Monday, December 29, 2014

Whitefish Point: Long-tailed Duck Migration

Eric writes:

One of the main reasons I wanted to count waterbirds at Whitefish Point was the large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks that migrate through the area.  This fall did not disappoint; a total of over 27,000 migrated by the point, most of which were recorded in October.  More than 8,300 flew by on a single day in October.  This flight consisted of a handful of flocks numbering between 400-500 birds; seeing flocks of this size is extremely impressive.

Take a look at the photo below.  How many Long-tailed Ducks, without individually counting, do you think are in this flock alone? (all birds in the photo are LTDUs)

A portion of one of the "big" Long-tailed Duck flocks.

Long-tailed Duck flocks continually shift from water-level to well above the water while they are flying.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Successful Honduras Birding Tour

Rob writes: I returned from Honduras last weekend and am already missing the warm temperatures as I sit here in Indiana looking at a bit of snow out my window.

After arriving a day early and spending the night in San Pedro Sula, I picked up my participants up and headed for our first stop in the beautiful Lake Yojoa area. The birding was fantastic around our hotel, Finca Las Glorias, as well as in Santa Barbara National Park and at Panacam Lodge! After only 3 days of birding, we left this part of Honduras with just over 150 species!

Turquoise-browed Motmots are very common around Lake Yajoa.

Our first Violet Sabrewing of the trip was found eating from the feeders at Panacam Lodge.

Rufous-naped Wrens were commonly heard singing near our rooms at Finca Las Glorias.

Although it's not a great photo, it was fun to watch these White-fronted Parrots feeding.
The rest of our trip was spent at The Lodge at Pico Bonito which is one of the most beautiful and comfortable hotels that I have ever visited in the tropics. Oh and the birding in the area isn't bad either! In addition to birding on the grounds of the lodge, we visited 4 other incredible birding spots along the North Shore of Honduras.

This Boat-billed Heron was pretty cooperative at Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge.

We were all very excited to find a Hook-billed Kite near the Honduran Emerald Reserve in the Aguan Valley.

Finding a Lesser Roadrunner was one of the highlights of the whole trip!

I'm always happy to find kingfishers such as this Ringed Kingfisher at Cuero y Salado.
We ended the trip with 241 species in 9 full days of birding including one day that was almost completely rained out. I saw 13 life birds and my participants all got 35 or more lifers! If you'd like to visit Honduras with me, be sure to keep an eye out for our announcement about our next tour to this beautiful county which will be coming soon or contact me for additional details.

Here are a few more photos from our recent trip.

Our whole group on our way to The Lodge at Pico Bonito.
Everyone enjoyed spending time with Leonel and his family near Santa Barbara National Park. Leonel is working to protect the park from deforestation and to promote tourism in the area.
We made a quick stop for some snacks at this local fruit stand. The bananas and pineapple were incredible!

Most places that we visited in Honduras were all decorated
for Christmas including the Lodge at Pico Bonito.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Whitefish Point: A Sabine's Gull Story

Eric writes:

It's been a month since the fall waterbird count at Whitefish Point ended.  After, finally, going through the photos, I realized there were many memorable experiences that I hadn't posted about.  So, here is one with a Sabine's Gull as the star!

The Sabine's Gull as it was approaching the point.

It had been a good day out at the point, almost 3000 waterbirds had passed, when suddenly a Sabine's Gull appeared, flying lazily down the shore.  This was only the second "Sab" of the season so I was excited to watch and photograph it at close range (at least for a Sabine's Gull).  As it approached the point, the action started, a Peregrine Falcon had taken notice of this small gull.  The chase was on!  Sabs are agile flyers but Peregrines are one of the most skilled flyers in the world.  However, the Sab knew what it was doing and stayed higher than the Peregrine throughout much of the chase; it's much harder to hunt from below your prey.  After 5-6 unsuccessful stoops the Peregrine gave it up and the Sabine's continued on it's migration.

Here are a few photos from when the attack was on:

The juvenile Sabine's Gull while it was avoiding the Peregrine.

The sab when it was directly above the shack.

The hungry Peregrine on the chase.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Off to Bird in Honduras for the Next 10 Days

Rob wrotes - Today, I arrived in San Pedro Sula and I'll be spending the next 10 days leading a group to two of the wonderful birding areas in this beautiful country. Tomorrow, me and our local guide and friend, Elmer, will meet our group at the airport and head for the Lake Yojoa region. After a few days in that part of the country, we'll head to one of my favorite birding locations in Central America, The Lodge at Pico Bonito! I'll be sure to post some photos both on the Nutty Birder Facebook page as well as here on the blog as time and internet access allows. For now, here are a few of my favorite images from my Honduras trip in 2013!

I can't wait to spend some time watching birds from the deck at Pico Bonito!

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is one of the most common hummingbirds in the area.

Hopefully another Keel-billed Motmot will be this cooperative!

Northern Jacanas are always cool but their plumage when they are young is really something!

I'm always excited to see motmots, and even more so when I get to see Tody Motmots.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our loyal followers! We are very thankful that so many of you are interested in all of our birding adventures and look forward to continuing to share our stories with you.

