It was an extraordinarily beautiful day in the rainforest today. We had a few days of torrential rains and it was so good to have blue skies and sunshine. The freshly rinsed leaves shimmered in the sunlight as a gentle breeze blew. Every breath took in the scent of flowers and damp leaves and barks of hundreds of species of plants and I felt elated. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this place? Some of the forest was flooded and I could hear a multitude of miniature waterfalls as the water sought the lowest ground and I could see water moving and shimmering as I peered into the forest from the road. The flooded shoulders brought out the Northern Waterthrushes I hadn’t seen the last few outings.
I got a video of a Three-toed Sloth as it transferred from one tree to another via a vine, and one of a Blue Morphos that had landed on a newly cut branches from a recent roadside trimming.
While I was investigating a very vocal bird, an Ovenbird popped up from the densely covered ground and perched at the top of the giant canes to find out what all the noise was about—Lifer #916. I caught only a half a second glimpse of the noisy bird because it stayed high behind leaves and branches. My impression was pale rufous/buffy breast, grayish head and a supercillium of light gray or white, didn’t get bill shape. I did take a video just to record the call so maybe I’ll be able to ID that way. I only have, what? 950 something bird calls to listen to. With my luck it will be the last bird on the list. No doubt it’s something I’ve heard and seen but forgot. The call sounds like, “I don’t get you.” Or, “Machu Pichu”. I seem to remember someone using Machu Picchu as a call sound, but I have read volumes of bird stuff and can’t place this right now. It will hit me at 3:00 in the morning one day.
On the Playa Diablo path I saw movement in the dense mangrove and palm covered strip between the path and the small river that runs to the beach. I focused and watched a Grey-Necked Wood-Rail pick its way around roots and stalks. Of course, it had to be that rail rather than any of the other possibilities because I saw it in Costa Rica on our Visa run trip. Even so, it’s great to see secretive birds. The Diablo path did give me a new bird though; #917 Little Hermit Hummingbird.
The biggest mystery of the day was a bird I call the ‘calico warbler’. I have seen it a couple of times, but never well. I thought it must be an American Redstart in blotchy plumage. Today it was more subdued than usual and it sat on the outer branches soaking up the sun for long enough to get a couple of photos. I haven’t got a clue! I kept going back to American Redstart, trying to make it fit because I don’t know where else to go to, but it doesn’t fit. I’ve been through the Panama book and Sibley’s Western and National Geographic North America and I am at a loss.
Click photo to enlarge.
The tail is fanned and shaped like a Redstart, and the held down wing position looks good, but the bill (at least in this photo) looks Tanager-like to me. The American Redstart would not have a black belly and it looks like the yellow is not just at the base of the secondaries, but covers all the secondaries and looks like the primaries as well. What about the yellow on the mantle? And the throat? Wouldn't a male Redstart at this stage show red rather than yellow?
Terribly blurry shot, but I post it because it shows the yellow primaries and throat. So what is it?
EDIT: November 18
I have decided it must be an American Redstart but I'm going to post it on Surfbirds to see what is said.
Thanks to Alex Lees on Surfbirds for solving my mystery. The bird is a juvenile White-shouldered Tanager. My book doesn't show the juvenile phases and I would never have figured this out! A link to the ID post on Surfbirds forum: