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.
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!
I have never been a hurry-up-let’s-get-this-over-with birder, but I am certainly moving more slowly these days because of my knee. But life in the slow lane has its advantages and the reduced speed has paid off. Two weeks ago I managed to count 55 species when I visited the Portage for four hours instead of the usual two, and last week with my first group we had 51 species in nearly about the same amount of time due in part to the fact that we got off to a late start because of the weather. Between the two lists I had 73 different species total. Of course it is spring migration, and it is not hard to spend a lot of time when you keep seeing more birds. Needless to say I did not get pictures of them all, or some pictures were useful later only for the purpose of identification. But in spite of having hardly any time or place to bird during the week, I feel as if I have seen some nice migrants in spite of my physical limitations. I took these pictures two weeks ago. I felt bad about not being able to do the Spring Bird Count, but I’m glad I managed to get out.
Breeding birds are back, and the most numerous after the Robins, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Goldfinches are probably Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.
Lots of Indigo Buntings are on site too. Many of them are first-year males like the ones below.
There are also several Warbling Vireos that have set up territories. I usually hear them more than I see them, but I got good views of this individual.
Some Yellow Warblers will likely breed here too.
I don’t think the Portage has breeding Ovenbirds but it was nice to see this one out in the open.
Two more warblers I was able to photograph…but they won’t be staying.
Male American Redstart
My best surprise was to briefly see a Hooded Warbler and manage to get a picture of him. These are far less common. I used to see them on the lakefront occasionally. This was a real treat.
The Great-Horned Owls appear to have just one owlet but it’s gotten pretty big and last week we saw all three of them all take off from their tree. I took these pictures of junior and mom two weeks ago.
The Downy Woodpeckers are busy.
Migrant thrushes, like the Gray-Cheeked on the left and the Swainson’s on the right, below, are passing through.
I don’t think there are enough places left at the Portage for Tree Swallows to nest.
Goldfinches are in full breeding plumage now.
On the sparrow front, I found a Chipping Sparrow, a few White-Crowned Sparrows who have all flown north by now, and one hard-to-see Song Sparrow. The Portage is home to breeding Song Sparrows, but I’m not sure about Chipping Sparrows.
As ubiquitous as Red-Winged Blackbirds are, they can still be beautiful.
House Wrens breed at the Portage. They’re always singing a lot, and every once in a while I might even see one… But it always takes me a few repeats to remember their song.
I have one more walk to lead at the Portage this coming Saturday. The last time I checked the weather the prediction was for thunderstorms, but that was the forecast last Saturday and we still managed to dodge the rain and see a lot of birds, so I am hopeful. It should be warmer too, which will add a whole new dimension – mosquitoes – after all the rain. As much as I find mosquitoes a nuisance, I also realize they’re food for a lot of birds.
I almost could have called it “Suddenly This Summer” because on May 1 we skipped spring and went straight into summer temperatures by noon. But along with the sudden push of warm air from the south came a lot of migrating birds, and after all, it was finally the real start to Spring Migration.
As luck would have it I was near the lakefront for the last part of the stem cell procedure on my right knee, which consisted of a blood draw early in the morning and then having a few hours before a return to the doctor’s office for the final injection. I realized the location’s potential the week before when I had the major procedure done. The medical building is virtually right across the street from North Pond, which is a favorite hot spot with lakefront birders. The week before it was blustery and cold with only a few of the hardiest migrants. But now I had a birder in my friend Lesa to whom I am grateful for being my chauffeur for the day. I was walking without crutches if moving slowly, but I was walking, and slow is generally good for birding. The slower you move, the more birds you eventually will see. And seeing birds was a great distraction from whatever pain I was feeling.
Perhaps the first warblers to greet us were four or five Ovenbirds poking about in the grass. Even though the weather was warmer, the trees and accompanying insects had not caught up with it yet and so a lot of birds were foraging on the ground for something to eat. The ground is an Ovenbird’s preferred foraging spot anyway. Ovenbirds can be nearly impossible to see on their breeding grounds, but in migration on the lakefront they are all over the place this year. I have seen them since everywhere I go for midday walks near my workplace.
