Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ocellated Poorwill at Refugio Bartola

During an eight-day visit to Refugio Bartola and the Reserva Biológica Indio-Maiz along the Rio San Juan in southeast Nicaragua, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder observed nearly 200 species of birds, including nearly a dozen antbird species. 

The undisputed highlight of the visit was a calling male Ocellated Poorwill (Nyctiphrynus ocellatus), located around 9:00 p.m. on March 16, 2011, approximately 500 meters north of Refugio Bartola along the trail that runs parallel to the Rio San Juan. The bird called persistently from its original location in dense secondary growth for nearly 30 minutes but failed to emerge into the open in response to the playback of a voice recording. The bird eventually relocated another 300 meters further north into more closed forest, where Klemens and Rob finally found it after another 20 minutes of searching the bird's apparent new location with spotlights (the ventriloquial quality of the bird's call made it seem considerably higher in the trees than the low horizontal branch on which it was eventually found perched).

Although this species is already found on the official Nicaragua checklist, it is described as a rare vagrant to cloud forests in the northern mountains, occurring between 800 and 1000 meters above sea level. Its inclusion in the checklist is based on a single specimen collected by Richardson at Peñas Blancas (Jinotega) on June 5, 1909, as published by Miller & Griscom in 1925. In Thomas R. Howell's Check-list of the Birds of Nicaragua as of 1993 (Martínez-Sánchez, J. C., and T. Will, Eds. 2010), the author speculates that this species is "Probably a permanent resident…Rare in humid forest." Howell further explains, "The only Nicaraguan record, and until 1988 the only one outside of South America, is a single female collected by Richardson at Pena Blanca [= Peñas Blancas], Depto. de Jinotega, on 5 June 1909. The label gives no indication of altitude, habitat, or gonad size. Miller and Griscom (1925a) described it as a new species, N. lautus, which is now considered a subspecies of ocellatus. Stiles (1988) obtained a male specimen in breeding condition on 28 March 1988 in Costa Rica which he refers to N. o. lautus."

This latest record represents only the second for Nicaragua, and the first in more than 100 years. It also appears to represent only the fifth record of Ocellated Poorwill in Mesoamerica (aside from the two Nicaragua records, there are single documented records for eastern Honduras, north-central Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border, and from central Panama).

Among the many other highlights of this trip were Great Curassow (Crax rubra), Agami Heron (Agamia agami), King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias), Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguous), Rufous (Baryphthengus martii) and Broad-billed Motmots (Electron platyrhynchum), American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea), Pied Puffbird (Notharchus tectus), Spotted (Hylophylax naevioides) and Ocellated Antbirds (Phaenostictus mcleannani), Rufous Piha (Lipaugus unirufus), Green (Chlorophanes spiza), Shining (Cyanerpes lucidus) and Red-legged Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus), and Black-faced Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster).

Spotted Antbird
Bicolored Antbird

Ocellated Antbird
In addition to the Ocellated Poorwill, Klemens and Rob added a second bird to Refugio Bartola's already impressive checklist of almost 350 species: a single Sora (Porzana Carolina) which was seen several mornings in a row, foraging at the edge of the tall marsh grass just below the Refugio's dining patio.

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Snail Kite, Gull-billed Terns, Pectoral Sandpiper at El Guayabo Wetlands

On a February 20, 2011, visit to the El Guayabo wetlands north of Granada (along the road to Malacatoya, opposite the shoreline of Lake Nicaragua), Manfred Bienert observed 55 species of birds, including a half-dozen Snail Kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) and several Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Along the shore of Lake Nicaragua (Lago Cocibolca), Manfred also observed large numbers of terns, mainly Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus), but also six Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) and a similar number of Gull-billed Terns (Gelochelidon nilotica). Among a mixed flock of more than 100 terns at Finca San Ignacio along the lakefront, Manfred counted 25-30 Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), and almost 50 Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis).

Around noon, Manfred found three immature Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) along one of the irrigation canals near the village of Malacatoya. Nearby he witnessed Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) courting and fighting along the same canal.

Black-crowned Night-Herons
Snowy Egrets

Of the shorebird species found during this trip, the most noteworthy was a lone Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).

Pectoral Sandpiper

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cave Swallows at Las Peñitas

Over the weekend of February 5-6, 2011, Manfred Bienert visited Las Peñitas at the north end of Isla Juan Venado (León), where he observed many wintering shorebirds typical of Pacific coast estuaries and seashores, including nearly 100 Sanderling (Calidris alba) resting on a sand bar at the mouth of the estuary. Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) was also relatively numerous, with 25-30 individuals seen, while the generally more abundant Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) was represented by only a single individual.

A mixed flock of approximately 150 gulls and terns revealed around 15 Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger).

The undisputed highlight of the weekend, however, was a mixed flock of 80-100 swallows, of which roughly 10% were Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), a few were Mangrove Swallow (Tachycineta albilinea), but the vast majority of which were Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva) – a species not yet found on the official Nicaragua checklist. Manfred's official report of this exciting discovery will be published in the near future.
Cave Swallow

Wilson's Snipe and 6 Duck Species at Laguna de Moyuá and Nearby Wetlands

Among the 42 species observed during a visit to Laguna de Moyuá, Tecomapa and Las Playitas in southern Matagalpa department on Sunday, January 23, 2011, Manfred Bienert found Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), and a raft of 70-80 individual Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis), which are nearly always present at Las Playitas during the winter months, at times in groups of up to 150 individuals. While canoeing on Laguna de Moyuá, Manfred managed to find both resident Dendrocygna species: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) and Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor). At Laguna de Tecomapa, Manfred found his sixth duck species of the day, Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).
Ruddy Duck
In addition to ducks, Manfred observed both resident grebes (Pied-billed and Least), the "usual" Rallidae (Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, and American Coot), and Limpkin (Aramus guarauna).

In the grasslands and flooded agricultural areas near the lakes, Manfred also found several shorebird species, including Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) and a half-dozen Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata).


Wilson's Snipe

American Avocet at Salinas Grandes

American Avocet
On Saturday, January 15, 2011, Manfred Bienert made his first visit of the new year to Salinas Grandes (León), Although he observed 42 species of birds, Manfred reports that there was relatively little bird activity and only modest numbers of shorebirds, egrets, and ibises. Among the birds observed, however, were a Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) spinning for food among a group of Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), and a lone American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), which is listed in the Checklist of Birds of Nicaragua as a hypothetical species but not yet confirmed on the country's checklist (Manfred is in the process of preparing a formal report of this sighting for publication). This was Manfred's third Avocet sighting – most likely of the same individual – at Salinas Grandes in the past four months, having also seen the bird on October 31 and November 14, 2010.
Wilson's Phalarope
On the same visit to Salinas Grandes, Manfred observed three Yellow-crowned Night-Herons (Nyctanassa violacea) and a single Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens). The absence of Wood Storks (Mycteria Americana) was conspicuous and Manfred saw relatively few ducks, including a few Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) and a half-dozen Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crested Guan at Volcan Maderas (Ometepe)

Yellow-naped Parrot
On February 24 & 25, 2011, Salvadora Morales, Iris Uriot, and Luis Carlos Valerio recorded more than 30 species of birds in coffee plantations on the slopes of Volcan Maderas, part of the Ometepe Island Biosphere Reserve. The highlight of the trip was a roving band of Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens). The trio also observed at least 20 individual Yellow-naped Parrots (Amazona auropalliatus), along with Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis), Pacific Parakeet (Aratinga strenua), Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), and White-throated Robin (Turdus assimilis).