Thursday, 31 August 2017

Costa Rica - Shorebird Survey!

It was shorebird survey morning with a steady walk through mile and a half transect with Charlotte. The majority of the birds were around the river mouth. There were some familiar names on the list Collared Plover and Semipalmated Plover escaped the camera lens.
Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage was evenly spread along the route giving excellent views.
Small groups of Sanderling were making themselves busy feeding along the shoreline. I am still fascinated at the speed their small legs can move across the sand.
Whimbrel was not as common with lone birds at the shoreline.
The walk back from the beach produced a group of Scarlet Macaw feeding in the top of a fruit tree. A Black-cheeked Woodpecker was spied on the trunk of a tree close to the path.
The bonus bird of the morning came in the garden to Charlotte former house. A splendid Passerini’s Tanager showing its red rump as it flew low between bushes.

Next up Macaw survey in Tortuguero!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Costa Rica - An afternoon in San Francisco!

I took a walk into San Francisco which is a small village and where I would be gathering some bird species data. There is one main concrete path through the village with a school and soccer field at the top end. There are several side paths that have houses right down to the waterfront.
The gardens offered good opportunities for passerines with pairs of seedeaters and Seed-Finches moving around. Bird of the afternoon and a personal favourite of mine was the magnificent Scarlet Macaw. A couple of birds were feeding in a tree next to the soccer field giving glorious views before both took to the skies.
I joined Charlotte who was in the midst of a Macaw survey noting a couple of Great Greens during this period.
A Yellow Warbler of the migratory Northern race was noted in the gardens. Mangrove Swallow was fairly regular along the canal flying low almost skimming the surface of the water as they fed.
The seedeaters are tricky to identify the female being the easiest to distinguish between species.
Thick billed Seed–Finch (top) are one such similar species to the Variable Seedeater (above) both of
which are found in the gardens in the area.
Blue-Grey Tanagers are far easier to identify usually heard before they are seen but obvious once located.
Groove Billed Ani and Great tailed Grackles are also common in the area. I am sure there will be more to find in the weeks to come.
Next up shorebird surveys! Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Costa Rica - Cano Palma - One sHELL of a night!

(picture used from Wikipedia)
I have been at Estacion Biologica Cano Palma for a week and every day I have been learning about the processes involved in protecting and monitoring the turtles that arrive on the Caribbean Coast to lay their eggs. For the turtles this seems a straight forward task but is fraught with dangers created by human poaching activities.

The poaching comes in two main forms:-

Eggs - New eggs that are laid are stolen and sold for consumption in homes and restaurants. It is a myth that the poachers only steal a percentage of the eggs leaving the remainder to hatch, this only happens in some situations and maybe more because they were scared off whilst poaching the nest.

Turtle meat – A turtle is turned over and slowly dies suffocating as its lungs collapse under the pressure of its own body weight pressing the lungs against its outer shell. The meat is then sold in the same way explained above.

Every evening a team of three leaves the station under the cover of darkness to patrol the beaches in an attempt to prevent such occurrences. This is a difficult task with the odds in favour of the many poaches verses the few teams that can patrol.

The staff at Cano Palma co-ordinate and participate in this process in the knowledge than they can make a difference in the long term. The task is generally a thankless one with personal sacrifices made by each individual.

Last night myself and Marvin were part of one such team that had spent the night covering nests and hiding tracks that turtles make and leave behind. The team was on its way back to the base when Jimena spotted a long track from the sea to the cover of the trees.

What she found at the top of the track was a disturbing scene, a large Green turtle had been turned onto its back and left to die by poachers. The turtle was clearly distressed but there was a plan which had to be followed precisely to save the life of this magnificent creature.

The turtle was carefully turned over and then after re-gaining its composure started the long journey back to the sea. This time there would be no interference from poachers as we monitored every step of this journey. The turtle entered the water some forty five minutes later extended its head in our direction and disappeared into the sea.

A happy ending on this occasion but this is not always the case! Prevention of these incidents is a simple one if the demand for turtle eggs and meat diminishes then the supply dries up and these wonders of the world will once again thrive and prosper!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Costa Rica - Cano Palma - Squawking Macaws!

Squawking Macaws had me on watch in the crows-nest this afternoon and the wait was a productive one even though I had under estimate the camera settings as two Great Green Macaws appeared from the far side of the forest making a short journey over the canal into the forest.
A Bare throated Tiger Heron made an appearance in the small area of forest on the opposite side of the canal. The bird posed for a few shots and then slipped away quietly before a boat full of tourists arrived to look at Cano Palma’s resident Caymen “Juancho”.
A Green Heron was obviously hungrier feeding patiently at water level turning a blind eye to any traffic passing along the canal.
There were many vultures in the skies this afternoon. It is always worth checking through them as there is always the possibility of a raptor being amongst them. This time it was a Short Tailed Hawk which appeared to be in moult.

