Saturday, 5 December 2015

More birding in Rhode Island and Cape Cod

So November in New England is the time for vagrants and rarities.
With our last weekend available to go birding we headed for the Cape!
Our first stop was Beavertail State Park in Rhode Island. The weather was beautiful, a clear blue sky and no wind. Stopping beside the car park a flock of 10 Snow Buntings flew in and perched nicely on some nearby rocks. 
Moving around to the rocky shore we soon found groups of beautiful Harlequin Ducks numbering in all up to about 20 birds. A quick shuffle down to the rocks where a small group were feeding and we got really close superb views of both males and females feeding in the surf.
Leaving Rhode Island we headed north to Cape Cod. Our target here was too look for Northern Right Whales which can be seen from shore during the winter months. We were actually a month too early but looked anyway. At Race Point we found a Humpback Whale and watched it on and off for around an hour. There were plenty of seabirds flying past with many Kittiwakes, Bonaparte's Gulls, Razorbills, Great and Manx Shearwaters and a Pomarine Skua.
1st winter Bonaparte's Gull
Adult Bonaparte's Gull
We then twitched another flycatcher that was out of place, and soon found this Western Kingbird perched in trees with Eastern Bluebirds near a visitor centre.
We then went looking for a Bohemian Waxwing which by the time we got to the site had flown, but we were rewarded with up to 15 Yellow-rumped Warblers all busily feeding in the low scrub.
Well that was our brief couple of days birding before heading back to the UK.
Watch for my next blog in the beginning of January when we seek out the endemic birds of the Dominican Republic.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Twitching in Connecticut !

November in Connecticut can be an interesting time, especially for vagrants and rarities.
My trip here was not really for birding as myself and my son Tom were here to renovate Gina's basement. We had a few days off finding a couple of Sandhill Cranes on one day, and a flock of 95 Snow Buntings with a Lapland Longspur on another day. We missed out on what was a one day invasion of Franklin's Gulls as we were out of state that day.
Today however we made up for this by twitching a superb Ash-throated Flycatcher in Sherwood Island State Park, in Westport, Connecticut. The bird had been around for at least 4 or 5 days but this was our first opportunity to go and look for it. After an anxious 20 minutes we eventually found the bird and enjoyed superb views in the excellent afternoon light. This is the photo Gina took as my camera is out of action.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Back in the Fabulous Pantanal

So we have just finished another fantastic tour to Brazil's famous Pantanal

2 Fabulous Jaguars were of course a tour highlight

The first 5 days were spent in the Pantanal staying at a vairiety of lodges set along the 120km Transpantaneira. Birds were everywhere and we soon racked up a wonderful list of species. Along the way we started with great views of Red-legged Seriema and Greater Rhea with chicks, plus Golden-collared Macaws, Campo Flickers and ponds full of water-loving birds including huge Jabiru, Wood Storks, Plumbeous Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Rufescent Tiger-Herons, Cocoi and stunning Capped Herons, our first of many Sunbitterns, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers plus many Capybara and Yacare Caimen. In the grasslands and marshes we also added White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Chaco Chachalaca, the endemic Chestut-bellied Guan, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Black-capped Donacobius, and a group of South American Coatis.

One of our superb boat trips!

Our first boat trip which was on the Pixiam River was a delight with highlights with stunning close views of Sunbittern including two that flew over showing all their amazing wing pattern. Five or six Sungrebes were spotted along these quiet waters and from the boat we got to see several Helmeted Manakins, Toco Toucan, Pale-legged Hornero, Solitary Casiques, Rusty-backed Spinetails, Great Antshrike, Blue-crowned Trogon, Pale-crested Woodpecker and Little Woodpecker and several Rufous-tailed Jacamars. A walk in a nearby forest found us Matto Gross Antbird, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, White-lored Spinetail and White-winged Becard to name just a few.

It was then time to head to Porto Jofre where birds came thick and fast. Southern Screamers with chicks which we nicknamed (squealers), Snail Kites, Savanna Hawks, Black-collared Hawks, Green Ibis, Rusty-collared Seedeaters, Striped Cuckoo, Great Black Hawks, Crane Hawk, and a couple of specialities such as Cinerious-breasted Spinetail and Subtropical Doradito. The highlight of staying in Porto Jofre is that Hyacinth Macaws are in the gardens and even right outside your rooms, along with showy Toco Toucans, Red-billed Scythebill, Gilded Sapphire and even a Brazilian Porcupine up a tree.

Very attractive Pied Lapwing on our way to find Jaguar!

