Sunday, April 6, 2014

Northern Harrier Hunts Blue-winged Teal at Salinas Grandes


On a March 22, 2014, visit to Salinas Grandes, Manfred Beinert had the unique thrill of watching a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) hunt a Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) in one of the large salt evaporation ponds. As the harrier patrolled about 2-3 meters over the water, the duck tried to hide by diving. Each time it resurfaced, the harrier attempted to grab the duck until the teal eventually was too tired to escape and the harrier succeeded in catching it. Once the harrier had a grip on the duck, it submerged it underwater, sitting atop it for more than two minutes until the duck drowned. Then, with some difficulty, the harrier carried the duck into a nearby mangrove tree.



In addition to the harrier, Manfred observed two species of falcon that were also hunting aquatic birds: Merlin (Falco columbarius) and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). All told, Manfred tallied 54 species for the day, a somewhat modest number during migration. Highlights included Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa), Clapper Rail (Rallus longirsotris) and several "Mangrove" Yellow Warblers (Setophaga petechia erithachorides).

Pacific Screech-Owl at Quelantaro

Managua-based birder Jessie Mentzer Stuebner submits the following report from her April 5, 2014 visit to Quelantaro reserve:

Pacific Screech-Owl
"My husband and I recently experienced a most beautiful visit to Reserva Silvestre Quelantaro, located near kilometer 46 of Carratera a Pochomil. It was our first time at the reserve, and we had no idea what to expect; we were amazed at the simple, peaceful beauty of the place, and at the number of birds we encountered (51 species altogether)!

There were the usual Clay-colored Thrushes (Turdus grayi), Turquoise-browed Motmots (Eumomota superciliosa), and Hoffmann's Woodpeckers (Melanerpes hoffmannii) in abundance, and all around us we could hear Thicket Tinamous (Crypturellus cinnamomeus) and a few Plain Chachalacas (Ortalis vetula). As we hiked the trails with our guide, we couldn't believe how many Black-headed Trogons (Trogon melanocephalus) and Long-tailed Manakins (Chiroxiphia linearis) we found, and how close we were able to get to them! The sounds of the manakins and trogons blended with songs from a few Ivory-billed Woodcreepers (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) and a few Elegant Trogons (Trogon elegans) too. There were numerous hummingbirds, including lots of Blue-throated Goldentails (Hylocharis eliciae) and Cinnamon Hummingbirds (Amazilia rutila), and several that we couldn't identify.

The trails eventually took us to a little river that had managed to survive the dry season. You could see by the extent of the dry river bed that it was much smaller than normal, but it was still enough to attract a little Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) and a Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis). There were smaller birds everywhere, surrounding us with their playful sounds, including Lesser Greenlets (Hylophilus decurtatus), Rufous-capped Warblers (Basileuterus rufifrons), Yellow-throated Vireos (Vireo flavifrons), various flycatchers, and quite a few Banded Wrens (Thryophilus pleurostictus). As we moved away from the river, we found a few Blue-crowned Motmots (Momotus coeruliceps) and a Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum) hiding in the brush, as if trying to escape from all the Streak-backed Orioles (Icterus pustulatus), Masked Tityras (Tityra semifasciata), and noisy parakeets (Orange-chinned and Orange-fronted) and White-crowned Parrots (Pionus senilis). One lonely bird of prey, a Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus), monitored all the activity.

Despite all that we had already seen as we hiked along, the highlights of the visit (at least for me) both occurred as we headed back to the visitor center for some fresh fruit and juice. We were able to get within two yards of a pair of White-necked Puffbirds (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) and a sleepy Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi)! I couldn't stop taking pictures – probably have about 15 of each species!

White-necked Puffbirds
I would recommend Reserva Silvestre Quelantaro to anyone in Nicaragua. According to their Facebook page, they have 70 hectares of tropical deciduous forest; the trails are stunning and easy to hike. The staff treated us like family, and the birding was amazing!"
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