Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Today is World Shorebirds Day!

All over the world we celebrate today the shorebirds!  Delicate in appearance but certainly some of the most strong flyers in this planet, many shorebirds species make, twice a year, long-distance migrations, some of them traversing more than 15,000 miles annually!  Being birds that visit whole continents, it is important to join efforts not only to protect their breeding grounds, but also their wintering grounds and stopover sites along the migration routes.
The Upper Bay of Panama, a site of hemispheric importance for shorebirds survival
That's why the World Shorebirds Day celebration was created... to raise GLOBAL public awareness about the conservation of, and research about, shorebirds (you can read more at the World Shorebirds Day Official Website).  During this past weekend, I participated in the global shorebirds counting among other members of the Panama Audubon Society in two sites of the Upper Bay of Panama: Costa del Este and Panama Viejo.  In spite of the season (in Panama, the migration season is just starting), the numbers present in both site were impressive... as usual!
Peeps in Costa del Este (September 3rd, 2016)
The most abundant species were the peeps... with Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers as the most common.  ID is difficult of course in their basic plumages... but in both sites you can get them side-by-side, making the whole thing a little bit easier.
Western and Semipalmated Sandpiper in Panama Viejo (September 4th, 2016)
The approximate count was close to 8000 peeps in Costa del Este,  a low number compared to other seasons.  We entered our records into eBird (in two checklists http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31398127, http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31419633) thus joining hundreds of other birdwatchers around the world.  Panama shorebirds were well represented, with 14 species recorded by me in both sites (12 species shared by both sites, plus another one in Costa del Este -Least Sandpiper- that I didn't manage to see, but recorded by other observer).  Here are some of them:
Whimbrels, Willets, Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers in Costa del Este (September 3rd, 2016)
Greater Yellowlegs in Panama Viejo (September 4th, 2016
Semipalmated Plover in Panama Viejo (September 4th, 2016)
All these species are regular and quite common in Panama; however, we also found a Long-billed Curlew in Panama Viejo.  This one is considered a vagrant in Panama, but one individual had spent many winters in the mudflats of Panama Viejo (but is difficult to find).
Long-billed Curlew (September 4th, 2016)
Almost all the shorebirds recorded were long-distance migrants, but we also saw three resident species: Southern Lapwing, Wilson's Plover and Black-necked Stilt.  The first one is common all over Panama, while the other two breed in small colonies in just few sites in the country.  Each winter, their populations increase with migratory individuals from other latitudes.
Black-necked Stilt at Costa del Este (September 3rd, 2016)
And you, how do you spent your World Shorebirds Day?