The Illustrating Birder

Like the birds, many of us living the cruising life, migrate.  We can't sail in the hurricane/cyclone season, so we use the opportunity to go 'home' for visits.  We left Peregrine docked in Marina Chiapas and like a dozen or so other sailors, flew home.

When we return, we clean our musty boats and those who are moving on ready and provision for the next leg. On our first day back, our neighbor, Dave, on Hopalong, was on the dock cleaning something and told me another birder was in the marina. He said the guy was writing a bird guide for Costa Rica and I should meet him.  Of course, I wanted to, but we had so much to do to make Peregrine livable, that I didn't seek him out immediately.  One of  my aka names for Peregrine is the Leaky Sieve and we always come back to more than just 'musty'; we come back to moldy.  After several days of cleaning, I took off for an evening bird walk.  As I was wandering near the restaurant, Gene and another guy came walking toward me and I was introduced to fellow birder, Bryan of Copernicus.    

It turned out that Bryan is the illustrator for the bird books he is working on. We chatted for a few minutes and he said a group was gathering at the restaurant for cocktails to send off a departing sailor and asked us to join. While we were sitting, I asked him about the book.  He had one of those mini laptop things and showed me some of his illustrations. I was blown away!  I guess I should have known that if someone is good enough to illustrate for a field guide, they would be good, but these drawings are better than just good. He showed me some of his hummingbirds and I could see iridescence!  These are not the usual flat colors one sees in field guides. His illustrations look like very detailed photographs. I can't tell you how many times I have needed to see that kind of detail when I'm trying to identify a bird.  

He told me that the guy he works with gives him lots of feed back about the birds; this should have longer feet...this should show more white, etc. etc.  It sounds as if they are really going to have some quality products.

The Costa Rican birder Bryan is working with is Noel Urena.  They plan to do a series of books beginning with the 100 most common, then the endemics, etc., etc., etc.!  I will most likely not be birding again in Costa Rica, but I would be interested in a coffee table art book of Costa Rican birds he is working on.  I asked him for a link to some samples and he was good enough to supply it:
I also include a link to Noel Urena's company:

It's nice to have a fellow birder around. Bryan told me about an owl he has been seeing at dusk and I have been out for three nights now trying to ID it. I'm pretty sure it's a Barn Owl.  It figures, as that is one of the few owls I already have on my life list.

Flickerings in the Sun

This sun drenched post is for Nick Morgan who is enveloped in the cold grey of an encroaching winter in Scotland.  Sorry I couldn't get more Nick--they were an uncooperative, hyper-active bunch today.
Nick's Blog:

 I have tentatively identified this as a Red-collared Firetip.
While I was vainly trying to get photos of the little blues and all sizes of whites and yellows, I noticed a tiny white thing flutter to the ground under the sparse shelter of dried brush and immediately become a statue when it hit.
I haven't even tried to ID it.
Gulf Fritillary
Some sort of Patch
EDIT on 11/30/13:
I am calling this a Rosita Patch because there is no black spot band on the hindwing. The Crimson Patch would have that.  Here is a link  for information on Crimson Patch comparison: 
Also, a link for more information on Rosita Patch:
Small Blue of some kind.
Just before leaving for Chiapas, I got to spend a half a day at my place in San Diego.  Here are three from there.
Below:  Checkered White
Painted Lady
There were over a dozen Painted Lady's in this Baccharis bush.

