Monday, November 29, 2010

A Most Delicate Berry Eater

Our friends Rosabel and Karl have many native trees and bushes on their property, among which is Ortiga, which translates as "nettle." Ortiga is a Spanish name given to numerous plants with irritating hairs, most of them in the stinging nettle family, Urticaceae. The Ortiga tree near their house appears to be Urera baccifera, and the birds are wild for the tiny, pale pink fruits that began to appear on it in late October. Among the species we have seen feeding on these fruits are Tawny-capped and Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Summer Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Clay-colored Thrush, Red-legged Honeycreeper and Green Honeycreeper.

Jan Axel's blog mentions an even bigger bonanza of birds that he and some friends saw in the Ortiga and Ortiguillo earlier this month, and he captured some great shots of many of them.

Marco concentrated his video efforts (see below) on just one bird for this blog post - the female Yellow-eared Toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis.) As Jan Axel observed, she was not even a little bit shy. She was "confiding", as birders like to say about birds that allow prolonged observation from very nearby. We were enthralled watching her meticulously and delicately pick the small fruits off the Ortiga with her sizable bill.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pointy-headed Sprite

Violet-headed Hummingbird

Another post featuring a hummingbird - this time, just one hummer. A Violet-headed Hummingbird (Klais guimeti) has set up shop in the yard of our friends Rosabel and Carl. While we were there, it was feeding exclusively at the flowers of several low-growing Verbena bushes. We were completely won over by the little fellow - who wouldn't be?! Marco was able to capture great recordings of the vocalizations, as well as nice video showing the short, pointy crest:

Sunday, November 21, 2010


During another trip to California (the state of, in the U.S.A.), we were fortunate to spend a glorious day at sea with some of our favorite people in the world. The swells were mountainous at times, but far apart, and the wind did not come up until the afternoon. It was a comfortable ride. We motored from the harbor in Bodega Bay, CA toward the Bodega Canyon and to the Cordell Bank. The Cordell Bank is a mountain range beneath the ocean, approximately 25 miles offshore, and it has an abundance of wildlife around and above it. There were seabirds and marine mammals around us from beginning to end - it was the kind of day every true pelagic enthusiast loves. Below is a report of the day, written by our pal Rich Stallcup. Marco had his video-camera at the ready and documented a few salient scenes and species of the trip, including a look at the array of chum available. He was able to shoot some excellent seabird footage in spite of the swells and low light levels. Not all the species on Rich's list are in Marco's video. And be prepared for a long wait to download if you are on a slow connection. (Marco wanted to edit the video down to 3 minutes or so, but I talked him out of it.)
Subject: [NBB] 10/3/10 Cordell Bank trip
GOOD MORNING!Yesterday I accompanied a group of 35 friends and colleagues on apelagic trip to and beyond CORDELL BANK achieving 1000 fathoms.The "weather" started out more promising than any of us (who had beentracking) expected but it did deteriorate the farther and deeper we wentuntil there were towering swells and deep troughs. It was good that theduration between mountainous waves was 13 seconds.The seabirds and marine mammals were most excellent and there was NOlet-up in the action or obvious mal-de mer.Here is the list, conservatively estimated or carefully counted by me.An * means only a few of us were involved. Otherwise, most everyonewas seeing and being inspired and humbled by the majesty of it all.

Black-footed Albatross-11
Northern Fulmar-20
Pink-footed Shearwater-300
Flesh-footed Shearwater-4
Buller's Shearwater-430
Sooty Shearwater-35
Short-tailed Shearwater-5
Wilson's Storm-petrel-1*
Fork-tailed Storm-petrel-1
Leach's Storm-petrel-1
Ashy Storm-petrel-25
Black Storm-petrel-9
Red Phalarope-30
Red-necked Phalarope-8
Pomarine Jaeger-22
Parasitic Jaeger-11
Long-tailed Jaeger-2
South Polar Skua-3
Sabine's Gull -2200 !! (there was one swirling flock flushed by the loud exhalation of a Blue Whale)
Common Tern-2
Arctic Tern-6
Elegant Tern-18
Common Murre-940 (many well offshore)
Pigeon Guillemot-3 (near Bodega Head)
Marbled Murrelet-4 (off Pinnacles Beach)
Cassin's Auklet-20
Rhinoceros Auklet-95
Blue Whale-14
Humpback Whale-12
Gray Whale-1
Meslopodon (sp.?)-1*
Harbor Porpoise-3
Dall's Porpoise-10
Pacific White-sided Dolphin-4
Minke Whale-2*

The only lost migrants were a Long-billed Dowitcher , an after-hatch year "Audubon's" Warbler(identified this morning from Gil's digital photo) and a Wilson's Warbler.
Peace, love and GO GIANTS RICH

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Terrace Revisited and Completed

We've been writing a lot about the terrace for many months now. Getting it built has been a major focus of our lives since mid-July. It has been mostly done for a few weeks now, and as of late last month, only a little painting of foundations, balusters, rails and driveway remains to be done. The rain has thwarted the crew during more than one attempt to complete the painting. Not that it rains buckets every day - but so far, it has rained buckets and barrels on the days they've painted the areas mentioned above, thereby washing away gallons of newly applied paint. So we wait. But meanwhile, we are luxuriating in life on the terrace.

The other night we hosted our contractor, Adam Haney, and his wife Katiana for champagne and dinner.

It was a fun celebration of a job well-done and well-appreciated.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Starring the Starthroat

We enjoyed seeing at least two Long-billed Starthroats (Heliomaster longirostris) at our feeders a while back (see previous blog post), but the one featured in Marco's video below gets top billing. Maybe he is the now-grown-up male we saw previously. He visited us for four days running (3 through 6 November 2010); the video is from 6 November. We were gone all day the 7th and a good part of the 8th, so we don't know about those days.

Extra points for identifying the other two birds in the video...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crake in the Mist

On November 7th we left the house early with our pals Bill & Claudia, headed for Pipeline Road. Coffee in Albrook was our first destination, followed by a short stop the Summit Ponds, and then the Ammo Ponds, where we all enjoyed wonderful views of a White-throated Crake (Laterallus albigularis.) When I first saw it, I thought it was a mouse or other small rodent - all I could see was its back as it moved through the vegetation on a patch of mud at the edge of a puddle in the marsh.

As noted by Ridgely in his always excellent text ("A Guide to the Birds of Panama"), it is "The most numerous small rail in Panama, though it is usually secretive and hard to more than glimpse." We all hear it far more often than we see it, and when we see it, it's usually a rather unsatisfying glimpse. So Marco's video is pleasing, and not the usual crake experience. It was early morning, misty and beginning to rain when we were there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tricky Tanager

The tanager starring in Marco's video (below) has been a regular at the feeders for about three weeks. At first glance it appears to be a Palm Tanager, but the plumage is dull gray with only a few hints of the iridescent olive-green that Palms show. It is more the color of a Plain-colored Tanager, but much larger than a Plain-colored and even a bit larger than a Palm. It shows none of the blue tones of a Blue-gray Tanager. It most frequently comes to the feeders with the Plain-colored Tanagers, but always appears to be a little lost and not really a member of the pack. There are numerous accounts and photos on the web of hybrids between Blue-gray and Palm Tanagers, but all the photos of them show blue coloration in the plumage.

This is probably a Palm x Blue-gray hybrid, the obvious choice. But we're not comfortable with that based on what we've seen elsewhere. Particularly, non-phaeomelanin schizochroism under Abnormal Plumages at: