Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Days at Cerro Alegre

Birders continue to tick interesting species at the Cerro Cumalco-Cerro Alegre Natural Reserve. This little-visited park, just outside the town of San Jose de los Remates, sits at a crossroad between Nicaragua's dry forest Pacific west and its cloud-forest-dotted Central Highlands. This special location means you can find a rich assortment of birds. On a February 21, 2015, visit, Managua birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner logged Fan-tailed Warbler (Basileuterus lachrymosus) attending an ant swarm with other species. They also saw Golden-Winged (Vermivora chrysoptera) and Kentucky Warblers (Geothlypis formosa). On a March 7, 2015, visit, the couple and Managua birder Howard Youth saw a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus), Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), and other migrants.

Philadelphia Vireo

Prothonotary Warbler

Raptors also frequent the reserve. On the February 21 visit, Jessie Stuebner photographed a soaring Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus). Likely the same bird was seen again March 7. Other raptors seen that day: Sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus), Broad-winged (Buteo platypterus), and Short-tailed Hawks (B. brachyurus) and Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus). White-collared Swifts (Streptoprocne zonaris) and Keel-billed Toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus) were very much in evidence during both visits, and Violet Sabrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus) was noted along a forest stream on March 7.

Black Hawk-Eagle

Cerro Cumalco-Cerro Alegre Natural Reserve can be reached via the town of San Jose de los Remates, where a local guide can be hired to show birders the reserve.  (For guide contact information you can email Jessie Stuebner at libertyjm@yahoo.com.)

San Jose de los Remates is located one hour north of the turnoff at Teustepe from the main highway linking Boaco and Managua.

--submitted by Howard Youth

Cave Swallows and Southern Lapwings a Sweet Valentine's Day Surprise at Tisma

Managua birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner and Howard Youth visited Laguna de Tisma on February 14, 2015. While working the wetland's shoreline, they found a small, mixed swallow flock and identified two Cave Swallows (Petrochelidon fulva). Jessie Stuebner photographed the individuals alongside Barn (Hirundo rustica) and Mangrove Swallows (Tachycineta albilinea).


This is one of only a few Nicaraguan records, although this species should be watched for and will likely turn up again.

Also at the wetland that day was a pair of Southern Lapwings (Vanellus chilensis), a species apparently on the march northward. Stuebner captured this pair in perfect light, highlighting the many colors worn by this species.


--submitted by Howard Youth

Record-Breaking Sierras de Managua Christmas Count

Sally Gladstone reports that this year's Sierras de Managua Christmas Bird Count (CBC), conducted on January 2, 2015, broke previous records for both participation and the total number of species tallied during the 24-hour census.  31 experienced birders took part in the 9th annual Sierras CBC, which included several new sites within the count circle that had not previously been covered.  By day's end, the count teams had tallied an impressive total of 139 species, breaking the prior record (set just last year) of 116 species.

Concepcion de Maria count team members Jessie & Cal Stuebner, Howard Youth and Luis Diaz
Some of the biggest surprises from this year's count included Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) and White-lored Gnatcatcher (Polioptila albiloris) found at middle elevations at Concepción de María and La Mariposa, and Golden-Olive Woodpecker (Piculus rubiginosus) at Las Delicias at more than 800 meters above sea level. Several migratory species of special conservation concern were also observed, including Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla), Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) and Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina).

This region once again proved itself to be an important refuge for overwintering warblers, tanagers and flycatchers, as evidenced by the more than 100 Tennessee Warblers (Oreothlypis peregrina) found at Gaia Estate and the five female Golden-winged Warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) seen at Concepción de María and La Mariposa.
 
Broad-winged Hawk at Concepción de María
Other highlights from this year's CBC were Yellowish Flycatcher (Empidonax flavescens) at El Nisperal, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus flavigaster) at El Pozo, Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans) at Montibelli, and Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Psittacara finschi).
 
The parrot family was well-represented with more than 112 individuals of six different species, including an impressive 24 White-crowned Parrots (Pionus senilis) at Utila.
 
Northern Potoo at Montibelli
Sally thanks all of this year's participants and notes that all of these unusual sightings emphasize the importance of preserving intact forested areas from the growing threats of urbanization and incompatible agricultural practices that dominate in the region.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

ALAS Book Launch, March 11: A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua

ALAS, the "Alianza para las Areas Silvestres," will officially launch its long-anticipated A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. at the Seminole Hotel in Managua.  The event is open to the public and all birders, naturalists, and others with an interest in Nicaragua's natural heritage are welcome to attend!

A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua is the first comprehensive, illustrated field guide to Nicaragua's 750+ bird species.  It is the product of years of work by some of Nicaragua's foremost naturalists and artists.  Its beautiful and detailed illustrations lend themselves to accurate field identification, while the accompanying texts (in both English and Spanish) reflect the latest data on Nicaraguan bird status and distribution, painstakingly compiled by the authors over many years.

Don't miss your chance to be there at the launch and be among the first to own a copy of this long-awaited treasure!

Note on purchasing the new field guide: While A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua is not yet available on Amazon.com as of 9 March 2015, it is already available from Amazon's UK (amazon.uk) and Germany (amazon.de) sites. Interested buyers in North America can order through these websites (though international shipping charges may apply), or pre-order the book from U.S.-based Buteo Books which expects to have it in stock by 20 March 2015.
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