It’s All About The Tides

Murmuration of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers

This will be a brief post as I am still unpacking a few things from my trip to New Brunswick and Grand Manan. As good as it is to be home, part of me will remain in these vast, incredible vistas for a long time to come.

Our excellent guides Jared and Sarah timed our arrival at Kelly’s Beach in Kouchibouguac National Park to coincide with low tide and a massive concentration of shorebirds. The migratory spectacle at this time of year is quite phenomenal. Birds are fattening up for a long flight to their southern wintering grounds. They gather, forage and rest at low tide. Specifically, we were watching huge flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers. Let’s see, that’s a “fling” of sandpipers and a “congregation” of plovers. I think the experts estimated the ratio was about 3:1 sandpipers to plovers. It’s easiest to pick out the Semipalmated Plovers in the photo just below. When we first arrived we had several Black-Bellied Plovers. We also had some Least Sandpipers and at least (sorry) one or two White-Rumped Sandpipers.

The falcons are hip to this event as well, and periodically they disrupted the shorebirds, who broke into amazingly dizzying choreographies of murmurations.

It’s impossible to capture the enormity of this spectacle, but it was also impossible to resist the temptation to try. If you click on the images below maybe you will get an idea of what we were witnessing for what seemed like forever, as fleeting as it was. No sooner would one flock settle down than another from a more distant location was startled by something and it began all over again as that flock moved toward us.

A small section of one flock photo.
An even smaller section.

There were Peregrine Falcons and even a Merlin or two. I managed a few photos of the Peregrines.

Peregrine Falcon

Four days later, on Grand Manan, a couple of us went out with Jared at high tide early in the morning to see if we could find a Nelson’s Sparrow. We had tried for the bird the previous day but it was difficult to get one to show itself well in the vast salt marsh. The strategy behind getting up early for high tide is that the birds have to move in closer to higher land, and that might make the Nelson’s easier to see. Jared’s strategy worked. We got better looks than these photographs, but I am pleased with the images in that you can recognize the bird and the surroundings show off its beautiful coloration. We get Nelson’s around here from time to time and I have seen it before, but never very well, so now I feel like I know this bird.

Nelson’s Sparrow
Sunrise at high tide.
Semipalmated Sandpipers coming in for a landing.

I will be back with lots more from this trip, and I still have some images left from the Texas trip in April. Not to mention several forays from what now seems like a very brief summer. Some day I will have time for this! In the meantime, I hope you are having a safe and pleasant weekend, wherever you are, and especially I wish those of you in the potential path of Dorian ultimate safety and comfort in love.

Back to Panama (in Pictures)

Gray-Cowled Wood Rail

The last two days or so of my trip to Panama in March of 2017 have been sitting on my laptop languishing, never processed… perhaps just waiting for the depths of a testy winter to remind me of warmer climes. I can’t think of a better time to revisit the tropics, at least vicariously. And I am looking forward to visiting western Panama next February.

So here are some pictures from the last day at the Canopy Lodge and then from the hotel grounds in Panama City where I had several hours before my flight home. For the most part the tanagers and the Wood Rail above were at the lodge and all the rest of the pictures were my last day in Panama City.

Golden Hooded Tanager – this was the best image I could get, he kept eluding me.

Palm Tanager
Crimson Fronted Parakeets
White-Tipped Dove
Black Vultures
Pale-Vented Pigeon
Yellow-Bellied Elaenia
Variable Seedeater
Tropical Kingbird
Common Tody Flycatcher
Lesser Kiskadee
Franklin’s Gulls
Yellow-Headed Caracara

It’s been an exhausting two weeks, but things are getting back to normal, except perhaps for the weather. Getting used to the new car, busy with work and choir rehearsals… thinking a lot about my book but not getting much writing done. Watching the days getting ever-so-slightly longer!

Last Day in Ecuador

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Golden Grosbeak

I’m finally back with pictures from my last day in Ecuador taken in November of 2017. I had an extra day to roam the Garden Hotel grounds in Quito because my flight was leaving in the afternoon instead of the middle of the night. It’s a different birding experience without a guide and a group. I had to find all the birds myself, but then sometimes it was easier to approach them.

