Thursday, November 11, 2010

More and more migrants

I went yesterday to the Metropolitan Natural Park of Panama City, taking advantage of the free day. The two previous day have been amazing due to the thousands of hawks and vultures that flew over the city in their way to the south and yesterday the counters at Ancon Hill (that hill with the panamanian flag covered in migrant Turkey Vultures) that the raptors stayed at the forest surrounding the former Canal Area. So, I was expecting to find many raptors in the park waiting for the day to heat-up to re-start the migration. The same did Osvaldo Quintero and Itzel Fong... they also went to the park looking for sleepy raptors. We hardly saw any migrant raptor in our way to El Mirador, but saw many migrant songbirds, specially tons of Swainson's Thrushes and Eastern Wood-Pewees (both were aboundant). At El Mirador, the activity was low... but after a few minutes we started to see some Turkey Vultures, then other group, and then another! In seconds, we saw tons of Turkey Vultures at the thermal currents gaining altitude from all the surrounding forests! Then we saw some Swainson's Hawks too approaching quite close to us, including one individual that flew so close over our heads that I barely captured part of it in the photo. By that time, the whole city was covered in migrat vultures and hawks, literally!!!
We realized that the main route was following the coast, a little distant of us, so we started to walk the way down to the parking lot at the entrance of the trails. We found a big mixed flock after passing the entrance to La Cieneguita trail with many resident species like Lesser and Golden-fronted Greenlets, White-shouldered Tanagers, one Green Shrike-Vireo and some Red-throated Ant-Tanagers; but also including some migrant warblers. The most common was the Bay-breasted Warbler. We found several individuals with variable amount of chestnut on its flanks. I checked them all very well looking for something rarer... but all seemed to be Bay-breasted Warblers in basic plumage. The other pretty common parulid was the Chestnut-sided Warbler. It is amazing how much they change... the alternate and basic-plumaged birds look like different species! However, it is very distinctive even with its winter dress. You can recognize them (even in my photo) by its bright-green crown and back, the complete white eye-ring and its lemon-yellow wingbars. The flock also included a magnificent male Golden-winged Warbler. It was so active, never stopping its quest for insects high on the trees, so I only got blurry photos. It is a shame because that bird is a real jewel. Other warblers at the park, but not in that particular flock, were the Yellow Warblers and the Blackburnian Warblers (both photos are from Costa del Este recently). The Yellow Warbler is one of the most common migrant songbird in Panama, but not in the forest. We also have a resident population, the "Mangrove" Warbler, distinctive different and considered by many as a good species. About the Blackburnians, they become very common in the park (and around the city) for a short period of time... this time I saw only one probable individual briefly while seeing the raptors from El Mirador (this species was pretty common just a couple of weeks ago). Close to the parking lot (at "El Castillo"), I saw a thrush perched quietly at the border of the trail. A quick look with my binoculars confirmed it to be a Gray-cheeked Thrush instead of the aboundant Swainsons'. Both Itzel and Osvaldo asked me: who??, so I showed them the bird, who stayed enough for some photos. It turned out that it was a lifer for both of them! Curiously, that was the second time this season that I see the bird exactly in the same place... so it was not a new year-bird for me, but an exciting lifer (and life photo) for my companions. We then drove to the Visitors Center of the park to have a well-deserved drink... but Osvaldo had a surprise for us. He took us behind the wildlife rehab facilities and in a matter of seconds, a splendid young Common "Mangrove" Black-Hawk appeared to inspect us, probably waiting for us to feed him. Of course we took tons of photos of the cooperative bird, who stayed in the nearby forest when the park's personnel released him. Great way to end the day!

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