Thursday, October 1, 2015

Birding in Ecuador: Part 2 - Refugio Paz de las Aves

To read about the first day of the trip, please click here.

Rob writes: Our day started before sunrise as we had to arrive at the famous Refugio Paz de las Aves before the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock started displaying. The birds put on quite a show although photography was rather difficult in the low light. We did have spectacular looks at two Cloud Forest Pygmy-Owls!

Cloud Forest Pygmy-Owl
Once the cock-of-the-rock stopped displaying, we moved on the see Angel Paz's real show, the antpittas. Our first stop was for Yellow-breasted Antpitta. These birds sure are loyal to Angel's feeding schedule!

At the next feeding station, we were entertained by many hummingbirds and a family of Dark-backed Wood-Quails before a Giant Antpitta arrived.

Dark-backed Wood-Quail
The next targets took a little more hiking to get to but we found a feeding flock along the way and added a bunch of new species for the day including Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner and Russet-crowned Warbler.

Although it took a long time for the Rufous-breasted Antthrush to show, it was worth the wait. We snapped dozens of photos as it perched and strutted along a log! As we watched, another Giant Antpitta made an appearence and I was able to get down to where the Ochre-breasted Antpitta feeds just before it flew away.

Rufous-breasted Antthrush
We ended the morning with a wonderful breakfast while watching tanagers, toucanets, and barbets. There were still a ton of birds to find so Edison and I pulled Brian away from the easy photography at the feeders and moved on to Tandayapa Pass.

While the photography wasn't as good for Brian, the birding was fantastic! We added a ton of new species including one of my most sought after birds, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan. We also hit several flocks of tanagers which adds a lot of excitement to the birding.

The remainder of our day was spend watching and photographing hummingbirds at a couple of different feeding stations. While at our final stop, a pair of Masked Trogons decided to be very cooperative for photos.
Masked Trogon - Male

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Birding in Ecuador: Part 1

Rob writes: It's been a few days since I returned from my trip to Ecuador but I'm just now getting the chance to write about the trip.

Ecuador was a spectacular country to visit. From the incredible diversity of birds to the wonderful lodges and friendly people, traveling in Ecuador is a fantastic experience. I'll be making several posts about my trip over the next couple of weeks.

After meeting my Sabrewing business partner, Brian, in Atlanta, we boarded our flight Quito. Our friend and guide for the trip, Edison BuenaƱo, met us at the airport and took us to Hotel Quito for the night. I had heard that the hotel property was decent for finding a few birds so I was up early the next morning to see what I might be able to find. After some time on the balcony, I added a few life birds such as the very common Great Thrush as well as Black-tailed Trainbearer.

The view from the top floor of Hotel Quito at sunrise.
Edison picked us up after breakfast and we headed for Reserva Yanacocha. Since I had never been to Ecuador, the lifers came fast! I ended up with 28 lifers here including three mountain-tanagers and 9 hummingbirds.

My first Sword-billed Hummingbird of the trip at Yanacocha.
After spending several hours exploring Yanacocha, we drove the Old Nono-Tandayapa Road towards Mindo. Since it was midday, the birding was rather slow during the first part of our drive but picked up significantly as we got near Mindo. We found a flock of birds and spend about 30 minutes sorting through all the species that were present.

Our final stop of the day was at a bird feeding station that a local has set up behind his house. Since Edison said that place was pretty new, we weren't sure what to expect but it turned out to be awesome! The hummingbird feeders were very active and Sickle-winged Guan came in for a banana late in the afternoon. Our first day ended with 71 lifers!

Once it was too dark to continue birding, we made our way to Septimo Paraiso which would be our home base for the next 3 days. Check back soon to read about out time birding on the Western Slope.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My First Trip to South America!

Rob writes: Tomorrow I will be leaving for my first ever trip to South America!

Ever since I started birding, I've wanted to go to Ecuador, and now, I'll finally get there. During the 12 day trip, we'll be birding in a huge variety of habitats and elevations which should lead to be pretty incredible list of species.

Check back on the NuttyBirder blog and Facebook page often for updates! I'll do my best to report on what we're seeing as much as our internet connections will allow. Also, after this trip, we'll be announcing future Sabrewing Nature Tours trips to this incredible destination.

To stay up-to-date with all of the awesome tours we offer, sign up for our Sabrewing newsletter by clicking here.

I'll be birding some on both the Eastern and Western slopes of Ecuador!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Whitefish Point, MI Update

Eric writes: The following is a cross-post from the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Waterbird Blog.  I won't post many of these here on NuttyBirder but, if you like, you can follow along on the Waterbird Blog.