Although the Sparkling Violet-ear above was too far away for a clean shot, at least I captured its iridescence.

And this was a little better look at the Rusty Flowerpiercer than the group had the day before.

Most impressive, the Black-Tailed Trainbearers seemed to be everywhere. And not terribly shy. I particularly like the picture below of the bird trying to blend in with the tree trunk. The trunk itself suggests giant asparagus to me. I think it was some type of palm tree.

Black-Tailed Trainbearer 11-27-17-3021

The habitat surrounding the Garden Hotel in Quito looked promising for a few grassland species and I got lucky with the four below. At the top is a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, and below it, left to right, an Ash-Breasted Sierra-Finch, Grassland Yellow-Finch and a Yellow-Bellied Seedeater.

Great Thrushes were everywhere on the trip but not always easy to capture, or maybe because they were so ubiquitous I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The one tanager I saw a lot of that day was incredibly hard to get a decent picture of. It is a Blue-and-Yellow Tanager. Depending on the light, it’s blue and yellow hues intensified or dulled.

Another common species of grassland areas is the Saffron Finch. I was intrigued by the fact that this one had nesting material. Saffron Finch 11-27-2017-3049Flying directly overhead was the Broad-winged Hawk below.I think we saw this raptor practically every day, but this was a particularly nice view.

And my last day in Quito would be incomplete without a picture of the ubiquitous Eared Dove.

Eared Dove 11-27-2017-2841

Eared Dove

One more of the Golden Grosbeak, who seems to be asking me why he is getting so much attention.

Golden Grosbeak 11-27-17-3169Spring is just around the corner, and breeding birds are already starting to come back to our area. I will be back soon to report.

While I Was Looking For Last Year’s Tax Return…

Iguana 2-14-09

Iguana

It used to be I’d run into a box of old photographs and be whisked away to the memories contained therein. Now, over the weekend while I was looking for whatever media device on which I managed to save last year’s tax return, after exhausting every flash drive I’ve been able to find to no avail, I found an unlabeled CD with…pictures from February of 2009, a trip to Belize and more specifically, a visit to found Tikal in Guatemala!  In particular, Tikal was a magical place. So here’s what I found on the CD.

Collared Aracaris w Grapes Tikal 2-20-09

Collared Aracaris (Tikal)

Green Kingfisher 2-15-09

Green Kingfisher

Turtle 2-15-09

I am having a hard time identifying this turtle but it’s lovely.

Black-collared Hawk (Lamanai)

Snail Kite (I just lightened this up a bit from the original)

Spider Monkey

Boat-billed Heron

Keel-billed Toucan (Tikal)

Black-headed Trogon (Tikal)

Anhinga

Hepatic Tanager

Bare-throated Tiger Heron

Great Kiskadee

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Red-Lored Parrot (Tikal)

Oscellated Turkey (Tikal) – my favorite

Aztec Parakeet-Tikal-2-21-09

Aztec Parakeet (Tikal)

I’ll be back as soon as life slows down a bit. More to come. In the meantime, I hope you find as peaceful, brief, and colorful a diversion in these pictures as I did.

Green Heron

A Little More from Ecuador Part 2

Golden-tailed Sapphire 11-24-2017-1724

Golden-tailed Sapphire

Here’s the other half of my previous post. Maybe it doesn’t hurt to remember there is still a lot of beauty left in the world. Hummingbirds are a good place to start. A Golden-Tailed Sapphire above and a Many-Spotted Hummingbird below.

Another beauty is the White-Tailed Hillstar.

In my next life, if I return quickly, maybe I can study butterflies.

Perhaps less spectacular but still interesting, a Western Wood-Pewee, Barred Antshrike and Deep Blue Flowerpiercer.

Another unique species below: the Thrush-Like Wren.

I have seen Cliff Flycatchers before but do not remember seeing the gray on the face like I did on this bird.

We were lucky to see a Chestnut-Eared Aracari which was not on our list.

Reality check. Tomorrow I am going to what promises to be a colder-than-last-year Gull Frolic, as we have chilled down again after two rather balmy days. With any luck I will get some fun photos to share with you. Fun as in Frantic Gulls. Until then, I wish you peace, safety and beauty wherever you are.

