Wednesday, December 28, 2011

El Jaguar CBC sets new record!

The third annual El Jaguar Christmas Bird Count this year tallied 197 species, setting a new record and adding 36 new species to the count circle checklist.  With teams covering several new sites, including part of Lago Apanas by boat, this year's count also racked up an incredible 6,342 individual birds. 

Among the most noteworthy birds recorded were Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus), Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata), Olive-throated Parakeet (Aratinga nana), Emerald-chinned Hummingbird (Abeillia abeillei), Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird (Tilmatura dupontii), Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Galbula ruficauda), Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner (Anabacerthia variegaticeps), Black-crowned Tityra (Tityra inquisitor), and Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snowy Cotinga at Refugio Bartola

During a four-day visit to Refugio Bartola (Rio San Juan) December 7-11, 2011, Lili Chavarria, Georges Duriaux, and Rob Batchelder recorded and captured nearly 150 bird species.  For Rob and Lili, a highlight of the trip was adding Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus) to their respective life lists when they observed a lone female feeding high in the canopy with a mixed flock.  The following morning, while Georges and Lili were tending to nearby mist nets, Rob encountered another group of at least four female Snowy Cotingas feeding high in a fruit tree with a group of Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus) and Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus).

Other noteworthy sightings included Gray-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis), Semiplumbeous Hawk (Leucopternis semiplumbeus), Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), Band-tailed Barbthroat (Threnetes ruckeri), Purple-crowned Fairy (Heliothryx barroti), White-whiskered Puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis), White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus), Cinnamon Woodpecker (Celeus loricatus), Slaty Spinetail (Synallaxis brachyura), Black-striped Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus), Chestnut-backed (Myrmeciza exsul), Bicolored (Gymnopithys leucaspis) and Spotted Antbirds (Hylophylax naevioides), Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher (Myiobius sulphureipygius), and Nicaraguan Seed-Finch (Oryzoborus nuttingi).

The group spent three mornings capturing and taking measurement data of Bartola's birds. Among those species captured were Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus), Long-billed Gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus), Tawny-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus delatrii), and Carmiol's Tanager (Chlorothraupis carmioli).

Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Tawny-crested Tanager

Rob & Lili processing Long-billed Gnatwren

The birders also tried one evening to relocate the Ocellated Poorwill that Rob and his friend Klemens Steiof found at Bartola in March 2011, but were unsuccessful.  Few nocturnal birds were vocalizing, though Georges and Rob heard a pair of Spectacled Owls (Pulsatrix perspicillata) calling on the last night of the trip.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

Western Slaty-Antshrike (female)

White-throated Crake

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wood Thrush Monitoring with Geolocators

During the first four days of December 2011, a team led by Dr. Kevin Fraser of York University's biology department successfully attached geolocators to 10 individual Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) captured at El Jaguar Reserve in Jinotega. The geolocators will allow researchers to recapture the birds next winter and determine where in the U.S. and Canada the birds bred, and should provide useful data about the migration routes these birds use between their breeding and wintering grounds.

Dr. Kevin Fraser w/ Wood Thrush
Wood Thrush Monitoring Team
The same weekend, El Jaguar carried out its monthly MoSI monitoring of overwintering migrant bird species. Among the more interesting birds captured were the resident Ruddy Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla homochroa) and the migrant Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus), photographed by Georges Duriaux.

Ruddy Woodcreeper

Philadelphia Vireo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pearl Kite NE of Sebaco

While driving from Managua to Jinotega on Saturday, November 26, Georges Duriaux came across a Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) perched on a roadside power line, a few hundred meters beyond the exit for Chaguítillo, 4 km northeast of Sébaco on the main highway to Matagalpa. While Pearl Kite is being recorded more and more frequently in Nicaragua's Pacific slope lowlands, this sighting is unusually far north and east, and is one of the very few records of this species in Nicaragua's northern mountains.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

White-necked Puffbird at Las Plazuelas

During a November 19, 2011 visit to Las Plazuelas (part of the Reserva Natural Lagunas de Mecatepe y Río Manares just south of Volcan Mombacho), Georges Duriaux, Liliana Chavarria Duriaux, Manfred Bienert, Lili Nigaglioni and Rob Batchelder observed more than 60 species of birds, including two very obliging White-necked Puffbirds (Notharchus hyperrhynchus).

