Birding update February 2010

Scintillant Hummingbirds are nesting. They seem to like the road cuts where erosion has created an overhang  at the base of roots and soil and here they build their tiny nests.  Together with Green Violet Ear they are the commonest Hummingbirds in the area.

At the feeders at our home at this time of year we have three species of Hummingbirds;  Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird and White Throated Mountain Gem.

Band-tailed Pigeons have returned in force the last half of the month.  Buff-fronted Quail Doves are seen singly on most days in forests patches when walking the road near the home. The Field Guide indicates that the Chiriqui Quail Dove is more common in this area but we have only spotted one individual during the past year. The Buff-fronted are far more common here.

Three Wattled Bellbirds still remain silent as of March 1st.  Only two sightings were recorded in February. Resplendent Quetzals however are back in force and the very last couple of days of February we are seeing and hearing them in the forest behind the house. Males with their long streaming tails are displaying their courtship flight with squawking calls.  For visitors intent on seeing Resplendent Quetzals and wanting to visit us in the dry season it seems that waiting until the beginning of March would be advised.  There is a wild Avocado tree Persia sp. that is fruiting on our neighbor Mr Vega’s property. I was told that there have been a group or Quetzals there since around 2 weeks so I headed over there with the hopes of getting some photos.  I was well rewarded with very cooperative birds but the weather was windy and rainy.  The wind was curling the long streaming tails of the male Quetzals captured on a few of the photos. It seems the lens on the spotting scope was just foggy enough to capture the rainy ambience of the day. On the same tree during the two hours I hung around I saw Emerald Toucanets and Black Guan.  When a pair of Black Guans arrived they chased the Quetzals away. All three of these species are frugivores.

I met with Mr. Vega our neighbor who has lived on his homesteading site since 1962 and is a wealth of information on the local area.

I sat with him at his simple home and he told me every year at the end of February he sees dozens of Quetzals stream by his property and one evening last year he had 22 individuals roosting in the forest next to his house.  Once the breeding season settles in he only sees about 6-8 individuals on his property.

Mr. Vega said the birds migrate from Cotito at this time of year. That happens to be where the lowest pass on the continental divide is located here in far western Chiriqui and where the main footpaths are located that link Chiriqui with Boca de Torro provinces.  The Monteverde Ecology and Conservation Book I have here at Mount Totumas states that the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica spends November through January  on the Atlantic Forests and comes back over to Monteverde on the pacific cloud forests to breed by the end of January.  From Mr. Vega’s comments it would seem to indicate similar movements here in Western Panama but with the migration from the Atlantic forests happening a bit later.  The higher elevations of the Talamanca mountain range are over 2500m and dominated by oak/bamboo forests. I haven’t ever spotted Quetzals in these habitats  the few times I ventured into these areas.  I’m wondering if the Quetzals follow  lower elevation habitats where their food sources are during their altitudinal migrations between the Pacific and Atlantic forests they inhabit and avoid  the higher elevations on the continental divide dominated by Oak bamboo forests. This might explain why Mr. Vega had 22 individuals  roosting by his home if the birds are funneling through the lower passes.  Taking a census annually at the end of February on the lower passes of Western Chiriqui may very well provide useful data on the population fluctuations of these birds if this is true.  In any case it has been inspiring the past days seeing the movements of these birds through Mount Totumas Cloud Forest as they are returning in ever greater numbers. I hope to find a few nesting sites in the weeks ahead to add some photos here.

MT – Birds

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