Monday, 23 October 2017

Serenaded by Fruitcrows

A quite un-believable start to our standard banding session at our Parque Nacional site here in Tortuguero this morning. Very quiet for migrants with only one Swainson's Thrush....but....!!


The first bird we extracted was this male Royal Flycatcher, only the second that we have ever seen on our six visits to Costa Rica.


This fine start was followed by two adult female Black-crowned Antshrikes...both of which were recaptures. One female was banded before 2012 and the other likely banded in 2014, nice ageing data !


All the Hummingbirds that we caught this morning were Long-billed Hermits except this Band-tailed Barbthroat.


Wendy working on the forest floor towards the end of the session in 30°c of humid forest heat and with many interesting biting insects.


Today was a very good session with no rain interruptions and by the end of the morning we had also captured three migrant species, an American Pygmy Kingfisher and a White-collared Manakin.

In total today's effort resulted in five new birds, three recaptures and five Hummingbirds.
Our banding in Costa Rica is usually filled with exciting species, but not numbers. I am emphasising this in response to questions received. The diversity is immense but the numbers captured are quite likely well below what you would think.
Whilst banding we were serenaded by Purple-throated Fruitcrows directly above one of the nets. Two Chestnut-backed Antbirds sang all session. Great Green Macaws flew overhead and higher still Black and Turkey Vultures, with Magnificent Frigatebirds gliding around.


Yesterday we were affected by rain, but we did catch some migrants with five species of Flycatcher - including five Great Crested Flycatchers !

We also captured a couple of  Red-eyed Vireos.


Bi-coloured and Chestnut-backed Antirds were the highlights at our Cano Palma site on Friday....


Surprisingly both these Antbirds were new rather than recaptures.


At Cano we also captured three species of migrant Thrush, including our first Wood Thrush of the Fall.
Two species of Hummingbird, including an unusual one for us, a female Crowned Woodnymph and this fine adult male Red-capped Manakin.


We don't very often catch raptors, so our second ever Semiplumbeous Hawk was a welcome chance to study raptor ageing, this apparently an immature.



In summary 16 captures of  9 amazing species at Cano Palma.


Tomorrow morning we catch our boat to the standard banding site Aero. This site is maturing secondary forest and understorey. Slowly some forest species are moving in eg, Black-crowned Antshrike, but tomorrow there should be some interesting numbers of migrant Flycatchers....
The picture shows Wendy banding at the Aero site in September 2013, a year when early morning falls of Catharus Thrushes were regular.

Richard and Wendy

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

In isolation, ringing above the storms....

We have returned today from the Highlands in Costa Rica, a 4wd journey via back roads to bypass the sometimes now non existent Pan-Am Highway. We managed 8 days of standard ringing since the storms, though isolated until today.
We are still finding new features in the avifauna of our Madre Selva site after many visits over the last 6 years. This fine adult male Spotted Wood-Quail, not a species we readily catch though common in the dense low cover of the Highland forest floor.


Spangle-cheeked Tanager, again a high elevation speciality infrequently caught but a core species of the roaming mixed species flocks. Often a couple of Golden-browed Chlorophonias are with the Spangle-cheeks, the Chlorophonias a species we have never been able to study.....yet



Sooty-capped Chlorospingus - often the leaders of the mixed flocks and a good vocalist to guide us.



Flame-throated Warblers are our second commonest resident warbler in the Highlands.


Antagonist of the smaller Hummingbirds, the Slaty Flowerpiercer.
This adult male - slightly leucistic and more importantly a bird we first ringed in 2014 and we have recaptured once a year on our Fall visit in each of the last 4 years.


The Highlands are full of Hummingbirds, maybe the commonest family of birds represented here ?
Here the delicate processsing of a stunning Fiery-throated Hummingbird.



The equally brilliant and iridescent Green Violetear, recently re-classified and another endemic to the Highlands of Costa Rica and Panama.


Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, the most common species of Brush-Finch we capture. We caught a female with a brood-patch score 4, and a female Large-footed Finch too with bp4. Both species should have finished breeding months ago.



A couple of our most common migrants to finish this visit.
Swainson's Thrush, extremely common in the Lowlands and we find lesser numbers at the high altitude. We were delighted whilst birding early this morning before leaving to see 16 feeding in small groups and moving through. A migrant Olive-sided Flycatcher was a new species for us in the Highlands this morning too.



Behind Wilson's Warbler, Black-throated Warbler is the most abundant migrant warbler, this looking like a 1st winter male but what of the next bird.....



