Saturday, August 25, 2007

Barn Swallow flock returns

The bright green burst in the center of the image above is the flock of Barn Swallows leaving their nighttime roost in a corn field along the Willamette River in Yamhill Co., Oregon. The image was made by NEXRAD weather radar at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning, Aug. 24, a few minutes after the flock lifted off from the field on the west side of the river and began to drift eastward. The link to the NEXRAD site is Then click on the "X" in Oregon to go to the link to the radar facility that covers the northwest part of the state.

Weather permitting, it should be possible to watch this event live as it is repeated daily until early October.

A published paper providing more background information about this phenomenon can be found at:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Refuge of Angel Paz

A name that is becoming well-known among birders interested in Ecuadorian birds is Angel Paz. Angel has discovered that birders will pay for the opportunity to see some of Ecuador's most hard-to-find birds, and has figured out a way to draw some of those birds into openings in the forest where they can be observed. His discovery has led him to begin re-foresting some of his land, and to protect the birds that he used to hunt for food. Anyone who is concerned about the declining numbers and extinctions of tropical birds has to hope that more farmers like Angel Paz will see the value and importance of protecting some of the native forest of Ecuador and the neighboring countries of South America.

Dark-backed Wood-Quail

Another species I was very fortunate to see in Ecuador: Dark-backed Wood-Quail. According to studies by conservation groups, this is a threatened and vulnerable species, found only in a small area of western Ecuador, and an even smaller area across the border in Colombia. The number of individuals still in existence is thought to be somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals, and declining. I saw this one only because Angel Paz has been coaxing it (and its family group of about five or six members) to come out of the undergrowth to eat the juicy worms he brings into the steep, cloud-forest valley where it lives.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Squirrel Cuckoo

Another bird I enjoyed in Ecuador was the Squirrel Cuckoo. It struck me as comical, maybe because it really acted like a squirrel as it clambered around among the leaves and small branches where one normally finds much smaller birds feeding. But the long tail did not seem to hinder its movements, and it was certainly very agile. This one did not appear to mind that I was watching it from a distance of about 40 ft.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Ecuador butterflies

I have not yet found a guide to the butterflies of Ecuador, but regardless of that, I'm enjoying the photos and mental images of the ones I managed to see. I had never imagined that a butterfly with transparent wings might exist somewhere, but now I know that it does. The variety of shapes and colors was constantly surprising me, and often distracting me from "serious" birdwatching.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pacific Loon

I spent last weekend at the coast (the Oregon coast), and enjoyed fine weather and my closest-ever encounter with a Pacific Loon. It was finding something to eat in the shallow surf about 50 ft. out from the beach where I was building sandcastles for my 3-yr-old grandson to smash.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Smooth-billed Ani in Ecuador

I'm still re-playing memories of the days I spent in the foothills of the Andes in Ecuador last month. The Smooth-billed Ani was not a "new" bird for me (having seen one in Florida years ago), but this one provided a serendipitous moment when it popped out of a bush almost at arms length just as I was riding by in a pickup truck with my Ecuadorean driver and guide, Byron and Edwin.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Laura's hummer

We are enjoying family visitors from Pennsylvania this week. My niece, Laura, is stalking the Rufous Hummingbirds that are feeding on our fuchsia blossoms. Here is one of her shots from this morning.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Flame-faced Tanager

A high priority of my birding efforts in Ecuador was attempting to see tanagers, one of the largest and most colorful families of birds in South America. I did see 15 different species of tanagers while I was there, but found it to be very challenging. Being small, tanagers are easily hidden among the leaves, and many of them also spend most of the time in the higher levels of the trees. In addition to that, they are either moving very quickly (making photography a serious challenge) or remaining motionless for long periods of time so they are not even noticed. I did manage to get one photo of a partially-obscured Flame-faced Tanager, giving just a glimpse of the beauty that is always tantalizing the birder in the tropics.