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.

7/22
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
7/23
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
7/24
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

7/25
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.

7/26
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
7/27
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
7/28
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.  

7/17-18
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

7/19
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

7/20
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.   

7/21
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.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Birding the Santa Marta Steppe and AlcollarĂ­nn Reservior

Rob writes: After such a successful first day of birding in Extremadura, I couldn't wait to get back out the next morning so we got an early start. We arrived in the Santa Marta steppe just after sunrise to search for one of my biggest target birds of the trip, Great Bustard.

As we drove down the dirt road, we got our first great looks at European Bee-eater, which is a stunning bird! All along the road, larks flew up and perched on the fences. It took awhile to get used to identifying them but by the end of the morning, I was getting the hang of it and had seen five lark species.

The European Bee-eater is quite a spectacular bird!

Crested Larks were the most numerous lark in the Santa Marta steppe.
It was starting to look like we might not find a bustard that morning but I decided to take one more scan of the surrounding fields with my scope and boy was I glad I did! After seeing four Great Bustards at a distance, I turned around to put my scope in the car only to find two much closer on the other side of the road.

Although the views through the scope were great,
 the digiscoped shots didn't turn out as well.
After breakfast, we continued to explore the plains and found many more lifers including European Roller, Montague's Harrier, and Cirl Bunting. For lunch, we explored the historic city of Cácares.

The European Roller was one of the more colorful birds that we saw on our whole trip.
Another target species for me was Collared Pranticole so after lunch, we set off for a local reservoir where Martin from Casa Rural El Recuardo had seen them recently. The reservoir turnout out not to just be a great place to see Collared Pranticole but also Little Tern, Black-winged Avocet, loads of Great Crested Grebes, and Eurasian Spoonbill. On the way out of the reservoir, a family of Red-legged Partridges hurried across the road.

The Collared Pranticole looks like a combination of a shorebird and a swallow!
There were several Little Terns flying around the reservoir
We spent our final evening on a hillside near our hotel waiting for Red-necked Nightjars to come out. It took a long time but they finally emerged giving me my final lifer of the day as well as a spectacular sunset.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ready to Visit New Places in Honduras

Rob writes: Tomorrow Eric and I will be flying to Honduras to check out some birding sites that might make great stops for future Sabrewing Nature Tours trips. We'll be joining Alex Alvarado of Honduran Birds as we check out Copan Ruins, Opatoro, La Tigra National Park, and the Panacam Lodge area. Other than Panacam, all of these locations will be new for me and I can't wait to explore them all.

We'll be covering a lot of ground during our trip.
Although I've been to Honduras a couple of times, this will be Eric's first trip to the country so he's expecting to get lots of lifers! I should also find a few lifers since I've not visited most of these places either and I know that when I was at Panacam Lodge last December, I missed a few birds that can be found there.

Once we finish our 8 day trip with Alex, we will be moving on to the incredible Lodge at Pico Bonito. As you probably know from previous posts, this is one of my favorite lodges that I have ever visited and I'll never pass up an opportunity to spend some time there. We'll be doing some birding and helping the guides at the Lodge get up to speed with using eBird for submitting and sharing their sightings. They are out birding most of the year and will be able to create quite an impressive data set for eBird with their numerous checklists that will be submitted. Not only will it help eBird but the guides will then be able to share the checklists with their clients adding to the quality service that they already offer.

Keel-bill Motmot is just one of the many incredible birds to be found at The Lodge at Pico Bonito.
We'll be sure to post along the way as internet access allows so you can learn about the awesome birds, wildlife, and scenery of Honduras. If you are interested in joining me on a Honduras Tour in January 2016, visit our Sabrewing Nature Tours website to learn more!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Indiana

Eric writes: As soon as Indiana's second state record Fork-tailed Flycatcher was reported, the chase was on.  Aidan Rominger, Rob, and I had been out birding central Indiana when we got the report.  It had been a good day for central Indiana in June; more than 10 species of warblers and a Veery (uncommon Indy breeder) were the highlights.

We had a 2.5 hour drive to the flycatcher location.  During this time the bird was reported to have left the original location.  We had a decision to make; keep driving south and have faith the bird would be re-found, or bail and head back north.  We decided we might as well give it a shot.  As soon as we arrived, we started our search around the original location.  Within a few minutes, we got a report, the bird had been relocated!  We rushed over to the new location to find a small group of birders watching the bird.  After many years of hoping to see this species in the US, it was a very satisfying day.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
The Fork-tailed Flycatcher from Indiana