Ah, the Sewage Ponds

It may sound awful, but sewage ponds are a good place to look for birds. And that is exactly where we went on our first morning outing in San Blas.

If I can trust my camera roll, the first birds we saw were an assortment of seedeaters and kingbirds, but I have given first position to this very attractive Groove-Billed Ani, because I never noticed the unique woven-looking pattern of the nape feathers before.

And now, the Seedeaters…

Tropical Kingbirds can be good subjects. Below this one is a Thick-billed Kingbird for comparison, but the name doesn’t seem all that descriptive to me.

Tropical Kingbird
Thick-billed Kingbird

Those of you who know me know I adore Crows, so I was thrilled to observe a new species doing Crow Stuff.

I don’t think a day went by without a Zone-tailed Hawk, either…

I was impressed with the graceful flight of a Wood Stork.

This falcon could have been laughing at me for as long as I waited for him to turn his head for a profile shot.

Laughing Falcon

Unlike my last Texas trip, I don’t recall hearing the incessant chatter of a Bell’s Vireo, but at least we saw this one.

Bell’s Vireo

Great Kiskadees were ever-present but nearly impossible to photograph. I wonder why I bothered with this one.

Great Kiskadee
Inca Doves
Great-tailed Grackle

Not sure I have any better images coming of Roseate Spoonbills, but here’s one flying.

All these species would have been way too many for me to get my head around without taking pictures. A new woodpecker!

Below, what an endearing little flycatcher for such a long name. I confess I don’t know what makes it “beardless.”

Not a day went by without a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher distraction. Some days were Blue-grey though.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I think we had a record number of pygmy owls on this trip.

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

The remaining images are…more birds seen.

Black-chinned Hummingbird (female)
White-faced Ibis (immature)
Willet

This Yellow-Winged Cacique was having a bad hair day. Lovely flower though.

I didn’t manage to photograph many butterflies with a 100-400mm lens, but these are a few that we saw. I’ve put the Vermilion Flycatcher with them because unlike previous trips, I never got close enough to one to do it justice. I will try to identify the rest of the butterflies when my new butterfly book arrives…

Raptors aplenty – Short-Tailed Hawk is new for me.

Crested Caracara

I was going to include the afternoon river excursion photos, but I think they deserve their own space. So my chronicle of this day in San Blas will continue soon.

Southwest Texas: Building the List

Vermilion Flycatcher

It was challenging for many reasons to get photographs on this day. The birds were far away. They were backlit. They were hiding behind branches of trees or leaves of cactus. It was somewhat cloudy. And yet I was surprised to finally go through all the pictures more thoroughly and find some images I didn’t know I had. Most of all, it is great to get a feel for the landscape where the birds and other creatures were.

Saving the big hike for the following day, we explored the low-lying areas along the Rio Grande.

White-winged Dove

Most of these birds we continued to see throughout the trip, like the Say’s Phoebe below. I like the cactus cover this bird was using.

Say’s Phoebe

Mexican Jays are stunning. I don’t think we ever saw more than two at one time. They were somewhat elusive.

Mexican Jay

We saw Roadrunners on occasion but not close enough or long enough to get really good pictures. Maybe we were too distracted by our search for less common species.

It must be West Texas – there’s a Greater Roadrunner!

Hearing and barely seeing a Bell’s Vireo is a big event where I come from, so witnessing their incessant chatter and then getting such great views was heaven for me.

I adore Ravens and tried to get photographs whenever I could.

Common Raven

We spent some time locating and then looking at this Tropical Parula. It was so far away I wasn’t at all sure I got a photograph so I was surprised to find a few that were in focus. So I guess it was good I was carrying around my monster lens most of the time, although by the end of the trip it was starting to fall apart…

This Turkey Vulture is actually kind of cute. Snazzy pink legs and face to match.

Turkey Vulture, posing

Vermillion Flycatchers were almost everywhere. I like the female’s subdued plumage.

I think Western Wood Pewee was a new bird for me.

Western Wood Pewee

I got only one distant fuzzy shot of the male Varied Bunting, bottom right.

