Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rufous-necked Wood-Rail at Isla Juan Venado!

On December 22, 2012, Manfred Bienert paid a visit to the Isla Juan Venado Natural Reserve (León), where he observed a variety of shorebirds, herons, terns and gulls along the sandbanks at the mouth of the estuary, including Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) among a mixed flock that also included Royal (Thalasseus maximus) and Sandwich Terns (T. sandvisensis), Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) and Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla). A white morph Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) seen on this visit may have been the same individual Manfred observed last February, given that this species is rare in Nicaragua and white morph birds are less common than dark morph ones.

In the extensive mangroves of the reserve, Manfred located 15 migrant Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) and a similar number of White-lored Gnatcatcher (Polioptila albiloris). By far the most suprising and exciting discovery of the day, however, was a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides axillaris) seen foraging for small crabs among the roots of the mangroves. This is one of very few records--perhaps only three--of this species for Nicaragua, and apparently the first in a coastal mangrove habitat. According to Thomas R. Howell’s Check-list of the Birds of Nicaragua as of 1993 (Martínez-Sánchez, J. C., and T. Will, Eds. 2010), "There are only two Nicaraguan records, both from forest on the slopes of different volcanic peaks. A female taken 6 June 1917 at 2,100 feet (640 m), Volcán San Cristóbal, had the ovary greatly enlarged; a male taken 4 May 1917 at 3,500 feet (1,070 m), Volcán Mombacho, had the testes slightly enlarged. The habitat is noteworthy, as this species has usually been found elsewhere in coastal mangroves. Thurber et al. (1987) also reported this rail from humid forest above 700 m in El Salvador."

In all, Manfred recorded 61 species on this outing, including what may be only the third documented record of Rufous-necked Wood-Rail for Nicaragua.  Great find, Manfred!