Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Pearl Islands experience! Part II

The second day of our trip to the Pearl Islands (Gulf of Panama), Joris, Francis and your blogger host hired a boat to visit some nearby islands to Contadora; however, Joris and I decided to watch birds in the island interior during the first hours of light.  It was too early for most of the migrants... instead, we found many resident birds around the pond.  This Panama Flycatcher was particularly cooperative:
Panama Flycatcher
At the pond, several pairs of Least Grebes were quite active making display calls and exhibitions and building floating nests.  We managed some close views and photos of these birds.
Least Grebe
It was time to aboard our boat, the captain was waiting for us at Galeon beach and soon we were heading to Pacheca Island, just to the north of Contadora.  This private owned island holds one of the most important breeding colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds in the Panamanian Pacific... a fact that quickly became obvious... hundreds of frigatebirds flying and resting at the trees of the island... impressive!
Immature Magnificent Frigatebirds
However, both Pacheca and Pachequilla islands were covered in Blue-footed Boobies... hundreds of them!  Pachequilla was literally covered with them.  These amazing numbers of Blue-footed Boobies are not usual... they are easily seen from shore at the continent in several beaches, and hundreds of them rest in islets close to Panama City as well.
Blue-footed Boobies
Blue-footed Boobies
In the other hand, the Brown Boobies were not more than 10... and all of them at Pachequilla island.  In fact, we saw some more in the open sea during the ferry trip from Panama City.  I have to mention that this seems to be a recent shift in the boobies population in these nesting sites.  According to Angehr & Kushlan (Waterbirds 2007; 30: 335-57), the "Brown Boobies nested in similar sites as Blue-footed Boobies but were more widely distributed", and that "although commonly seen roosting in the outer islands of the Pearls, Blue-footed Boobies are relatively rare, scattered, and perhaps irregular as breeders".
Brown Boobies
However, the biggest surprise was a small group of Peruvian Boobies resting at Pachequilla island!  They were easily identified due to their contrasting white head and necks, smaller size and checkered upperparts (and, of course, none of these had blue feet).
Peruvian (and three Blue-footed) Boobies in Pachequilla island 
Peruvian and Blue-footed Boobies in Pachequilla island
We are experiencing an invasion of Peruvian Boobies in Panamanian waters, probably displaced by warmer conditions in their usual range in South America.  Until that day, they were only reported from Panama City and a nearby islet.  We were quite excited about this... but know that these are not exactly good news for the birds.  The last birds we saw while circumnavigating Pacheca island were these two American Oystercatchers... always a nice sight!
American Oystercatchers
We really had fun and enjoyed every second of this flash trip to the Pearl Islands.  Hope you enjoyed it as well!
Isleta island

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