Category Archives: Life List

Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 3

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. This is Part 3 of my little 3-part series. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. Now I’ll post some highlights from our time traveling from Monteverde to the Los Quetzals National Park area.

May 13 2016
Friday the 13th we had an epic drive from Monteverde to San Gerardo de Dota. We drove along the Pacific Coast and had a few stops before arriving at our lodge well after dark. At Playa Galardonda we added Scarlet Macaw to our life list. We stopped at a ditch along the highway when we thought we saw a kingfisher — we ended up adding both Amazon Kingfisher and Ringed Kingfisher to our list. The best sighting of the day was a brief but clear and diagnostic view of an adult King Vulture flying over the car along a stretch of highway where it was unfortunately impossible to stop.

May 14 2016
Saturday morning we joined a bird walk from a local guide. The target species for this walk was the Resplendent Quetzal and we were not disappointed with great views of at least 5 individuals. We spent the rest of the day birding around the lodge’s property and hiking to a local waterfall. Over several checklists we added 31 lifers: 16 species total; 39 species; 9 species; 13 species.

Resplendent Quetzal
Male Resplendent Quetzal

exploring
Exploring Los Quetzals National Park

Rufous-collared Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow at Los Quetzals National Park

May 15 2016
We remained on Savegre property on this gloomy day. In the morning we walked around and looked for birds along a steep and buggy trail. In the afternoon there were torrential rains so we stayed inside. Late in the day we had another short bird outing for the last time on the trip. The following day we picked up huge packed lunches from the lodge to take with us to the airport for our flight back home.

Flame-colored Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager at Savegre

Black-faced Solitaire
Black-faced Solitaires at Savegre

Costa Rica Lifers May 13-15 2016

Scarlet Macaw Playa Galardonada 13-May-16
Costa Rican Swift Playa Galardonada 13-May-16
Cherrie’s Tanager Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Gray-breasted Martin Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Northern Jacana Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Pinnated Bittern Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
King Vulture CR-Puntarenas King Vulture stop 13-May-16
Amazon Kingfisher CR-Puntarenas-Aguirre-Highway 34 13-May-16
Ringed Kingfisher CR-Puntarenas-Aguirre-Highway 34 13-May-16
Sooty Thrush San Gerardo de Dota 13-May-16
Sooty-capped Chlorospingus Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Collared Redstart Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Yellow-winged Vireo Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Mountain Elaenia Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Acorn Woodpecker Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Resplendent Quetzal Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spotted Wood-Quail Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Yellow-thighed Finch Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Chestnut-capped Brushfinch Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Slaty Flowerpiercer Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spangle-cheeked Tanager Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Black-cheeked Warbler Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Flame-throated Warbler Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Black-faced Solitaire Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Ochraceous Wren Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Brown-capped Vireo Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Dark Pewee Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Paltry Tyrannulet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Sulphur-winged Parakeet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Stripe-tailed Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Volcano Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
White-throated Mountain-gem Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Fiery-throated Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Magnificent Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Ruddy Pigeon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Band-tailed Pigeon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Flame-colored Tanager Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Torrent Tyrannulet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Collared Trogon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Barred Becard Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Ruddy Treerunner Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Streak-breasted Treehunter Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Red-headed Barbet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
White-collared Swift Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
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Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 2

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. This is Part 2 of my little 3-part series. Here’s Part 1 if you missed it. Read on for some highlights from our time around Monteverde.

May 10 2016
Tuesday morning we had a guided bird walk arranged by the hotel. During the hike we saw 36 species; we ended up with 20 lifers for the day. We had lunch at a nearby well-known birding hotspot, Stella’s, but it was practically devoid of birds during our visit.

Costa Rica walkies
Exploring around our Monteverde hotel

May 11 2016
The Monteverde area is well-known for zip-lining and hanging bridges. On May 11th we visited Selvatura Adventure Park for a self-guided walk around the hanging bridges and a nice long visit to their famous hummingbird garden. We added 14 lifers at Selvatura, including 4 species of hummingbird. Bird lists: hanging bridges walk; hummingbird garden.

Costa Rica hanging bridges
Hanging bridge at Selvatura Adventure Park

hummies everywhere omg
Hummingbird garden at Selvatura Adventure Park

Green-crowned Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant iPhone picture taken at Selvatura Adventure Park

May 12 2016
Thursday we took it easy and had a morning walk at a local preserve, Curi Canchi. Here we recorded 24 species, including 5 lifers.

Lesson's Motmot
Lesson’s Motmot at our hotel

Costa Rica Lifers May 10-12 2016

Yellow-crowned Euphonia Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
White-eared Ground-Sparrow Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Grayish Saltator Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Rufous-capped Warbler Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Rufous-and-white Wren Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Blue-and-white Swallow Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Three-wattled Bellbird Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Ruddy Woodcreeper Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
White-fronted Parrot Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Brown-hooded Parrot Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Emerald Toucanet Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Orange-bellied Trogon Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Steely-vented Hummingbird Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Violet Sabrewing Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Canivet’s Emerald Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Masked Tityra Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Common Chlorospingus Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Black-and-yellow Tanager Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Silver-throated Tanager Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Slate-throated Redstart Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Costa Rican Warbler Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Tufted Flycatcher Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Black Guan Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Purple-throated Mountain-gem Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Green-crowned Brilliant Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Lesser Violetear Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Green Hermit Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Elegant Euphonia Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
White-naped Brushfinch Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Golden-crowned Warbler Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Black-crested Coquette Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Black-breasted Wood-Quail Hotel El Bosque 12-May-16
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Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 1

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. We flew into San Jose on May 6th and rented a car for our trip. We stayed in three different locations for casual birding and exploring on our own: Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano in Fortuna; Hotel El Bosque in Monteverde; and Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa inside the Los Quetzales National Park. Here I’ll post some highlights from our time around Fortuna.

May 7 2016
In the morning of our first full day we had a guided birding walk arranged by the lodge. We hiked around the lodge’s property and picked up a modest list of 25 species, 22 (!!) of which were lifers. That afternoon we went to a local park, Ecocentro Danaus, where we had a guided walk and explored on our own. Here we picked up 24 species, 15 of which were lifers. Besides birds we saw a 2-toed Sloth with baby, Spectacled Caimans, and an Agouti with a baby. Later in the afternoon we walked to La Fortuna Waterfall and had a dip in the cool fresh water. That evening we took a night hike on the lodge’s grounds and saw lots of interesting snakes, frogs, and insects. I recorded highlights on an eBird list with no birds, including Fer-de-lance, Loquacious Tree Frog, and a baby Hognose Pit Viper.

Collared Aracari
Collared Aracari at Ecocentro Danaus

May 8 2016
Sunday morning we birded a bit at our lodge and then headed to a famous local birding site, Arenal Observatory Lodge. I tried to book this hotel for our trip but they were full. Luckily day visitors can explore the grounds for birding. Here we walked the trails and picked up 14 lifers over several hours and checklists: 16+1 species total; 10 species; 17 species; 3 species; 4 species.

Arenal volcano
View of Arenal volcano from the Observatory Lodge

Passerini's Tanager
Passerini’s Tanager at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Blue-throated Goldentail
Blue-throated Goldentail at Arenal Observatory Lodge

May 9 2016
We started the morning with a little bit of birding around the lodge before packing up and heading to Monteverde. On the way we stopped at a big cat wildlife rescue center, Centro de Rescate Las Pumas, where we saw 5 species, including 3 lifers. On the drive we picked up several other lifers, including our first Keel-billed Toucan. We arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon and signed up for that evening’s night hike. This time we did manage to find a few birds.

on the road in Costa Rica
On the road to Monteverde

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron at Las Pumas

Costa Rica Lifers May 7-9 2016

Black-cowled Oriole Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Melodious Blackbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-throated Ant-Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Rufous-collared Sparrow Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Buff-throated Saltator Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
White-collared Seedeater Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Thick-billed Seed-Finch Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Palm Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Blue-gray Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Passerini’s Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Clay-colored Thrush Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
White-collared Manakin Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Social Flycatcher Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Long-tailed Tyrant Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-lored Parrot Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Laughing Falcon Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Black-cheeked Woodpecker Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Yellow-throated Toucan Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-billed Pigeon Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Gray Hawk Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Gray-headed Chachalaca Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Yellow-throated Euphonia Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Variable Seedeater Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Common Tody-Flycatcher Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Golden-olive Woodpecker Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Collared Aracari Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Broad-billed Motmot Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Stripe-throated Hermit Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Long-billed Hermit Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
White-tipped Dove Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Ruddy Ground-Dove Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Russet-naped Wood-Rail Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Boat-billed Heron Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Great Curassow Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Bronzed Cowbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 8-May-16
Yellow-faced Grassquit Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 8-May-16
Montezuma Oropendola Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Buff-rumped Warbler Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Streaked Flycatcher Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Barred Parakeet Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Crested Guan Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Cabanis’s Wren Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Blue-throated Goldentail Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Brown Violetear Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
White-necked Jacobin Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Boat-billed Flycatcher Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Black-striped Sparrow Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Red-legged Honeycreeper Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
White-throated Magpie-Jay Highway from Fortuna to Cañas 9-May-16
Hoffmann’s Woodpecker Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Groove-billed Ani Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Rufous-naped Wren Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Keel-billed Toucan Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Turquoise-browed Motmot Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Cinnamon Hummingbird Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Inca Dove Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Lesson’s Motmot Hotel El Bosque 9-May-16
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Cruise Birding: Great Stirrup Cay

