Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Big Sit

Weather Wreaks Havoc

Cindy and I are not usually concerned about the weather affecting our activities. Our nonchalance could be explained because we haven’t been overly troubled by it, ever. Except for the blinding snow storm on a car trip to make the Denver airport and, it turns out, the last flight out. But, we made it. Weather has now made an impression.

The Bird Watcher’s Digest Big Sit was held on Oct 9, 2011. And that’s right in the middle of the rainy season in the Republic of Panamá. Last year we managed 49 species and we were hoping to better that this year. But, the weather had it’s way. The day started out sloppy and it stayed that way, with overcast skies, fog, wind, and rain. Not conducive to adding anything new.

Even seeing some of the common species proved difficult. Bay-headed Tanagers didn’t make an appearance at our well-stocked feeders. The only bird in flight against the gray skies was a Turkey Vulture. That was a very sore point for me, since I was hoping to see some migrant raptors. But, don't get me wrong, some fine birds did make a pass through the yard, including the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, seen in the video below. We also managed 6 species of wood-warblers, and one each of grosbeak and oriole.

Our confining 17-foot diameter circle was positioned to gain a look skyward, as well as to various strategically placed bananas and a couple of catastrophic seed spills. The observer must be inside the circle while seeing a bird for it to count. We took that to mean that only one foot need be inside the border. This lead to some helpful leaning, this way and that. I am reminded of the Hays Code where the unfortunate actors were required to contort their bodies while in bed and keep one foot on the floor. But, interestingly during the Big Sit, if you see a bird from within the circle you can leave it to clinch the ID. And I suppose that includes hearing a bird and leaving the circle to get the identification.

The video contains a few of the birds seen during our Big Sit. If you enjoy identifying on your own, the video captions with the bird names can be switched off and on by clicking on the red/white box in the bottom frame.

The final species list is shown below the video as a report from eBird.

Casita Naranja
Oct 9, 2011 5:45 AM - 5:45 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments: 65-67 degrees F, breezy, intermittent drizzle, occasional light rain, fog drifting in & out, heavy cloud cover with no sun or blue skies all day
43 species

Turkey Vulture 1
White-tipped Dove 2
Squirrel Cuckoo 1 Heard only
White-necked Jacobin 3
Long-billed Starthroat 1
Blue-chested Hummingbird 1
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird 5
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 9
Keel-billed Toucan 1 Heard only
Black-cheeked Woodpecker 3
Red-crowned Woodpecker 2
Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker 1
Cocoa Woodcreeper 1
Western Slaty-Antshrike 2 Heard only
Yellow-bellied Elaenia 1 Heard only
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Plain Wren 2
House Wren 1
White-breasted Wood-Wren 1 Heard only
Swainson's Thrush 1
Clay-colored Thrush 3
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Tennessee Warbler 7
American Redstart 1
Blackburnian Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 1
Bananaquit 3
Crimson-backed Tanager 5
Blue-gray Tanager 4
Palm Tanager 9
Plain-colored Tanager 4 Begging juv.
Golden-hooded Tanager 3
Red-legged Honeycreeper 23
Variable Seedeater 4
Yellow-bellied Seedeater 8
Black-striped Sparrow 1 Heard only
Hepatic Tanager 5
Summer Tanager 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
Thick-billed Euphonia 14

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Vulture Lounge

Black Vulture
Close to the entrance to Pipeline Road is another road running along the Panama Canal. A locked gate restricts access to the road, but a small area near the gate provides interesting birding. The area is always thick with mosquitoes. Warblers come for the mosquitoes, so we come for the warblers.

One slow afternoon in the dry season, we thought to stop and see what was hopping. Craning our necks, we saw a few of the common birds high in the canopy, including Rufous-capped, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Blue-winged and Bay-breasted Warblers. Then looking lower, we found a small party of Black Vultures lounging about an old concrete bunker. They seemed content and undisturbed by our presence. I moved with speed to the car and the video camera. The video below is the result of our short, peaceful interlude. We left the birds to continue their rest.