A White Ringed Flycatcher was the last new bird of the watch announcing itself before I tracked it down to a bush.

The Capuchins were particularly lively today crashing about in the trees as they fed on leaves. Tomorrow will be my first mammal survey followed by night turtle patrol Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Costa Rica - Cano Palma Biological Station My Home for a while!

My destination was Cano Palma Biological Station which is situated along the canals leading up to Tortuguera. The station is run by The Canadian Organisation for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation and specialises in monitoring and protecting four species of turtles that breed on the Caribbean Coast. The organisation also run a community outreach project and conduct bird census in the area.
The grounds of the base are lively with a range of bird species including Keel Billed and Chestnut Mandibled Toucans. Montezuma Oropendola are a regular sight moving around in groups in the tree tops.
The only way to get around in the area is by boat and the base has its own boat yard which has a superb crows-nest in which you can observe the passing wildlife. Kingfishers regularly patrol the channels with Amazon, Green and Ringed making the notebook.
The boat yard is heavily guarded by two Cayman who are well fed with leftovers that are beyond their consumption date.  If you are fortunate to get past the Cayman a troop of Spider Monkeys is the bases next line of defence.
The first couple of days have flown by with turtle nest monitoring training and early morning walks along the beaches checking the status of nests. There are also scatterings of shorebirds, Spotted Sandpiper and Whimbrel amongst the early migrants stopping to feed along the coastline. Brown Pelican and the occasional Magnificent Frigatebird grace the skies. A Black Hawk gave good views today. I look forward to catching some of these species on camera during my stay.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Costa Rica - Hotel Bougainvillea - Before the Heavens opened!

A hooting owl had me up at ridiculous o clock this morning. I guess it was always going to be a bit of a needle in a haystack finding it but I guess this hotel must be used to this kind of extreme behaviour!
The early morning added a few more species to my list. It was quite pleasant without being too humid. I started with a quick walk round where I chased a couple of Hoffman’s Woodpecker across the gardens.
I literally bumped into Rufous-collared Sparrow that was feeding on the borders near the path edge. The bird didn’t seem bothered at all looking up and then carried on feeding.
I then headed for the tower to bag some Wrens. Plain Wren was a busy but noisy soul but I eventually managed some pictures.
Greyish Saltator was far more obliging with good views as it commuted between small bushes and a fruit tray strategically placed in amongst the shrubs.
A Squirrel Cuckoo emerged from the tree line to pose for a couple of shots before disappearing over the far wall.
The gardens have a few resident pairs of Variegated Squirrels who were busy gathering a harvest not that I imagine food is ever in short supply in these gardens. That was a good cue to go and tuck in to the early morning meal which left me feeling like Baloo from the jungle book! A good walk was required to work it off the gardens providing the perfect answer.

As the temperature rose the movement of Hirundines increased. The test this morning was to identify the Swifts that started out as dots in the sky but thankfully came closer to feed on the insects that were still low over the garden. White Collared Swift and a new species Vaux’s Swift was the product of my patience.
The Vultures were the next to appear circling on the warm thermals. Most were Black with the odd Turkey appearing. Then a raptor that caught me totally off guard camera settings all wrong but I managed to partially rescue the situation. I am still contemplating the id as the torso is not clear.

During lunch the heavens opened giving me a good opportunity to catch up on the photos and naturally the blog! What will the afternoon bring apart from rain!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Costa Rica - Hotel Bougainvillea wets the appetite!

Having got up at stupid o clock and made the journey to Gatwick in good time, the eleven hour flight was the next hurdle to negotiate. This was a day flight so I had plenty of time to read up on the birds of Costa Rica. Having gone crossed eyed and watched a couple of films the British Airways flight landed early in San Jose.

Next stop was Hotel Bougainvillea which was straight forward enough. There was no time to waste so a quick freshen up and I was out trawling the gardens for the birds.
My favourite bird of the afternoon was a pair of Blue-crowned Motmot that popped up onto the wall below the viewing tower. This species was not new but as with many species here will be a first photo as I did not have an SLR when last out in this area.
There were a few hummers buzzing about the gardens and after several attempts a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was caught in the lens.
One species that made their presence felt was a pair of Rufous-naped Wren who were very territorial chasing Robins across the enclosed section of the gardens.
Other species seen included Greyish Saltator, Great Kiskadee, White Winged Dove and Clay-coloured Robin which took the opportunity to have a bath between showers. In the skies were Blue and White Swallow in small groups as the clouds closed in.

