Monday, January 30, 2012

Savanna and mangroves

The morning of last saturday, january 28th; Penonome (Cocle province, central Panama) received the visit of an important delegation of birdwatchers from Panama City, prepared to repeat past weekend finding of a Grasshopper Sparrow in Panama after more than 50 years! I joined Rafael Luck, Osvaldo Quintero and Venicio "Beny" Wilson early that morning and departed to the exact site where I saw the bird.
We didn't see it immediately, but certainly our hearts started pumping when we saw a very unusual flycatcher-type bird. Similar in shape and behavior to a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, it seemed to be a partially albino immature because of its relatively short tail. Shortly after this, we were joined by Darien and Camilo Montañez and Marlene (a guest), and started searching. Soon, we had several sightings of a single bird, all brief, but definitives. You can read more about these encounters at Darien's site, Xenornis.
After spending a couple of hours at the site, we went to the Aguadulce Salinas (saltponds), 25 minutes to the west. However, the former saltponds were completely dry, and we decided to go directly to the coast, were some mangrove still persist... and it turned to be a good idea!
In a little pond surrounded by mangroves, we found this flock of sandpipers. As you can see, most of these birds are Lesser Yellowlegs ( straight, relatively short bills, white eye rings, spotted flight feathers) plus some Greater Yellowlegs (similar to the Lesser Yellowlegs, but bigger, with two-toned upturned bills) and Short-billed Dowitchers (chunky shape, long & straight bills) There are at least two Stilt Sandpipers too (slightly downcurved bills). The pond also hosted a single Red Knot and many Black-necked Stilts which refused to stay for the photos. After seeing the obligate Yellow "Mangrove" Warblers, we had lunch at a local restaurant (we ordered an excellent fried fish) and returned to Penonome where we had more encounters with the sparrow before we had to return to our normal lives. It is always nice to scape from the monotony and to engage in the search of a lost bird.

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