White-necked Puffbird

Other highlights included two dozen Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) on a small lagoon fed by thermal hot springs, dozens of Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) including two chicks on a nest, Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), Yellow-naped Parrot (Amazona auropalliata), Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis), Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris), and Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata).

Anhinga chicks
Collared Aracari

Although not seen by the entire group, Georges caught up with a perched Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), while Manfred got a fleeting look at a Long-billed Gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus) working its way through the canopy with a mixed-species flock.

Steely-vented Hummingbird

NicaBirders with Las Plazuelas staff members

Friday, November 25, 2011

eBird Workshop a Resounding Success!

Today's eBird workshop in Managua, hosted by Liliana Chavarria and featuring her co-coordinator for Nicaragua, Oliver Komar, attracted a "who's who" of Nicaraguan ornithology -- nearly 30 participants in all, including representatives of private reserves such as Montibelli, Selva Negra, Quelantaro, El Jaguar, Greenfields, Mombacho and others.  Oliver gave a thorough introduction to eBird and described its many benefits, after which the participants were able to register and enter their own lists into this rapidly-expanding database that stores individual bird sightings and provides users and scientists valuable data on bird status and distribution throughout the hemisphere.  Below are some photos from this afternoon's workshop:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

eBird Workshop November 25 in Managua

Liliana Chavarria Duriaux, Nicaraguan co-coordinator for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird database, with the support of Audubon North Carolina, NicaBirds and the Centro Cultural Nicaraguense Norteamericano (CCNN), will host a workshop in Managua to introduce Nicaraguan ornithologists and birders to the multifaceted eBird websiteeBird allows individuals to record their bird sightings, keep track of personal "life lists," and contribute valuable data on bird status and distribution which can be viewed in dynamic range maps and ultimately help scientists better understand bird migration patterns and population trends throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond.  The workshop will take place from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 25, in the computer lab at CCNN, Residencial Los Robles, ALKE Carretera a Masaya 1C Abajo 1/2C al Sur, Casas # 13 y 14. The workshop is free, open to all interested participants, and will be conducted in Spanish. Please RSVP by November 23 to Lili at if you would like to attend.  Participants are requested to bring a list of birds seen during a recent outing in order to practing entering their sightings data into eBird during the workshop.

Liliana Chavarría Duriaux, co-revisora para Nicaragua de la base de datos eBird del Laboratorio de Ornitología de Cornell, con el apoyo de NicaBirds, Audubon North Carolina y el Centro Cultural Nicaragüense Norteamericano (CCNN), tiene el gusto de invitar a ornitólogos, guías de aviturismo, propietarios de Reservas Privadas y a todas las personas que hacen avistamientos de aves en Nicaragua al “Taller de introducción a eBird y ventajas de su utilización a nivel personal y a nivel de país”. El sitio web eBird es un instrumento que permite a los individuos registrar sus avistamientos en listas individualizadas por fecha y lugar, llevar registros de su lista de vida o todas las especies que han sido avistadas por cada usuario, y contribuir con información valiosa sobre status y distribución de las especies en el país, ayudando a los científicos a comprender mejor los patrones migratorios y tendencias poblacionales. La información puede verse en mapas de distribución y barras de abundancia lo cual beneficia no solamente al mundo científico sino que contribuye grandemente al crecimiento del aviturismo en Nicaragua. El taller tendrá lugar el día 25 de noviembre 2011 entre 1:30 y 3:00 pm en el CCNN, Residencial Los Robles, ALKE Carretera a Masaya 1C Abajo 1/2C al Sur, Casas # 13 y 14. El taller se impartirá en español y es gratuito y abierto a todas las personas interesadas. Por favor confirmar su presencia (RSVP) con Lili hasta el 23 de noviembre a  Por favor traigan una lista personal para hacer el ejercicio de introducción de los datos.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Black-billed Cuckoo at El Jaguar

During a monthly "MoSI" banding of migratory birds at El Jaguar (Jinotega), conducted November 1-4, 2011, Georges Duriaux reports that the MoSI team captured 172 individuals, of which 88 were migrants. A juvenile Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus) was a first capture of this species in MoSI mist nets at El Jaguar. At 1300 meters above sea level, this record is considerably higher than the rare passage migrant's published altitudinal range of 100-600 meters in Nicaragua (Martinez-Sanchez, 2007).