Our boat trips on the Cuiaba River are the reason we stay here and we were not disappointed when a small side stream produced a magnificent Jaguar sat on the bank watching us. We were able to watch him for nearly an hour before he got up and slowly walked off. To add to our excitement we also saw 7 Giant River Otters, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Black Skimmers, Pied Lapwing, Orange-backed Troupial, Grey-crested Cachalote, Asy-headed Greenlet, Masked Gnatcatcher, White-wedged Piculet, Bar-winged Water-Tyrant, Boat-billed Heron, Little Cuckoo and Buff-bellied Hermit flitting around the river edge flowers. That was just the morning boat trip! In the afternoon we found Hooded Tanagers, Barred antshrike, Versicolored Emerald, Black-throated Mango, Lined Seedeater, Bare-faced Curassow, Crimson-crested Woodpecker and a group of Brown Capuchin monkeys. We rounded the afternoon off nicely with our second Jaguar which came out of the tall grasses onto the shoreline where it sat and then laid down while the sunset. On our way back to the lodge  we saw lots of Band-tailed Nighthawks plus both Greater and Lesser Fishing Bats.

Female Black-and-gold Howler Monkeys with babies

Before leaving in the morning for our next lodge returning along the Transpanernera, we saw Black-and-gold Howler Monkeys with babies and two Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls. Along the way we stopped for a pair of Great Horned Owls, and also good great views of American Pygmy Kingfisher, Chotoy Spinetail, Greater Thornbirds, a White-tailed Hawk, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, South American Snipe and Long-tailed Ground-Doves. An evening walk was livened upm by Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Nanday Parakeets, Blue-crowned Trogon, Red-throated Piping-Guan, and then a night drive found us Crab-eating Fox, Crab-eating Racoon, Brown Brocket Deer, a very close perched Common Potoo and finally a Great Potoo.

Nicely spotted by Tom this Common Potoo

Next morning we had another boat trip where Green-and-rufous Kingfishers flew quickly by, Sungrebe and Sunbitterns, a close Band-tailed Antbird, and an amazing view of a Brazilian Tapir swimming across the river. Not to be outdone a Southern River Otter put on a great show as it fished the river unconcerned by our close presence. After the boat trip we set off the short distance to our next lodge stopping along the away for Dark-billed Cuckoo, Red Pileated Finch, Large Eleania, Rufous Casiornis and Rufous-fronted Thornbirds. As we drove the approach road to our next lodge we spotted another Brazilian Tapir soaking itself in a muddy pool right beside the road. After
settling into the lodge we went out later for an afternoon drive which produced another 2 Tapirs near a salt lick, Red-crested Cardinal, Green-barred Woodpecker, huge Black-and-white Teju Lizards.
Next morning we set off in the dark to swee what wildlife we could spotlight before dawn. Only Crab-eating Foxes and Brown Brocket Deer were spotted. Amongst the birds we found as the sun came up were Blue-crowned Parakeets, Orange-winged Parrot, Scaly-headed Parrot, a close Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, White Woodpecker in a nest hole, White-rumped Monjitas, Red-crested Cardinal and a showy Azara’s Agouti. After breakfast a walk along a boardwalk produced nice views of several Scarlet-headed Blackbirds, White-bellied Seedeater, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Snail Kites, Matto Grosso Antbird and nice photo opportunities of a seemingly tame Black-collared Hawk.

The tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher

Our next destination was Currupira das Araras where we spent the next two nights. Birds over this period included a superb Crowned Eagle, and in the forest near to the lodge we had Lettered Aracari, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-throated Antbirds, Magpie Tanagers, 5 Black-tailed Trogons together, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Brown Jacamar, and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures. The parrot family was well represented with many views of Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Red-bellied Macaws, Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Peach-fronted Parakeet and Dusky-headed Parakeet. A quick visit to the forest at night found us a brief Southern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. In the grassland we got super looks at Red-winged Tinamou.

Beautiful looking Scaled Pigeon

Moving on to our final lodge in Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, we started with a visit to the “Bridal Veil” waterfall where we soon found Swallow tanagers, Cliff Flycatcher, Burnished Buff Tanager, both Great Dusky and Biscutate Swifts and fantastic views of a pair of Blue-winged Macaws.