Back Aboard in Chiapas

Hello Everybody,
First post for seven months, it seems longer.  We were home for the hurricane season and while we were there we helped care for my father who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  He passed away on September 29.  I lost my most avid reader and fan. Just days after his death, Gene's older brother died.  It was not a happy visit but I feel lucky that we were there for my parents and not at sea somewhere.  We are now back aboard Peregrine in Chiapas, Mexico (on the coast very close to the border of Guatemala).
Below:  Guatemalan Cracker  Hamadyras guatamalena marmarice  There were quite a few crackers to look at for ID, but I think I finally chose wisely.
click photos to enlarge
Yesterday, I found what I thought was an Owl Pellet. I posted my pellet encounter on WhatBird to ask if an Owl ID could be made from a pellet.  I got no responses from my post, so I also posted on BirdForum.  Not long after my BF post, I got a response on WhatBird.  I was informed that Hawks and Falcons also cough up pellets.  The ID seemed easy at that point because a Roadside Hawk hangs out on the lamppost where I found the pellet.  Stupid of me not to have figured hawks and other raptors might have pellets.  Now I have to find out if all raptors cough up pellets. I can only say that I barely keep my head above water in regards to learning and identifying bird species (and ssp) in new places and haven't had time to study many details (with the exception of the Empids :)).  I look forward to being home and really getting to know the birds and their behavior on our property in San Diego County.  For now, I will fly by the seat of my pants, as usual.  Here is a link to the Whatbird post (complete with pellet photos):
I also got a lifer:  Northern Jacana.  They were across the highway from the marina in a large muddy, marsh area.  There were also some large brown ducks.  They were just out of range, but I think they must have been Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  There were other birds there but the view is blocked by dense growth and many birds are barely in binocular range.  I was able to ID the Jacana because I saw it fly and saw the yellow wings.  Its rufous back and bright yellow face shield gleamed in the sun and ID was easy.  Wish they had been closer though.  There were also immatures. 
I was going to write a list of birds I saw on yesterday's walk, but frankly, I'm too lazy.  We are still cleaning mold and mildew and re-stowing below and I am drained.  

Flycatchers in Nicaragua

April 28, 2013

I have had time to go through some of the photos of the trip from Panama to Chiapas,Mexico.  On my post about the Tropical Dry Forest at Puesta Del Sol in Nicaragua, I mentioned a few flycatchers I had not yet identified.  I finally did ID them and have updated the Bird List for that area:

The first was a Dusky-headed Flycatcher, but it threw me because it looked different to what I had seen in Panama. In Panama, the heads were very dark, and the yellow on the belly was obvious. Of course, I can't find my good photos of the Dusky-headed I had in Panama. I think they are on the broken hard drive.  I am kicking myself for my lack of note taking right now.  I am fairly certain that the images below are the same individual, but I can't swear to it, although they were taken within a few minutes of each other (registered on image).  The first image shows the lack of yellow on the bird.  The second says it's a Dusky-headed in spite of that.  I started thinking I must have misidentified the Panama birds. I pulled out my Ridgley/Gwynne and noticed the Dusky was called, Myiarchus tuberculifer brunniceps  the Nicaraguan is lawrencei.  Could the races be that different?
Below:  Brown-crested Flycatcher
The closest I could find for the Whiptail below was a Deppe's Whiptail.
Below: Spiny Lizard of some kind.

Off the Coast of El Salvador

 Galapagos Shearwaters take an afternoon sail aboard Peregrine.
We saw hundreds of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and many times Black terns were aboard for a ride.  I only saw boobies on them twice. One day, I counted 27 turtles in less the 10 minutes. I don't know if they were on the way to lay eggs or if they had just done so or what was happening, but we've never encountered so many in one place before. This was off the coast of El Salvador.

Birding a Tropical Dry Forest in Nicaragua

We are at a slip in the Marina Puesta Del Sol at the Northwestern end of Nicaragua. It's a gorgeous spot and it's so nice to have calm, flat water, the internet, cold showers and deep sleep.
I have really enjoyed my walks in this beautiful ecosystem.  It's loaded with birds and in a weird way, it reminds me of our place in San Diego County, California.  The live oaks, sycamores, sumac and manzanita being replaced with acacias and other tress that drop their leaves as they try to conserve water.  Of course, this is more humid and its on the ocean, but it is coastal scrub.  I would like to hang out here for awhile, but hurricane season is approaching and we must push on. 
I have added 14 new bird to my life list in the three days I've been here and have a list of around 50 species.  I wasn't able to ID several flycatchers and I missed a few birds who took off before I could have a good look. Notably, two raptors. Darn!  I did get a Peregrine though. I walked to the beach and when I looked toward the estuary entrance, I could see a raptor perched on some driftwood at the end of the beach.  I kicked off my tevas and started walking.  It wasn't long before I knew it was a Peregrine, but I kept going in hopes I could get a good shot. I didn't, but it was a nice walk on a spotless beach.  The Peregrine and I were the only people on the beach.
"You lookin' at ME?"
I got a Lesser Ground Cuckoo!!  I have seen the illustrations of this bird a few hundred times as I've thumbed through the field guides, but I never thought I'd see one. What a stunning bird; the illustration does it no justice.  It looked painted rather than feathered. I really wish I could have gotten a photo, but it sauntered into the tall, dry grass before I could react--I was so stunned to see it!  I got a few other skulkers: Yellow-breast Chat and Banded Wren. 
Black-headed Trogon
Hoffman's Woody
My best guess is a juvenile Painted Bunting for the photo above.  I've seen a female here a few times and she was very green so I had a hard time calling this a painted. I went online for a Nicaraguan bird list and saw only three buntings listed:  Blue, Indigo and Painted.  I read that the Painted juvies are dull, but this is DULL. Can't see what else it can be, so it wins Painted by default.  I will post a separate post on some of the Flycatchers I got photos of and can't decide what they are.  I will have to do that when we get to Chiapas, Mexico because we are leaving here in a few hours and I have much to do to get ready for the passage.
Well hidden Banded Wren.
Bird List:

