Tuesday, July 11, 2017

And the birding continues! Pelagic off western Azuero

And after exciting 16+ hours of pure birding, we ended at the town of Malena, western Azuero, with our friends Kees and Lowes of Heliconia Inn.  We scheduled a pelagic trip for the next day, and the rest of the participants were already there: Mario Ocaña, George Angehr (yes, the author of "The Birds of Panama" field guide), visiting birder Enos Diestre and Kees Groenedijk as our guide.
That's me, George, Mario, Kees, our captain and Enos
As usual, very early the next day (May 14th) we took a quick breakfast and headed to the dock at Rio Negro, close to the town of Mariato.  With the first lights we started to navigate along the western coast of the Azuero Peninsula, in a route now familiar to some of us who were recurrent in this kind of trips.  It soon became clear that this would be a spectacular journey... since hordes of Black Terns, Brown Noddies and Galapagos Shearwaters started to appear... even close to shore!
We found several of these flocks feeding over schools of Bonitos... the show was simply amazing!  Frenzy feeding action both under and above the waves... it was hard to focus in just one bird.  In fact, among the dozens of goodies and Black Terns, there were other terns species, like Common and Sooty Terns for example.
Brown Noddies
Alternate Black Tern
Common Tern
Sooty Tern
But most important, the first tubenoses were also attending the party.  First a few... then, flocks with up to 50 Galapagos Shearwaters resting on the water or swiftly moving around each good spot.  The Galapagos Shearwaters are always present in these pelagic trips; however, it was the first time I saw so many... reminding me those photos of one of my favorite field guides on pelagic birds.  They allowed some close shots by the way!
Galapagos Shearwater
When we reached the Continental Shelf break, some other tubenoses started to appear... up to three Wedge-tailed Shearwaters started to feed among the Galapagos Shearwaters, while some Black and Wedge-rumped  Storm-Petrels also did some quick appearances... but they were quite shy for photos. Trust me, it is not easy to aim and shoot those little guys from a buoying boat in the middle of the ocean!
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Wedge-tailed and Galapagos Shearwaters
Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel
We recorded some other species, including Brown and Nazca Boobies, Bridled Terns and Laughing Gulls out there.  We also had some nice non-avian highlights... like several Hammerhead sharks (unknown species... if you have an idea let me know) and at least two different species of sea turtles, including the one pictured here:
Hammerhead Shark sp.
Sea Turtle sp.
As you can see, a successful trip.  Each one of these trips in Panama help us to understand a little bit more our pelagic avifauna... still a lot to do in this aspect of course.  

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