Very light N winds made for a calm day at the point.  This also made for good mosquito conditions; they were even out at the shack for a couple hours.  The flight was slow but somewhat steady.  Luckily, the best shorebird diversity of the season occured today; 14 species were observed.

Common Loon-easy to identify in this view, but notice the large feet, beer belly, and peaked head that will help you identify this bird at a distance
Here's the rundown:
Five duck species were recorded, all in relatively low numbers.  Mallard (7), Blue-winged Teal (24), White-winged Scoter (3, first of the season), Hooded Merganser (1), and Red-breasted Merganser (1).

Loons and grebes both moved by steadily today.  Red-throated (1) and Common (38) Loons as well as Red-necked (219) and Horned (1) Grebes were counted.

The shorebirds were definitely the highlight of the day.  New species for the season included Greater Yellowlegs (1), Ruddy Turnstone (1), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1), and Stilt Sandpiper (1).  Piping Plovers and Baird's Sandpiper are still daily at the point.

Common Terns (161) moved by in small flocks throughout the count, mostly in flocks of 10-30.

We're heading into at least a few days of south winds so we may have to wait a while for another flight.  Even with S winds you never know what may show up.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Whitefish Point Waterbird Survey

Eric writes:  Today marked the first day of the fall waterbird count at Whitefish Point, Michigan.  The count runs each spring and fall for 1.5 months and 3 months, respectively.  This is my second time conducting the count; I was also the counter last fall.  It's a spectacular place where almost any species is possible.  Birds such as Short-tailed Hawk, Lucy's Warbler, and Northern Wheatear are just a few of the unbelievable records.

The first couple weeks are usually dominated by Red-necked Grebe flights with a possibility of jaegers, Sabine's Gull, and 20+ shorebird species.  Keep checking back to see how the season goes.  And if you want near-daily updates, you can follow along on the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Waterbird blog.

Here are a few of the early season birds:

The typical view of Red-necked Grebes at Whitefish Point
Buff-breasted Sandpiper-definitely one of my favorite shorebird species
Sabine's Gull-hopefully at least a few of these will come by the point this fall

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Honduras Trip Report (Part 2 of 2)

This post is the second half of our trip report from Honduras.  You can read about the first half of our trip here.

This was mostly a travel day for us.  We left La Tigra and headed to Marcala in the morning.  On the way we made one stop, just outside of Tegucigalpa, at the United Nations Park.  We had some great looks at species such as Rusty Sparrow and Crested Bobwhite and the views of Tegucigalpa were incredible!  We arrived at Hotel La Casona (just outside of Marcala) in the afternoon, so we had a few hours to bird their fantastic grounds.  Among the highlights were Crested Bobwhite, Northern (Guatemalan) Flicker, Greater Pewee, Rusty Sparrow, and a few species of orioles.  

Blue-throated Motmot-a specialty of Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico
The highlands of Opatoro were our destination on this day.  This area isn’t visited as frequently as the other birding locations in Honduras, but there are a couple specialties that are quite common in this area.  Our first stop produced our most-wanted bird for the area; the beautiful Blue-throated Motmot.  The motmot is a common species throughout the area and we ended up detecting 8-10 individuals.  Since we had missed Resplendent Quetzal at La Tigra, we spent some extra time tracking this species down.  After hearing our first one, we eventually tracked it down had some great views.  And, to our surprise, while watching the quetzal, we had not one but two Fulvous Owls!  Two Emerald Toucanets were also quite amusing as they harassed the owls but made sure not to get too close at the same time.  This was one amazing spot!  In the afternoon we headed further up the mountain to a location for Rufous-collared Robin.  It was a great location with 4-5 individuals being present, even though it was in the middle of the afternoon.  We headed back down to the hotel in the early evening since we had already had success with Fulvous Owl earlier in the day.  A short watch for swifts from the hotel grounds only turned up White-collareds. 