Clearly more Black-throated Green Warbler than Townsend's Warbler, but is it showing hybrid features, the black in the crown looks....??  We see and photo adult male Townsend's Warblers at our Highland sites each year.



A nice glossy capped male Wilson's Warbler...


At our Home banding station (as 6 years ago) a very powerful external security light came into use after the storms and the moths attracted added to the Highland experience !



This rather tatty Silkworm moth perhaps the largest of several large species attracted.

Finally a picture to help explain our isolation above the storm.....
A total of 78 landslides in the two directions - on the Pan American Highway not all quite as bad as this one.



Tomorrow we are off to a dry Tortuguero in the Caribbean......

Richard and Wendy

Monday, 2 October 2017

San Vito, a few more highlights.....

Following on from the last blog from San Vito, just a few more interesting species that we ringed before heading back to the Highlands....


This is a fine adult male Slaty Antwren, we captured a juvenile too. This is a species not often caught but hopefully numbers will increase as the secondary growth matures developing the understorey which the species favours.


Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher:- What bristles .....!!
The previous blog posted below discussed the identification of Black-tailed Flycatcher and Sulpur-rumped Flycatcher. Again biometrics were important in the identification, and the photo just about shows the small dark area directly below the eye.



Kentucky Warblers feature in our posts from Costa Rica over the years, this bird particularly exciting as a recapture returning to spend the winter here.

LOOK....at my spadebill.....!!


 A close up of a tiny Flycatcher - the White-throated Spadebill


This is the Spadebill found in the San Vito area, one of three species of Spadebill in Costa Rica and one of the 70+ species of Flycatcher found in Costa Rica.

We must finish with a thanks to the San Vito Bird Club, particularly Alison and Greg for hosting and helping our visit become a banding success, and to our assistants Alamo and Wilburth.

We captured 223 birds in 6 visits to the 3 standard sites. Each site has been studied since 2004, and shows population change as the habitat regenerates from redundant coffee plantation. Many thanks to the owners of the sites, Alison, Gail, Lydia and their staff too.

Rich D and Wendy J

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Colours of southern Costa Rica

We are four days through six days of banding at our three standard banding sites in San Vito in the high valleys of the Coto Brus very close to the border with Panama.



This visit follows our visit last October, and a visit by our colleagues at Costa Rica Bird Observatory this March. Visits - though less frequent follow a similar protocol to our CES back home on the Teifi.
Now follows some of the more colourful and less often captured species. This Bay-headed Tanager was in fact the first one we have captured, this a hand painted adult...!



We catch c40 White-collared Manakins a season at our sites in the Caribbean Lowlands, this a fine adult male Orange-collared Manakin- the allopatric species of the southern Pacific Lowlands and foothills, we catch around 6 per year.


A couple of Tanagers species now.
This fine adult Golden-hooded Tanager, a bird we have only caught in pairs



unlike the Silver-throated Tanager, which we have encountered in small flocks, 9 being the maximum. The flocks being made up of various aged birds.



The White-tipped Sicklebill is a large Hummingbird and difficult to see. Note the white on the head and crown which is pollen dust, picked up as it feeds on tubular flowers like the Heliconia species.



The head of a Blue-crowned Motmot, a large very bright species with a deeply serrated bill. A species we hear regularly and often see around our bird table too.



Colourful words here -- the grey headed race of the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, the Catharus thrush species of the middle elevations, and quite a common species.


We find two further Manakin species in our study area, the Blue-crowned Manakin and the White-ruffed Manakin, below the adult male. Adult males of all Manakin species are hard to find, and make up barely 15% of Manakins caught.



Slate-throated Redstarts are one of the few species that we find in both our Highland and San Vito sites. A classic species of the mixed flock, including North American migrant Warblers.




We found this Black-tailed Flycatcher in our study area where the near identical Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher is the more common. On the simple biometrics of weight, wing and tail length these features support the identification.


Not a colour in his name !
But a tiny smart Flycatcher  - the Scaly-crested Pygmy-Tyrant.


We found none of these c8.5g wonders on our visit last year but we have now found 3 on this visit.
What other changes will we find in our ever maturing study sites in San Vito.....

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Recoveries home and away...

A few recoveries of Sedge and Reed Warblers received from the BTO this month.

Reed Warbler S574943 was ringed on the Teifi Marsh 15th August 2017 and caught at Littlington, East Sussex by Cuckmere Ringing Group on 1st September 2017
17 days later 362 Km ESE.