We were privileged to have good, long looks at a perched Zone-Tailed Hawk. You can just barely see the trademark tail band tucked underneath the tips of its folded wings.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are beautiful. Without the monster lens I would not have captured this detail.

Swainson’s Hawk

The Gray Hawk is…well…very gray.

There were more Scott’s Orioles to be seen, but even though this one was quite far away, I love the vegetation it has decided to perch on.

Scott’s Oriole
The Rio Grande
Inca Dove
House Finch
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

The Cordilleran Flycatcher was a new bird for me. I wish I’d gotten a better photograph, but this at least gives me an idea in case I am lucky enough to see one again.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

The gray day didn’t do this Acorn Woodpecker justice, but I still think of The Joker.

Acorn Woodpecker
Some of the dramatic landscape surrounding the Zone-Tailed Hawk’s perch.

It will take me some time to process the rest of this trip’s pictures, but I get to savor my memories a little bit longer. In the meantime, we keep wondering when summer will arrive in the Chicago area. While I am glad it’s not hot, it’s been colder and wetter than I ever remember for mid-June. I hope your summer solstice is going well.

Let’s Escape to the Galapagos

vermilion-flycatcher-07-13-2016-8736There are plenty of places to see Vermilion Flycatchers and they’re probably not the first bird to come to mind when one visits the Galapagos, but did that stop me from taking way too many pictures of this one? Of course not!

My desire to escape is likely a shared sentiment, so I invite you to Day 4 of the Galapagos adventure. We spent the day at Isabela Island. In the morning we were at Volcan Sierra Negra and in the afternoon, at Punta Moreno.

isabela-sign-7-13-16-0322

welcome-sign-volcan-sierra-negra-7-13-16-0317Some birds we had seen before, others not.

striated-heron-07-13-2016-8509

Striated Heron

Nice look at a lone Whimbrel.

whimbrel-07-13-2016-8636

Whimbrel

Yellow Warblers…

The cutie pie below is a Warbler Finch.

Small Ground Finches…

Woodpecker Finch…

The best opportunity for a picture of Lava Gulls was here.

Green Warbler Finch…

We got our first looks at Galapagos Giant Tortoises, for which the islands are named. Galapagos was a Spanish word for “saddle” which describes the shape of the tortoise shells.

At Sierra Negra the subspecies is guntheri.

giant-tortoise-07-13-2016-9197Below is a video of an interaction between two of these magnificent creatures, which might give you more of an idea.

We were also fortunate to get good looks at the Galapagos Hawk.

At Villamil, Punta Moreno, there was a nice colony of Greater Flamingos.

The dinner sculpture and the next day’s plans…

Three more days’ worth of photos to go. I’m off to a choir rehearsal this evening which should help distract me long enough from the incomprehensible reality to feel empowered by making a little noise.

american-flamingo-07-13-2016-9067

One in a Vermilion

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Up until last week, every Vermilion Flycatcher I ever ran into in my travels was at least a good 200 yards away.

Vermilion Flycatcher 3-8-14 2946.jpg-2946

Now I have been to one of the best places in the world, maybe, to hang out with Vermilion Flycatchers: Crooked Tree in Belize, and more specifically, Bird’s Eye View Lodge, where at least two pairs of these gorgeous birds were in the vicinity.

Vermilion Flycatcher 3-13-14 6743.jpg-6743

I would walk downstairs from the rooms and around the back and there he would be, greeting me cheerily to his territory.

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

She was a bit more shy, as girl birds tend to be, but even she was closer than 200 yards away. (Click on the picture for a closer view.)

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

And the day I caught her doing her toilette after a bath, she was downright close.

Vermilion Flycatcher 3-14-14 5319.jpg-5319

Our last day it rained steadily, sometimes offering downpours. He took advantage of the free shower.

Vermilion Flycatcher 3-8-14 2849.jpg-2849

I hope to be back soon with many more birds from Belize and a recap of my brief but engrossing experience. I have succumbed to a rhinovirus after coming home late Saturday and cleaning all day Sunday. I went back to work today… And I have to get up early to vote before I go back to work tomorrow. So I’m not feeling too chipper but am glad I went to Belize, where it was 80+ degrees!

Vermilion Flycatcher 3-8-14 2850.jpg-2850