The itinerary of our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit called for a day at sea on December 31, 2015. A group of 12 Brown Boobies followed the ship for a while and we watched them hunt flying fish and loaf on the water between feeding. A lifer for us.

Brown Booby
Brown Booby

The first day of 2016 found us on Norwegian Cruise Line’s private Bahamas island, Great Stirrup Cay. We walked the hiking trail a few times and found some birds and other creatures on the way. We added three lifers here: Bahama Woodstar (hummingbird); Bahama Swallow; and Black-faced Grassquit. There were gulls and terns loafing around the beaches and we even found a few overwintering songbirds: Gray Catbirds; Palm Warblers; Yellow-rumped Warblers; and an American Redstart.

Bahama Woodstar on Great Stirrup Cay
Bahama Woodstar

Black-faced Grassquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Black-faced Grassquit

Bananaquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Bananaquit

Black Witch moth on Great Stirrup Cay
Black Witch moth

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

The hiking trail was overgrown in places and became hard to follow a few times. It’s really nice to have a nature trail to follow and we wish NCL would take better care of it.

Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay
Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay

We brought along our own snorkeling gear and did a bit of underwater exploring as well.

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
Arthur snorkeling

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
fishies

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
stingray sp.

The island can be crowded at the main beach but we found lots of places where we could relax in peace. It was a great, relaxing start to 2016.

NCL Spirit from Great Stirrup Cay
NCL Spirit and giant Laughing Gulls

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: day at sea & Great Stirrup Cay
Boobies following ship
Great Stirrup Cay

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Cruise Birding: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

On December 30, our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit stopped at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Here we booked a private tour with Carolyn Barrett of Barrett Adventures. We asked for a birding tour but got more of a general tour where we stopped at some random somewhat birdy spots with a binocularless guide. She knew a lot about the island and its wildlife but for the most part identifications were left up to us. This was a bit disappointing. I added seven life species here, including Streamertail (hummingbird); Jamaican Tody; Sad Flycatcher; Bananaquit; Smooth-billed Ani; White-chinned Thrush; and Jamaican Oriole.

White River, Ocho Rios Jamaica
White River in Ocho Rios (photo by Arthur)

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron along the White River

Loggerhead Kingbird
Loggerhead Kingbird at Walkers Woods

Walkers Wood, Jamaica
Arthur birding at Walkers Woods

Sad Flycatcher
Sad Flycatcher at Walkers Woods

Jamaican Oriole
Jamaican Oriole at Faith’s Pen

Just a couple of days were left on our cruise! First we’d spend the last day of the year at sea, and then New Year’s Day on Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. Post to follow!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
White River between St. Mary’s & St. Ann’s
Walkers Wood
Faith’s Pen
St. Ann’s Bay – Arg Byfield Highway
Ocho Rios port area

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Cruise Birding: Chacchoben Ruins from Costa Maya, Mexico

Arthur and I spent the last days of 2015 and the first of 2016 on a 7-night Norwegian cruise around the Caribbean. We had several ports: Costa Maya, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Birding was not our primary objective for the most part; I added 16 life species over the holiday.

In Costa Maya we opted for a tour of the ruins at Chacchoben which we booked via The Native Choice. In the port area and walking from the ship to the tour guide offices, we found three lifers: Tropical Kingbird; Tropical Mockingbird; and Great-tailed Grackle. At the ruins we noted 10 bird species, including lifers Brown Jay and Great Kiskadee. A Short-tailed Hawk flew overhead and there were spider monkeys in the trees.