Black-billed Cuckoo

Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana), though already on El Jaguar's checklist, was also captured for the first time.

Ruddy Quail-Dove

The MoSI team re-captured 12 individual migrants, suggesting a high degree of site fidelity among certain over-wintering species. The female Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) pictured below was first captured as a juvenile on January 24, 2009, was re-captured on January 20, 2011, and again on November 3, 2011, indicating the bird recently arrived for its fourth winter at El Jaguar. The team also re-captured a Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) first captured on December 13, 2007, now spending its fifth winter at El Jaguar.

Golden-winged Warbler

Other birds captured or otherwise recorded November 1-4 include Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui), Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus), Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans), White-bellied Emerald (Amazilia candida), Golden-olive Woodpecker (Piculus rubiginosus), Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner (Anabacerthia variegaticeps), Tawny-winged Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla anabatina), Strong-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus), Scaled Antpitta (Grallaria guatimalensis), Northern Bentbill (Oncostoma cinereigulare), and Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater).

Golden-olive Woodpecker
Yellow-backed Oriole

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ring-necked Duck at Selva Negra

On an October 22, 2011, visit to Selva Negra (Matagalpa), Jørgen Peter ("Jorge") Kjeldsen of Denmark observed a single, adult female Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) on the pond behind the restaurant. Jørgen, who lived in Nicaragua for several years and who remains one of Nicaragua's most accomplished birders, reports that the bird was absent the day before and the day after his October 22 sighting. A rare winter visitor to Central America, Ring-necked Duck was a new addition to Jørgen's Nicaragua list.

Great Curassow at Volcán Mombacho

Rene Mena of Vapues Tours S.A. reports seeing an adult male Great Curassow (Crax rubra) behind the biological station near the top of Volcán Mombacho (Granada), around 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, October 27, 2011. According to Rene, who was leading a tour group at the time, the enigmatic bird was observed walking along the ground, but when the group approached it jumped up into a tree about two meters above the ground and made a series of alarm calls for approximately 10 minutes, then later hopped from branch to branch as it made its getaway.  According to Salvadora Morales (who forwarded Rene's report to NicaBirds), Jose Reyes and Cesar Blandon, two Fundación Cocibolca park rangers, observed five females and one male Great Currasow several days prior to Rene's sighting, indicating that this species may be making a comeback in Mombacho's protected zone, which begins at 800 meters above sea level and continues to the top of the extinct volcano.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Red-necked Phalarope at Salinas Grandes

On a visit to Salinas Grandes (León) on Sunday, October 23, 2011, Manfred Bienert stopped at the first evaporation pond he came across to observe large numbers of phalaropes, spin-feeding on the surface of the water. What he first assumed to be a group of Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) -- an abundant winter resident at Salinas Grandes -- appeared to be spinning more slowly than normal. Upon closer inspection, Manfred noticed that the birds exhibited black smudges behind their eyes, relatively shorter bills, and darker, more streaked backs than Wilson's Phalarope. Based on the behavior and field marks, Manfred concluded that he instead was observing Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus). A few minutes later, the birds in question drifted into proximity of a group of Wilson's Phalaropes and the differences between the two species were quite obvious, as seen in the photo below:

Red-necked Phalarope (right) with Wilson's Phalaropes

In Martinez-Sanchez's Checklist of the Birds of Nicaragua (2007), Red-necked Phalarope is classified as a pelagic species that only rarely turns up along Nicaragua's Pacific coast in migration between North and South America.

