Friday, February 16, 2018

Warblers in Guatemala -February 2018, including several life birds

Pink headed Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Back from another trip down to the tropics with my destination this time being Guatemala.  The trip was primarily a search for a variety of warblers (both full species and local subspecies that could be split at some point). The eight species and subspecies I was searching for included Crescent chested Warbler, Goldman's Warbler (considered a full species by some but a subspecies of Yellow rumped Warbler by others), Fan tailed Warbler, Golden browed Warbler, Stripe crowned Warbler (a subspecies of Golden crowned Warbler as of now), Red faced Warbler, Pink headed Warbler and Chestnut capped Warbler (a subspecies of Rufous capped Warbler and a subspecies I have seen before in Costa Rica but thought I would try for it again).  Given the difficulty in locating all of my targets in such a short time I decided the best course of action was to hire a guide to maximize my chance of seeing the birds. After quite a bit of research I went with Cayaya Birding, which got great reviews and seemed to be the best choice. It is run by Knut Eiserman (a German transplant who has lived in Guatemala for 20+ years) and Claudia Avendano (a native Guatemalan). I was not disappointed with my choice and I would recommend them highly to anyone wishing to bird down in Guatemala. Over the course of the trip we managed to find every target and get at least marginal photos of all of them. I will go through the finding of each warbler below with photos, plus attached eBird lists highlighted for each location that contain even more photos and some audio.
Pink headed Warbler, Rincon Suzio trails, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Pink headed Warbler, Rincon Suzio trails, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
On our way out to the higher mountains on the first full day in Guatemala we stopped by a restaurant named Rincon Suzio, which features a few trails through some pine oak forest at approximately 2400 meters.  Although the weather started out a bit misty and cool it eventually cleared.  We found three of the target species here during a few hours of looking around.  The first target we found was Pink headed Warbler (easily one of the most colorful and unique warbler species).  Knut first heard it singing and eventually we got good looks of at least three individuals.  They are striking birds, even in the low light conditions we had to deal with initial.  The Pink headed Warbler occurs just in this area of  Guatemala and nearby Mexico so not a species I would have much of a chance finding elsewhere.
Crescent chested Warbler, Rincon Suzio trails, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Not long after seeing the Pink headed Warblers we heard the insect like trill of the Crescent chested Warbler, which we also quickly got looks at as it foraged through the trees.  This warbler occurs from Mexico down to Nicaragua and has occurred a few times as a vagrant in the US.  Unfortunately I was not able to get a really good shot of this species but got at least a few that were identifiable.
Golden browed Warbler, Rincon Suzio trails, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
The third and final target warbler for the day that we found was located just before we left Rincon Suzio.  We had almost given up on finding this species but as they have been known to be at the location we decided to give it one more try.  Knut eventually heard some and after a bit of searching through the dense undergrowth we spotted at least two Golden browed Warblers.  These warblers were real skulkers and just would not show well for too long as they worked their way through the dark undergrowth of the forest.  I nonetheless managed to get at least a few marginal photos.  Really amazing to turn up three new warbler species in just a few hours at the same location.  The area also produced a number of other warbler species including the local variation of Slate throated Redstart (which has an orange/red belly unlike the individuals in Costa Rica that have a yellow belly...the species varies from yellow bellied in the south to orange to red as you head further north).  A total of nine species of warbler overall was fairly good.
Goldman's Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Goldman's Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Goldman's Warbler habitat, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
We made it up to the high elevations of the Cuchumatanas mountains late in the day on February 9th, setting us up for a full day of birding in the Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park the next day.  Our main target for the day was finding the Goldman's Warbler.  Considered a subspecies of Yellow rumped Warblers by some authorities and a unique species by others, I have no doubt it is a different species.  It looks different, sounds different, prefers different habitat, does not migrate and does not hybridize with other subspecies of Yellow rumped Warbler and studies have shown it to be genetically different.  The warbler is only found in a limited area of Guatemala so to get it you have to get up to some high elevations.  Over the course of the day we found around twenty individuals (probably more) and all appeared to be paired off for the rapidly approaching breeding season for the species.
Red faced Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Red faced Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
After a long drive on February 11th we made it back down to the Antigua area where we would spend the rest of the trip.  A late afternoon stop at Finca el Pilar found us exploring the privately run reserve where we found a number of mixed species flocks which eventually produced two Red faced Warblers, adding yet another target species to the trip list.  The warbler occurs as far north as Arizona and New Mexico in summer but winters further to the south.  I have never been out west in the US late enough in the season to find the species there so I was happy to find it on its wintering grounds. We found a total of a dozen warblers species with other highlights including Worm eating Warbler and two Blue winged Warblers.
Fan tailed Warbler, La Reunion resort, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Fan tailed Warbler, La Reunion resort, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Rufous capped Warbler (Chestnut capped subspecies), La Reunion resort, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
On the last full day of the trip we started our morning at a golf resort/hotel area, La Reunion.  The location was south of Antigua and a few hundred meters lower in elevation which translated into more species diversity.  The main target was Fan tailed Warbler which we quickly found as it foraged along a ravine.  I thought the looks of the bird there were great but we were in for much better looks just a bit further down the trail where we found two more individuals attending an army ant swarm and seemingly oblivious to our presence.  Over the course of an hour or so the birds showed spectacularly and I shot hundreds of photos of the birds.  It was a memorable experience to watch the birds so close, right out in the open at times.  A little earlier in the morning we got distant views of a Rufous capped Warbler (Chestnut capped subspecies) as it fed in dense growth at the bottom of a step hillside.
Golden crowned Warbler (Stripe crowned subspecies), Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Golden crowned Warbler (Stripe crowned subspecies), Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
After a  lunch back in Antigua we headed back to Finca el Pilar to see if we could find the last target on the list, the Golden crowned Warbler.  We hiked up along a small stream with dense forest located on the steep hillsides and we eventually had success.  I had seen the warbler briefly once in Costa Rica but I hoped to find it again and get better looks (and some photos).  I was successful on all counts as a pair of them worked there way around us and occasionally popped out into view as they sang and chipped.  It had a unique song that sounded like it was asking a question and I managed to get a few records that can be found in the linked eBird list above.
Ovenbird, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Black and White Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Tennessee Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Nashville Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Magnolia Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Yellow Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Townsend's Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Hermit Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Black throated Green Warbler, La Reunion resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Wilson's Warbler, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 11, 2018
Slate throated Redstart, Rincón Suizo, Tecpan, Guatemala, Feb 9, 2018
Besides the warblers mentioned above we found many others bringing the total number of warbler species for the trip up to 23. The warblers seen during the trip included the following species: Ovenbird, Worm eating Warbler, Blue winged Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Crescent chested Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow rumped Warbler (Audubon's subspecies), Goldman's Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Black throated Green Warbler, Fan tailed Warbler, Rufous capped Warbler (Chestnut capped subspecies), Golden browed Warbler, Golden crowned Warbler (Stripe crowned subspecies), Wilson's Warbler, Red faced Warbler, Pink headed Warbler and Slate throated Redstart. I managed to get photos of quite a few of them (although not many of high quality!).  With the addition of the six new warblers seen on this trip my total number of warbler species now stands at 75 species.  It will be very tough to add a half dozen new species of warbler on a single trip again.
Olive Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Yellow breasted Chat, La Reunion resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
In addition we had several Olive Warblers and a Yellow breasted Chat (neither considered wood warblers any longer but closely related).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chiriqui Yellowthroat on a trip to Costa Rica (plus lots of other stuff)