Thanks to our friend Brian Zwiebel for this awesome photo of a Wild Turkey that he photographed on Mount Lemmon in SE Arizona. There are several subspecies of Wild Turkey and this one is the Merriam's subspecies that occurs throughout parts of the Western US. In parts of SE Arizona, two subspecies are possible, Merriam's and Gould's. If this were a Gould's it would show a pure white tip to the tail in addition to other identification points. You can learn more about Wild Turkey's here!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eagle Creek Park-Eared Grebe

The Eared Grebe from Eagle Creek Park.  Thanks to Aidan Rominger for the photo!
The last few days of birding around Eagle Creek Reservoir has produced at least one unusual bird, each day.  The first was a White-winged Scoter, an uncommon bird away from Lake Michigan (in Indiana).  On Saturday, an Eared Grebe arrived and provided great looks.  The Eared Grebe also continued through today.  Then, today, a single Red-necked Grebe was present on the south side of the reservoir.  The question now, when will the Western Grebe arrive?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Enjoying the South Texas Specialties in the Rio Grande Valley

Rob writes: A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead field trips during the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Birding Festival. I always love any opportunity to bird in the RGV and this trip was fantastic as always!

My trip started out with leading four days of field trips for the festival. I got to visit some of my favorite birding locations in the RGV as well as a place I had never visited, a very cool private ranch north of Harlingen called El Canelo. Although it rained for the first two days of the festival, there were plenty of birds around and we all made the most of the bad weather and found lots of birds anyway!

After the festival, Stephanie and I spent a couple of extra days relaxing and birding out on South Padre Island. It was great to have a couple of slower paced days to recover after birding like crazy during the festival! It also allowed us to spend more time taking photos of all of the awesome birds that we had been watching all week.

Although it was very cloudy, we did manage to capture a couple nice sunrise shots one morning on South Padre Island.
The Convention Center on South Padre Island is a great place to work
on photographing terns in flight, like this Forster's Tern.
This Osprey flew a bit to close for the 400mm lens I was using.
While on the way to Laguna Atascosa NWR, we spotted a pair of Harris's Hawks. They remained perched until a pick up truck went flying by and I was able to capture a few images as they took off!
Stephanie photographed this Green Jay while we were birding at Laguna Atascosa.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are common throughout the RGV but I find that Estero Llano Grande State Park is a great place to find some that are close enough for photography.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Spruce Grouse in the UP

A male Spruce Grouse
I guess the best way to describe it is laziness.  There are a few reliable locations for Spruce Grouse within twenty minutes of Whitefish Point but, it took me about two and a half months to go watch them.  The grouse didn't disappoint; within a few minutes at the first location, I had found a group of 12 along the road. The highlight was watching an aggressively displaying male.

I wasn't really looking for Spruce Grouse at my second stop (even though it is a historically good location for them) but, a male popped up on the side of the road and gave some great views.  The light was also much better which made for a marginally better photo.

It was a little dark for photography at my first stop, but you can get the idea
of the experience (even if you can't see the birds well).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Whitefish Point: Some Boreal Highlights

Eric writes: It has been an interesting couple weeks at Whitefish Point.  Many irruptive species have made their way to and past the point.  The biggest highlight was a Northern Hawk Owl that spent half of a day at the point.  I was able to watch it for a couple minutes as it successfully hunted.  "Winter" finches have also shown up in good numbers.  Hundreds of Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins have been around on many days and a handful of Evening and Pine Grosbeaks as well as Bohemian Waxwings have been seen.  A couple Northern Shrikes have also provided lots of entertainment on slow waterbird days.

A male Evening Grosbeak about to come down to the feeders.

A female Evening Grosbeak.  The highest daily total of Evening Grosbeaks
has been 25.

Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and an Evening Grosbeak that looks like a giant.

A juvenile Northern Shrike that spent a day at the point.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On to Canopy Lodge and Many New Birds

Rob writes: After an extremely exciting morning of birding along the road to Canopy Tower, think ant swarm and a Crested Owl, we were ready to head on to Canopy Lodge about two hours away in El Valle. (You can read about our time at Canopy Tower here) This property sits at a higher elevation than Canopy Tower and offers a huge variety of birds that you just don't have to opportunity to see in the lower elevations of Panama.

The drive from Canopy Tower to Canopy Lodge was beautiful and the scenery certainly made the drive seem much shorter than two hours. As we pulling into Canopy Lodge, we were greeted by our guide and friend Eliecer. Although lunch was ready for us, we did stop to look at a few birds along the way and picked up a few lifers!

The forest surrounds you while staying at Canopy Lodge.

This is the main building at Canopy Lodge. It's a wonderful place to sit and watch many birds!

The rooms at Canopy Lodge are huge and very comfortable!
During lunch, we were lucky to have some time to chat with Raul Arias de Para and his family. Raul is the visionary that created and owns all of the Canopy Family properties. It was wonderful to hear his stories about how everything came together when he started Canopy Tower. Before we knew it, it was time to head off and do our first serious birding around Canopy Lodge.