Other migrants were also in evidence during Manfred's visit, including 250 Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), five Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), 20 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus forficatus) and a single Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopos virens). Large numbers of Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) and Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) were noteworthy, as were two Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus), which brought the final tally for Manfred's outing to 60 species.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Rare Bird Indeed

From Audubon North Carolina's Blog:

"We learned recently that a Wood Thrush banded by our partners George and Lili Duriaux-Chavarria at El Jaguar Reserve in Nicaragua on Valentine’s Day 2011 was recovered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on its breeding grounds. Sadly the bird was killed after flying into a window. Fortunately, the bird was photographed when it was banded at El Jaguar, making the story that much more poignant..."

(click here to read the full story)

Wood Thrush banding at El Jaguar, Nicaragua by Georges Duriaux

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures at Guayabo Wetlands

Taking advantage of a brief let-up in the recent heavy rains, Manfred Bienert paid a visit to the Guayabo wetlands north of Granada on the afternoon of October 16, 2011.  During his hour-and-a-half outing Manfred recorded 36 species of birds, mainly aquatic species, including 140 Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) seen together with five Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) and various herons and egrets.

The highlight of the day was two Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures (Cathartes burrovianus) posing in a tree. Clearly visible, according to Manfred, was the yellow-orange and blue coloration of the featherless head that distinguishes this species from the very similar Turkey Vulture (C. aura). Manfred also notes that the plumage of C. burrovianus appeared noticeably less black that that of C. aura.

In addition to the vultures, Manfred observed five other raptor species, including Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii), and Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris).

Pearl Kite, Peregrine Falcon near Ticuantepe

Salvadora Morales reports seeing a Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) at Montibelli during the first week of October 2011. Given the frequency of reports of this species in the past year, as far north as the Cosigüina Peninsula, it appears Pearl Kite is becoming increasingly common in Nicaragua's Pacific lowlands. In 1993, Howell (2010) noted that "until recently the isolated Nicaraguan population was the only one in Middle America." The Nicaraguan population (described by Chubb as ssp. leonae, based on a specimen collected near León in 1918) has likely been supplemented in recent years by South American birds expanding their range up the Central American isthmus, beginning in Panama in the 1970s, and expanding northwestward through Costa Rica in the 1990s.

Salvadora was also pleased to encounter an adult Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) perched on telephone wires behind her house near Ticuantepe on the morning of October 21, 2011.

Huge Numbers of Blue-winged Teal at Laguna de Tecomapa

On an October 8, 2011 visit to Laguna de Tecomapa (near Laguna de Moyuá in southern Matagalpa Department), Manfred Bienert observed an impressive flock of Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), which he estimated at around 5,000 individuals.  According to Manfred the photo below shows only around 1/5 of the total flock.  Blue-winged Teal is an abundant winter visitor (from North America) along Nicaragua's Pacific slope.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

American Pygmy Kingfisher at Hacienda Cosigüina

During a visit to Hacienda Cosigüina in Chinandega on September 14, 2011, Salvadora Morales reports seeing around 40 species of birds, including Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii), Barn Owl (Tyto alba), Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi), and Black-headed Trogon (Trogon melanocephalus). Salvadora was most surprised, however, to find an American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea), a species she previously has only encountered along the Rio San Juan in southeastern Nicaragua. She came across this lone male in one of the shady streams that flows down the slopes of Volcan Cosigüina into the Gulf of Fonseca.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ometepe Bird Festival 2011

Join the Ometepe Guides Union, Fundacion Entre Volcanes, and Flora & Fauna International for a guided bird walk on the island of Ometepe next Wednesday, October 26, 2011.  The walk begins at 6:30 a.m. at the entrance to the “Sendero Peña Inculta” on the Istian peninsula, and costs C$50.  For more information, please see the flyer below, or send an email to Salvadora Morales.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Save the Dates for Nicaragua CBCs!

The dates of this year's Nicaragua Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have been set, and all birders who will be in Nicaragua in December and early January are encouraged to participate. 

The annual El Jaguar CBC in Jinotega will take place on Sunday, December 18, 2011, with teams covering the El Jaguar reserve itself, along with other nearby sites such as the pine-oak forest above San Rafael del Norte, and the open grasslands and wetlands around the shore of Lago Apanas.  Contact Liliana Chavarria for more information and to sign up. 