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

Brown Jay at ruins at Chacchoben
Brown Jay at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

spider monkey at ruins at Chacchoben
Spider monkey sp. at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

Back in port, Magnificent Frigatebirds flew low overhead; this photo was taken with my iPhone!

MAFR over Costa Maya
Magnificent Frigatebirds at the port of Costa Maya

NCL Spirit from Costa Maya
The NCL Spirit at the port of Costa Maya (photo by Arthur)

The next day our ship docked off of George Town in Grand Cayman. Here we booked a snorkeling excursion via the cruise ship. It was a mediocre experience — the snorkel boat left behind a pair of our fellow tourists at the first location and the two spots where we stopped didn’t have much going on sealife-wise. I entered one small checklist here to note the frigatebirds flying around port and House Sparrows that were busy around a church garden. I was surprised when the sparrows got flagged by eBird as rare. Huh?

The following day we planned on birding in Jamaica — see next post!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Costa Maya & Grand Cayman
Costa Maya port area
Ruinas Chacchoben
Grand Cayman port area

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Cruise Birding: A Day in Madeira

Back in May 2014, Arthur and I took a transatlantic cruise from Miami to Barcelona on the Norwegian Epic. Along the way we had one stop — one day in Madeira. We hired a private bird guide, Catarina from Madeira Wind Birds for the day; we had a great time.

We didn’t have high expectations for the outing, especially since the ship arrived in Funchal port late in the morning, past prime birding time. Our first checklist started at 11AM! In the end we ended up seeing 26 species over 8 checklists, with 8 lifers. Our bird list is at the end of this post.

Madeira first look
Approaching Madeira

We watched as our ship approached the island. It was covered in clouds and hard to see — our first impression was that we would have a dreary day, but this misty, cloudy start is typical of Madeira. By the time we could disembark the skies had cleared. We walked off the pier and met our guide.

Madeira Zebra
Wide pedestrian path adjacent to Funchal cruise port

Our first stop, Ponta de São Lourenço, was at the far eastern side of the island. Here we successfully searched for Berthelot’s Pipit. In the windswept fields we also found a lark which we had trouble identifying in the field. Using photos and our guidebooks we were able to ID this bird as a Greater Short-toed Lark with the help of our guide Catarina. This bird is considered a rare vagrant on the island.

Madeira scenery
Madeira’s eastern coast

Madeira birding
Looking for pipits

Madeira Berthelot's Pipit
Berthelot’s Pipit

Madeira Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark

On the way to our next stop we picked up Spanish Sparrows nesting in urban palm trees. Along the water at Porto de Recreio de Machico we added 8 species.

Madeira Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow

Madeira
Porto de Recreio de Machico

Maderia Gray Wagtail
Gray Wagtail

Madeira Eurasian Blackcap
Eurasian Blackcap

Madeira Island Canary
Island Canary

Madeira European Goldfinch
European Goldfinch

At our final stop, Santo António da Serra, we successfully searched for Madeira Firefinch. This is a local subspecies that we didn’t think we would find, considering the time of day. It was a lucky tick, though I was not so fortunate with my camera.

Driving back to Monte, we spotted a Eurasian Kestrel hovering over the airport.

Arthur and I had lunch in Monte and looked around a bit before taking the scenic Teleférico do Funchal aerial tram back down to the port. The other fun way to descend from the town of Monte back down to the port is via toboggan. We watched the drivers for a bit before we got on the tram.

Madeira tile
Tile work in an abandoned building

Madeira sleds
Toboggans

Madeira sled
Toboggan driver

Madeira air tram
Arthur with NCL Epic in the background

Madeira bridge
View from the tram

Madeira
View from the tram

The Madeira Flower Festival was winding down during our visit, so we saw lots of flower displays throughout Funchal as we walked back to the Epic for the continuation of our journey from Miami to Barcelona.