There is seven hours time difference and I am feeling the effects of this and the journey. I will be up early to find some more species during a full days birding in the amazing gardens to the Hotel!
Looking forward to tomorrow already!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Waders amidst a purple patch!!

Having heard via the BFBG jungle drums that the Cattle Egret had flown over to the tip and Pete Alfrey was not going to get to the Farm until 1930hrs. I made my way back over to the Farm at a leisurely pace to act as an extra pair of eyes for the search which could be an extensive one.
On arrival the bird was not visible so I took a walk around the E side of the lake to see an Egret resting in a small island inlet. A few photos later and a view through a scope and the Cattle Egret was back in the game! Pete was not far away so the evenings aim was also to be fulfilled.

Devilbirder was the last key-holder in attendance that evening. A conversation between the three of us ensued as the bird was observed commuting between the tern raft and Elands Island where it was last seen going to roost.

This morning the bird was not re located by Frank on dawn patrol. I took a walk around the lakes and a visit to 100 Acre where the Wood Sandpiper was still in its favourite corner! The Farm has hit a purple patch with a first, and the third Surrey record of this species!
A flock of Greenshank were the highlight of the tour. They were clearly looking to land on the North Lake which was still high and unable to accommodate such a group.
Pete had a Wheatear on the mound wrapping up the mornings migrants!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Beddington Farm - MEGA First Farm Record Cattle Egret!

Today I set off with Mark to collect a counter/cabinet for the Sutton Utd Club Shop and all was going well until we made it back onto the A3 and the dreaded call from Dodge flashed up on my phone. At this time of year that can only mean one thing! My immediate reaction on calling him was “What have you got?” The Professor had looked at the Egrets on the island and a Cattle Egret popped its head up!

This was a major deal! The first record for Beddington Farmlands! Blimey will it stick around long enough for me to get there! I did warn Mark that I might be a bit on edge as he drove back to SUFC. A dash to the car and another lightening speed journey and once again I was sprinting over Mile Road bridge to the gates.

The bird was quite content feeding on insects showing for small periods of time and then took a short flight around the front of the island before landing behind a Little Egret!
There seems to be a pattern developing here fortunately I had increased my training in preparation for my trip to Costa Rica but I think I would prefer to be there and not have the rush! Tomorrow I will be at the Farm so it should be a quiet day!

Another SVC and Beddington tick that's two in a week Woo Hoo!! Thanks Prof for keeping everyone on their toes!!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Wood Sandpiper still present!

I was at the Farm at reasonable o clock this morning to carry out the monthly BTO WeBS waterfowl and wader survey. I must confess to a slight lie in after a late return from an away day to watch Sutton Utd beat the National League favourites Tranmere Rovers!

The water levels on the lakes are still high with plenty of algae covering parts of the lake. A keen eye was needed to count the Little Grebe and other ducks that take advantage of this windfall of food. A Common Sandpiper and a couple of Little Egret that were partially hidden in the scrub on the main island were the hi-lights.
100 Acre was to produce the bird of the day. A Wood Sandpiper that is turning out to be somewhat of a long staying bird in this area. This bird was loosely associating with Green Sandpiper who were very skittish leaving the former behind in the NE corner of Jim’s bed.

I have a busy week ahead getting my kit together for my forthcoming trip but hope to spend some time walking / banding at the Farm.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Sabine's Gull on the lakes!

Life has been a bit hectic of late with the new football season getting underway. Sutton Utd has a new Club shop which needed help to fit out in readiness for the opening game which was live on BT Sport. The weather was looking good today but I noticed a shift in the arrival of the rain and decided to have a lie in having travelled to Eastleigh last night for the game. This was a big mistake on the birding front, but the eagle eyed Pete Alfrey was on duty at the Farm with Tank and Frank.
The inevitable happened as news broke of an adult Sabine’s Gull on the North lake. Not only was this a Beddington tick having missed the other three records due to my incessant urge to travel at the wrong times of the year it was also a Surrey Vice County tick!

The drive to the Farm I liken to one of those computer games where to survive you have to dodge the obstacles that are thrown in front of you and increase in pace the more skilful you become! I did not break the land speed record but must have been close to it. I sprinted over Mile Road bridge arriving at the South Lake slightly soaked as the rain intensity was increasing.
Frank and Philip had their scopes on the bird and bingo a Beddington blocker had finally been bagged! As time went on more birders arrived to twitch the bird and I retreated to the hide.

My Beddington Farm total stands at 186 and Surrey Vice County total at 230 species subject to acceptance by the records committee!
Needless to say I will be on my travels again and the rain is probably only considered a light shower where I will be staying! I am certain to miss a good bird or two but this gull was one I never thought I would catch up with at the Farm. Woo Hoo!