Monday, December 20, 2010

2010's Pacific Christmas Bird Count

Yesterday, the Panama Audubon Society carried out the first (of three) Christmas Bird Counts in central Panama, with a great assistence and some good birds showing up. Like last year, I counted in the Farfan/Veracruz area (Panama Canal's west bank) in the morning... but this time alone because Gloriela stayed in home with a cold. I started very early, as usual, finding many of the specialties for the area (shorebirds, waders and open land birds). First, I checked Veracruz beach walking along the tide line in rubber boots finding tons of Willets and Whimbrels in the same flock along with a White Ibis, a Ruddy Turnstone, and some Collared, Wilson's and Black-bellied Plovers. I also found two Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures (so far the only two of the count) and heard a Striped Cuckoo in an adjacent grassland. Then, I checked Farfan beach, finding maaany herons and egrets, including my new-for-the-year Boat-billed Heron inside a mangrove and several Great Blue Herons. The highlights were two American Oystercatchers spotted far away in the rocky shores, also the only two for the count. Other birds related to the aquatic environment were the Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers at the river, several Northern Waterthrushes, a single Prothonotary Warbler and a flock of Greater Anis making a guttural call. These are shiny and good-looking birds compared to the Smooth-billed Anis found before. I like its expressive yellow eyes... not to be confused with the abundant Great-tailed Grackle). I moved to Amador where I entered Punta Culebra, the most reliable site inside the count circle to find the Northern Scrub-Flycatcher... and one of these little friends was perched on the entrance sign! Notice its pattern, quite similar to the Myiarchus flycatchers. You can identify it by its smaller size, short bill and different voice. The site is also very good for Sapphire-throated Hummingbird (only one male seen), Garden Emerald (up to four different birds of both sexes present) and "Mangrove" Warblers (with several seen). I also saw both Brown and Blue-footed Boobies (following a ship entering the Canal!) INSIDE the count circle. By midday, all the groups met at the Chiva Chiva ponds (beyond the Miraflores locks) to compilate the preliminar list and to organize the plans for the afternoon journey. After checking the missing birds, I went to different sites with Darien Montañez (PAS president, this CBC main compilator and XENORNIS editor) looking to add more birds to the day list, with moderate success. The very first stop was at the first of the two Chiva Chiva ponds, were we scoped several Common Gallinules (aka Moorhens), an American Coot and four (probably more) Pied-billed Grebes, the latter two were new year-birds for me! At the mangroves of Diablo Heights, Darien showed me a female American Redstart (new year-bird!) and we saw a quite grayish Cocoi Heron (white thighs and solid black crown, so its grayness was probably age-related). We failed to locate the Cattle Tyrant at its former usual haunts in Amador, but added Shiny Honeycreeper and Black-tailed Flycatcher at the Metropolitan Natural Park (with Venicio "Beny" Wilson and Olmedo Miró). The day ended doing some owling at Beny's place in Ancon... 15 hours of intense birding! Great count with great birds!

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