Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hoffmann's Woodpecker in San Jose

Today I traveled to the Dominican Republic, but yesterday at a school in San Jose, Costa Rica, I got a better look at a Hoffmann's Woodpecker than I did when I was there last year. It's just now occurring to me that I've seen eight species in this group of very similar woodpeckers, including the endemic Hispaniolan Woodpecker here in the D.R. I hope to see that one again tomorrow on the same school campus where I saw it last year.

Traveling by air can be a kind of torture for a birder. When we stopped briefly in Panama today, I had tantalizing glimpses of several islands just offshore. I can only imagine what treasures must be waiting for a birder on this one that appears to be totally unoccupied by humans.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Red-crowned Woodpecker

Today being Saturday, and the others in my group being away on a "cultural activity" I chose to skip, I was free to do a little birding. I was told by a friend who lives here in Barranquilla about a restaurant along the shore of the Magdalena River whose owner takes visitors out to an island where he has another restaurant near a large natural area. My taxi driver found the restaurant and the boat, but because of recent rains the island is under water today. So... what to do? The driver did not know of any parks with natural areas in the city, but suggested the zoo. Knowing that wild birds sometimes hang around zoos, maybe for company but more likely for the chance to sneak in for some easy food, I agreed to go there. It paid off for me in the form of this Red-crowned Woodpecker, a new bird for me, although it appears to be very similar to the Red-bellied Woodpeckers I've seen in Pennsylvania. It even has a red belly patch, slightly visible in the photo below.

Also hanging out at the zoo were some opportunistic Black Vultures, stealing dead fish that had been offered to the turtles, although I saw only one turtle that seemed to be interested in eating a fish.

Russet-throated Puffbird in Barranquilla

This afternoon on my way back to my hotel I took a shortcut through a small park and playground surrounded by busy streets and businesses. I chose a route under the few trees that were there, both for shade from the blistering sun, and because there might be some birds there. At first I found only a few Greyish Saltators feeding, but as I was about to leave, another bird arrived, and I immediately knew I'd never seen it before. It stayed just long enough for me to grab a few shots, and then back in my room with the help of the resources on the internet, I identified it as a Russet-throated Puffbird.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bicolored Wren in Barranquilla, Colombia

I've learned that sometimes my best chance at finding new birds is on the way to and from the airports in the cities I visit, because the few birds I find in the city itself are usually fairly common. This time, before we even got out of the airport parking lot after arriving in Barranquilla, I watched this bird that acted like a wren, but seemed too big to be one. Not so. I discovered that it is indeed the Bicolored Wren, about 8 inches long, and found only in northern and eastern South America. I soon began to see it in many parts of this city on the northern coast of Colombia.


A day later while visiting one of the excellent high schools in this city, I enjoyed watching the iguanas that freely wandered over the lawns and climbed the trees on the campus. If you don't have squirrels, you might as well have lizards, I suppose.

Monday, September 14, 2009

White-capped Dipper at Machu Picchu

It is seldom that I visit a place so spectacular that a shortage of birds almost doesn't matter. On my visit to Machu Picchu a few days ago I was hoping to find several birds I'd never seen before, but I saw very few besides the many Blue-and-white Swallows that were nesting there, and the ubiquitous Rufous-collared Sparrow. As our train followed the river for a couple of hours from Cusco, I tried to spy a White-capped Dipper, but not until we had visited the sanctuary and had returned down to catch the train in the town of Machu Picchu did I finally see one in the creek beside the market. A dandy little bird.

Blue-and-white Swallow, parent and young

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hotel birding in Bolivia

Sayaca Tanager

My job has me in Bolivia for a few days, and fortunately the hotel where I'm staying in Santa Cruz has a some nice landscaping with some big trees. Today a tree that is apparently fruiting right now was attracting dozens of tanagers, but I saw only two species: the Palm Tanager and (if the book is correct about the range) the Sayaca Tanager. Also, the Sayaca does not have the white shoulder patch of the Blue-gray Tanager, and I haven't seen any white patches so far.

Palm Tanager

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Vaux's Swifts entering chimney

video

At the same time (literally) that the Barn Swallows are going to roost in the cornfields, the Vaux's Swifts here in western Oregon are going to roost in chimneys all over the Willamette Valley. This evening about 300 to 500 went into a chimney of house on my street, as they do every evening for several weeks each September.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Great Horned Owls watching Barn Swallows

This evening while I was watching the huge flock of Barn Swallows swirling around above the cornfields before plunging down to their nighttime roost in the corn, I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting behind me. I turned around and discovered these two owls that also appeared to be watching the show. They flew away in the opposite direction, but I wonder if they had just stopped in to see where their midnight snack would be waiting for them.

Barn Swallows above their cornfield roosting area

Friday, September 04, 2009

Barn Swallow morning flyout

This morning I arrived on Grand Island (in Yamhill Co. on the west side of the Willamette River) at about 6:05 a.m. I wanted to see the exodus of the huge flock of Barn Swallows that I had watched going to roost in the cornfields at dusk the evening before.

Because of the low light it was difficult to see the action very clearly, but I could see successive waves of many thousands of birds taking off out of the standing corn, and rising quickly until they were almost out of sight against the lightening clouds overhead.

But it was not difficult to hear them! The volume of their collective chattering was remarkable, and I think any person standing there (birder or not) would have instinctively looked up to see what was going over.

I recorded a short video, not for the visual images, but hoping to record something of the sound. If you turn up the volume on your speakers, I think you will hear it here:


video

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Barn Swallow flock on Doppler radar

The green "burst" just above the word "Woodburn" on the map above was recorded this morning at about 6:25 a.m. The flock of Barn Swallows that is spending every night roosting in cornfields just to the west of the burst (across the Willamette River in Yamhill Co.) apparently begins every day by heading east, but at 7:30 p.m. they can be seen returning to the cornfield from every point of the compass. (Clicking on the image above will make it easier to see that the flock is airborne between Newberg and Woodburn at 6:25.)


video

This evening I tried again without much success to video the swallows that gather here before they head to South America for the winter. I estimate that there are several hundred thousand swallows here, but the video captures only a very small portion of the near edge of the huge flock.

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