Sunday, January 10, 2010

Veracruz in high tide

Despite our original plan for yesterday was to go very early to Penonome in order to organize Gloriela´s B-day party, the news of an Hudsonian Godwit in Veracruz beach (central Panama, Pacific coast) obligated us to stay a little more in Panama, joining Rosabel Miró, Darien Montañez and Beny Wilson in their quest for the bird during the morning. This time the tide at Veracruz was rising and soon we saw two distant American Oystercatchers and a closer flock of shorebirds, mainly with Black-bellied Plovers, but also including Ruddy Turnstones and some Willets. One of the plovers catched our attention because of its mostly black underparts and general smaller appearance, but the flock flew away to the opposite end of the beach before checking all the field marks to confirm the suspected id of American Golden-Plover at the time. After a short drive, we relocate the flock in some rocks, this time with Sanderlings, Surfbirds, Royal Terns and a Laughing Gull and then, luckily, the flock flew again to the beach, closer to us (and to a small group of Collared Plovers). We centred our attention in the Golden-Plover, noticing the ausence of black axillaries, its slimmer, smaller and more upright posture, the proportionaly thinner and shorter bill. Digiscoped images:
The most important field mark was the primaries projection. I can see the tip of the longest tertial barely reaching the tail tip, and 3 primaries tips projecting from it (maybe 4, confusing because American Golden-Plover are supposed to have at least 4 primaries tips visible, although quite often primaries 9 and 10 are the same size). Also note the tail tip far behind the wing tips (unfortunately, I did not obtain better photos. Both photos were cropped; the edited one was brightened and sharpened). But CAUTION, all these differences can be influenced by moult. Note that this particular bird was molting the tertials and the rectrices, which might affect the perception of the relative relations between the wings and the tail. Also note that this particular bird has some marks suggestive of Pacific Golden-Plover (which has never been registered in Panama), like the mostly white vent and undertail cover (also note some white feathers all along the sides and flanks), the contrast between the mostly brown-spotted mantle (or gold-spotted) and the white-spotted wings, and the relation between the longest tertial tip with the tail.

Well, by now the general consensus is towards an American Golden-Plover. We still have to solve what was this bird doing in Panama during january? If you have any idea of the identity of this bird let me know, I will appreciate your considerations.P.D.: any of the Golden-Plovers would be a lifer for me. Later in the same day, in the finca at Penonome, I obtained another lifer: my long-desired Mangrove Cuckoo!! Two lifers in the same day in central Panama is not bad at all!


  1. Nice reading. I always enjoy reading your blog entries :) especially when talking about shorebirds :)))


  2. Great shots of what looks like an American Golden-Plover to me Jan.

    Cornell Lab Birds of North America Online references "A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America" by Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb (1995) saying "Howell and Webb report American Golden-Plover as widely distributed spring transient in Mexico, from interior to Atlantic slope (“major concentrations in c. Vera Cruz”) and Pacific slope (“from Colima south”).

    Also stating the bird's spring migration begins late January, with major exodus in February, stragglers until the end of April.

    Apparently flocks leave from Northwestern South America and take a route flying nonstop over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico or through Central America and the Atlantic Slope of Mexico.

    I would think that there would be some passing through Panama.

  3. Congratulations on the 2 lifers Jan.


  4. Thank you for your comments. Very informative Larry. Here in Panama, the American Golden-Plover is not expected until march, but there are some reports of wintering birds. We have found the bird again each time we visit Veracruz.