Brown Pelicans

Magnificent Frigatebird

Green Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Tri-colored Heron

Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture

Peregrine Falcon

Spotted Sandpiper

Royal Tern
Black Tern

Laughing Gull

White-winged Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove

Parakeets flew over several times, don't know which species

Lesser Ground Cuckoo*
Grove-billed Ani

Cinnamon Hummingbird*

Black-headed Trogon*
Turquoise-browed Motmot*
Ringed Kingfisher

Hoffman's Woodpecker*

Barred Antshrike

Tropical Kingbird
Tropical Pewee?? Wood Pewee probably Western--bird was silent
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Rose-throated Becard*

Barn Swallow
Mangrove Swallow

White-throated Magpie-Jay

White-lored Gnatcatcher*

Rufous-naped Wren
Banded Wren*

Clay-colored Thrush
Swainson's Thrush

Tropical Mockingbird

Yellow Warbler
Mangrove Yellow Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat*
Northern Waterthrush

Scrub Euphonia*

Blue-gray Tanager

Grayish Saltator? Saw for a split second and off it went. Would have been a lifer.

Painted Bunting*
Blue-black Grassquit
Stripe-headed Sparrow

House Sparrow

Great-tailed Grackle
Melodius Blackbird*

Altamira Oriole*
Spot-breasted Oriole*
Baltimore or?? Saw female for the blink of an eye.
A stop at the pub for an hamburgesa con queso and a cervesa after a long, hot walk.
Mangrove Swallow
White-winged Dove

Last Birding Day in San Lorenzo National Park

Feb. 8 2013
We are scheduled to go through the canal next Wednesday and I will be shopping, cleaning and organizing for the transit and beyond, so today was my last long birding day here. Frank, the dockmaster, drove Glyn and me to Fort San Lorenzo and we walked the 9K back. We were out from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and came back hot, tired and foot-sore, but it was a great walk and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm having an oldtimers moment and I've forgotten; Why are we leaving Panama?
I was able to match a few more birds with their calls.  I got excellent views of a Long-billed Gnatwren and watched while it trilled away. I have only seen quick peeks of this bird and I was thrilled to see it so well.  I also indentified the 'owl' calls I heard once before in the same area;  Rufous Motmot.  He was perched in from the road about 30 feet and it took me awhile to find him through the trees.  He called often and was answered by another bird farther in.  Luckily for me he called long enough for me to locate him.  He was on a bare branch and I tried to video him and the calls, but for some reason the 'hoos' didn't come up on the video.  He was also behind so much stuff, I only got blurry shots of him as he swung his long, raquet-tipped tail back and forth like a metronome, and flipped himself from facing toward me to turning his back. What a great bird this is.

