Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Record warmth the last couple days


Yellow rumped Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 20, 2018
Yellow rumped Warblers, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 20, 2018
Yellow rumped Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 20, 2018
Black Vultures, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Feb 20, 2018
I got out to do a little birding yesterday after work and managed to find some good stuff despite the early fog.  I started off at Lower Mill Pond where I had two Black Vultures sitting atop a smoke stack where they have been seen on and off for a couple weeks now.  Not much for waterfowl to be seen but with the warming temperatures and the opening of previously iced out locations it is not surprising the birds have dispersed a bit.  I next went over to Arcadia mainly in search of Yellow rumped Warblers that have been seen occasionally in the general area.  I almost immediately had two or three and watched them for awhile and got a few photos through the binoculars with the phone.  As I was about to leave I noticed a few more and then suddenly I had at least eleven of them around me...unprecedented for me in the county in February...more about the warblers here.

Yellow rumped Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 21, 2018
Wood Ducks, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Feb 21, 2018
Common Merganser, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Feb 21, 2018
Golden crowned Kinglet, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Feb 21, 2018
Today I headed out with temperatures starting in the 50's and warming up quite rapidly once the fog burned off and setting yet another record (more on that below).  I found my first American Woodcock before dawn in Hadley (breaking my earliest record by a day).  I made it over to Arcadia just after dawn and once again found quite a few (ten today) Yellow rumped Warblers among the more expected species.  I made a few other short stops on my way over to Mitch's Way where I had a decent selection of waterfowl following the river heading north.  Other notables there included a continued Ruby crowned Kinglet and lots of migrating crows.  With all the geese moving I decided to check some fields in Hadley and Amherst where I found several hundred Canada Geese but nothing unusual among them.  I also hoped for an early Killdeer but I didn't have any luck.  Most stops today featured decent numbers of Red winged Blackbirds and a few Common Grackles and Brown headed Cowbirds.  I also turned up a few other new species for the county this year with a couple Turkey Vultures in Hadley in the morning and a Red shouldered Hawk over the house in the afternoon.

Now a bit more about the weather.  We broke two consecutive high temps with a high on Tuesday of 67 (old record 62) and a high of 74 today (old record of 61).  These become only the fourth and fifth days since 1940 that temperatures have reached 60+ degrees in February (with number two and three occurring last year...February heat 2017 post 1February heat 2017 post 2).  Today also set an all time February high temperatures record eclipsing the record set last year by a degree.  Winter returns tomorrow with some light snow possible.
Gray Fox, Home, Belchertown, MA, Feb 7, 2018
Gray Foxes, Home, Belchertown, MA, Feb 7, 2018
Gray Fox, Home, Belchertown, MA, Feb 6, 2018
I also checked the motion camera I have had set up along the Jabish Brook and found quite a few shots of Gray Foxes over the last few weeks.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Guatemala trip -February 8-13


