Return from Nicaragua

Turquoise-Browed Motmot 2-21-15-2433

Turquoise-Browed Motmot

I got back home late Sunday night, almost Monday morning, so I did not go to work on Monday but spent most of my day cleaning, buying groceries, doing laundry, catching up on the domestic situation that always changes when you live in an aviary.

It will take me a few days to go through all the photographs, but I wanted to share a few in the interim, before the snow melts and I get distracted by spring migration.

Rufous=and-white Wren 2-21-15-3328

Rufous-and-White Wren

Our Operation Rubythroat group in Nicaragua, which now has been named “NicaNetters ’16,” met at the airport in Managua on Saturday afternoon, and we loaded up into the bus with our gracious and capable driver Carlos and superb local guide Alejandro Cesar Lee to the Montibelli Private Natural Reserve which is outside of Ticuantepe.

The original plan for the trip was to band Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and other neotropical migrants, but before we left the States we had to accept an unforeseen change of itinerary, which meant that we would not be setting up nets in the usual fashion. But our surprise upon arrival was finding out that we would indeed be setting up mist nets at least for the three days we had at Montibelli: Alejandro had banding experience and it was worth a try. I was particularly happy for the participants who had not been on one of these expeditions before, so that they would have the experience of what it is like to do this sort of thing.

Of course whenever we set up mist nets we catch some of the local resident species too. Below is the Turquoise-Browed Motmot in the hand.

Now whenever I see a dove I am reminded of my Diamond Doves at home. We’ll get back to them in a later post. This is an Inca Dove.

Inca Dove 2-21-15-2394Our first day we caught the beautiful Rufous-Capped Warbler below.

And we also had one or two Cinnamon Hummingbirds, which are probably the most common hummingbird species in this region. Below is one I managed to capture out of the hand. I hope to find a better picture as I go through them.

Cinnamon Hummingbird 2-21-15-2455

Cinnamon Hummingbird

After our first morning of setting up nets and monitoring in the field, my roommate Kathy and I got back to our room after lunch for a short break from the midday heat. Not long after we were ready to relax, there was a knock on the door. Our next-door neighbor had the beautiful bird below right outside his window. This is a Black-Headed Trogon.

Black-Headed Trogon 2-21-15-3615I spent much of the trip trying to get a picture of the bird below that was not in the hand, but the species eluded me until the last couple days when a good number of them were hanging out at the hotel where we were staying. I will return to continue the story more chronologically as I go through more pictures. But I just could not resist sharing this White-Fronted Magpie-Jay with you. The tail goes on forever.White-Fronted Magpie Jay 2-26-15-4625It’s good to be back, and thanks for stopping by!

Eclectic Mix

Black-Capped Donacobius

Black-Capped Donacobius

I keep coming up with lots of valid excuses for not finishing anything. I seem to have everything half-started and that of course includes the project of going through the pictures from Colombia… But I am including a few pictures here although I am nowhere near done cropping and identifying everyone.

Yellow-Green Vireo

Yellow-Green Vireo

I have succumbed to the addictive distraction of the new BirdsEye app on my phone, which I downloaded before I went to Colombia along with the collection of Colombian bird songs. I added the monthly world-birder subscription (why not?) which automatically tells me where a bird was reported if I have an Internet connection. Another feature of the app is that it allows me to enter my life list without asking all the annoying questions like what day, what time, where were you precisely when you saw this bird…while at the same time syncing with whatever has been entered in ebird…so at last count I was somewhere around 1,236 with 5 or 6 countries to go… I still don’t consider myself a lister but I am just getting curious about the tally.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler, wintering in Colombia, now thinking about Boreal Forest breeding grounds

You will eventually hear more about the home birds, but Blue the Last Budgie died of ripe old age last week and Dudlee Ann the Diamond Dove did not stop talking to me or perhaps to his memory, so I promised to get her a new budgie (not wanting to cross the line and try to find her a mate of her own species…!) and since Saturday we have been getting used to Jer (short for Jeremy or Jerry, we haven’t decided yet what’s going to stick) and he to us. He is a lovely green and yellow youngster. I wanted to go with traditional color even as the PetSmart attendant tried to push a pure white or yet another blue budgie on me.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

While we’re on distraction, how about that weather, huh? Warm one week and cold, raining and windy the next (presently). If I were migrating I wouldn’t be venturing north at the moment.

As you may be able to tell, we ran into some familiar species like the Neotropical migrant warblers above, in addition to those not so familiar.

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

I promise there will be more tanagers when I get them all organized. These just snuck in with the Yellow-Green Vireo when I forgot to change the name as I processed the photos (either before or after I fell asleep?).

I leave you with two more photos of the Black-Capped Donacobius which seemed so thrilled to see us they posed for a lot of pictures, making it that much harder for me to choose!

Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5511 Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5505

A Bird in the Hand

Mourning Warbler

Mourning Warbler

As I start to go through the pictures from Costa Rica, some of the best bird images are invariably closeups of birds shown to us by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr. These were invaluable teaching moments on the part of Bill and the birds themselves.