We also got two new butterflies.
Ruddy Daggerwing
Marpesia petreus
Many-banded Daggerwing
Marpesia chiron
I know I saw the Tiny Hawk as it flew into the forest from a perch next to the road, but I didn't see it well enough to put it on my life list.  I saw movement as it left its perch and I locked onto it as flew with open wings into the forest. All I saw was the birds' back and the top of very small gray accipter wings. I am so bummed I didn't see it perched, I was this close and I have been in the area three times looking for it.  I can't think of what else it could have been.  The sighting was at the end of our walk at 3:45.  It's close to the marina and I want to get out today at the same time and see if I can get lucky.
Today's bird list:
Black Vulture
Gray-breasted Martins
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Short-billed Pigeon
White-shouldered Tanager
A small bat
Mealy Parrots
Scarlett-rumped Caciques
Yellow-headed Caracara
Bright-rumped Attilas (heard)
Common Black-hawk
Bay Wrens
Prothonotary Warbler
Great Kiskadees
Social Flycatchers
Western Slaty Antshrikes
Black-cheeked Woodpeckers
Black-breasted Puffbird
Keelbilled Toucan
Big Woody--either Crimson-crested or Lineated
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Greater Ani
Tropical Kingbird
Spotted Sandpiper
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Crested Oropendola
Red-throated Ant-tanager
Rufous Motmot
White-shouldered Tanager
Plain xenops
Checker-throated Antwren
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Lesser Greenlets
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird
Shining Honeycreeper
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Turkey Vultures
Panama Flycatcher
Chestnut-headed Oropendola
Palm Tanager
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Dot-winged Antwren
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Blues Dacnis
White-tailed Trogon
Tiny Hawk??
Magnificent Frigatebird
White-tipped Dove
Blue-gray Tanager
Thick-billed Euphonia
Tropical Mockingbird
Great-tailed Grackles
Anhinga hanging out on the banks of the Chagres.
Tropical Mockingbird

Black-throated Green Warbler

Feb. 5, 2013

Went birding today from 7:00 a.m. to 12:15.  On a mission from gaad to find Glyn's great rare tick:  A Tiny Hawk. She found it yesterday and sent me a photo to ID for her. She's doing very well--A Northern Parula and now a Tiny Hawk--Tiny Hawk is not listed on the species list for
Ft. Sherman/San Lorenzo.  Congrats Glyns! I keep saying San Lorenzo is every bit as good as Achiote (better in my opinion) and Pipeline. 
I went to the area she saw the hawk on the way to Playa Diablo and again on the way home, but was unable to find it.  However, I did find lifer #955:  Black-throated Green Warbler--a bit of a rarity for Sherman/San Lorenzo. It is a montane/highland bird.

Todays bird list as I saw them:
Black Vultures
Gray-breasted Martins
Great Kiskadees
Great-tailed Grackles
Turkey Vulures
Spotted Sandpiper
Yellow-backed Oriole
Tropical Kingbird
Paalm Tanager
Tropical Mockingbird
Common Black-Hawk
Mealy Parrots
Social Flycatcher
White-tipped Dove
Blue-gray Tanager
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Crimson-backed Tanager
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Blue-black Grassquit
Bright-rumped Attila (heard)
Magnificent Frigatebirds
Keel-billed Toucan
Violaceous Trogan
White-shouldered Tanager
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Bay Wren
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Yellow-headed Caracara
Black-chested Jay
Golden-collared Manakin
Panama Flycatcher
Variable Seedeater
Blue Dacnis
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Short-tailed Swifts
Peewee? (heard)
Plain-colored Tanager
Black-throated Green Warbler
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Thick-billed Euphonia
Smooth-billed Anis
Orange-chinned Parakeets

Anteaters are one of the many things I will miss when I leave. Northern Tamandua; Tamandua mexicana.

Mystery Call Finally Solved

Feb. 4, 2013
Last month, nearly every time I walked to Diablo Creek, I heard a bird with a loud, distinctive call. It would call over and over, and there were times it sounded like it was less than twenty feet away.  I had multiple opportunities to see it and I tried different tactics. I froze and scanned with little more than eye movement and slowly brought up my binoculars up when needed. Other times, when I got close, I deliberately made myself obvious thinking that I might flush the bird and be able to follow it. It didn't seem to matter, I couldn't find the caller. It was getting pretty frustrating. I mean, this was loud and there was no excuse for not seeing it! I know it moved because it always seemed to go deeper into the jungle when it knew I was looking for it, and yet I didn't notice it leave.

This morning, I finally saw it move and I didn't lose it. There was another bird moving farther in and I think there was a pair. I was able to identify it;  Bright-rumped Attila.

