Saturday, 26 January 2013

Panama Days 3 and 4 - Gamboa

Day 3: Slept in and took my time getting out of Panama City to Gamboa. Taxi for 25$, or bus for 0.65? I'll take the bus. Got settled into a B&B and then met up with my friend Jenn who lives and guides around these parts. We birded casually around town and near the big fancy resort from about 3:00 to 6:00 racking up ~70 of the mostly common species. Flame-rumped and Golden-headed Tanagers were stunners - no photos, sorry folks. Long-billed Starthroat was the standout among the hummingbirds. Bat Falcon hunting bats at dusk was a nice way to end the day.

 Blue-gray Tanagers are super common but are still stunning regardless.

 Black-cheeked Woodpeckers are common - this one was excavating a nesthole.

Agoutis are everywhere. Other mammals seen already include sloths (2 and 3 toed), monkeys (Howler and White-faced Capuchins, squirrels, and a Tamandua - a small anteater.

Day 4: Met up with Jenn at 6:30 and headed to the famous Pipeline Rd. Pipeline rd is about 17.5km long and has a species list over 400! It was build to service a pipeline built during WW2 but never used.
We were fortunate enough to get a free ride to the 6km mark in a 4X4 truck and then we walked back along the "road". We spent the next 9 hours walking and birding our way back to Gamboa, covering about 10km. It was exhausting, but super fun. Manakins, Trogons, Caciques, Hummingbirds - there are lots of gaudy birds to be seen. But the most fun comes from finding and IDing small Tyrant Flycatchers calling and flitting about the trees, or listening for more shy birds walking around on the forest floor. I kept a total list for the day so I could e-bird it later (107 species) but don't really care how many species I see in any given day.
The road doesn't stay this nice...not by a long shot. 

 Band-tailed Barbthroat on her nest over the road!  A Great Tinamou - often heard but not seen.

 A male Gartered Trogon (Violaceous Trogon). We got 4 species today, and many of them. 
A Tamandua that was blind to our existence. I could have grabbed it if I was stupid. 

Gamboa resort area ebird checklist:
Pipeline Rd mainly checklist:

I know I won't get sympathy from those back in freezing Canada, but the neck pain one gets from working through a mixed-species flock in the canopy is far worse than any "warbler-neck" I've ever had.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Panama Days 2 and 3

Day 2 and 3 I spent the mornings at the 265 hectare Metropolitan Park located right in the city and a 2$ cab ride from my hostel. It's been a great place for me to slowly familiarize myself with some of the more common birds found in the area. Yesterday I happened to meet up with Jenn Sinasac, a fellow Ontario birder/blogger that is doing some guiding down here and is based out of Gamboa. Her blog is Hopefully I will get to learn more from her at Gamboa and beyond! I'm having issues with my photo-editor but hopefully I will get it resolved and compress the photos more.

So far the birding has been fun, and frustrating of course, since many birds go down as unknowns. Birds in the high canopy are challenging, as are small flycatchers right in front of your face! The only birds making it onto my list are ones that I'm 100% sure of (is there any other way to do it?). No Endemics yet (12 or so in Panama), and none of the "regional endemics" yet (105-108 or so). Taxonomy changes are always an issue when dealing with species lists as well. Some lifers so far, but how many I'm not sure.

Crimson-backed Tanager. Everybody loves Tanagers.

Black Vultures are the most common bird (not counting perhaps Laughing Gulls on the ocean. 

Lots of Brown Pelicans at the beach, along with Laughing Gulls, Frigatebirds, a few Brown Boobies, and other water birds.

Shots of the city and canal below

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Day 1 Panama

Caught my flight at 6:00a.m. out of Toronto, connecting through Washington DC to Panama City. Flights were uneventful except my checked backpack didn't make it to Panama City! (Not my fault I'll add). So yeah, not a very great start to my trip! At least I have my binoculars... But I put my camera in with my checked baggage since my carry on was full so I won't be able to take any photos for a day or two?...

Wasn't able to do any birding since the airport became a massive time suck and headache.  Birds seen from taxi and around my hostel were all common things and no lifers:

Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Wood Stork
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Gull sp.
Tern sp.
Heron sp.
Egret sp.
Bird Sp
Great-tailed Grackle
Yellow-headed Caracara
Rock Pigeon

Monday, 21 January 2013

Panama Bound!

