Friday, August 19, 2016

Rare migrant at the saltflats

The month of August marks the beginning of the migratory season in Panama.  All over  the country, the early migrants are showing up in both expected and unexpected sites.  One of the historical migrant traps in Panama are the Aguadulce Salinas (saltflats) in Cocle province (central Panama), where I did a quick stop with my family last weekend, finding some goodies.
Black Skimmers and Royal Terns
The huge flock of Black Skimmers was accompanied with impressive numbers too of Royal Terns... none of these breed in Panama, but they are found year-round in Panama.  The skimmers, particularly, are regular in these saltflats.  Another species present year-round in Panama is the Black-necked Stilt, but they do breed in Panama... and the saltflats are one of the few breeding sites known in the country.
Black-necked Stilt
But I was more interested in those long-distance migrants that use the saltflats as a re-fueling stop in their journey to higher latitudes... some of them only spent few weeks at our country.  After checking flocks of peeps and larger shorebirds (specially both Yellowlegs), I finally found a lonely Wilson's Phalarope frenetically swimming in circle picking food from the surface.  It was far away, so my pic is essentially for documenting purposes.
A distant Wilson's Phalarope
But my big surprise was the single Stilt Sandpiper found with some Yellowlegs and Dowitchers in a shallow lagoon.  The long legs, slightly downcurved, thin bill and white eye-brow were diagnostic.
Stilt Sandpiper
The Stilt Sandpiper is a rare passage migrant through Panama. Curiously, this is my second sighting this season because we saw at least two of them some days ago to the east of Panama City in Finca Bayano.  It seems that this is going to be a good migratory season!

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