Mountain Trogon-one of the beautiful trogon species found in Honduras
Our travel plans changed a bit on this day.  We took an alternate route from Marcala to PANACAM to look for Ocellated Quail and Green (Red-throated) Parakeet.  We started out the day birding the grounds of Hotel La Casona, obtaining great views of many of the usual species in the area.  After birding the grounds and having breakfast, we headed for the nearby pine-oak forest.  After speaking with some construction workers in the area, we learned that they see quail quite often in the area.  We ended up hearing one individual, but were not able to get a visual.  While making our way towards La Esperanza we picked up Steller’s Jay and Sedge Wren among a few other highlights.  We arrived at PANACAM in the middle of the afternoon, so we had a few hours to bird the grounds and the nearby trail.  The hummingbird feeders were fairly active with White-bellied Emerald, Violet Sabrewing, Stripe-throated Hermit, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds showing well.  The trails also produced some nice birds such as adult and juvenile Keel-billed Motmot, Bat Falcon, Northern Bentbill, as well as Olivaceous, Cocoa, and Ivory-billed Woodcreepers. 

Honduran Emerald-the only Honduran endemic

We had many options on our birding plans for our one full day at PANACAM.  We chose to try for the only Honduran endemic, the Honduran Emerald.  Alex had started to work on access to a private property, to the west of Santa Barbara, which we were able to visit.  While finding the property turned out to be difficult, finding the Honduran Emerald turned out to be quite easy.  We had multiples within minutes of stepping out of the car and ended up with 7-8 individuals.  Other highlights on the property included Elegant Trogon, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Plain-capped Starthroat, and Berryline Hummingbird.  We spent the afternoon birding around Lake Yajoa which produced a number of highlights including Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Olivaceous Piculet, Rose-throated Becard, Rufous-and-white Wren, and Green-backed Sparrow.

We had the morning to bird around PANACAM before leaving for San Pedro Sula and eventually The Lodge at Pico Bonito.  We were able to add a few more species in the morning such as Brown-hooded and White-crowned Parrots, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush (a newly arrived migrant), Passerini’s Tanager, and Black-headed Siskin.  Once arriving in San Pedro Sula, we met up with Elmer Escoto from The Lodge at Pico Bonito.  We had to bid farewell to our birding companions of the last week, Alex Alvarado and Gustavo Poublanc.  We arrived at Pico Bonito in the early afternoon, and after a short lunch break, we began birding the grounds.  This is the slow time in Honduras and it was very noticeable at Pico.  We struggled to find many birds throughout our visit but we did see a few quality species.  A Great Potoo and a family of three Vermiculated Screech-Owls made the first afternoon a success.  The number of swifts at Pico Bonito is incredible-we estimated at least 500 White-collared Swifts and 25 Vaux’s zipping around overhead.

Black-and-white Owl-one of three that were roosting in the tree
We started this morning at Toucan Tower and then hiked the loop trail.  We started off well with good views of two White Hawks from one of the valley overlooks, and followed it up with a Lovely Cotinga from Toucan Tower.  The hike on the loop trail was exceptionally slow, but we did see a couple Violet-headed Hummingbirds, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, both White-collared and Red-capped Manakins, and Long-billed Gnatwren.  After a short break in the middle of the day we headed to La Ceiba to look for Black-and-white Owls that had been roosting at CREDIA Botanical Gardens.  We weren’t disappointed; there were three roosting within the same tree!  Our next stop was Rio Santiago Nature Resort, one of the best places in Honduras to watch hummingbirds.  Not only are there hundreds of hummingbirds flying around the feeders, the diversity is also impressive.  We had 13 out of the 26 species that have been recorded here.  While hummingbirds are the stars of the show, the Spectacled Owls are a close second.  We had two individuals roosting next to each other, just down the road from the hummingbird feeders.  There are also many other species around the property and it is a must visit if birding in Honduras. 

American Pygmy Kingfisher-this beauty was extremely cooperative
We chose to bird Cuero y Salado National Park on our last full morning of the trip.  To get to this location you have to catch a small train that takes you 7 km to the visitor center.  The train moves slowly and travels through fields and marshes, so you can bird along the way.  Once you arrive, you can take a boat through the mangroves in hopes of finding many species.  This is a great location for Agami Heron and Sungrebe.  We missed both of these species but our highlights did include Boat-billed Heron, Plumbeous Kite, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, American Pygmy Kingfisher, White-necked Puffbird, and Black-crowned Antshrike.  You can also walk to the beach from the “train station”.  Magnificent Frigitebirds are quite common and we also had Black and Least Terns from the beach.  We finished up our trip by birding the grounds of the lodge without adding any species, other than a cooperative Mottled Owl.  

