Saturday, September 19, 2015

Los Farallones Yield Seldom-Seen Seabirds

Magnificent Frigatebird diving for fish
On September 11, 2015, Managua-based birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner joined Chinandega-based birders Orlando Jarquin and Milton Salazar, and Leon-based birders Gordon and Peggy Tans, for a trip to Reserva Volcan Cosiguina with the ultimate goal of visiting the islands of Los Farallones. We were all very excited to see some pelagics, and energy was high in the van when we arrived at the reserve. As we crossed through some farmlands on our way to the little beach town of Potosi, suddenly there were cries of “What is that?! Stop the car!” At about the same time, several of us spotted a bird of prey on a nearby fence post. It turned out to be a Barn Owl, in the clear light of early evening – great for taking photos! Just a minute or so down the road, we were yelling to stop the car again, this time for what turned out to be a pair of White-tailed Kites hunting above a field. There were also some Double-striped Thick-knees and a variety of other smaller birds getting their last meal before going to roost for the night. We hadn't even been at the Cosiguina reserve for more than 20 minutes yet, and already the trip felt like a success!

Barn Owl
After spending the night in Potosi, we headed out early to meet our boat pilot and guide. On the beach were the usual egrets, herons, and vultures. In the distance, you could see the mountainous shores of both Honduras and El Salvador. The boat ride was definitely wet and a bit rough. We were all trying to keep cameras and binoculars dry as we bounced along away from the shore. Not too far out, we began to see Black Terns and Black Storm-Petrels scattered all around us. The petrels had been reported in the area several times the last month and a half, mostly by birders from the Honduran shore; but they were new to all of us on board – very exciting!

When we arrived at the little islands, we were only allowed to stay for 20 minutes due to a new, nearby naval post. They're not very welcoming of visitors, and we didn't want to get a fine or cause trouble for our guide. Still, it was plenty of time to take some great pictures of Blue-footed Boobies, Brown BoobiesMagnificent Frigatebirds, and Brown Pelicans. There were also a few Bridled Terns.
Blue-footed Boobies
On the way back to Potosi, we passed closer to the sandy shores around Punta San Jose. There were a variety of terns and other shore birds to be seen, including Willets and Whimbrels, and Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns, and much more. The highlight of that part of the trip was a Common Black-Hawk on the edge of the shore eating from a fresh kill.

Brown Booby
Finally, as we were heading back home, we stopped again on the road through the farms of Cosiguina, where we had seen the Barn Owl the day before. It was earlier in the day this time, and there were much more birds active. The pair of White-tailed kites was replaced this time by a pair of Pearl Kites; and a group of hundreds of Red-Winged Blackbirds definitely caught our attention! As we watched a Roadside Hawk rest in a nearby tree, we could hear several species of trogons and woodpeckers hiding in the woods nearby. All in all, by the time the trip was over, we had seen 55 different species, including some that you couldn't easily find anywhere else in the country. Then, just for fun, we stopped at Reserva Hato Nuevo for lunch on the way home - but that was a separate adventure!

--Submitted by Jessie Mentzer Stuebner

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