Pink headed Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Fan tailed Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Fuego Volcano (L) and Acatenango Volcano (R), La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Back from another trip down to the tropics with my destination this time being Guatemala. The main focus of the trip was to catch up with six species of warblers (plus some unique subspecies) I have not yet seen that occur in the region including Crescent chested Warbler, Goldman's Warbler, Fan tailed Warbler, Golden browed Warbler, Red faced Warbler and Pink headed Warbler. For an in depth discussion of the warblers found with lots more photos go to the following link: Guatemala warblers.  Even with the focus primarily on these warblers there were still lots of other species to be seen.  Given the difficulty in locating all of my targets in such a short time, I decided the best course of action was to hire a guide and go from there, which is exactly what I did.  After quite a bit of research I went with Cayaya Birding which got great reviews and seemed to be the best choice.  It is run by Knut Eiserman (a German transplant who has lived in Guatemala for 20+ years) and Claudia Avendano (a native Guatemalan).  I was not disappointed with my choice and I would recommend them highly to anyone wishing to bird down in Guatemala.
Pink headed Warbler, Rincon Suzio, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Crescent chested Warbler, Rincon Suzio, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Blue and White Mockingbird, Rincon Suzio, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Golden browed Warbler, Rincon Suzio, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Pine/oak habitat, Rincon Suzio, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
I arrived into Guatemala City on the afternoon of February 8th and spent the first evening in Guatemala City before meeting up with Knut bright and early the next morning. We met at six and we headed out of the city for a long drive out to Tecpan and then onto the Cuchumatanas mountain range and our lodging at Unicornio Azul Lodge. After fighting the traffic of Guatemala City and nearby areas we finally made it to our first stop, Rincon Suizo (a restaurant with a few nearby trails) around 8:45. The weather at that point was low clouds and drizzle, which made viewing quite difficult. Nonetheless we added some good birds (and life birds) right away including Mountain Trogon (#1333), Hooded Grosbeak (#1334) and Rufous backed Robin (#1335). After just a few hundred meters on the trail we found another new bird, a Blue and White Mockingbird (#1336), feeding on some small fruits on a bush. Knut then heard a Pink headed Warbler (#1337) calling and we quickly tracked down at least three of them...what a truly striking bird! We stayed in a relatively small area for the next hour plus and turned up lots of good stuff including Crescent chested Warbler (#1338), MacGillivray's Warbler, White eared Hummingbird (#1339), Amethyst Hummingbird (#1340), Brown backed Solitaire (#1341), Mexican Violetear (#1342), Black capped Swallow (#1343), Rufous browed Wren (#1344), Gray Silky Flycatcher (#1345) and Cinnamon bellied Flowerpiercer (#1346).  Just before leaving we decided to try once again to track down Golden browed Warbler and were successful in finding at least two working through the undergrowth and providing species #1347 for me.  The stop managed to find three of my main targets in just a few hours..time well spent!  Also interesting to hear and see Hairy Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, Steller's Jays, etc that are resident at the location.
Sunset over volcanoes, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
After a five hour drive we finally made it to our destination in the mountains, Unicornio Azul Lodge. The lodge sits high in the mountains at 3200 meters (the highest lodge in all of Central America). It is a bit rustic with no heat in the rooms but it puts you up close to some great habitat (hot water bottles make it toasty under several blankets so it is tolerable!). After dropping our luggage we headed out to an area nearby for nocturnal birds and had some great luck. We had Mexican Whip Poor Wills calling as it started to get dark and once it was dark we had at least one (possibly two) Unspotted Saw Whet Owls calling (#1348). Despite much effort to get looks, we were not successful.
Goldman's Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Fuego Volcano throwing up ash in the distance, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018


Leucistic Rufous collared Robin, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Yellow eyed Junco (Guatemalan), Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Eastern Meadowlark, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Savannah Sparrow, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018

Goldman's Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Common Raven, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Goldman's Warbler habitat, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
On Saturday we spent a full day of birding in the Cuchumatanas mountains heading up to Todos Santos Municipal Protected Area. We left from the lodge before sunrise with a temperature below freezing. We picked up a local guide (a requirement to enter) on the way and arrived there about quarter after seven. The elevation there was quite high at between 3100 and 3800 meters (10,200-12,500 feet) but thankfully the sun was out and it was not too breezy. The main target for the day was to find Goldman's Warbler which can only be found in a few spots at the highest elevations in Guatemala. Some authorities consider it a subspecies of Yellow rumped Warbler but others split it into a separate species (I'm in agreement with it being a separate species). It is non migratory, it has a different habitat preference, it looks different and sounds different. It certainly fits the criteria to be considered a unique species. We found our target right away and I got some fantastic views and some good photos of both the male and female...another target species found and another life bird added! (#1349).  We found quite a few others over the course of the day and all appeared to be paired up. Another rare species for Guatemala showed up around the same time we saw the warbler, a Common Raven. The guides stated this is probably one of the rarer birds in Guatemala. Apparently a few decades ago they were relatively common in the higher elevations but the birds were poisoned as they were considered a pest to crops. None were seen for years but they have slowly started to return but are still tough to find. Not long after seeing our first Goldman's Warblers and the raven Knut noticed that a volcano in the distance, Fuego Volcano, had shot up an ash cloud. It is one of several active volcanos in the country so this was not too unusual. We then spent the remainder of the morning into mid afternoon exploring the unique habitat found within this protected area. It looked and felt somewhat like the Rocky Mountains with Steller's Jays, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhee, Yellow eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow and Golden crowned Kinglets (all of these species are resident here and many either looked and/or sounded different from individuals from up north and some may indeed be separate species).  We also chased at least two calling Ocellated Quail (#1350) all over the rocky hillsides but never managed to get a look. Overall species variety is quite low (just 23 species for the day) at this high elevation but what they lacked in quantity they made up for in quality.
Pink headed Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
After a late lunch we made it back to the lodge where we spent some time getting trying to get better looks and photos of a few species with mixed results. Our attempt to relocate the saw whet owl found the night before didn't turn up the owl but it was a bit breezier, which is hardly ever good for owling.
Northern Flicker (Guatemalan), Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Rufous collared Robin, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Townsend's Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Dawn, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Sunday we birded a bit around Unicornio Azul Lodge in the early morning before having breakfast and then heading out toward Antigua. It was another long ride over some bad roads. We broke up the trip with a stop for lunch at Rincon Suizo but we didn't stick around there too long as we wanted to make it to Antigua for some afternoon birding at Finca el Pilar.
Black headed Siskins, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Gray Silky Flycatcher, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Greater Pewee, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Bushy crested Jay, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Red faced Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Black headed Siskin, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Black vented Oriole, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Wilson's Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Bar winged Oriole, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Fulvous Owl, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018

