Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peñón de San José revisited

The finding of Peruvian Boobies at the Peñón de San José (a rocky islet in Panama Bay) was pretty exciting news for the panamanian birders (although not exactly good news for the birds); however, having to ID these birds through scopes at 1.6 km away was not that satisfactory. That's why I joined Osvaldo Quintero, Rafael Luck and Venicio "Beny" Wilson in a short boat trip to the islet yesterday's morning.  After leaving the dock, our captain took us swiftly around Flamenco Island (from where we scoped the boobies last time), seeing a colony of Brown Pelicans and many Magnificent Frigatebirds and Neotropic Cormorants passing by.  Soon, we were approaching the Peñón de San José, that was full of boobies!
Blue-footed Boobies
Blue-footed Boobies
As you can see, most of them were Blue-footed Boobies... tons of them.  We counted at least 200 birds, including many immature birds, as in the photo above.  Of course, the main objective of our trip were the Peruvian Boobies scoped from shore, but considering the huge numbers of Blue-footed Boobies in this and other islets around Panama Bay make us wonder if some of these birds are southern visitors too.  Notice the solid brown wings of the immature birds, different to the scaled pattern of the back and wings of Peruvian Boobies immatures.  After a while, we started to see Peruvian Boobies... two at first, then three more, then more and more... WOW!  we counted 38 adult Peruvian Boobies... at least!
Peruvian Boobies
Apart of the obvious differences in legs color, notice the white neck and head (with no brown streaks) and, as mentioned before, the scaled effect of the upperparts.  The Peruvian are also smaller than the Blue-footed Boobies.  Most of these birds were resting in the vertical cliffs of the southern/eastern face of the islet... in fact, the next two Peruvian Boobies were the only that we saw in the northern cliff (the one that can be seen from Flamenco Island).
Peruvian Boobies
After visiting the islet, we visit some other islets, like Changame, Tortolita and Tórtola islands.  In Tórtola, we saw many more Blue-footed Boobies and tons of Brown Pelicans... and yes, we checked the field marks.
The Brown Pelican is the only regularly seen species of pelican in Panama... but if we just saw Peruvian Boobies, why not Peruvian Pelicans?  The adult birds looked normal-sized (Peruvian are considerably larger) with uniformly dark upperwings coverts and the juvenile birds (with all brown head and white bellies) had gray gular pouches.  OK, not Peruvian Pelicans... but I'll keep searching!
Rafael, Beny, Osvaldo and me!

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