Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cerro Azul hummers revisited

I'll be sincere. This post is just an excuse to publish some photos of hummingbirds found at Cerro Azul my last time there. Some are OK, others are bad, but still showing some interesting species, most of them for the first time in this blog.
I already posted photos of my year-birds # 600 and 601 (Violet-headed and Violet-capped Hummingbirds), but with my year-bird # 603 I was not as lucky in order to get good photos. Despite that, we got terrific views of several White-tipped Sicklebills at a known spot in Birders' View thanks to their habit of inspecting you while hovering in the air right in your face! These amazing birds have specialized 90º curved bills to extract the nectar from specific Heliconias flowers. In this (bad) picture, the bill is not evident, but the bird is hanging from its favorite Heliconia. You can readily recognize the bird by its streaked underparts, unique among the hummingbirds of that locale. The second (bad) picture is from near El Valle de Anton (Cocle province), just to show the bill and also that it is usually not easy to photograph them because they prefer shaded places inside the forest.
Like the sicklebills, the hermits also have the habit of confronting you. The common species in Cerro Azul is the Green Hermit. These are big hummers with long tails and decurved bills. They exhibit some sexual dimorphism, with the males being greener than females, which exhibit different degrees of gray and tawny on their plumages. These are common feeders visitors, like other big hummers, but they are not dominant on them. They can be very difficult to detect when perched, specially the lekking males low inside the forest. As you can see, both pictures here are of females. Other hermits species are less common at the gardens we visited, including both the Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits (both are commoner in the lowlands).
At the Ahrens' place, a very nice Purple-crowned Fairy visits regularly the hummingbird feeders. These hummers are so elegant and delicately patterned in clean white and green that it is hard to believe. The lack of green moustache makes this individual a female, which have longer tails than males. This is not the first time I post a photo of this species, but who can get tired of it? Other big hummer regularly visiting feeders at Cerro Azul is the Long-billed Starthroat. I saw it once in Birders' View, but it seems more regular at the Ahrens' place and at the Lieurance's place (The Petrels in Panama living in Cerro Azul, check their video).
Of course, we also saw more common species like Snowy-bellied, Rufous-tailed and Blue-chested Hummingbirds and White-necked Jacobins, but I have posted photos of them before elsewhere. Somehow, I haven't posted photos of the next species despite its commoness in Cerro Azul: the Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. This is also a medium to large-sized hummingbird inhabitant of forests and borders that is readily attracted to feeders. It is SO easy to identify due to its conspicuous red-pinkish feet, a mark not shared with ANY other hummingbird in Panama.
Well, the list of hummingbirds recorded at Cerro Azul is impressive, including some species that I still have to find in that place (Green-crowned Brilliant comes to my mind) and others that are present only seasonally, like the Rufous-crested Coquette and the Green Thorntail. I still need many more visits to that charming piece of Panama!

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