Finca el Pilar
is a large privately owned reserve just outside Antigua that features a variety of habitats at varying altitudes, which provides a nice cross section of species. We arrived in the mid afternoon and stayed until after sunset and had some great luck in locating some new birds for the trip with the highlights including 14 life birds including another one of my target warblers, Red faced Warbler (#1357).  Other life birds included a wide range of species including Buffy crowned Wood Partridge, Azure crowned Hummingbird, Golden throated Mountain Gem, Bushy crested Jay, Pacific Parakeet, Black headed Siskin, Yellow winged Tanager, Collared Forest Falcon, Black vented Oriole and Bar winged Oriole (species #1351-1362).  In addition we also ran across a number of mixed flocks that contained a wide selection of neotropical migrant species. As it got late in the day we added a few more species including Highland Guan (#1363) and Blue throated Motmot (#1364) and then after sunset we found some owls including a pair of Fulvous Owls (#1365) and a Mottled Owl.
Fan tailed Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Golden Olive Woodpecker, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Rufous and White Wren, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Pacific Parakeets, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
White faced Ground Sparrow, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Scrub Euphonia, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Western Tanager and Red legged Honeycreeper, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Yellow winged Tanager, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Fuego Volcano steaming, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
White throated Thrush, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Black headed Saltator, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Collared Trogon, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
The last full day of the trip was spent in the Antigua area where we started the morning at La Reunion which is located a few hundred meters lower in elevation compared to any of our other stops which produced even more variety.  We started off birding along the main road which featured a wide selection of species including a number of life birds for me including Berylline Hummingbird (#1366), Scrub Euphonia (#1367), White faced Ground Sparrow (#1368) and Thicket Tinnamou (#1369).  Many other highlights for the morning included calling Buffy crested Wood Partridge, White throated Thrush and other resident and migratory species in mixed flocks. The location also provided some spectacular views of a few volcanoes including the still quite active Fuego Volcano (which we saw blow ash from while we were up in the highlands). The volcano was steaming while we were there but it thankfully held off blowing any ash. The main focus of the stop was to find Fan tailed Warbler and we had luck almost as soon as we arrived in the area the warbler is known to be in, ticking off yet another target and added species #1370 to my life list.  It occupies a ravine area and is quite reliably found at the location. I was happy to have good looks at a bird as it worked its way through the low vegetation, fanning its tail as it went. Although the looks at the first location were good they paled in comparison to what we see not too much later as we ran across a pair in the open attending to an army ant swarm...amazing looks as they fed on the insects being scared up by the ants.
Video links here: Fan tailed Warbler video 1Fan tailed Warbler video 2Fan tailed Warbler video 3
Golden crowned Warbler (stripe crowned subspecies), Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Berylline Hummingbird, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Black capped Swallow, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Azure crowned Hummingbird, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Rufous Sabrewing, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Green throated Mountain Gem, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Sunset over volcanos, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
After a lunch in Antigua we headed back over to Finca el Pilar, covering a few different spots from those seen yesterday. We started out at the hummingbird feeders where we had four species including my first Rufous Sabrewings (#1371). After getting our fill of the hummingbirds we hiked up a nearby ravine trail where we found a pair of Golden crowned Warblers of the stripe crowned subspecies. I had only seen the species briefly once before (several years ago in Costa Rica) so getting some decent views and a few photos was great. We then headed higher up in elevation and hiked several areas and came across a few mixed flocks but most birds were high up in the trees and a persistent breeze made viewing a bit tough. Probably the biggest highlights later in the afternoon were several Singing Quail (#1372) and a brief but very close view of a Highland Guan. We finished up birding for the day (and the trip) at sunset looking over Antigua.

Overall for the trip I managed to find a total of 161 species over the course of four full days of birding (plus a lot of driving on some days).  Among these species were 40 life birds bringing my grand total to 1372.  Full album of photos from trip.