Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ducks hunt!

Today, I went to Las Macanas marsh (Herrera province, central Panama) with Osvaldo Quintero and Euclides "Kilo" Campos, trying to find some rarities recently reported for the site, specifically two pochard ducks species. Actually, our journey started yesterday, leaving Panama City in the afternoon and stopping in Gorgona where we found the wintering flock American Coots reported elsewhere (yes, the micro black dots in my distant photo of the lake), plus Common Moorhens (Gallinules), a lonely Pied-billed Grebe and an insane number of Least Grebes. Good start (the coots were lifers for Osvaldo). We slept at my house in Penonome, and very early today, we headed to the marsh, picking up in the way our local guide and friend Hector, of the Grupo Ecoturístico Las Macanas. We started checking the open waters, finding interesting birds, but not the pochards ducks we were looking for. We followed Kilo and Hector suggestion and walked to the other side of the marsh, which proved to be a good idea: the place was loaded in hundreds(probably thousands) of birds, specially the abundant Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. This common species, locally known as "guíchichi", has become the common duck of Panama's ponds, marshes and rice fields. They are immediately obvious by their constant calls and by their flight pattern, with contrasting white wing stripe. We were aware that Las Macanas is, so far, the only site in Panama with a resident population of the rare Fulvous Whistling-Duck, so we started to search the flocks of guíchichis with Kilo's scope... and soon we found at least four of these rarities mixed with the guíchichis. Compared to the guíchichis, the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks are cinnamon-brown with darker backs, no contrasting head, dark beaks and feet, and wide white streaking in the flanks (contra white panel in the closed wings exhibited by the guíchichis). There are three identifiable birds in Kilo's digiscoped photo, can you recognize them? We searched the surroundings, finding not only ducks, but also other birds, including rare ones and a lifer for me (the theme of my next post). Hector found a group of what he called "black little ducks", which we confirmed were four American Coots, a lifer for him! He thought we were kidding after telling him that the coots are related to the Purple Gallinules, so common in the marsh, and are not ducks at all. In the meanwhile, Kilo kept searching the guíchichis flocks... his tenacity was rewarded with a pair of American Wigeons mixed with some Blue-winged Teals in the distance. Both birds were easily recognized by their size (bigger than the teals, the most common migrant duck in Panama), the pale heads and white lower underparts... all these marks are visible in Kilo's digiscoped photo (there is a female Blue-winged Teal to the right of the wigeons). The ducks are not a common element of Panama's avifauna, and to find four different species in the same site at the same time is quite amazing for this country (and we missed other two species!). Good hunt!

1 comment:

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