Monthly Archives: August 2009

Birding in Panama – part 1

yellow-tailed oriole

I arrived at the Canopy Tower at 2:15 to find out my first bird tour was at 3.  I quick, quick, changed clothes and met Domi, one of the guides,  in the parking lot.  We headed out to the Pipeline Road. We were no sooner out of the car before we saw a mixed flock picking through the trees.  Domi sang out “Crimson-backed Tanager” and I got my first awe-struck look at an incredible bird.  The day only got better.  I am blessed with being the only birder at the lodge so I had a personal guide.  Let me leave you with the list of what I saw today.  I’ll blog more tomorrow. I am too pooped to even type straight.  Remember I’ve been up since 2:30 am.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Purple Gallinule, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Pale-vented Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Red-lored Amazon, Smooth-billed Ani, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Fasciated Antshrike, Barred Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Paltry Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Scrub Greenlet, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Gray-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow, Barn Swallow, Plain Wren, House Wren, Clay-colored Robin, Tropical Mockingbird, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-back Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Buff-throated Saltator, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-tailed Oriole.

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Panama Bound

howler monkeys

I am off to the land of Motmots, Flowerpiercers, Tinamous and Howler Monkeys.   I will be at the Canopy Tower in Panama for 4 nights and the Lodge for 3.  Can I hear a W00T?  I’m super excited. I am dragging my creaky old laptop with me, so I certainly hope I can get online from there and maybe do a post or 2.  Although… I may be so busy ogling Trogons that do not have a spare minute to blog.  We’ll see.


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Clean-up day at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch

1st year Bald Eagle

Mt. Peter Hawk Watch is volunteer run.  And am I honored to be among those who will stand on the platform with bins trained to the skies in eager anticipation of the river of raptor that will soon flow south to Mexico and beyond.  Every year at the beginning of the season we all get together to trim back the brush that has seemingly sprung forth from out of nowhere since last fall, chat about birds we are seeing and generally get caught up.

When I arrived at Mt. Peter the clean-up was well underway.  I picked my way down the slope with pruners over my shoulder to tackle the trees and shrubs that were getting out of hand.  We had done such a thorough job last year, I was sure this was going to be a snap.  And while it was less work, there was still plenty to do.

Volunteer hawk watchers

Judy Cinquina is the driving force behind getting the hawk watch organized.  Not only does she solicit volunteers, but pulls together a calendar, makes packets of information, wields a mighty clipper, rallies us, has an easy laugh and has been know to bribe us with ice cream.

Judy Cinquina

I also love that birders come from both NJ and NY to be part of the count.

Dripping with sweat and plastered with bits of leaves, wood chips and heavens knows what; I reached into a tangle to tug a branch out of the way to find… raspberries.  Ripe Black Raspberries.  Oodles of them.  Mmmm, natural snacks warmed by the sun.

black raspberries

The other cool thing I found while I was down and dirty with the goldenrod was a gorgeous butterfly.

Eastern tailed-blue

I hope you get the opportunity to take part in a hawk watch this year.  If you can’t find one, you can always come hang out with us.

standing on the platform

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Jamaica Bay meet-up

Jamaica Bay

With an eye to the sky and a wish in my heart, Christopher (who had driven down from MA the night before) and I left for the Jamaica Bay outing in the predawn rain.  The closer we got to Queens the brighter the sky became until we arrived to meet Corey and Carrie in the wan light of a muggy August day.  I knew that some folks had canceled due to the forecast so I was pleasantly surprised to find more and more bloggers arriving until we were a group 10 strong.    Corey from 10000 Birds, Carrie from Great Auk or Greatest Auk, Scott from Peace, Caffeine, Linux, Laura from Somewhere in New Jersey, Jay of from BirdJam, Catherine from Birdspot, Cindy from Living in Brooklyn, Longing for Maine, and Anne Marie long-time birding buddy and iheatwarblers on Twitter.  (In fact most of these folks are on Twitter.)

We started on the north end of the East pond, where there had been reports of 3 Wilson’s Phalaropes, as well as the fabled American Golden Plover (a would-be life bird – that, alas, I still have not seen.)  Corey led the charge and sure enough the Phalaropes were swimming in circles just as reported.  The hushed word of a Sora was soon passed from one birding group to another and we hustled over to ooh and ahh over it picking along the reedbed.  Lovely. But not as good of a view as the one I had in Texas.

Jay, Corey & Christopher at Jamaica Bay

As we sloshed along through the water, mud and muck…can I pause here to say a word about the scary, slimy, black, boot-sucking mud?  I should have realized when a shouted “This is the worst of it.” came floating back that I was in for trouble.  As I crossed the mud, my Neos started to sink and stick to the mud like they were glued, until I ended up tottering on one leg like a Flamingo with my barefoot cringing away from the ooze.   With a grimace I slid my barefoot into the slurry.  I stood like ‘my son Jon, with one shoe off and one shoe on,’ tugging, with both hands mind you, at my boot adhered to the mud.  Thank goodness no one has a photo of that!  No, I did not have to leave it there, but it was touch and go, seriously.  Whew, I have to tell you, in full disclosure, that when you go to Jamiaca Bay, boots are a must and maybe going right after a rain is not such a good idea.

As we progressed around the pond the shorebirds scattered before us to return to feeding in our wake.


