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.