Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thorntails at Cerro Azul

I received an e-mail from my friend and former PAS president Rosabel Miró. While leaving her house in Cerro Azul yesterday's evening, she saw a male and two females Thorntails at a flowering tree in her parking lot. What surprised her was that they were not leaving the place, defending themselves from the others hummingbirds attending the banquet. The Green Thorntail is a beautiful hummingbird, but kind of erratic and unpredictable in Panama. It has been a target bird for me since many years ago, actively searching for it in such places like El Valle (Cocle province), El Montuoso (Herrera province), the western highlands, and so on. In one occasion, I was seeing an American Dipper in Fortuna (central Chiriqui province) while the guy just behind me was seeing a male Thorntail... I didn't saw it of course. I was pretty sure that my luck was about to change when I read the e-mail this morning. I picked up Gloriela in the airport (she was arriving from Nicaragua after a week attending a congress), have lunch and then we headed to the foothills of Cerro Azul. After an one-hour drive, we reached Rosabel's house at 4:15 pm, finding almost immediately the tree, when suddenly I saw a longish tail appearing among the flowers. It was raining, so we took our umbrellas and start searching. We didn't wait too much before finding a male Green Thorntail graciously flying around with its long tail elegantly cocked up!!!, a lifer for both of us. It was not alone, the tree was attracting many little and medium-sized hummingbirds, all of them fighting for the right to be there...but as Rosabel noted, the Thorntail was not getting scared easily, always coming back to the flowers, or to a distant perch (that's why my rather poor pics) despite the almost constant assaults of the Snowy-bellied, Violet-headed and Violet-capped Hummingbirds (specially the aggresives Snowy-bellieds). What a show, but it was not over. Then, a second and third bird appeared, this time an adult female and a female-plumaged individual with longish tail. They were not so aggresive as the male, visiting the flowers for few seconds and then perching on a very distant skinny stick against the sky, in backlight (again, sorry for the rather poor pic, but an awesome bird anyway... only for the record). Occasionally they made a kind of ritual display, facing eye-to-eye while elevating on the air, sometimes joined by the male. By this time the rain stopped, and we started to hear and see many others birds. Just behind us, a bush was covered in tanagers!, with Golden-hooded, Bay-headed and Blue-and-grays, but it was a Green Honeycreeper that stole the show. Its ultramarine green body contrasting with the black mask, and its photo-friendly behaviour was all what we needed to admire it for many minutes, while a pair of Fulvous-vented Euphonias tried to pass unnoticed... they were feeding low and in silence, but very close. We decided to visit the hummingbird feeders at the backyard, welcomed by an agressive Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. The action was intense, with lots of hummingbirds trying to suck the last sip of nectar for the night. Besides the Plumeleteer, there were also White-necked Jacobins, Snowy-bellied and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Green Hermit and, occasionally, a female Violet-capped Hummingbird. In the way to the parking lot, I pointed a female Purple-crowned Fairy to Gloriela... realizing that it was a lifer for her according to the big WOW that she expressed. The bird is worth admiring, with its immaculate white underparts and the long tail (longer in females). It was our 10th species of hummingbird for the evening. Back in the parking lot, we were still amazed with the Thorntails, we watched them until it was too dark to see anything. Well, nice collection of birds, plus several lifers for both of us, in only 1.5 hours of backyard birding in Cerro Azul (I need a backyard like that one). Thanks Rosabel!

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