For information on Sabrewing Nature Tours trips to Honduras check out our website by clicking here.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Honduras Trip Report (Part 1 of 2)

Honduran Highlands and Pico Bonito

Fulvous Owl-a Honduran specialty

The purpose of this trip was to scout new locations for future Sabrewing Nature Tours trips.  Eric and Rob Ripma came from Sabrewing Nature Tours and, as we always do in Honduras, we worked with Alex Alvarado, the best bird guide in Honduras.  We were also joined by Gustavo Poublanc, who will be driving for many of Alex’s tours.  

We flew in to San Pedro Sula and spent the night, before leaving the next morning for Copan.  On the way to Copan, we stopped at Macaw Mountain, a large rehab and educational facility for rescued birds from captive collections.  Birding on the grounds produced a handful of the common species for the area such as Blue-crowned Motmot, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and Red-legged Honeycreeper.  We stayed at Hotel Don Udo’s in Copan which was a great alternative to the more popular (for birders) Clarion.

Bushy-crested Jay-a Mesoamerican endemic

This morning we birded Camino a la Laguna, a road that heads south out of Copan.  This road traverses a few different habitats so the bird list has potential to be quite extensive.  In the lower elevations we encountered Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge, Crested Bobwhite, Scarlet Macaw, and all three saltator species found in Honduras.  After working our way a bit further up the road, we birded alongside a coffee plantation and second growth forest.  Bushy-crested Jays and Brown-backed Solitaires were common in this area.  A single Golden-crowned Warbler, a species Alex had never seen at this location, was present alongside Slate-throated Redstarts and Rufous-capped Warblers.  Orioles were relatively abundant with Black-vented, Yellow-backed, Streak-backed, and Spot-breasted being present.  We made a brief stop at Hacienda San Lucas where we picked up White-throated Magpie Jay and Elegant Trogon.  In the afternoon we birded around Copan Ruins, which didn’t add many species other than a Yellow-green Vireo.

Blue-and-white Mockingbird-one of the prized species at La Tigra

This day we drove from Copan to Hotel Gloriales, just outside of La Tigra National Park.  We made a stop for lunch along the shores of Lake Yajoa where we picked up many species such as Muscovy Duck, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, White-tailed and Snail Kites, Gray-breasted Crake, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, and Gray-breasted Martin.  We arrived at Hotel Gloriales in the late afternoon and had a couple of hours to bird around the grounds.  Bushy-crested Jays were abundant throughout the area and a family of Ruddy Crakes was vocal but less than obliging while trying to get views.  Green (Red-throated) Parakeets were calling from the opposite mountainside, but their camouflaged plumage rendered them invisible to our eyes.  The most sought-after species at Hotel Gloriales is the Blue-and-white Mockingbird-a Mesoamerican endemic.  This species was very confiding throughout our stay at the hotel; and we had another pair just down the road.  We ended the day by trying for Whiskered Screech-Owl which is usually behind the hotel, but was not cooperative that night.   

We started out the morning at the gate for La Tigra National Park, and quickly picked up another Mesoamerican endemic; the beautiful Green-breasted Mountain Gem.  This species is only found in Honduras and Nicaragua so is one of the most sought-after species on a Honduras birding tour.  A few Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercers and a Rufous-browed Wren (both Mesoamerican endemics) kept us busy, while waiting for more hummingbirds at the many flowers around the gate.  Once we pulled ourselves away from the show, we headed up to the visitor center/trailhead.  Here we had great looks at Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, and Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush.  From visitor center we hiked the trails which netted us relatively few birds (somewhat due to the weather).  However, the species we did see were all very special birds.  We ended up seeing and hearing many more Green-breasted Mountain Gems along with a couple Garnet-throated Hummingbirds; an Amethyst-throated Hummingbird zipped by as well.  We lucked into two Scaled Antpittas-one of which was feeding on the trail!  After lots of hard work we eventually got great views of Tawny-throated Leaftosser and Singing Quail.  La Tigra is the most reliable spot in Honduras for Resplendent Quetzal so we were surprised to completely miss this stunning species.  After leaving La Tigra, we birded a side road while heading back to our hotel.  We had a great flock of birds along the road that included Mountain Trogon, Hairy, Golden-olive, and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Flame-colored Tanager, and a couple species of orioles.  However, the real prize, was a group of five Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge feeding in a small corn field!  This species, while fairly common, is extremely difficult to see.  In the late afternoon we headed back to Hotel Gloriales where the grounds produced the usual species.

Sharp-shinned (White-breasted) Hawk - Still considered Sharp-shinned Hawk,
but that may change in the future
Check back soon for part two of my Honduras trip report. Also, if this report makes you want to visit Honduras, click here to find out about our next trip to this beautiful country.