Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ecuador, December 2, Bella Vista and Quinde Luna

We concentrated our day around the lodge at Bella Vista and the surrounding roads.

The morning started with the birds coming in to eat the moths and other insects attracted to the lights in the parking lot.

The Golden-crowned Flycatcher was the first of 15 life birds for the day.
There are a lot of woodcreepers in Central and South America.  This is a Strong-billed, a new bird to us.
Blue-winged Mountain-tanager.  Bright and beautiful.  Also a lot of yellow.
Smoke-coloured Pewee.  More brown than grey, but maybe smoke is brown sometimes. This bird stayed here a long time doing the flycatcher thing, leaving and coming back. So much more obliging than warblers or vireos.
A Dusky Chlorospingus.
Or is this a Dusky Chlorospingus?
Or most likely they both are. Some of the identifications get a little tricky, especially a month or two later.  If one is not a chlorospingus I'd guess it would be a female Capped Conebill.

This one I am sure of.  It is a Sharpe's Wren, formerly known as Sepia Brown Wren.  I like it's old name better.
 A warbler that sat still.  A Russet-crowned Warbler, with yellow.
This is a Cinnamon Flycatcher.  We saw these several times during our trip, but at Bella Vista one bird had a favourite spot outside the dining room where it stayed seemingly forever doing its flycatcher thing.  Such a cute bird, possibly my favourite flycatcher.
In the afternoon when the other birds were having their siestas we went to Quinde Luna to watch hummingbirds.  It was a wonderful time.  This is a Violet-tailed Sylph, an adult male as the females don't have to carry around that beautiful, long tail.
Another long-tailed bird, the Booted Racket-tail. Once again, the females don't have the long tails with the rackets at the end, but they do wear the boots.
While at Quinde Luna a Red-billed Parrot settled on the top of a nearby tree.  We didn't see parrots close up on this trip, but were able to admire them through our guide's scope as well as take distant photos.

The last bird of the day was found on our way back to the lodge.  One of the target birds of our group and a wonderfully colourful member of the toucan family, the Plate-billed Mountain-toucan.  Once again a distant viewing.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Northwest Ecuador, Day 1, December 1, 2018

Our days of lazing around came to an end.  Our first day found us on the road by 6:30 a.m. heading for the Yanacocha Reserve. We spent time on trails and at feeders, but we definitely saw more birds at the feeders.  Who said there is no free lunch?

Lots of opportunities for the birds that come in my favourite colour, yellow.
These are Yellow-breasted Brushfinches.
The Black-chested Mountain-Tanager has a good combination of colours too, with yellow putting on a good show.
I don't know if I could ever make a favourite bird list, but if I did, the Spectacled Redstart would have to be close to the top.  In the top 50 anyway!  So cute!
The Superciliaried Hemispingus is not only yellow but should get a prize for one of the most tongue-twisting names.
Naturally not all the great birds are yellow.  Red is a good colour, too, as in this Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager.
And then there are the hummingbirds.  I haven't yet seen one with yellow, but the Shining Sunbeam should be with a name like that.
The Great Sapphirewing is as great as its name suggests.
I love this Buff-winged Starfrontlet. Seems to be having a bad day.
 We can see the purple throat on the male below.  The buff coloured rectangles are lost in the blur of the wings.
No, these weren't all the birds from December 1.  The group's official count was 54 birds of which 30 were lifers for us. 

Puembo, Ecuador

We rose the day before our official birding trip began to see our first Ecuadorian bird, the Eared Dove, at a feeder next to our lodge. This is the first of the many thousands of photos I took in the two weeks we spent in the mostly highlands of northern Ecuador.
It looks a lot like a gathering of Mourning Doves, though I don't recall ever seeing them at my feeder.  Maybe if I stocked it with corn?

Joining them to eat the spillover grain on the ground were Saffron Finches, our only sighting of these birds on our trip.
At the nearby fruit feeders we saw the first members of what is likely the most colourful family of birds we were to see.  Though not as brightly coloured as many of its relatives, this Scrub Tanager was a special sighting as it has a very small range.  We were told that the best place to see this bird is at the Puembo Birding Garden where we were staying.  Indeed, while we were there a guide from a lodge we would be visiting in a couple of days came just to see this bird. (We did get a second, much poorer sighting, on our last day in Ecuador at another lodge in the same city.)
A brighter tanager also visited the feeders during what we called Day 0 in Ecuador. This was our only sighting of the Blue-and-yellow Tanager on the trip.
There were three hummingbirds among the 17 birds we saw this day.  The one that stayed around for the most photographs was the Sparkling Violetear.
Eleven of the 17 day birds were lifers for us.  We might have seen more birds that day but it rained quite enthusiastically in the afternoon so we chose resting over birding in the rain.  Probably a good decision given the pace of the rest of our trip.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A gull and a loon

Today Ray and I walked along the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon looking for a Red-throated Loon.  And we found it.

