Monday, September 27, 2010

A bit of colour at the beach

It is a fact that most shorebirds and coastal species in Panama are dull-coloured birds. That is because almost all the species dress its basic plumage (the non-breeding one) most of the time they spend in our country. That is why many panamanian birders simply don't like shorebirds, despite they are so close and easy to see. But some species exhibit an unusual bright or contrasting pattern in their bodies. I saw that this morning in the west bank of the Panama Canal. I went to Veracruz beach taking advantage of the early high tide. The day was cloudy and fresh, but the light was not the best for photography. Anyway, I put on my rubber boots and started to walk in the sand, finding almost immediately an amazing amount of birds. A flock of Brown Pelicans was fishing close to shore. The adults were showing an attractive pattern in white, yellow and blue in the head. In the mouth of the river at the easternmost end of the beach was a huge flock of resting shorebirds and waders. The most common were the Willets and the Whimbrels, with more or less 60 individuals in total. As usual, the plovers were well-represented: Black-bellied, Semipalmated, Wilson's and Collared Plovers all over the place. This site is the only one so far near the city where the Wilson's and Collared Plovers outnumber the migratory Semipalmated Plover. The waders were also well-represented, with Snowy and Great Egrets, Little Blue, Great Blue and Tricolored Herons and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons too (did you notice the Collared Plover at the Great Egret pic?). So far no peeps, which are patterned mostly in white and gray, but colourful plovers (specially those Collareds'). To add more colour, a single Elegant Tern joined the flock awhile, showing its orange bill and even a pale rose tone to the chest (which sadly is not apparent in the photo). I'm posting also a photo of a Royal Tern (that I found later) for comparison.Can you separate them? The Elegant Tern have a proportionally longer and thinner bill, which also is more downcurved. Also have more black around the eye (the eye is surrounded by white feathers in the Royal Tern). The Elegant Tern is pretty uncommon in Panama, so this was a very nice finding. And if we are talking about colourful shorebirds, then some pics of Ruddy Turnstones are mandatory! Despite they are wearing its basic plumage, they still are one of the most colourful birds in the beach.But this is not all. I left Veracruz and stopped at Farfan, closer to the city. Following an advice that I received in situ, I decided to walk along the beach to inspect the vast mudflats and the rocky shore exposed during the low tide (thanks Líder). After awhile, I saw a pair of strongly-patterned shorebirds flying low in the distance: a pair of American Oystercatchers! I slowly approached them until I got close enough to start shooting.This must be the most colourful shorebird in Panama! The oystercatchers are quite rare in Panama City, but Farfan have proved to be a regular site for this handsome shorebird. What a great way to end the day!