Since I am going to be in Phoenix for business, I decided to take a few vacation days to visit with some friends and go birding. I have some target birds I hope to see, not the least among them are those pesky quails. I will be going out with Melody Kehl again. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here is a photo of a Roadrunner to tide you over.
Alarm bells were going off in my head. Thrashing sounds among the trees are never a good thing, regardless of where you might be on the planet. I was standing in the middle of the road, searching for what could have possibly made the sounds when the trees up ahead exploded with a Squirrel Cuckoo executing evasive maneuvers, twisting and turning between branches, with some sort of Forest-falcon in hot pursuit. The cuckoo dove into a thick patch of leaves and disappeared. The pursuing bird flashed past the cuckoos hiding place. I was scanning the trees looking for the Forest-falcon when the there was a tussle in the Cuckoo’s hidey hole. Both birds dashed off again.
I never did ID the Falcon, but at 17-19 inches and with the crazy long spotted tail, the Squirrel Cuckoo was pretty hard to miss.
The rain was falling in buckets, yet a tiny Snowy-bellied Hummingbird sat tenaciously on the top of a Heliconia. He would make a foray out occasionally, but then return to his perch, point his bill to the sky and sit for long periods. I stood on the deck pondering this then wandered out into the garden. It turns out our long-suffering sprite had a terrific spot to wait out the elements. Above his head and protecting him from at least some of the downpour was a large banana leaf. What a smart cookie.
We all stared at the flat blue expanse of the firmament. Not a cloud, not a wisp, heck, very few contrails even. We battled eye floaties, crinks in our necks, and sunburn hoping today was the big one; when the flow of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks would come down from their summer forest homes in the north. We got excited by a plane or a vulture, to use as a point of reference. We strained to ID distant tiny specks, hurried to count swirling kettles before the birds started to peel away, setting their wings for a drive south. These are the hard days when a lot of eyes trained to the sky helps.
Luckily for me, lots of people showed up at the Mount Peter Hawk Watch today. In addition to the other sharp-eyed counters, we had almost 12 members of the Fyke Nature Association come for a field trip. Chief among them was Stiles Thomas, who established the Hawk Watch in 1958.
According to the history section of the Mt. Peter page on HawkCount! “The Montclair Bird Club of NJ sponsored the ‘Across the State Hawk Watch of 1958’. The two day watch on September 28 and October 18 produced 349 raptors of 10 species for Mount Peter and enough excitement to propel volunteers into a full-time count.” There has been someone standing on this mountain doing just this thing for over 50 years. Imagine.
Let me give you a glimpse of the spectacle overhead. Although many birds were high, some did come right over the platform, giving us fabulous views. Brilliant sunshine streamed through feathers to the appreciative croons of the watchers.
This is what we had gathered to see. Although there were only 346 pass overhead today, there were 1312 yesterday and more are gathering to the north for another push south tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until they are all safely basking in the warmth of a South American Spring.
I looked over at an older woman standing next to me and shrugged with a little head-shake. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. The only moonwalk I knew of was Michael Jackson’s. I tracked the cherry red head through the gloom and deep shadow. “I’m sure this is the one, ” she persisted.
Luckily the guide came up and overheard her. He knew exactly what she was talking about. Turns out it is an old and well-known video on YouTube. In case you are living in a bucket like me, here it is. You just have to love Manakins. And dig those yellow thighs.
Northern Wheatears rarely visit the metro area. They breed in the high Arctic, Alaska and Greenland. (This bird is of the Greenland race, see how buffy it is.) I missed a Wheatear last fall at Garret Mountain and by the time I was able to get to the Connecticut bird; it had moved on. So when I read that there was a juvenile bird at DeKorte Park at the Meadowlands, I cleared my calendar and asked my boss for a personal day. (Although she is not a birder, she is understands the life bird thing.)
It was raining when I got up this morning and there was no report that the bird was around. But by lunch time the reports started to dribble through just as the sun started to peek through the clouds; so I dashed off to chase the bird. When I arrived at DeKorte Park there were, surprisingly, not a lot of birders. And those that were there had long faces. The bird had been there had not been seen for an hour. While I walked the Transco Trail peering at rocks and trailside sumac, I chatted with folks (You know how I am.) I met BA, one of my fellow hawk counters. She is the one who I spied waving madly from the far end of trail. As I hustled toward her, I found my friends Diane and Suzanne were also hot on the chase. The bird was flitting (and doing a Phoebe-like tail pumping thing) along the rocky edge down a small bank. I watched it for almost an hour. It is beautiful – so subtlety colored. North American life bird 620, I think. I’ll have to go look.
If you go, it is on the right-hand side between the 2 orange hoses. It is about the size of a robin and prefers the rocks.
I have made the decision (finally, after talking about it for at least a year.) to collapse my 2 blogs. Basically nothing will change here other than the name (in the short-term), but the old Murmuring Trees will go away (as soon as I can make a hard copy of the entire thing.) As you can see I flipped the name of the blog already and will start to work on switching to my own domain (yeah, I’ve owned it for, mmm, maybe 2 years). Hang in there with me.
I had had enough. I was tired from the morning hike and riding in a van on the twisty, turny road was making me nauseous. Besides, I was leaving the next day and wanted to make arrangements and start packing. So, I stayed behind on the last afternoon tour, knowing full well that I would miss the Orange-bellied Trogon. Alone at the Lodge, I dragged a chair into the hedge to sit quietly as the birds came to the fruit feeders. At first they were suspicious, but since I didn’t move they ignored me. This Rufous-capped Warbler was poking among the leaves under the feeders, popping in and out of shadow. This was not a life bird for me, I had seen them in Costa Rica, but he was looker, nonetheless.
Will ya look at that bad boy. Total fave. There is something about the Violaceous Trogon that I just love. Maybe it’s all that yellow. I didn’t go to Panama with any target birds in mind. But once I got an eye-full of this guy, I wanted to see more and more Trogons. When I spotted him, he had a giant caterpillar in his beak and was thrashing it for all he was worth until the outside skin slipped off and he swallowed what was left. gulp. It was really gross. I have pictures, trust me, yucky.
She is a Slaty-tailed Trogon and much bigger than the Violaceous. Slaties are in the 12-13 inch range, while the Violaceous is only about 9 1/2. Notice the dark undertail. Lovely, but not a fave. The red/orange eye ring makes her look like she has been up all night.
This is a Black-throated Trogon. Blue eye-ring, yellow front, cute perky yellow bill, about the same size as the Violaceous.
I saw all of these on trips from the Canopy Tower. Need the Orange-bellied? Then go on a Mesa trip from the Canopy Lodge.
I have seen Collared Trogons and of course, the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica and a Surucua Trogon in Brazil. Violaceous wins hands down for me. Which ones have you seen? What is your fave?