Sunday, June 21, 2020

A pleasant Saturday afternoon birding near the Sustainable Living Centre - Chinderah

Ebird lists this location as The Sustainable Living Centre at Chinderah but it is really part of the Kingscliff Waste Treatment Plant. The birders tend to walk around the outside of the plant fence but I also enjoy birding along Altona Rd both before and after the plant which as Reagan was just coming out for an afternoon drive with me seemed the less muddy and more social option. There is a drainage ditch running the length of the road which seems to keep the vegetation growing on the verge a popular place for birds. This is usually a good location for Fairy-wrens, Grassbirds, and Finchs.

Today we didn't see so much of what I call the scrub birds but still recorded 31 species with a fairly casual effort: Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Spotted Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Dusky Moorhen, Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel, Silver Gull, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Great Egret (Australasian), Cattle Egret, Australian Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Rainbow Lorikeet, Superb Fairywren, Red-backed Fairywren, Lewin's Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Scarlet Myzomela, Brown Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Willie-wagtail, Magpie-lark, Torresian Crow.

There were a lot of Bee-eaters on the hunt, particularly on the bend of the road. That's also where I saw the Fairy-wrens today although previously they had been all along the road hedges. There were Red-backed Fairy-wrens in amongst the Superbs so I haven't tried to ID the females.

The Black-fronted Dotterel was a nice surprise. I don't see them that often and I had thought of them as shore birds but while they clearly like water, in this case a 1cm deep puddle was more than adequate for four of them.

The Kite ID is still a bit uncertain but I have settled on Whistling Kite.

There did seem to be two different raptors circling at the same time but I'm not sure I got a photo of the smaller raptors.

NEWS FLASH 2 - The smaller birds were Whistling Kites but the larger bird turned out to be an immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle

The perched photos show a marked spotting on the back of the neck feathers which would seem to be useful for ID's but I can't find a description of that for Whistling Kites. It could be a juvenile which could also explain the darker colouring.

NEWS FLASH - Turns out the bird with the different looking tail was an Immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Thank you Roger from ebird for making the ID. The White belly and head of the Sea-Eagle is usually definitive but apparently it can take 4 years to go from brown to adult colouring so there you go. Cave Aquilam

They ended up being chased off by a bakers dozen strong murder of crows so hopefully they will still be in the area next time.

Sustainable Living Centre

Rainbow Bee-eater

Black-fronted Dotterel

Superb Fairy-wren

Whistling Kite

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The day I didn't go birding on Pipeline Rd in Panama

In February 2020 my wife and I were on the Holland America cruise ship the Rotterdam which left from San Diego and travelled south along the coast of Mexico and Central America before crossing through the Panama canal into the Atlantic. The transit of the canal was very interesting but we never actually set foot in Panama itself and our self imposed rule for counting countries we have visited involves us walking around outside of ports or airports so we decided to jump ship in Curacao and visit a few more Carribean destinations before heading back to the US and the rest of our trip.

We flew into Bogota Colombia and stayed for a few days then onwards to Panama City. We were very surprised at how modern Bogota was (which is a testament to our ignorance more than any reflection on Colombia) and when we saw the modern skyline of Panama City we were expecting a step up from our other central america visits but scratch the surface and Panama still has a 3rd world flavour. Taxi scams at the airport, that sort of thing. Not a biggie given our travel level but still a surprise.

Biomuseo Panama City

This trip was not of course primarily about bird watching but I had spent a few days indulging myself birding in Hawaii and Colombia and on tours off the cruise boat so I didn't want to push my luck with the wife. So after checking out Panama City and the Biomuseo (arguably the best museum I have visited) on the first day, our second day was to head out to the Sloth Sanctuary at the Gamboa Rainforest resort.

You can't do a lot of advance planing when getting off a cruise ship part way as they can change their destinations and timings depending on weather and repairs and viral pandemics etc. So we sort of just winged it. We chatted to the Taxi driver outside the hotel and agreed on a price for the day to take us out to Gamboa and to the Rainforest retreat (he didn't wait for us but I didn't pay him either so meh. It was easy enough to get another ride from the resort). We were just in time to jump on a tour out to the forest canopy cable car ride. There was a tower at the end that you walked up in a very civilised fashion and looked out over the canal and the forest canopy. No birds though at around 3pm. We did see leaf cutter ants crossing the path on the way up though. Note to self, hold camera still.

We walked down from the cable car and went to the sloth sanctuary which is of course a zoo for tourists to look at sloths but still pretty cool but just outside the sloth shed was a butterfly enclosure and just outside that was a garden with lots of flowering plants and birds!

Many of these birds looked similar to the ones we had seen in Ecuador a few years ago. 