I'll keep this short and sweet since some may find it rather annoying that I'm heading to such tropical places while bitter cold weather sets in over much of Ontario. I leave tonight/tomorrow morning for Panama where I'll be spending 6 weeks backpacking and birding on a budget as best I can. I have a few contacts down there I hope to go birding with, but much of it will be on my own / with randoms I meet on the way.

SO... this blog will be a Panama Blog for the next 6 weeks as time and internet allows. Don't freak out and think bizarre tropical birds have somehow made their way to Norfolk. I've decided not to take a DSLR down with me, but will be taking a digital zoom camera which will be good enough to document some of the birds.

Aside: I haven't flogged my older brother's "Canada Big Year" blog so I better do that not. I said I wouldn't do it until he saw a rare European or Asian bird and he has done that now. The Pink-footed Goose in St. Johns Newfoundland.             
See you in March, Redpolls

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

New Feeder Bird!

In the 15+ years that we have fed the birds at our property near Long Point (Walsingham) we have had some interesting birds visit the feeder in winter: Snow Buntings, Oregon Junco, Red and White-winged Crossbills, various sparrows, Evening Grosbeaks, etc. 

Today I had the first Tufted Titmouse! Turned out to be a pair of them which was really nice. I love hearing them sing and scold. Hopefully they will stick around and breed. TUTIs are way more abundant in Haldimand County just to the east, but are a tough bird to find in Norfolk for some reason. This was only the second time we have had them on our property in ~17 years living there.

 Grabbed some shots of other feeder birds while I had the camera out.
 House Finch above, Common Redpolls below. 

Think squirrels are bad at stealing bird seed? Try Racoons. I heard the chickadees scolding and wondered why they were mad at me! Turned around and saw this guy about 20 feet away. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Twitching some birds...

Driving to Presqu'ile Provincial Park was a no-brainer for the Thick-billed Kingbird last fall. It was a once in a lifetime kind of bird, so distance was no object to add it to my Ontario list. 

 I kind of have a mental rule of anything east of Toronto has to be pretty special to go and chase. So when the Townsend's Solitaire turned up east of Toronto near Kendal I was like - darn, that's a bit too far for me, and not crazy enough of a bird. But, TOSO is a bit of a nemesis bird for me. I never chased one, but I've missed at least 2 that were in Norfolk. The worst was years ago when several people in our group during the Long Point CBC saw and heard one, but my brother and I missed it!

When it became clear that this "Kendal" Townsend Solitaire was being seen easily, and daily, I started thinking about going, but really wanted another reason to go. This reason came in the form of a Barrow's Goldeneye at Presqu'ile P.P. (been around a while, but I didn't know). Again, not a mega-rarity but still a good bird and one of my nemesis birds. I've never saw one off Burlington, never went to Ottawa in the winter, and just never saw one. Like the Solitaire, it's an annual bird in the province but hard to get unless you go and twitch them. 

So Saturday I spent the rainy/foggy day driving up to Kendal, missing the TOSO by 2 minutes, waiting around 45 minutes, finding it, enjoying it, showing it to other people that came. Off to P.P.P., enjoying the waterfowl, barely finding the BAGO, enjoying the BAGO, working my way home stopping at a few other spots. Sure am glad I was able to twitch both birds and can now rest easy that they are now checked off of my Ontario list. Such is the rule in birding, I will now see hordes of these birds in the future. The BAGO was not a lifer, but TOSO might have been...can't recall. 

Now for the photo quiz: Which photo is the worse?

These were two of the most obvious misses from my Ontario bird list. I think the next most obvious misses are Western Kingbird, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and American Three-toed Woodpecker. When birds breed in your province, and you still haven't seen them..that's getting embarrassing. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Active Eagle Nest Removed

Yesterday a Bald Eagle nest south of Fisherville was removed to make way for a Wind Turbine installation. Apparently the tree that it was in was scheduled for removal to make way for a service road. If the nest had of remained, it would have been within 20 metres of the blade sweep so I guess the MNR figured it was safer for the eagles to nest elsewhere.

I'm not advocating any position with this post - just throwing it out there for people to be aware of and to make their own conclusions. A quick google search and you will find many articles pertaining to this online.