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Many-Spotted Hummingbird

P.S. A Blackburnian Warbler on the left (“distracters” on this trip!) and a Social Flycatcher on the fly.

More From Ecuador

Fork-tailed Woodnymph 11-24-2017-1810

Fork-tailed Woodnymph

After shoveling snow all weekend, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the rest of the winter if I run out of pictures from Ecuador…

Since my head is still full of snow, I won’t try to remember exactly where these pictures were taken, so my comments will be few. Don’t you love my disclaimers?

Blue-Crowned Trogon 11-24-2017-1902

Blue-Crowned Trogon

It was a good day for tanagers. Below is a distant Blue-Browed Tanager which was a new one for me.

The Blue-Winged Mountain-Tanager below refused to reveal much of itself. I love how these birds with such bright plumage manage to blend in with their surroundings: “maybe I look like another yellow leaf.”

It was nice to get good looks at a Blue-Necked Tanager, below.

And then we found a Speckled Tanager, which I have seen elsewhere, but I can’t remember. Maybe Costa Rica or Colombia…? One of these days I’ll get my list together.

I’m sure I was always trying to get a halfway decent photograph of a Paradise Tanager. Any part of the bird you might see is spectacular but it often proved difficult to capture the entire bird at any one time. These two were far away but otherwise not camera-shy.

Not a lot of parrots sitting still, most of the time they were flying over in pairs, their calls to be identified by our guide often before we could see them. This Blue-headed Parrot was the exception.

I remember we went up a trail in search of the Powerful Woodpecker. It was thrilling to find a pair noisily knocking about the trees.

I have too many pictures from this one day! I will be back with the rest soon. I think I’m still mentally tired from shoveling, so “less is more” right now. I’ll close where I started, with a couple more shots of a Fork-Tailed Woodnymph.

 

Back to Ecuador…in Pictures

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Crested Quetzal

How I wish I could be in Ecuador today! We are in the single digits which presents a challenge even for hardy Midwesterners. Revisiting the trip through these photographs is only a little bit more frustrating than trying to take the pictures themselves, but I am grateful for the escape on a day like today.

The two pix immediately below represent two frequent quandaries: one, a lot of vegetation, but where was the bird, and two, we can see the birds but they are far away and have their backs to us. The Crested Quetzal at the head of this post was the only one that ventured to turn around.

Above, three views of a Black-Crested Warbler. Below, a Scarlet-Rumped Cacique.

I think the best looks I got at the Mountain Wren below were outside my back porch.

Also in the “yard”, an Azara’s Spinetail. And a Cinnamon Flycatcher.

Cinnamon Flycatcher San Isidro 11-23-17-0697

The Green Jays are…also yellow and blue and black.

Green Jay 11-23-2017-0613Sometimes I got a good picture in a less-than-attractive setting, like the Chestnut-Bellied Seedeater below.

Southern Lapwings…

A Strong-Billed Woodcreeper…

While we were grateful for sunshine, sometimes its intensity interfered with images. Below, a Streaked Xenops, Squirrel Cuckoo and Red-headed Barbet.

Anytime we encountered rushing water we were looking for Torrent Ducks. We did finally find this male.

A Tropical Kingbird on the left, a Short-crested Flycatcher on the right.

Woodpeckers were seen infrequently. Below, the best I could manage of a Yellow-Vented Woodpecker.

I am grateful for any Mountain-Tanagers I managed to capture. Below is the Blue-Winged.

Also directly around the room, a beautiful butterfly and a hairy but flashy-looking fly.

Of course the ubiquitous Chestnut-Breasted Coronets insisted I pay attention to them…

Chestnut-breasted Coronet 11-23-2017-0629And this Green Jay was reminding me he too can be camouflaged. Somewhat.

Green Jay in palm 11-23-2017-0479

Spider in web 11-22-2017-0270As hard as it is to sit inside with the sun shining brightly today, I know that clarity comes at a price… We are due for a slight warm-up tomorrow, just enough to turn cloudy and start snowing. Hey. The days are getting longer. Spring is coming. Keep thinking Spring. It will happen. Have faith. And I have yet more tropical diversions in store for this page.