It has a beautiful red spot on its throat which I saw but wasn't quick enough with the camera.  Right after I took this photo the loon dived under the water.  We glimpsed it again about half an hour later but I didn't have another photo opportunity.

We did find a more cooperative bird, however, in this gull. 

I find the hardest birds to identify are small sandpipers and hawks, but gulls are not far behind.  After studying bird guides extensively I've decided this is our most common gull, the Ring-billed, but it is a first year bird, just entering his first winter. I based this on its black bill with pink at the base, its mottled brown and white plumage, and the grey feathers just beginning on its back.  While disappointed that it was not something new and exotic, it is still satisfying to give this guy a name.

It was really cold for October 2 but still beautiful, and the walk was great.

Monday, June 25, 2018

New Bird

Last week I went for a short walk in Estevan, a city five or six hours from our farm but still in Saskatchewan.  I saw a lot of the same birds we see here:  Grey Catbirds, Chipping Sparrows, American Robins...

But then I saw this.


Yellow-throated Vireo is my conclusion, based on the amount and arrangement of yellow and white.  

It decided not to be found when I returned with Ray a while later.  Once again our life lists have diverged.  This is getting complicated.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Drama in the back yard

I never see nests.  Or almost never.  I generally have no trouble seeing them in the winter.  Yesterday, however, I was following the song of a Yellow Warbler when the small yellow bird
 landed on its nest. 

 (A nest made mostly of baler twine which is a problem for which I have no solution.  Why?  Because I have three times found dead birds with their feet caught in twine in the nest. They get caught and can't break free.)

I have birding goals.  My main goal is to learn to recognize birds by their song.  My secondary goal is to be able to find birds that are hiding in the trees.  Therefore following the song of this warbler was aiding me in both goals.  A possible third goal is less possible I fear.  It would be to remove cowbird eggs from nests of much smaller birds.


This male Brown-headed Cowbird perched on the top of one of the highest trees in our yard (a dead poplar, sigh) where I believe it was looking for likely nests for its mate to lay her eggs.  A favourite choice are Yellow Warblers.  (A much tinier bird, sigh). When the much larger cowbird egg hatches, the much larger cowbird baby demands the most food and runs its adopted parents ragged feeding it.  Sometimes the big baby will push the littler babies out of the nest.  I would like to remove these foreign eggs from nests but since I only see nests in the winter it is too late.  Until now.  Except that this nest is many feet over my head and in a lilac bush too insubstantial to lean a ladder against.  And sure as shooting, that cowbird saw the same nest I saw.  Sigh.

One last Yellow Warbler photo because Yellow Warblers are one of the cutest birds God made.
This bird is a male.  The one in the first photo is a female.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Varied Thrush and other interesting migrants

This is a beautiful bird.  Unfortunately I neither saw it nor took the photo, but because the bird was seen about ten feet from my house and the photo was taken with my camera I feel comfortable about posting the picture here.  I just can't add it to my life list.
It is, of course, a Varied Thrush.  A bird that according to our bird book isn't supposed to be any closer to Lucky Lake than the Rocky Mountains.

Birds I did see yesterday include a flock of Lapland Longspurs which are just passing through on their way to their nesting grounds in the Arctic.  Generally Longspurs crouch in the grass and practically disappear from view.  I noticed these because some of them chose to sit on a fence wire.
Others dropped to the ground close to the wire where the ground had been worked.  They were only twenty feet or so from my car so I was able to see them.  Further back they seemed to fade into the background.
The female hides even better with her muted colours.
While I watched, about thirty of the birds flew up into the air at the same time and landed again further away.

This one stayed though, along with a few others.
My other bird of the day were these two American Golden-Plovers.  Or that's what I'll call them till someone tells me differently.
The only thing making me uncertain is the white on the underside of the bird on the right. Here are a couple more photos showing different views of the same birds.


Click on photos to make them larger.