Madeira flower festival
Flowers in Funchal

Madeira flower festival
Flowers in Funchal frame the Epic

Madeira port murals
Funchal port murals

Madeira Bird List May 5, 2014; lifers bold

Muscovy Duck – Cairina moschata
Cory’s Shearwater – Calonectris diomedea
Manx Shearwater – Puffinus puffinus
Little Egret – Egretta garzetta
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen – Gallinula chloropus
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus
Roseate Tern – Sterna dougallii
Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia
Eurasian Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
Greater Short-toed Lark – Calandrella brachydactyla
Firecrest – Regulus ignicapilla
Eurasian Blackcap – Sylvia atricapilla
European Robin – Erithacus rubecula
Eurasian Blackbird – Turdus merula
Gray Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
Berthelot’s Pipit – Anthus berthelotii
Common Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch – Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch – Carduelis carduelis
Island Canary – Serinus canaria
Spanish Sparrow – Passer hispaniolensis

eBird checklists:
Ponta de São Lourenço
Caniçal Spanish Sparrow location
Porto de recreio de Machico
Santo António da Serra
Madeira Airport drive-by
Monte
Marina do Funchal
Funchal at sea

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1st Time Bahamas — Lifers in Freeport

At the end of October*, Arthur and I took a short cruise to Freeport in the Bahamas with Celebration Cruise Line. When I say short, I mean: we left the Port of Palm Beach Sunday night, arrived in Freeport Monday morning, left the Bahamas early Monday evening, and were back in Palm Beach Tuesday morning.

For our short time on Grand Bahama, we used the guide services of longtime island resident Erika Gates. We were joined by another birding couple for the day. Our tour included transportation from the port to four different birding locations and a pleasant lunch at the Garden of the Groves. Erika was a friendly and knowledgeable guide and we were very happy to finish the day with our brand new Bahamas list at 49 species, 9 of which were lifers.

Erika picked us up at the port taxi stand after we disembarked. She told us about the history of Freeport on the drive over to our first stop, The Emerald Golf Course. This is an abandoned course which is now a birding hotspot on the island. Here we spent just over an hour and found 26 species, including 5 lifers: White-cheeked Pintail; Least Grebe; La Sagra’s Flycatcher; Red-legged Thrush; and Worm-eating Warbler. That last one was a nemesis of mine for a while, and continues to be a county thorn in my side. They regularly migrate through central Florida, but I manage to miss them every season. So please, don’t ever mention Worm-eating Warblers to me.

birding group
Looking for birds at Emerald Golf Course

La Sagra's Flycatcher (Myiarchus sagrae)
La Sagra’s Flycatcher at Emerald Golf Course

Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)
Least Grebe at Emerald Golf Course

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
American Kestrel at Emerald Golf Course

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
Black-throated Green Warbler at Emerald Golf Course

The most exciting bird at this spot was a species I’d seen many times before. We were walking along a dilapidated golf cart path when I noticed a sparrow hopping along the concrete in front of us. I got it in my bins and said something like, “Sparrow up ahead on the path! Hey, that looks like a Lincoln’s Sparrow! What do you think, Erika?” She got a bit excited but also said she did not know what it was, because they don’t get any sparrows on Grand Bahama! All five of us tried to get better looks and I was sure it was a Lincoln’s. I got some photos for ID of this locally rare bird. It was a life bird for Erika.

Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)
Lincoln’s Sparrow at Emerald Golf Course

Our next stop was Erika’s house to see what birds might be visiting her extremely bird-friendly property – Garden of the Gates. We walked the paths and checked out the many water features, looking for birds. Here we saw 19 species, including two lifers: Loggerhead Kingbird and Thick-billed Vireo. We also had really nice looks at a bunch of migrants.

Red-legged Thrush (Turdus plumbeus)
Red-legged Thrush in Erika’s yard

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)
Northern Parula in Erika’s yard

Our next destination was Reef Golf Course, another unused golf course, where we saw 7 species during our brief stop. We didn’t add any lifers here, but 5 out of the 7 weren’t seen anywhere else during the day.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Green Heron at Reef Golf Course

Our final stop with Erika was at the wonderful Garden of the Groves, where we had 22 species. Two of these were life birds: Cuban Emerald; and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. The 12-acre tropical garden was designed as a gift to the founders of Freeport, Mr. Wallace Groves and his wife Georgette. In addition to exploring the paths here in search of birds, we had a nice lunch at the on-site cafe.

Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii))
Cuban Emerald at Garden of the Groves

birding group
Our birding group at Garden of the Groves

Birding Guide Erika Gates
Our guide Erika at Garden of the Groves

At the end of the afternoon Erika brought us back to the port. From the ship’s deck I kept a list of birds seen at the Freeport Cruise Port, where I found four species total and added my final Bahamas species: Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

We had a Groupon-style deal on the cruise which made this little getaway an affordable short and memorable birding trip.