Pale-vented Pigeon

Southern rough-winged swallow

Thick-billed Euphonia

Ruddy Ground Dove

Blue-gray Tanager

The next, morning with a 3am start, before our flight to Cuba, I had a chance to head out to the famous bird watching location of pipe line road which was out near Gamboa where we were yesterday. Had I spent more time planning we could have stayed at the Rainforest resort overnight and got a lift out from there but in the end I was too scared of getting stuck in the middle of the jungle and missing the flight which would not have impressed the wife so I chickened out. And that was how I missed going birding on pipeline road in Panama.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Tarcoles River Costa Rica

The 16th February 2020 saw Reagan and I on the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica. We were on the river at 9:30am which isn't bad for a tour off a cruise boat but perhaps a little late for the best birding. Most people were excited to see the crocodiles but it was the birds I was keen on of course.

Photography from a boat with a P900 is an exercise in frustration with a much higher rate of blurred images than normal. There is only so much that motion compensation can do with 2000mm of zoom and a slow focus system but I just went shutter crazy and took as many photos as I could. The boats were a sort of triple long BBQ barge so reasonably steady but we never really came to a stop.

My ebird record shows 32 species but not that many usable photos. There were scarlet macaws flying overhead but they didn't settle where I could get a photo.

The first two birds we saw didn't have their breeding plumage which is a shame because I would have liked to photograph the spots on the spotted sandpiper. The neotropic cormorant didn't have the white stripe behind the orange facial skin so could have been a juvenile.

Spotted Sandpiper Neotropic Cormorant

The highlight of the trip was seeing a bunch of Egrets and Herons including the Tricolored Heron and the Little Blue Heron whose photos didn't make the cut.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Great Blue Heron Great Blue Heron
Great Egret Snowy Egret
Green Heron Green Heron
Boat-billed Heron Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
The Roseate Spoonbill was hiding but the colour is still gorgeous.

Roseate Spoonbill Roseate Spoonbill
A pair of Magnificent Frigate birds were posing on a perch which seemed a surprising place for them on the river but in truth we motored past the river mouth so they weren't that far from their usual coastal haunts. The predator is a Common Black Hawk.
Magnificent Frigatebird Common Black Hawk

The small lizard is a Common Baslisk. You can tell it's a male by the head crest. It also has a crest on its back and long tail. Nicknamed the Jesus lizard, juvenile Basilisks can run over water up to 20m to escape predators. The Bigger lizard is a crocodile.

Common Basilisk Lizard Crocodile

I don't know what sort of Bats are in the photo below. They are tiny and look just like lichen on the underside of a log.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Mexico Birding

On our second day in Mexico we went out with the explicit aim to photograph birds. We were able to spend our time getting photos and that showed with 30 species observed and 20 of those with photos. Sadly I couldn't get a decent photo of the Chachalaca which I wanted to photograph just because of the cool name but I did add them to the list. Most photos were from a park next to the Tangolunda beach that ran alongside a golf course and from the main road leading past the course; no bush bashing today.

Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico is a tourist resort location with a port that can handle cruise ships. There are nine bays in close proximity with varying grades of resorts that attract the tourists but with the foothills of the Sierra Madre coming close to the coast it is also a great birding spot. The cruise port is a long floating jetty and as I walked off the Rotterdam I got to photgraph my first Great Kiskadee that was posing on a pylon.

Great Kiskadee

Walking through the tourist shops at the port we saw three more birds. I had seen two of them the day before but it was a good start to the day.

 Yellow-winged Cacique  Tropical Kingbird

 Golden-cheeked Woodpecker  Golden-cheeked Woodpecker

It was stinking hot of course, 33ish. I started off with great enthusiasm at about 9:30am but by the end of four hours birding I was moving from shade spot to shade spot daring the birds to come to the camera and cursing them if I had to move into the sun to get the photo. 

I tentatively identified a few Orioles. Australia only has three but it is rather more exciting in this part of the world. I  have been playing an excellent board game called Wingspan which features 170 bird cards from North America and the Baltimore Oriole is a high value card so it was nice to see one for the first time in the wild. I am less sure of my other ID's. Fingers crossed.

 Altamira Oriole  Streak-backed Oriole

 Baltimore Oriole  Orchard Oriole

I would have liked to get a front facing photo of the Citreoline Trogon but even the back only view is quite spectacular. 

Citreoline Trogon

Still haven't managed an Instragram worthy photo of the White-throated Magpie-jay. It is such a gorgeous looking bird it should lead to a winner everytime but the perfect photo still eludes me. Trying to get that enormously long tail in a photo with close enough detail and free from vegetation has been a task.

White-throated Magpie-jay

I haven't seen many owls in Australia so seeing the Ferruginous Pygmy-owl in the middle of the day was a nice catch.

Ferruginous Pygmy-owl

And a few other photos:

Black Vulture

Social Flycatcher

White-fronted Parrot

Rufous-backed Robin

White-winged Dove

Orange-fronted Parrakeet

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Great-tailed Grackle - male

Great-tailed Grackle - female

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker

Golden-cheeked Woodpecker

Black Vulture