Chiriqui Yellowthroat, San Vito Airport marshes, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Just back from another productive trip (Jan 15-25) down to Costa Rica with lots of good sightings plus a few good photos.  The highlight was finding a new warbler species, Chiriqui Yellowthroat, down near the Panama border near the town of San Vito...a species I have wanted to get down there and finally succeeded in finding.  Chiriqui Yellowthroat is considered a separate species by some sources (including myself) while others consider it a subspecies of Masked Yellowthroat.
Collared Redstart, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Collared Redstart, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Golden winged Warbler, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Black throated Green Warbler, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Wilson's Warbler, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Wilson's Warbler, Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Before going down to find the yellowthroat I spent a day in the mountains near the Savegre Lodge in San Gerardo de Dota where I had a number of warbler species including resident species as well as migrants spending the winter.  After a morning in the mountains it was time to make it down to Rio Magnolia Lodge for the remainder of the trip where more warblers awaited.
Chestnut sided Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 17, 2018
Chestnut sided Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 23, 2018
Mourning Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 23, 2018
Mourning Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Golden winged Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 23, 2018
Buff rumped Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 20, 2018
Gray crowned Yellowthroat, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 21, 2018
Yellow Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Rio Magnolia Lodge was productive as always with a total of ten species of warbler including a new one for me in Costa Rica when I found a Worm eating Warbler in a mixed species flock.  The most numerous warbler species was about a tie between Tennessee Warbler and Chestnut sided Warbler (nice to see larger than typical numbers of Tennessee Warblers which corresponds nicely with the above normal numbers seen around here during the fall migration).  I also had a number of Mourning Warblers, Golden winged Warblers, Gray crowned Yellowthroat and Buff rumped Warblers as well as a few Black and White Warblers, Yellow Warblers and a Wilson's Warbler.
Chiriqui Yellowthroat, San Vito Airport marshes, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Common Yellowthroat, San Vito Airport marshes, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Chiriqui Yellowthroat habitat, San Vito Airport marshes, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018


Rufous capped Warbler, Casa Botanica, San Vito, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Slate throated Redstart, Casa Botanica, San Vito, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Black and White Warbler, Casa Botanica, San Vito, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Blackburnian Warbler, Casa Botanica, San Vito, Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
On Thursday the 18th I met up with Andres very early for a trip down toward the Panama border near the town of San Vito. Early meant a very early wake up call to be out the door by 3:30 to meet Andres in San Isidro at 4:30 for a two hour plus ride down to San Vito. The main target of this trip was to find the Chiriqui Yellowthroat which is only found in a small portion of Costa Rica and nearby Panama. We made it to San Vito around six with our first stop being Casa Botanica (a small lodge with some trails) where we found a number of warbler species.  After a few hours we tried a few other spots but had no luck finding the yellowthroat so headed over to the small marshes near the airport in search of my main target.  We arrived at marshes past the small airport and noticed some great habitat for the yellowthroat but initially had some difficulty finding access until we came across a local family that had access to the marshes. Once we arrived at the marsh we quickly heard and saw at least three individuals which were quite vocal but would only pop into view briefly. Nonetheless I got a few shots of a male and looks at both males and females.  I also managed to get some recordings of some calls as the birds chased each other around.  I was very happy to finally catch up with this bird! They were also joined by a male Common Yellowthroat for part of the time too.



Sunset over the Pacific, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 21, 2018
Overall warbler numbers for the trip totaled 20 species with one being a life bird and two being new for Costa Rica for me (the Chiriqui Yellowthoat and the Worm eating Warbler). The number of warbler species now seen in Costa Rica stands at 30 overall.  My total number of warbler species is now at least 69 species (plus Wrenthrush and Yellow breasted Chat..both of which may or may not be warblers)