Sunday, December 13, 2015

Corn Island Specialties and Rarities

White-crowned Pigeon
For the Thanksgiving holiday, Managua-based birders Cal and Jessie Stuebner took a three-day trip to Corn Island, one of many places in Nicaragua that is highly under-birded. They were seeking out Smooth-billed Anis, Palm Warblers, and White-crowned Pigeons, all of which are difficult to find anywhere else in Nicaragua.

Smooth-billed Ani
Previous eBird reports from the island noted 31 species, mostly shorebirds. Cal and Jessie were able to bring that number up to 42, including several rarities. There were ducks, gallinules, herons, one Peregrine Falcon and one Palm Warbler, and plenty of shorebirds. Besides the anis and the pigeons (both of which were fairly abundant in Barrio Sally Peachie and Quinn Hill), highlights from the trip included a Gray Kingbird (one of the rarities), a Ring-necked Duck (also a rarity), and several Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Gray Kingbird
Also exciting was a small group of Brown Boobies seen every day through a scope, hanging out on a large, rusty piece of metal reported to be a sunken pirate ship! They were about half way between Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island.

Sanderling with Ruddy Turnstones
This tiny Caribbean island most assuredly still holds some birding surprises. Local islanders were able to point out a number of other species in the book "A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua" that they've seen over the years that still have not shown up on any eBird lists, including migrating tanagers, periodic owls and hummingbirds, and even a Red-billed Tropicbird! Hopefully, more birders will go back and get official documentation of some of those species some day. If you're interested in visiting the island - be sure to do some snorkling too! And for birds, the best parts of the island are Sally Peachie, Long Bay, and the North End. Mount Pleasant and Quinn Hill offer some great lookouts and views; they are also highly recommended!

Black-bellied Plovers