Not a lifer, but I have only seen it twice and only once for a decent look. It was a lifer for me February 27, 2010.  It was in the same area, only rather than hiding in the leaves at mid-level, it was low and close to the bank of the creek. I saw him as I stood on the bridge and looked down. I didn't hear it call. I might have heard this call before, I don't remember it if I did. It has driven me crazy this month. Mystery solved. I got some photos which was good, my shots of the first sighting were terrible. My first sighting was also in February. I wonder if they are only here in the dry months? Or they only call in the dry months?
In my Ridgely/Gwynne guide, Ridgley says the bird is more often heard than seen and is ventriloquial. My new Howell/Webb Mexico guide says it's hard to locate when singing. Well, I do feel a little less inept!
Here is a link to a recording made by Steiof Klemes and posted on xeno-canto:
I am posting a video I made of the call. There is no bird image in the video, but the recording was pretty good. I think I can hear a return call to the Attila. There is also a Western Slaty Antshrike and a Cocoa Woodcreeper in the background.

Looking Forward to Pelagic Frustrations

February 2, 2013


We have a Canal Transit date of February 13.  I have more than the usual pre-voyage jitters because we have been tied to a dock for so long.  It's like we are just beginning our journey; but worse, because I know what I'm in for.  Some of my high anxiety is being diverted by studying what birds I might see when we go off shore.

While we were in the States last time, I ordered, Steve Howell's, Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-petrels of North America and his and Sophie Webb's, A Guide To The Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America.

So, in between our Peregrine 'to-do' lists, provisioning lists, lists of requirements for immigration, customs, cruising permits, crew lists and copies out the gazoo of every paper needed to entry and exit countries, I have worked on a Pelagic list. I've got the species list for Inshore California Current, Offshore Cal. Current, Inshore Tropical Pacific and Offshore Tropical Pacific. I need to go over the list again and check the dates for when each species is likely to be where I am. The list should shorten.  Once again, just as I get familiar with birds in an area, it's time to leave and put myself in a new zone.

I know I'm going to have a hard time getting IDs and I hope I can ID at least half of what I see. I haven't studied the identification points of the species I might see in depth yet, but after a cursory look, I thought they all looked alike! Also, a sailboat is not like birding on vessels of the commercial pelagic trip type or cruise ships, sailboats jump and twitch and sails get in the way of views. Many times, I have lost birds before I could even get them in my binoculars.  I wish I knew what I know now when we started this little sailing trip around the world. I didn't pay much attention to pelagics until we crossed the Atlantic and I have lost a good opportunity. I will try to make up for it on this last leg.  I will note GPS points and try to get photos.

I'm nervous and excited about being a Peregrinator again.  Hopefully, I will be so focused on the birds I will be traveling with, I won't spend as much time feeding the sea gods as I usually do.

Some January 2013 Images in the Canal Area

I'm pretty sure this is a lindigii ssp. Many thanks to PaulK on Bird Forum for identifying the species for me.
Glorius Blue Skipper
Paches loxus
Seen on the Trogon Trail off Achiote Road
Dirce Beauty
Horrible shot, this one was high up on a tree and this was the best I could get.
Cute jumping spider of some kind. He was very shy and kept going around to the other side of the leaf when I tried to photograph him; I understand completely.
Beautiful big rainforest tree. I'm sorry I didn't have something to illustrate the size.
Beautiful small male Golden-collared Manakin. Taken on the bridge over Diablo Creek (just at the San Lorenzo Park entrance).
Glynn and I were walking on a truck trail and turned to see this Coati Mundi following in our wake.
It was a good thing I went with Gly for the last few birding days, she spotted all the butterflies on this page.
Long distance shot of a large reptile.  I was on the Pina side of the Charges, close to the dam and shot this guy looking at me from across the river.  Brought back a childhood storytime memory--(para-phrased big time) On the banks of the great, grey-green not very greasy, Charges, all set about with Gumbo-limbo trees.
Look at those snappers!  After being around the Salties in Oz, I am not too thrilled to run into members of this family even though they are not particular dangerous here.  It didn't help that when I turned to go, Glyn said, "OMG here it comes!" (also para-phrased :)) Glad I'm taking the ol' ticker medicine.