Then it seemed there were Black-Throated Green Warblers everywhere.
Predictably, especially in the grass, were Palm Warblers. A note about these pictures, being my first warbler photographs of the season. The morning started off a bit overcast, and then I had only my 75-300mm lens as it seemed ridiculous to be carrying around anything larger in my compromised condition, so I didn’t get quite the clarity I wanted for many of these birds. But it was just such a joyous way to spend a medical day and provided an extra therapeutic perk altogether.
I am always so happy to see a Lincoln’s Sparrow. It’s not quite rare, but you never see more than one of them at a time, and they’re such delicate-looking little birds.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers were predictable, but not easy to capture as they frantically searched for food.
Our look at the Pine Warbler below was brief, but this is a more unusual species in migration so I am glad I got this shot.
The three species below are Yellow, Black-and-White, and Nashville Warblers.
Another spring migrant that seems to be showing up in force is the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.
Meanwhile, on their way out were Golden-Crowned Kinglet on the left and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet on the right, below.
Then there are the migrating Thrushes. Two below are a Swainson’s Thrush on the left and a Gray-Cheeked Thrush on the right.
I have been out since last Tuesday and have a lot more pictures to process and share with you, but it’s been really difficult to get caught up. All I can say is every day I’m a little bit better and there have even been a few moments when I’ve forgotten about my knee altogether!
Below, two glimpses of a female Eastern Towhee…
I will be back soon with more from Instant Spring Migration. Until then, spring on!
Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail, in McHenry County up by the Wisconsin border, was on my list of places to revisit this year and I was so happy to be accompanied by my friend Susan who had a Yellow-Headed Blackbird in her sights as a species to add to her life list. I checked with ebird and confirmed the blackbirds had been seen in late July last year, so there was a good chance of seeing them still. These photos are from last Sunday.
On the way up, Susan spotted two Sandhill Cranes walking near a fence by the road.
It was cloudy and threatening rain, although we managed to avoid downpours. The sun did peek out a little bit later. Greeted by a Cedar Waxwing…
And a bedraggled-looking Yellow Warbler on the trail to the marsh…
And a juvenile Song Sparrow.
The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were suddenly in view in numbers and they dominated the landscape. Susan definitely added this bird to her life list. We did not see an Black Terns, a species that also breeds here. Perhaps we were too late in the day or the season.
At some point a flock of Canada Geese flew over.
Below, flying Yellow-Headed and Red-Winged Blackbirds.
One particular Tree Swallow kept flying around a distinctive dead tree, tempting me to try to capture it. The tree it perched on is a favorite stopping place.
Below, a Common Yellowthroat and a confusing young sparrow. It’s likely a Song Sparrow but this time of year is tricky with identifying the youngsters. I’d like to say Grasshopper but the head isn’t “flat.”
Not at all confusing were the distinctive sounds of singing Marsh Wrens, but it was getting hard to find one sitting up until we encountered this one close to a platform overlooking the marsh. Some of its song is at the link below (you will also hear Common Yellowthroat singing first).
The water level was exceptionally high, but the area was not flooded as were other parts of the county. We saw many Pied-Billed Grebes with young, although they were at quite a distance.
Nice to see a Monarch Butterfly. Would have been nicer to see several. I’m intrigued by the yellow flowering plant on the upper right, which I do not recognize, and the Purple Prairie Clover below it, which I later realized is also blooming in my front yard. Imagine that.
It was nice to see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, even in lousy lighting, and a robin with food for young.
We met a very nice man who lives nearby and checks out the marsh regularly. He used to teach environmental science so he was full of good information and stories. He’s holding the crayfish below which he rescued from the gravel path. He encouraged us to come back at different times of the year. I think we should take him up on it.
