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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Birding the Yucatan Part III: Jardin Botanico featuring Black-headed Trogon, 3 Jays and White-fronted Parrot

[Jardin Botanico, Puerto Morelos. April 2016]

A little known fact is that Botanical Gardens are not only ideal for studying plants and shrubs but also great venues for encountering the local avifauna. This tip has proven beneficial to this blogger before -- the astute reader will recall the blogger's earlier trip to the Island of Hispaniola where an assortment of Caribbean specialties were successfully observed at the Jardin Botanico in Santo Domingo.

On the occasion of this blogger's trip to the Yucatan, this formula was repeated at the local botanical gardens in Puerto Morelos -- a mere 20 minutes by car from the Hacienda Tres Rios. The best birding at the Jardin Botanico can be had from the "torres" -- two (rather rickety) observation towers connected by a rope bridge. It was from here that the vast majority of the following species were observed:

  1. Altamira Oriole
  2. Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  3. Black-cowled Oriole
  4. Black-headed Trogon
  5. Brown Jay
  6. Couch's Kingbird
  7. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl 
  8. Inca Jay
  9. Melodious Blackbird
  10. Mangrove Vireo
  11. Northern Waterthrush
  12. Rufous-browed Pepper-shrike
  13. Roadside Hawk
  14. Summer Tanager
  15. Tropical Mockingbird
  16. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  17. White-fronted Parrot
  18. Yellow-backed Oriole
  19. Yucatan Jay
  20. Yucatan Vireo
We start with the Trogon:

Trogons are a group of 39 distinctive and colorful species found in the Neotropics, Africa and Asia. Black-headed Trogon is no exception -- both males and females have a bright yellow breast, black head, and pale turquoise eye-ring:

From the front, both the female and the male look alike. However, a view from the back and side, shows the male's brilliant blue-green back:

The female -- seen above -- has a plain black back; now look at the male's:

The sighting of a trogon is always a special event and the Black-headed Trogon's striking color combination of yellow, black and blue-green is truly a sight to behold.

The Jardin Botanico was not wanting in corvids -- indeed, all 3 expected Jay species were observed: Brown, Inca and Yucatan Jays.

Brown Jay is a large Jay and like other jays, is both gregarious and noisy. Somewhat plain looking -- it could easily be mistaken as the mascot for UPS -- it pales in comparison to our next Jay -- the Inca Jay:

The Inca Jay is a stunningly colorful and looks like a Green Jay with a yellow iris. While both the Brown Jay and the Inca Jay range beyond the Yucatan Peninsula -- the next Jay is endemic to the region:

The Yucatan Jay is another striking species with yellow legs, black body and a brilliant blue back and tail.

Similar to the wealth of Jays found in the region, the Yucatan is also rich in Icterids. Such as the Altamira Oriole:

And, the Black-cowled Oriole:

The very aptly named Melodious Blackbird:

Yellow-backed Oriole:

Over to the Raptors:

Finding the Ferrugionous Pygmy Owl at the Jardin Botanico was no surprise. Roadside Hawk, was seen in flight:

The Vireos were also well represented with Mangrove Vireo:

The endemic Yucatan Vireo:

And, the amazing Rufous-browed Peppershrike:

And now for the rest:
Buff-bellied Hummingbird:

Couch's Kingbird (this species is also found in S. Texas):

A familiar warbler, the Northern Waterthrush:

Summer Tanager:

Tropical Mockingbird:

Golden-fronted Woodpecker:

And the fabulous White-fronted Parrot:

Easily accessible and possessed with multiple avian delights, the Botanical Gardens in Puerto Morelos should be on every intrepid birder's itinerary in the Yucatan where fantastic species such as the Yucatan Jay, Black-headed Trogon and the White-fronted Parrot may be enjoyed in full measure.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lake St. Clair in Spring with Sora, Yellow Warbler, Wood Thrush and Golden-crowned Kinglet

[Lake St. Clair Metropark, MI. Spring 2016]

As if to atone for Michigan's long, hard winter, the arrival of Spring transforms, what had been a largely bird-barren landscape, to feathered life -- unfrozen water beckons waterfowl while marshes attract rails and wrens. The forest floor and grasslands sprout thrushes, blackbirds and sparrows.  

With such an explosion of avian life, Lake St. Clair is nothing short of a miracle of renewal which, in turn, invites birders to explore its resident as well as migrant species. Signature species such as Wood Thrush, Wood Duck and Golden-crowned Kinglet herald the changing of the seasons. Indeed, the arrival of Spring is almost a sacred event in the annual calendar of birding as it brings the magic of migration to our continent.

In photographic homage to the miracle of Spring, we offer the following eclectic collection of species:

Ducks and Rails
  • Sora
  • Wood Duck

Sora is a tiny rail that can be located by the "whinny" call they make and this particular individual was found in the same way at the edge of the marsh.

While the rail's grey and brown plumage blends in perfectly with the marsh, the Wood Duck drake is a real standout:

Unlike the Mallards that are ubiquitously conspicuous, the Wood Duck remains reclusive -- confined to the inaccessible interior of the wetlands.

  • Wood Thrush
  • Veery 
  • American Robin
Wood Thrush is our brightest thrush:

Wood Thrush comes to us every Spring from South America and makes our forests come alive with its hauntingly beautiful song. Like many of our neotropical migrants, it crosses the Gulf of Mexico in a single overnight flight.

Veery is another thrush from S. America (in this case, Brazil).

Unlike the Wood Thrush and the Veery, the American Robin or "Garden Thrush" is equally at home in suburbia as it is in forests:

  • Yellow Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Myrtle Warbler 
Perhaps our most anticipated family of songbirds are the warblers and the Yellow Warbler is a breeding species at Lake St. Clair: 

The male (above) in breeding plumage is truly resplendent while the female below is considerably duller:

Common Yellowthroat is another breeder:

This is a skulking species and, unlike the Yellow, quite difficult to see. The female (below) is a dull version of the male but without the mask:

Unlike the Yellow and Common Yellowthroat warbers, the Myrtle Warbler is just passing through:

This species will continue to its breeding grounds in Northern Michigan.
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow is found across the Continent:

However, note that, compared to the Western Subspecies, the Eastern race has black lores.

White-throated Sparrow is another attractive sparrow:

Other familiar species included Swamp Sparrow:

... and, Song Sparrow:

  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
The Icterids or New World Blackbirds are a large family of songbirds including Orioles, Meadowlarks, Blackbirds and Grackles.

The Baltimore Oriole is a breeding species at Lake St. Clair as is the abundant Red-winged Blackbird:

Rusty Blackbird, however, is a species in passage:

Brown-headed Cowbird were displaying to attract a female's attentions:

The rest:
  • Tree Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Brown Creeper
Tree Swallow is a breeder at the park and at this time, these swallows are busy looking for tree cavities:

Northern Rough-winged Swallow briefly alighted to gather nesting material:

Kinglets can numerous in migration one day and gone the next:

Brown Creeper is hardy species and found at the Park year-round:

The sheer diversity in species is testament to the varied habitat that can be found at Lake St. Clair Metropark; and, Spring is the magical season that brings out the full richness in the birdlife that can be found here in Southeast Michigan.