Over the next few days, we birded at a wide variety of elevations from the beach all the way up to the cloud forests. We had 203 species during our 3.5 days of birding at the Canopy Lodge including 29 lifers for me!

Here are a few of our favorite photos from our time at Canopy Lodge. Photography was a little difficult here since we had cloudy weather for most of our trip.

Barred Antshrikes were very common in many of the birding areas that we visited.

While birding in the Pacific Lowlands, we found a huge group of
Fork-tailed Flycatchers! I think we could have spent all day photographing them.

Rufous Motmots are regularly seen around the Canopy
Lodge property. This photo was take from our room's deck.

Rufous-capped Warblers are one of the most common species in this area.

One of the target species when birding in the Pacific Lowlands is the Yellow-crowned
Parrot. Luckily, several of them perched and gave us great scope views!

Another target in the lowlands is Yellow-headed Vulture. Several
of them passed low overhead while we were birding in this area.
If you think that Panama sounds like an awesome birding desination and someplace you'd like to visit, consider joining me on our Sabrewing Nature Tours 2015 Panamanian birding adventure! You can learn all about the trip by following this link. Panama is my favorite birding destination that I have visited so far and I hope to get to show it to many of you in person!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Beginning of Our Panamanian Adventure: Canopy Tower

From the time I started birding, other birders have been telling me about all of the amazing birding locations and lodges all over the world. There are many places that I've dreamt of visiting but none more so than Canopy Tower. The Tower has always fascinated me, not just for birding but from a historical perspective as well. Not only is the Canopy Tower in the former US Canal Zone in Panama, it's also inside an old US Air Force radar tower!

Owner Raul Arias de Para purchased the radar facility in 1996 and set out to turn it into an incredible eco-lodge. You can learn more about Raul here. What he ended up creating is one of the top birding destinations in the entire world. You can read more about the creation of Canopy Tower here.

As we traveled down to Panama a couple of weeks ago, I could hardly contain my excitement of seeing the Tower in person and having time to bird in this wonderful country for the first time. We arrived late in the day and stayed at a hotel near the airport for our first night. I woke up early the next morning and somewhat impatiently waited for the driver from Canopy Tower to pick us up. To get to Canopy Tower from the airport, you must drive straight though Panama City. We were surprised to find that Panama City is huge! We quickly left the city behind and watched as we entered the incredible rain forest within Soberania National Park.

As we twisted our way up the entrance road to the Tower, our excitement built. We finally came around one last corner and there it was! Our friend Jenn, who works for Canopy Tower met us as we got out of the van and welcomed us to our home for the next four nights.

Not only does this road lead to Canopy Tower, it's also great for birding!

The flowers and hummingbird feeders around the entrance to Canopy
Tower attract a number of hummingbird species.
There were hummingbirds zipping around the flowers and feeders in front of the Tower, and Jenn quickly pointed out a Three-toed Sloth looking down at us. We finally made it inside the Tower and once we dropped some of our luggage and gear our room, we headed straight for the observation deck!

The view from the observation deck is pretty spectacular. It provides a panoramic view
from which you can see Panama City, the Centennial Bridge over the canal, and the Panama Canal.
Although there weren't a lot of birds active during the middle of the day, the view from the observation deck was spectacular! Before long, it was time for lunch and then we were off for our first afternoon of birding near the Tower.

Over the next few days, we birded at all of the well-known birding sites that surround the Tower, including the world famous Pipeline Road which is one of the best birding locations in all of North America!

It's easy to find birds when you're birding from Canopy Tower's open air vehicles!
Staying and birding at Canopy Tower was everything that I had hoped it would be and much more. The accommodations are unique, the food is fantastic, and the birding and guides are out of this world! Before long it was time for us to continue on to our next destination, Canopy Lodge, about two hours away in El Valle, although we could have spent several more days at Canopy Tower. Check back on soon to read about our time at Canopy Lodge.

Here's some of Stephanie and I's favorite bird photos from our time at Canopy Tower!

The first lifer for both Stephanie and I was a Blue-chested Hummingbird.

I've never been anywhere that has so many Broad-billed Motmots!

Crimson-crested Woodpecker was a new species for me.

This Gray-headed Tanager was following an ant swarm along the road to Canopy Tower.

One of the specialty species that you can find along Pipeline Road is Great Jacamar.

Mantled Howler Monkeys are often heard and seen around Canopy Tower.

Palm Tanagers are commonly found trying to get a free meal from the buffet line in the dining room!

The Ammo Ponds are a great place to see and photograph Rufescent Tiger-Herons.

One of the many benefits of being at the canopy level is that you can get
eye to eye with sloths such as this Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth.

Another shot of a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth.

Southern Lapwings are very common in any grassy area in and around Panama City.

The Violet-bellied Hummingbird was my favorite hummingbird species that we saw at Canopy Tower.

I really enjoyed seeing so many White-whiskered Puffbirds during our stay.

It's amazing how iridescent White-necked Jacobins are if the light hits them just right.

This White-vented Plumeleteer ruled over the hummingbird feeders at Canopy Tower.
It spent most of its time chasing other species away from the feeders.