There were peeps galore with the Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Willets, Dowitchers, a few Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones.    The Avocet was exactly where it was suppose to be. There were lots of Tern, Gulls and a Peregrine even put on a show.


Highlights for the day were the temerity of the Least Sandpipers, the poise of the Avocet, the verve of the Peregrine Falcon, the warmth of friends and…Catherine birding in a dress.

Check out other accounts of the day from:



Catherine is doing shorebird week.




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Out by the road, in the worst possible place in terms of  feng shui (my money corner-perhaps that explains everything) I have a brush pile.  It started because, well, partly I am lazy and partly I am cheap and well, I have the land to do it.  And heck, the birds and critters love it… so…there it is.  To be brutally honest, I have 3 brushpiles.  Top, middle and bottom of the property.  The one I see most is the one at the bottom, out by the road.

From where I sit in the family room I can see a large Forsythia bush by the back deck.  The other day, I happened to look up and noticed the leaves jumping.  Since there has been a large flock of mixed migrant buddies lurking silently in the trees for about a week.  I thought, perhaps, I could sneak out and see what was what.  I caught a glimpse of a clean eyebrow as one of the birds flitted away.  I dashed out to see them chase each other through the oaks in backyard.  As I stood there craning my neck trying to figure out if this was my regular backyard crew, a  caught a flicker of movement out by the brush pile.

Carolina Wren tail

Hey! I know you. Long time no see. How has your summer been?  How are the wife and kids?  Yeah I know the neighborhood has had a lot of hoodlum this year, but they have moved on and it’s peaceful again.  Hope you can hang out for a while.  Feeders won’t go up until the bears go down, but you know the drill.

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Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari

semi-palmated plover

You are not really here to see shorebirds are you?  C’mon, fess up.  You want to see birders in Hawaiian shirts. Well, I’ll get to that.

I first heard about the Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari back in June when I attended the Bloggers who Blog, Tweet and Chirp outing.  I was chatting with Laura about birds, birding, our cats, and trips she has led; when she mentioned this crazy thing they do with the Brookline Bird Club.   They all wear Hawaiian shirts and leis while scouring South Beach for shorebirds in migration.  I instantly fell in love with the idea and resolved to go.

I drove up the day before and spent the night with Laura and Mark. We had to be at the meeting place at 8:30 am; the boat to South Beach left at 9.  (We used Rip Ryder in Chatham $25.00.)  As soon as we arrived, it was obvious this was not your usual birding trip.

birders meet-up

While Laura checked on the boat, Mark put out the box of leis.  I was wearing a cobalt blue shirt with hibiscus flowers and macaws on it.  Pretty snazzy, huh.  A multi-colored lei just added to the chaos.  The trip across to the spit was uneventful.  As we were wading to shore, a shouted “Whimbrel!”  made us all look up.  Nice.  On shore, scope legs were quickly slid out and the real business of the day began.

birders in Hawaiian shirts

There were Semi-palmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a few Red Knots.


There were hundreds maybe even thousands of Terns including a few fly-by Roseates. There were Herring, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls.

Birders in Hawaiian shirts

There was as a Ruddy Turnstone determined to dig a hole to China in search of sand worms.

Turnstone in a hole

Can you see it there in the bottom left?

We birded sitting,


and standing.


There were a lot of shorebirds, we ended up with 51 species. The Godwits put on quite the show.

hudsonian godwit

Big aloha thank you to Laura


and Mark


Dude, Mass birders so rock.  For more birds and less birders check out Picus Blog.


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They are called Turnstones for a Reason

ruddy turnstones

I was disappointed that the American Golden Plover that had been reported was no where to be found, but consoled myself with watching Turnstones do their thing.  Flip, flip, flip.  They eyeballed each stone for its potential then careful flipped it before moving on.  Flip, flip, flip.  Over and over as they marched down the spit.  Flip, flip, flip. I never get tired of watching them.

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Bird Photography Weekly

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Look at those screaming yellow legs!  Can’t mistake this for anything else.


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Secret Admirer – gift 2

Turkey feathers

My secret admirer was back.  This time I opened the front door to find 2  turkey feathers stuck in the crack between the stoop and the steps.  ‘Fess up.  Who is it?  I live in the middle of no where.  It has to be someone I know.


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Food Chain Game

food chain game

My sister and I sat on the porch swing sipping cold white wine.  One or the other of us would reach out a foot to push against the floor to keep the swing in motion. The view from the wrap-around porch at the Glacier Park Inn B&B was spectacular.  Vaux’s Swifts darted overhead, a Pileated drummed, the shadows lengthened.  It was a peaceful, gentle time of day.

“You can’t eat me!”

We stopped swinging and looked at each other.

When we came back in, we found out that the other guests were playing a raucous  version of Into the Forest –  Nature’s Food Chain Game.  It is a card game of who eats what and is in turned eaten by what with death and decay being the trump card.  We watched as Millipedes ate grass, were then slurped by Frogs and Toads, who were in turn crunched by Shrews, who soon got gulped by Owls, that met an untimely end by a Bobcat.  What happens to the Bobcat?  Nothing. Only Death and Decay.

food chain cards

But the point of the game is not be the predator and eat everything in sight. Every plant or animal card has energy points.  Whoever has the most energy points wins.  It is a laughing and learning game.  On the spot, I decided I had to have it.

If you are looking for a fun, learning experience that involves eating worms, this is the one for you.


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