Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Impressive numbers at Boca de Pacora

The news spread through the social media... a vagrant (for Panama) Large-billed Tern appeared in the coast of the upper Bay of Panama close to the mouth of the Pacora river (Boca de Pacora) to the east of Panama City... and we were after him! Under the guidance of Karl and Rosabel Kaufmann, Stephany Carty, Rolando Jordan and your blogger host rode the intricate dirt roads through pasture lands, scrubs and patches of gallery forests in order to reach the beach.  The one-hour drive resulted in some nice birds of course, like this obliging and aptly-named Roadside Hawk.
Roadside Hawk
I took the above photo from the car... in fact, we only left the cars in order to watch a roosting Barn Owl (always nice to see an owl in daylight) and to find a calling Striped Cuckoo that turned out to be a life bird for Rolando!
Striped Cuckoo
Eventually, we reached the beach.  The surf was quite away, but the tide was raising.  The extensive mudflats were full of waders and other water birds.
Boca de Pacora beach
We checked first a sand bank where Rosabel's group saw a family of American Oystercatchers with a recently fledged young some days ago.  There are few breeding reports of this species in the upper Bay of Panama, including mine some years ago while celebrating with my wife our anniversary (check this post).  We saw at least 12 different oystercatchers at the site that day, some of them doing courtship displays.
American Oystercatchers
As the tide was rising, the birds began to gather closer to the coast.  Impressive flocks of Neotropic Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds obscured the horizon... but more important, flocks of migrants also started to appear.  It is the middle of June and these species shouldn't be in Panama... at least not in such numbers: tons of Sandwich, Gull-billed and Common Terns were quite unusual... and no less than eight Caspian Terns also add some color to the flock.
Caspian Terns
The most common species was the Black Skimmer.  Close to one hundred birds were resting at the beach.  However, these birds probably belongs to the South American subspecies cinerascens, which are larger than the North American birds, with gray wing linings and tails and thin white trailing edge to the wings.
Black Skimmers
Black Skimmers
Although we found most of the previously reported species for the area, the Large-billed Tern did not appear again.  We had to leave the place since a huge rainstorm was about to hit us, but we were happy anyway knowing that all those birds still call Panama their home!
Dark clouds over Boca de Pacora

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