Female Indigo Bunting

Female Indigo Bunting

Although the focus of the Operation Rubythroat trip to chayote fields in Ujarras Valley, Costa Rica, was ultimately to trap, band and release as many Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds as possible over six days in the field (more about all this in a future post), invariably, other birds sometimes got trapped in the nets. Any bird trapped was a potential teaching opportunity. Neotropical migrants were retained for banding. But after we had seen a species native to Costa Rica once at the banding table, which is where we gathered for these demonstrations, all future caught birds of that species were immediately released.

Bananaquit

Bananaquit

With field guides in hand, we studied the birds until we were able to identify the species. Bill would only help by pointing out various field marks, but he also elaborated on other features you might never see unless you had the bird in your hand. Some species were familiar, but the opportunity to study them so closely was absolutely phenomenal. For those who are squeamish about the trapping and handling, I admit I once was too, but Bill treats the birds with the utmost respect and care. You can go to a museum and study skins, but for color and presence there is nothing like a live bird.

Blue-Grey Tanager

Blue-Grey Tanager

I have seen Blue-Grey Tanagers virtually every time I have visited the American tropics. They are ubiquitous and easy to identify. But I have never seen a Blue-Grey Tanager like this before.Blue-Grey Tanager 11-10-14-9026

The afternoons invariably turned cloudy and sometimes rainy, which made taking pictures of other birds anything from challenging to impossible. Nevertheless I managed to get some good photographs, and I will be back with many more.

These are just a sampling of some of the earliest birds we saw in the hand, and I will be back with others, as well as eventually adding pictures to my flickr page.

House Wren - the same species, but not the same population we have at home

House Wren – the same species, but not the same population we have at home

As for the timing of this post, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the past week. Sleep has been erratic at best, and I’ve been emotionally exhausted. I went to bed early last night, so I guess it’s not altogether strange that I am awake at 3:00 a.m. Trying to go back to sleep I started reviewing the past week, and that wasn’t all good, so I shifted my thoughts to things I want to accomplish, which woke me up even more. When I started thinking about this post which I started to work on last night before I conked out on the futon, it seemed prudent to just wake up and finish the post. I apologize for any detectible grogginess. I think I’ll grab a drink of water and go back to sleep for a couple hours.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers and Tennessee Warblers were the most-frequently-caught neotropical migrants. At some point, we had caught so many Tennessee Warblers, we released them from the nets without banding them.

Tennesee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Tyrant Flycatchers can be confusing.

A Yellow-Bellied Elaenia, looking every inch the Tyrant Flycatcher it is

A Yellow-Bellied Elaenia, looking every inch the Tyrant Flycatcher it is

Yellow-Bellied Elaenia

Yellow-Bellied Elaenia

One more of the Blue-Grey Tanager, up close and personal.

Blue-Grey Tanager 11-10-14-9068

 

A Bird in the Hand…

White-Eyed Vireo

White-Eyed Vireo

If anyone knows how much birds hate to be handled, it’s me. My indoor birds remind me of this constantly, and I don’t pick them up unless I absolutely have to. I’m not trying to offend anyone by posting these pictures.

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

But before I get on to writing in a future post about the primary reason for why I was in Belize–which was to be part of a group of 7 volunteers that helped Operation Rubythroat set up mist nets to catch and band Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and transcribe banding data…and all the reasons why they are doing this…

Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

I wanted to share some pictures of other birds banded that I never could have seen so closely.

Hooded Warbler

Hooded Warbler

Suffice it to say I learned a lot in 8 days.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

For those of you still uncomfortable with the handling of the birds, we checked the nets constantly, moving birds still captive and waiting to be banded or shown out of the sunlight, and they survived well. I believe there was one casualty in a net on our last day, which was cut short due to inclement weather. I suppose the biggest testimonial to survival was the birds, already banded, recaptured from previous years.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush

The Northern Waterthrush was one of perhaps three or more we banded, but the Louisiana Waterthrush was the first one ever seen at Crooked Tree in Belize. See if you can tell the difference this close up. The distinguishing features are still subtle, but the Northern looks more “yellow” than the Louisiana and has denser streaking.

Tennessee Warbler banded 3-9-14

Tennessee Warbler banded 3-9-14

Tennessee Warbler banded 3-10-14

Tennessee Warbler banded 3-10-14

Compare the difference between these two Tennessee Warbler individuals. The one above is a male not finished with his molt and the one below is most likely a female. Banders can consult The Identification Guide to North American Birds: Part 1 and Part 2 by Peter Pyle to help distinguish between the sexes by length of the wing and tail feathers.

Male Yellow Warbler

Male Yellow Warbler

You may have noticed that all the migrant warblers are not quite as decked out as they will be by the time they reach us. This Yellow Warbler was just developing his rufous streaks.

Clay-Colored Thrush, National Bird of Costa Rica

Clay-Colored Thrush, National Bird of Costa Rica

The last bird on this post is not a neotropical migrant and therefore was not banded. But I thought it best expressed any indignation at being handled, for all the other birds banded on this page. And I probably never would have seen the beautiful streaking on its throat, in the field.