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.