Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lifer next door

When many people participate in a massive birding event, as last Global Big Day, it is inevitable that some rare or exotic species will be reported.  While reviewing the Panama numbers (620 species, so far!), I noticed three rare species reported for the Canal Area and Panama City that were potential life birds for me.  One of them was reported very close to my home, in the exposed mudflats of Panama Viejo.  So, taking advantage of my lunch time, I grab my bins and camera and headed that way.  The first thing I noticed was the huge number of migrant Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers.
Short-billed Dowitchers 
Black-bellied Plovers
I was interested in the peeps that use these mudflats, but most of them were far away following the retiring tide.  Not enough with that, it started to rain and I had to seek refuge in my car several times due to the short showers that prevented me to review thoroughly the flocks.  Well, at least I found the continuing American White Pelican mixed in with the Brown Pelicans (can you find it?).
Brown and American White Pelicans
During one of those moments waiting inside the car facing the mudflats, I noticed a small flock of peeps approaching from the mangrove island.  I hurried to check them.  Initially, nothing out of the ordinary.  Then, one of the peeps caught my attention.  The flock included both Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers... but one of them looked "wrong".
A Western/Semipalmated Sandpiper and a...
The birds flew closer and I was able to relocate the bird, this time it was close enough to confirm my initial suspicion: a White-rumped Sandpiper!!!
White-rumped Sandpiper
Notice the slender profile due to its long wings and the more angled position while feeding compared to the other peeps.  I also noticed that the wing tips crossed each other after passing the end of the tail and the finely streaked breast and flanks.  I know these are awful photos... but it is a rare passage migrant in Panama, and a lifer for me (did I mention that already?).  The flock only stayed for less than 5 minutes in front of the Visitors Center before flying away.  When leaving, I managed some last shots of my lifer:
White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Any doubt?

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