naped Wren
  • Clay-colored Robin
  • Blue-gray Tanager
  • Grayish Saltator
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Spot-breasted Oriole
  • Melodious Blackbird

May 2010 Trip Report (Part 1)

During a May 2010 visit to Nicaragua, Miami-based birder Stephen Paez reported the following birds seen in the vicinity of his hotel in Bluefields on May 13:
  • Brown Pelican
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Laughing Gull
  • Royal Tern
  • Black Vulture
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Social Flycatcher
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  • Gray-breasted Martin
  • Clay-colored Robin
  • Blue-gray Tanager
  • Blue-black Grassquit
  • White-collared Seedeater
  • House Sparrow
  • Great-tailed Grackle

Managua Migrants

While an experimental "hawk watch" from a hill-top in western Managua on the morning of Saturday, October 16, produced no large kettles of migrating raptors, Rob Batchelder and Lili Nigaglioni recorded several other interesting migrant and uncommon resident species, including Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica), Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus), Purple Martin (Progne subis), Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca), and Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waspam (RAAN) Migrants

During a morning of birding on the banks of the Rio Coco in Waspam on November 5, Rob Batchelder recorded a number of North American migrant species, including Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), and Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina). Among the resident birds seen were Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis), the "Mosquitia" race of Azure-crowned Hummingbird (Amazilia cyanocephala chlorostephana), and Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii).

Interesting Sightings from Siuna (RAAN)

During an hour of birding on the grounds of Hospedaje Siu in Siuna (RAAN), on the morning of November 2, Rob Batchelder observed several noteworthy species, including Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis), White-collared Swift (Streptoprocne zonaris), Blue-throated Goldentail (Hylocharis eliciae), Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus), Cocoa Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus susurrans), and Yellow-winged Tanager (Thraupis abbas).

Great Crested Flycatcher at Chocoyero

On Saturday, November 13, Rob Batchelder observed a Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) at Chocoyero-El Brujo National Park near Ticuantepe.

Welcome to NicaBirds!

Welcome to NicaBirds, a new online resource for posting rare bird sightings and useful information about where to watch birds in Nicaragua.  Feel free to email postings, along with suggestions for making this site more useful.