Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Show me the migrants!

Recently, I went with Gloriela to the Caribbean side of central Panama, specifically to the San Lorenzo National Park and the former Fort Sherman, in search of the migrant warblers that my former Central CBC's team reported during the Atlantic CBC (I did not participate in that one). I tried to find the migrant warblers some months ago, without success due to the sunny and hot day, but this time the day was completely different. We started earlier this time, but a heavy rain stopped us from birding during the first hours of the morning. We waited at the Castillo de San Lorenzo for the rain to stop, and when it happened (more or less) we started to walk along the ruins. At one of the corners of the old fortress, by the ditch, we found a cooperative Yellow-rumped Warbler showing nicely its rump. It was feeding mostly on the ground, in the short, wet grass in a very active manner. Almost immediately, Gloriela noticed a second warbler very close to the first one, but this one was more uniformely brown. I quickly checked it with my binoculars, confirming its identity, a rare (for Panama) Palm Warbler. We stayed for a while, admiring these two rare species (both were lifers for Gloriela) until the rain started again. Then, we drove to Fort Sherman, to the former church where the CBC team found many migrants (don't ask at the restaurant about the church... they have no idea). The place was simply magic. Soon, we both were surrounded by lots of migrants probably because of my intense "pishing". The first one we saw was a female Blue Grosbeak that flew from the understore to a tree, to inspect us. Then, a mixed flock with both resident and migrant species showed up. It was amazing to see, in the same flock, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, Prothonotary, Black-and-white and Tennessee Warblers, Northern Waterthrush and American Redstart (a female), plus the residents Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Common Tody-Flycatcher and Lesser Greenlets. Then, I saw a little warbler high over the main flock with bright yelllow throat and breast (with a dark chestnut spot), white underparts, bluish upperparts and contrasting but incomplete white eye-ring: a male Northern Parula, just like reported for that very same place! This is just my third sight (the second for Gloriela), with my last one during an Atlantic CBC with Rafael Luck two years ago (report in XENORNIS). But a bigger bird was accompanying the flock too. It was first very hard to see because it moved in the understore, but then, when the flock visited a bare tree, it did the same showing it slim profile and chestnut vent, a migrant Gray Catbird. Despite it was not a lifer for any of us, we enjoyed it because this bird is seldom seen in Panama (specially in the open, my second photo shows better the actual field conditions where you usually find this skulker). About the reported warblers, we only missed the Yellow-throated found by the CBC team in Fort Sherman. In our way out we stopped to enjoy the several Killdeers working the grasslands of the airstrip. The Killdeer is not rare, but is always nice to see them. We found at least three nervous individuals, making its kil-deer call for us. Great day after all... I already want to go back!

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