*October 2013

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My last two life birds

My last two life birds, and owl and a sparrow, came in two different states.

Back in June, Arthur and I took a little sightseeing trip to southwestern Florida. We were based in Bonita Springs and spent a couple of days visiting nature centers and local beaches. A visit to the Pelican Boulevard ball fields in Cape Coral was on the agenda. We hoped to see the Burrowing Owls that live on the park grounds. Their burrows were roped off to protect the area.

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls

There were babies as well as adults in the bunch. It was pouring rain when we pulled into the parking lot, but the owls didn’t seem to mind.

Burrowing Owl

Well, maybe they minded a little.

Burrowing Owl

In July I had high hopes to finally pick up a long-overdue lifer. Dickcissels aren’t all that uncommon around where we used to live in Illinois, but somehow I had never managed to see one. That was rectified on July 20 at Fort Sheridan FP. When we first found the male bird, he was singing with his mouth full.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

It seemed no one answered him, so he ate his lunch alone and looked around the prairie before flying off.

Dickcissel

Maybe, just maybe, my next life bird will be found in the Bahamas! Stay tuned…

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Bird-a-Day 50

Red-tailed Hawk
12-FEB: Red-tailed Hawk | Spring-to-spring Trail, Volusia Co. FL

Today is the 50th day of the year, and I’m still alive in the Bird-a-Day Challenge.

Since my last update on January 17th, I’ve added 33 birds.

Ten birds came from Gemini Springs or the adjacent Spring-to-spring Trail: Hermit Thrush; Eastern Phoebe; Merlin; Forster’s Tern; Green-winged Teal; House Wren; Red-tailed Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Swamp Sparrow; and today’s American Bittern.

Swamp Sparrow
17-FEB: Swamp Sparrow | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

Another eight birds came from our back yard. I always have a tiny little feeling of despair when I have to use a yard bird for the challenge, even though I have a lot of yard birds yet to use. A fair bunch of the birds I used are migrants that will soon leave, plus there was a pair of seldom-seen-anywhere species that I shouldn’t lament at all. The latest yard birds: Palm Warbler (ouch but will leave for the summer); Brown-headed Cowbird (abundant last year but a three-day wonder this season (so far)); Common Ground-Dove (new yard bird and seldom seen by me otherwise); Black-and-white Warbler (a rare yard visitor); Ruby-throated Hummingbird (visited two days after putting up the feeders and a regular visitor since); Yellow-rumped Warbler (ouch but will leave for the summer); Yellow-throated Warbler (seldom seen by me anywhere); and Chipping Sparrow (ouch but will leave soon).

Common Ground-Dove
26-JAN: Common Ground-Dove | our yard, Volusia Co. FL

A few birds came from neighborhood outings or errand runs: a Gray Catbird and flyover Sandhill Cranes while house-hunting; and a Pied-billed Grebe pit-stop on the way home.

I picked up three nice birds during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife festival at the end of January. I didn’t take a lot of field trips but Arthur and I had the chance to visit Merritt Island during the festival where I picked up Lesser Yellowlegs and Eurasian Wigeon. I used a lifer, Bridled Tern, during the festival’s pelagic trip.

There were just two Disney birds in this bunch: a Eurasian Collared-Dove at the Magic Kingdom and a lovely posing Cooper’s Hawk at Hollywood Studios.

Cooper's Hawk
08-FEB: Cooper’s Hawk | Hollywood Studios, Orange Co. FL photo by Arthur de Wolf

I also picked up a pair of birds at a new-to-me birding spot in nearby Deltona: Audubon Park. There I added Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer. Two more came from morning walks at Lake Woodruff NWR: Brown-headed Nuthatch (when we were looking for Red-breasted!) and Sora.

Finally, I picked up another lifer (American Pipit) on a targeted outing, a coastal bird on a day I joined Arthur on his volunteering day (Common Loon), and a flock of Cedar Waxwings at my volunteer gig.

Common Loon
05-FEB: Common Loon | Port Orange Causeway Park, Volusia Co. FL

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll last! With no travel planned I’m afraid I’ll be burning up regular, common local birds at a crazy rate. Hopefully there are some surprises out there for me! Bird on!

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