Photos of the operation can be viewed here:

Photo borrowed from Ontario Wind Resistance

On another note I took a photo of a Junco today coming to my feeder. My guess is it's a female "Oregon/Pink-sided type" Junco, a western form of Slate-coloured Junco. Any thoughts?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Fisherville CBC

Today was the Fisherville CBC and my brother Matt and I spent most of the day scouring the lakeshore and fields for every little bird we could find. We worked over two areas with Jim Heslop and Bob Stamp. This count is a remarkable count in my opinion in that it doesn't seem to have the best habitat, doesn't seem to have the most participants, but often turns up great birds.

I can remember one count when our party found (or re-found) a Brant, a Harlequin Duck, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Grasshopper Sparrow (3rd winter record in Canada I believe... or something like that). We showed up to the round-up only to be upstaged by Jeff Skevington's Least Sandpiper and Gray Flycatcher!!! That was a doozy of a count.

Anyways, no Mega's today for us but our group did have a good list of birds, reaching the 72 species mark. Tonnes of sparrows and waterfowl made for a fun day picking through them for the goodies. Highlights for us - for this count - were:
Short-eared sitting out midday was nice.
Savannah Sparrow (1)
Cackling Goose (1)
Snow Goose (3)
Ruddy Duck (1)
American Wigeon (3)
Ring-necked Duck (2)
Canvasback (4)
American Coot (3)
Hermit Thrush (1)
American Pipit (7)
Northern Shrike (3)
Northern Mockingbird (2)
Rusty Blackbird (4)
White-crowned Sparrow (3 for us) (10 as a party)

Killdeer (2)  - Jim and Bob only - I maintain they flew in after we left the shoreline :)
Meadowlarks (2) - Jim and Bob only, but we saw 3 after we left the circle.

Still reading this far down the blog? We came across a Bald Eagle's nest being LEGALLY taken down by a wind energy company! Can you believe it? Wow. A google search will turn up more info but I hope to do a blog post on it in the next day or two.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

No Slaty-backed Gull - Yes to Owls

I really thought today was going to be the day I got to add Slaty-backed Gull to my Ontario list. With two individuals being seen recently I figured my chances were twice as high as normal! Other birders had the same idea but none of us managed to turn up either bird. Oh well, still a nice day on the river. A.K. mentioned a hybrid gull in his ontbirds post, and I happened to snap a photo of it later in the day. 

In between the two prolonged stints I spent staring at the rocks and breakwall above the falls, I headed over to snag the Snowy Owls that have been hanging out near St. Catherines. It was easy to find the place as there was a caravan of photographers/birders along the side of the road with one owl fairly close. 

On the way home I swung through the Fisherville area and found a lone Short-eared Owl hanging out near the raptor reserve. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Jan 1st - Killdeer and New Year's resolutions

A bit of a tradition for many birders is to work off their hangovers by going out birding on January 1st -kicking of a fresh year of birding and listing. I'm not a rabid lister like so many others and have never kept a "year list", but there's something symbolic about getting out on Jan one.

This year I have two New Year's resolutions related to birding. Firstly, enter at least one e-bird checklist into e-bird every single day of the year. This takes a bit of discipline but otherwise shouldn't be too hard. A checklist can be made just by looking out the window at the bird feeder, or recording what I see while driving to work. The trick will be to do it everyday, and will hopefully make me a better note taker, recording numbers of birds and not just a species tally. I hope to also enter a lot of e-butterfly checklists but for obvious reasons I can't do that everyday.

Second resolution is to see 300+ bird species in Ontario this year - not to be confused with doing a big year! I am NOT doing a big year. For the first time ever I will keep a dedicated year list. 300 shouldn't be hard to reach as long as I get out birding during all the seasons and make a bit of an effort to see some birds I might let slip by in past years. For example, birds like Brant, various shorebirds, etc. you could easily miss from year to year without a moderate amount of effort and "chasing". Caveat - if I do any worldly travels I might miss out on 300, but if I'm birding overseas I'm o.k. with that.

January 5th is this year's Fisherville CBC, so today wasn't quite count week but I went out to scout the area anyways. Only real highlight was a Killdeer that was on the shoreline at 158 Bluewater Parkway, east of Selkirk P.P. Wish I had of snapped a grab photo for the blog, but I didn't think about it at the time. You'll have to settle for this highly cropped photo of two Bald Eagle's hanging out near their nest.