More Yellow-Headed Blackbird photos. Missing are the distinctive white patches on the wings of adult males, which makes me think these are all juveniles.
The little trio below leaves me stumped as to who the sparrow is, again. Since all juvenile sparrows tend to be on the streaky side no matter how they wind up as adults, I think this one has the look of a juvenile Field Sparrow but I’m not going to bet on it.
Some of my original Zebra Finches from years past (the cleaner pot rack alone dates the photo)
I’m almost totally over the rhino-plus virus, well enough to get through what seemed like endless commitments. Now as my mind clears along with my sinuses, I am feeling remiss in keeping up with this commitment, so when I remembered this morning there is always an opportunity to fall back on those “Unattached” photographs that clog up my media library, I decided to select a few at random just for fun. A couple from the Galapagos, not so long ago, which reminds me I still have a couple days left from my trip I never covered…
Yellow Warbler – Galapagos – July 2016
Magnificent Frigatebird, Galapagos, July 2016
The three below are from a trip to East Africa in 2013.
Gray-Crowned Cranes, November, 2013, Tanzaniya
Burchell’s Zebra, November 2013
Pearl-Spotted Owlet, November 2013
The sunset below probably happened in Belize at Crooked Tree in March of 2014…I’ll be back with more recent endeavors soon.. Thanks for following my meanderings. I hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past.
More birds from the first full day of a short but colorful trip. It’s always a delight to see parrots and parakeets, after you’ve managed to distinguish them from the leaves of the trees into which they blend so well. Orange-Chinned Parakeets were our most common psittacine species.
The picture below is as close as I got to the tiny spec of “orange chin” this bird is named for. I’ve come to the conclusion you can only “see” it in the field guide illustrations.
Below is a Yellow-Tailed Oriole. I saw a lot of different Orioles all at once years ago in Belize and got terribly confused. Luckily this was the only Oriole we had to worry about except for the Baltimore Oriole which we shall see shortly in spring migration in the United States, with many staying to breed throughout the summer.
Later in the day we visited some wetlands and caught glimpses of the juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron on the left and its parents on the right.
Also present in the wet areas were Northern Jacanas like the one below.
I think I have never seen a Greater Ani before, only Groove-Billed and Smooth-Billed. I was surprised to see the scalloped blue edges on its feathers.
We had some raptors too. The Gray-Lined Hawk below is a new species for me. What a gorgeous creature.
I’ve seen Zone-Tailed Hawks before, but never really gotten such a detailed view of their feather patterns underneath.
The Black Vulture below is feather-challenged but still elegant in flight. Black Vultures outnumbered every other kind so you will be seeing more pictures of them.
I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more pictures of a Plain-Colored Tanager. I’m sure he was pleased I paid so much attention to him.
This Black-Headed Saltator isn’t living up to its name. If it weren’t for the overall shape of the bird and the white eyebrow I would still be trying to figure out who it was.
We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers, and there have been a few reported to have made their way to the Midwest in the U.S. already.
This is not my greatest picture of a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird but I like the branch it’s on.
Red-Lored Parrots were seen a few times too. This bird seems to be feeding on something here. Looks crunchy, what fun.
There was a Three-Toed Sloth in a tree close to the tower we stayed in. It blended in well but luckily was exposed enough for a photograph.
It’s been a busy week, with the March for Science last Saturday, then Choir Sunday at Unity Temple, work, upcoming rehearsal and participation in the Spring Music Festival at Unity Temple-United Lutheran which my friend Linda and I attended last year but this year we are performing Schubert’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano. I managed to get in a swim last night but the rest of the week is clamoring for attention. I’ll be back with more birds from Panama as soon as I can.
There 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.
Some birds we had seen before, others not.
Nice look at a lone Whimbrel.
The cutie pie below is a Warbler Finch.
Small Ground Finches…
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.
Below 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.