At our wonderful lodge we were surrounded by wildlife and here and the nearby Cerrado produced many sought after species including, White-eared and Spot-backed Puffbirds, Curl-crested Jay, Shrike-like, White-rumped and Black-faced Tanagers, incredible views of a Collared Crescentchest, Yellow-ridged Toucan, Rufous-winged Antshrike, a whole bunch of flycatchers including Chapada Flycatcher, Red-legged Seriema, Amazonian Motmot, and wonderful looks at both Band-tailed and Fiery-capped Manakins. In the evening we were treated to the sight of hundreds of migrating Mississippi Kites.
Always a pleasure to get good views of Collared Crescentchest
Tricky Pheasant Cuckoo
To finish off on our last morning we had super views of many perched Mississippi Kites plus White-bellied Warbler, and a fully perched in the open Pheasant Cuckoo. What an ending to this superb tour.
This Band-tailed Manakin was taken using my iPhone through Leica APO Televid 65 Spotting Scope, attached with a Phone Skope case & adaptor and Phone Skope bluetooth remote.
Wow you have got to say why pay thousands for cameras and lenses when you can get results like this
As ever the superb Hyacinth Macaw is always a favourite and these were right outside our rooms!

Sunset on the Pantanal


Monday, 7 September 2015

Sapayoa - Do or Die !!!!!

This lone member of an as yet unconfirmed family of birds may be the only member of a New World Broadbill?
Sought after by many birders, myself and Gina had the chance to go with our friend Carlos Bethancourt from Canopy Family in Panama to try and see this mythical species.
It took 5 hours of mud, blood and sweat, crossing three streams, through a very muddy forest, where I slipped and sliced all 8 fingers on a razor sharp palm.
After a brief sighting of one bird we moved on and eventually we were treated to superb views of a pair at eye level just 20metres away. One bird sat long enough for us to get some record photos and a short video all taken through an iPhone 6.
It was a really tough hike for one species but now the Sapayoa is well and truly under our belts!
Thanks Carlos
Click the link below to see a nice video of this bird

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sunrise Birding in the Darien, Panama

The fabulous Canopy Camp in lowland Darien was to be our base for 4 glorious days. The camp is designed just like those superb African Camps you may have stayed at with 8 roomy safari tents, with hardwood floors, solar lighting, each has a large deck looking out into tropical forest and there are hot and cold water bathrooms attached to each tent.

One of the lovely tents

View from the dining area

Of course the birding is as good as we expected and speciality birds in and around the lodge grounds included Double-banded Graytail, Barred Puffbird, a pair of Great Green Macaws that flew over, the most showy pair of Spot-crowned Barbets imaginable that were building a nest beside tent 8.

Spot-crowned Barbet - male

Spot-crowned Barbet - female
Both photos taken through my iPhone 6
Click this link to see a U-tube Video taken through an iPhone 6 - Amazing!

In the forest we watched both Golden-headed and Golden-collared Manakins while flowering bushes and feeders attracted hummingbirds including Pale-bellied Hermit, Long-billed Starthroats, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Blue-chested Hummingbird and the occasional Violet-bellied Hummingbird.

There were countless great butterflies in the gardens and several nice looking dragonflies and damsels on the forest stream. A group of Geoffroy's Tamarins cam e through camp and showed nicely while Mantled Howler Monkeys could often be heard deep in the forest.
Geoffroy's Tamarin
Click link to see a u-tube video taken through my iPhone 6

A couple of trips away from the lodge added a nice variety of species including more Double-banded Graytails, Sirystes, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-billed Scythebill, perched Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Black Antshrike, 3 White-necked Puffbirds, Pied Puffbirds, Golden-green and nesting Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, great views of Bare-crowned Antbird, Moustached Antwren, Black-faced Antthrush, White-headed Wrens, White-eared Conebill, and a few Black Oropendolas.

A boat trip and walk in the wetland forest produced the rarely seen Dusky-backed Jacamar, plus a beautiful Agami Heron and great looks at both Green-and Rufous and American Pygmy Kingfisher, as well as Royal Flycatcher.

A fabulous stay in a wonderful place with some really special birds. I thank the Canopy Family for making such a paradise in the jungle and their warm hospitality.

This Owl Butterfly was one of many butterfly species we encountered

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A few more Garden Moths

The new light position is working well, so here a just a few more that were attracted in yesterday.
Pebble Prominent
Silver Y
Rosy Footman
Small Phoenix
Spectacle - showing his spectacles!
Common Carpet
Flame Carpet
Apple Ermine
Catoptria pinella
Don't worry if you don't like Moths I will be on tour in Panama at the new Darien Camp in a few weeks

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Garden Moths

So I have eventually moved my UV light to a new area of the garden and have attracted a few moths over the last week. A selection of photos of these below. Hopefully I will get a lot more species in the next few weeks while I am here.
Elephant Hawkmoth
Elephant Hawkmoth
Poplar Hawkmoth
Garden Tiger Moth
Black Arches
Buff Arches
Four-spotted Footman - female
Four-spotted Footman - male
Dot Moth
Grey Dagger
Knot Grass