Reed Warbler S321233 was ringed on 15th August 2017 at Goodwick Moor at a new site for the group being developed by Karen with the support of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It was controlled by Kester Wilson at Nanjizal, Land's End, Cornwall 11 days later 221km SSW

Reed Warbler S191815 was ringed by neighbouring Pembrokeshire Ringing Group on 17th July 2017 and controlled on the Teifi Marsh 11th August 2017, 25 days later 53km NNE

Sedge Warbler 7505874 was ringed at Tour aux Mouton, Loire-Atlantique, France on 8th August 2015 and controlled Teifi Marsh 22nd July 2017, 714 days later, 560km NNW.

We have been waiting a while for this one...Sedge Warbler 12257597 was ringed at Jonkershove, West-Vlanderen, Belgium on 15th August 2011 and controlled Teifi Marsh 28th April 2016, 1718 days later, 538km WNW.


The emails of these recoveries were received while in Costa Rica.
As always American banders working with us are impressed with the numbers and distance of recoveries within and outside of the UK.

Finally, an interesting recovery for us this week in Costa Rica. An adult male Dusky Nightjar ringed during Richard's visit in November 2014 was found  by us, a fresh roadkill next to the Pan Am Highway close to our banding site nearly 3 years later.


Nicer but less interesting was the capture of a new Dusky Nightjar at dawn the following day.





Thursday, 14 September 2017

Mwnt Action

A very windy morning at Mwnt, but our whoosh-netting site was sheltered enough to be usable. Before we'd trapped any Linnets a young Chough wandered rather carelessly into the catching area, making a most excellent start to the day. After that we trapped 55 Linnets and a House Sparrow.


To cap it all a Wryneck arrived in the churchyard to see what we were up to, very competently spotted by Alison as it sat on top of a gravestone.


After we'd finished ringing, Arfon re-located it in the gorse immediately behind our whoosh-net patch, this is his photo.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Meadow Pipit or a Tree Pipit

At Fygyn Common this morning was myself and Andrew Hughes. We caught and processed a mixed bag including Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Bunting, Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipit. Andrew is a Teifi Ringing Group trainee so it was an opportune moment to look at identification of Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipit having extracted one of each at the same time


About 10 days ago Andrew and I caught 3 Meadow Pipits. We went through the process of identifying the birds as Meadow Pipits by the lengths of their hind claws being between 10mm and 13mm. Today having a Tree Pipit and a Meadow Pipit together was a great opportunity to compare birds. Our Meadow Pipit had a hind claw length of 13mm. The other Pipit had a hind claw of 8mm which fitted that of a Tree Pipit.


From Svennson Hind Claw 7-9mm and bill of a Tree Pipit


Picture shows by measurement primary number 5 is approximately 3.5mm shorter that 2,3 and 4.


From Svennson it says that the Tree Pipit primary projection, wing Point, are primaries 2,3 and 4 and primary 5 being shorter from 2-6.5mm from the tip of the wing. Our Tree Pipit was approximately 3.5mm which places it in the Tree Pipit category.


This picture clearly shows the different lengths of the hind claws. The Tree Pipit in the foreground with the shorter claw of 8mm.
There are another two other clues in this picture helping to identify one species from the other. You can see the Tree Pipit has a large buff coloured supercilium going behind the eye. On the Meadow Pipit it is rather indistinct and on some birds not apparent. Also the bill of a Tree Pipit is thicker/stumpier than that of a Meadow Pipit albeit in the picture it is emphasised somewhat because the Tree Pipit is at the front. Side by side today you could clearly see the difference.


This picture taken from Svennson shows the claw length of a Meadow Pipit. Also it says the primary projection, wing point, are primaries 2,3 and 4 and primary 5 being slightly shorter from 0-1mm and exceptionally 2mm from the tip of the wing. It also shows the smaller indistinct supercillium.


Our Tree Pipit from today.

The hind claw length was 8mm
The difference in length of the shorter primary 5 to primary 4 was 3.5mm which fits into the category of 2-6.5mm.
The bill was thicker/stumpier than that of the Meadow Pipit.
The Tree Pipit has clear supercillium going behind the eye.

Thanks Andrew for coming today. When Andrew had the bird in his hand he said this bird has a short claw, it was great to hear him say that because he remembered previous training we had together. Having caught several Tree Pipits in the last few weeks I had a good idea that it was probably another. I then let Andrew check all the identification criteria as he could using Svennson with the minimum help from me. He did well!