The annual Sierra de Managua CBC will be held on Tuesday, January 3, with teams covering Montibelli, Chocoyero, Finca El Nisperal, and (new this year!) the Masaya Volcano National Park.  Please contact Sally Gladstone if you are interested in taking part in the Managua CBC. 

Birders of all skill levels are welcome to take part in both counts, and both are free of charge (though El Jaguar traditionally asks for a small donation for meals and lodging for those participants staying overnight at the reserve).  Last year's El Jaguar count tallied a total of 189 species, including a new record for Nicaragua, American Bittern.   The Sierra de Managua CBC typically tallies just over 100 species, including many birds typical of the Pacific Dry Forest endemic zone.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Surfbird at Cosigüina Peninsula

Taking advantage of the September 14-15 local holidays to build a five-day weekend, Manfred Bienert and family traveled to the far northwest corner of Nicaragua, to the Cosigüina Peninsula. Manfred reports seeing nearly 70 species during the trip. Highlights included eight species of raptors, among them Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) and four individual Pearl Kites (Gampsonyx swainsonii). Noteworthy among the shorebirds Manfred observed along the coastline were two Surfbirds (Aphriza virgata) hunting for mollusks on the rocks at Punta Ñata. Surfbird is a species that appears only sporadically along Nicaragua's Pacific coast during migration.


Manfred was also impressed by the large numbers of Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) he encountered between Mechapa and Punta Ñata, including individual flocks comprising more than 100 birds.

Whimbrels in flight

Other highlights of the trip included Green-breasted Mango (Anthracothorax prevostii) and large numbers of Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) along the coast.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Strong-billed Woodcreeper at Selva Negra

During a visit to Selva Negra on September 15, 2011, Colorado-based bird photographer Bill Senske spent a couple hours hiking the trails and familiarizing himself with many birds typical of Nicaragua's north-central highlands. One bird, however, stumped even the local guide whom Bill had hired for the morning.  Luckily, Bill was able to get a couple shots of the large, thick-billed creeper, which he later identified as a Strong-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus) with the aid of his field guides.

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

Bill was also pleased to see and photograph a number of other emblematic species, including Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris), Violet Sabrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus), Blue-Throated Goldentail (Hylocharis eliciae), Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata), and Bushy-crested Jay (Cyanocorax melanocyaneus).

Harris's Hawk at Chiltepe Peninsula

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, Manfred Bienert paid a visit to the wetlands on the west side of the Chiltepe Peninsula, near Mateare (Managua), in search of migrant shorebirds.  Several local fishermen had cast their nets along the shoreline and the disturbance resulted in much smaller numbers of waders than expected, with only a few Whimbrels (Numenius phaeops) and Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius) in evidence. Working his way north around the peninsula, however, Manfred discovered several early migrants and rare residents.  Among the latter, the most interesting find of the day was a juvenile Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) which flew in from the east and perched in the top of a tree where Manfred was able to see its cinnamon-colored shoulders and thighs, yellow legs and cere, and white tail band.  Manfred also clearly observed the birds white rump as it flew away.

Another highlight of Manfred's outing was finding around 50 Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) roosting in a windbreak at the eastern edge of a flooded pasture. Manfred notes that around a third of the birds were in adult plumage, half were juveniles, and the remainder appeared to be in transition from juvenile to adult plumage.

Other interesting birds recorded at Chiltepe Peninsula included Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis), Eastern Wood-pewee (Contopus virens), Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea), Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), and Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula).

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with chicks

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ladder-backed Redux: Mystery Solved!

Following the identification of the two Ladder-backed Woodpeckers seen at Isla Juan Venado on September 3, 2011, Manfred Bienert revisited some old photos of an unidentified woodpecker, which he had taken during a visit to the same area (albeit slightly to the north, entering the Isla Juan Venado estuary from Las Peñitas) on December 8, 2009. Unable to identify the bird at the time, Manfred filed his pictures in a folder called "OVNI Carpintero" (UFO Woodpecker). Manfred was happy to remove the "unidentified" caption from his photos this week, when he realized nearly two years after-the-fact that the bird in question was in fact a Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris):

With Manfred's 2009 sighting, there now are three records of this species from the Isla Juan Venado reserve, suggesting the presence of a resident population.