Saturday, May 25, 2013

Red-throated Caracara at Bijagua (Rio San Juan)

At the invitation of environmental organization Fundación del Río, a small group of Nicaraguan and Costa Rican ornithologists visited the Indio Maíz biosphere reserve and adjacent buffer zones from April 18-22, 2013. In all, the group recorded 160 bird species over the four days.

The primary objective of the visit was to locate and photograph Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and its nests. This species was once widely distributed throughout the Atlantic rainforests of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but due to habitat loss and its popularity as a pet, Great Green Macaw is now considered endangered. Small populations still exist, however, along the banks of the Rio San Juan, which forms the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Great Green Macaw

During the three day expedition, the group observed three active Great Green Macaw nests and one Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) nest, all in tree cavities more than 30 feet above the ground. Seven other parrot species were also recorded: Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga finschi), Olive-throated Parakeet (Aratinga nana), Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), White-crowned Parrot (Pionus senilis), Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa), Red-lored Parrot (Amazona autumnalis) and a pair of Yellow-naped Parrots (Amazona auropalliata) seen along the banks of the Rio San Juan.

Scarlet Macaw

While waiting for the macaws to return to the nests, the group heard a series of loud squawks in the distance. As the birds drew closer, however, the observers discovered they were not macaws, but a group of six Red-throated Caracaras (Ibycter americanus) that perched in a large tree about 100 yards from the ornithologists. An enigmatic, rainforest-dwelling member of the falcon family, Red-throated Caracara is very rarely observed north of Costa Rica.

Red-throated Caracara with piece of wasp nest

Red-breasted Blackbird at Cosigüina Peninsula

Taking advantage of the Semana Santa (Easter) holiday, Liliana Chavarría, Georges Duriaux, Orlando Jarquín, David Hille, and Manfred Bienert visited a variety of sites on the Cosigüina peninsula (Chinandega). Between March 23 and 25, the group recorded 146 bird species, including a number of migrants.

Perhaps the most unexpected find was Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris), two individuals of which were observed in a rice field near the Las Palizadas lakes. One immature male was seen calling from a dead tree trunk within the rice, and a second male responded to the calls of the first bird. This species appears to be expanding its range from the south and was first reported near Nicaragua's Atlantic coast in 2009. This latest record represents the first from Nicaragua's Pacific slope, as well as a significant northward range extension.

Red-breasted Blackbird

During the three-day trip, the birders also observed 15 species of raptors, including Gray-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis), Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Collared Forest-Falcon (Micrastur semitorquatus) and Merlin (Falco columbarius). Shorebirds were also well-represented, with American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa), Surfbird (Aphriza virgata) and Dunlin (Calidris alpina) among the most noteworthy finds.

Extraordinarily rare on Nicaragua's Pacific slope, a noisy pair of Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) seen searching for food near the community of Potosí was another great addition to the birders' trip list.

Blue-footed Booby

Striped Cuckoo