Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Harrier's festival in Coclé!

Of the three harriers species (Circus sp.) found in the Americas, two had been recorded so far in Panama.  The Northern Harrier, which is an uncommon migrant from North America, and the Long-winged Harrier, considered as a vagrant from South America and recorded, as expected, in the eastern part of the country... until now!  Along with Rafael Luck, Osvaldo Quintero and Venicio "Beny" Wilson, I went last saturday, october 13th, to Juan Hombrón, in the Coclé province of central Panamá.  We passed the rice fields, birded for a while (the story in another post) and continue our route... but it was at the rice fields in the way back when Beny saw it!
Juan Hombrón rice fields
He separated of the group for unknown reasons and while we all were seeing in the opposite direction, he saw a big black bird flying low passing in front of him... he immediately started to call us because he soon realized that was seeing something rare and new for him!  The bird crossed the road from one rice field to another, allowing some photos (watch Rafael's photos of this and other birds in Xenornis).
After litte discussion, we all agreed that the bird was a Long-winged Harrier due to its very dark (almost black) general color, pale primaries panels (both from above and below), and large size.  The pale streaks of the underparts make this bird a dark phase immature.
After seeing Rafael photos in Xenornis, I realized that this bird also showed the rufous vent characteristic of this species... only my next photo shows that feature (OK, with a little bit of imagination... you may need to enlarge the image to see it).
The bird also showed little white in the rump... essentially a white rump band... very different to the conspicuous white rump patch of the Northern Harrier.
After a while, we relocated the bird, allowing more photos... but the bird was chased away by a group of Southern Lapwings that were not as excited as we were with this raptor.  Notice the long-winged profile of the bird while soaring high in a thermal current.
Compare the last photo with my own Long-winged Harrier photo from eastern Panama province, taken last june... same profile.
Long-winged Harrier.  Eastern Panama province, june 30th, 2012.
For some reason we were quite lucky to have the rare opportunity to watch the other species of harrier, the Northern Harrier, also flying over a rice field farther west, in the road to El Gago, south of Penonome (Coclé province too).  In comparison, they (two birds) were smaller, browner, with a different wing pattern and conspicuous white rumps.
I know the last photo is simply not good... but this is the third year in a row that I see this species in the same area, and I have other photos published here (also, you can see Rafael's photos in Xenornis).
This, if accepted, is the ninth or tenth report for this species in Panamá; and certainly, the western/northernmost of them... what a crazy find!!!

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