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Birding Hacienda Jacana: Jan/Feb

We spent a night at the unbelievably picturesque Hacienda Jacana a couple weeks ago, with the intention of a proper birding mission – originally intended as a three day stay, but you know, life happens sometimes and we ended up halving the time. Even then, having to attend to several commitments earlier in the day ensured that we arrived on the premises late in the afternoon. Nevertheless, the trees were rife with action as we pulled up, with numerous pairs of Rufous-tailed Jacamars calling fervently. Pictured here is a (white throated) male, calling to his russet coloured mate a few branches away. Can you see her?

rufous tailed jacamar-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the light had already dipped below the treeline, we spent the remaining half hour before darkness recording some of the regulars. Six species of hummingbirds as well as a Streaked Flycatcher grabbing a last meal for the day made for some pleasant viewing. As we were walking back to our cabin, an unexpected visitor took flight. There is no mistaking the majesty of a White Hawk! Even as the night took hold, the excitement didn’t abate in the least – a pair of Common Paraques called to each other as they passed through en route to their feeding grounds. Later on in the night, a Tropical Screech Owl called in the distance.

I rose well before dawn, as I was getting ready to head out I heard a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl calling rather aggressively. Also, I heard the Common Paraques on their return, even got a brief glimpse of one of them as my eyes got accustomed to the light!

The din of the dawn chorus in the forest is like nothing else, trust me. So many different calls, coming from so many different directions. From the maniacal twittering of Bananaquits to the haunting, drawn out call of the eternally hidden Little Tinamou – it’s magical. What’s marginally better than hearing the music of nature? Witnessing the first light of the day gently wash everything with subtle colour. A male Violaceous Euphonia perched on this branch shows how tiny he really is – being dwarfed by leaves – as the morning light caresses his back.

violaceous euphonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A walk around the ponds yielded some regular species like this Purple Gallinule.

purple gallinule-2

 

 

 

 

 

Just around the corner, a close relative of the Purple Gallinule showed itself in typical brief fashion. Grey-cowled Wood-rails are generally shy creatures, but the grounds here are home to a family of these beautiful birds; so one may often hear their raucous calls early in the morning or late in the evening. A little bit of luck is still required to lay your eyes upon one though! With this particular bird, I had mixed luck. Yes, I was lucky to see it, but no sooner had I seen it and fired off a few frames, my memory card was filled. And then the bird disappeared. But, as a wise man once said; any rail is a good rail.

grey cowled wood rail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another decent sighting was a Grey-fronted Dove, less common than its very similar White-tipped counterpart. Its monosyllabic call as well as its reddish lores (as opposed to blue on the White-tipped) sealed the deal. They are extremely shy, and most views in Trinidad are of these birds flying away.

grey fronted dove

 

 

 

 

 

 

A number of large swamp immortelle trees were in full bloom around the property, which attracted lots of tanagers – Palm, Blue-grey, White-lined and Silver-beaked all gorged themselves on the flowers. Orange-winged Amazons too, joined in.

orange winged parrots

 

 

 

 

 

Now, on the topic of Psittacines, I had received reports in the past of a family of Red-bellied Macaws resident on the property. Fortunately, they are noisy creatures, especially when flying (as most members of this family are) – so the instant I heard their calls I galvanized into action. Four birds were circling overhead. Good news. I made my way across to a dead royal palm tree where they were supposedly frequenting. On the way, another familiar call made me stop in my tracks. Far in the distance, I confirmed – a pair of Bat Falcons! Too far and too fast for any photos, unfortunately.

Jarring me from my long-distance viewing of the falcons was a pair of Red-bellied Macaws. They flew directly overhead and straight into the same dead tree. I began to jog towards them. Rain began to fall. Rats, I thought – the hole they were using was on the opposite side of the stump. But these birds seemed as interested in me as I was in them. I fired two shots off, manually focussing on the inquisitive face peering around as the rain intensified. Ended up with one of my favourite images for the year thus far 🙂

red bellied macaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain stops few things in nature, and the Wattled Jacanas were out in force in spite of the downpour.

wattled jacana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, the rain eased, the heat returned, and we caught this Zone-tailed Hawk riding some of the rising thermals.

zone tailed hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

A constant chip, chip, chip from a nearby tree could only be one thing – a migratory Yellow Warbler. Careful listening separates this from the metallic chink, chink of the Northern Waterthrush.

yellow warbler-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although we had recorded both male and female Green Kingfishers, it was only the female that was providing us with good views. Skittish as always, this female seems to have some mud on her bill, presumably from excavating a nest. Green Kingfishers nest in burrows; and unlike most other kingfishers who leave their entrances open, this particular species takes great care in concealing their entrance.

green kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another walk yielded extremely good views of this Forest Elaenia.

forest elaenia

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a previous posting I mentioned the ease of observing hummingbirds on their feeding grounds, and this patch of vervine gave us hummingbird #11 for the day, the smallest (and cutest) of the lot, a female Tufted Coquette.

tufted coquette

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we decided to take a little breather, as we had been on our feet for most of the day thus far. Somehow, I felt like something was watching me, so I got up, and walked up to one of the immortelle trees and tried to make some sense out of that feeling. After about ten seconds, I locked eyes with the source of that feeling of being watched. A gorgeous Squirrel Cuckoo. No sooner had we made eye contact he darted off, and I had a hearty laugh. We played peek-a-boo for a few minutes, until it finally decided that I wasn’t that exciting after all.

squirrel cuckoo-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mid-afternoon heat was starting to get a little under our skin, as the rain fell, the sky never really cleared – so the heat stayed and I was pushed into high-key mode. No complaints at all, though. Southern Rough-winged Swallows were darting around, taking quick drinks of water on the wing – I managed to catch this one resting.

southern rough winged swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though we were constantly hearing the calls of the Rufous-browed Peppershrike – they are notoriously difficult to spot, so we were rather happy to finally lay our eyes upon a single bird.

rufous browed peppershrike-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the while I was tracking the previous bird, a Tropical Peewee stared at me, almost in disbelief. This particular bird made its ownership of this perch well known. An Ochre-bellied Flycatcher flew in, however its attempts to oust the Peewee failed, and the king kept his crown.

tropical peewee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, we came upon a trema tree that initially seemed devoid of life. As we got closer, though, about a dozen Green-rumped Parrotlets erupted and flew off to a nearby tree. It’s amazing how they manage to blend in seamlessly within foliage. Deciding to play the waiting game, the parrotlets returned and resumed their feeding.

green rumped parrotlet-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close by, a Caribbean Treerunner kept a watchful eye on proceedings.

plica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to our cabin, we got excellent views of Yellow-rumped Cacique. Very similar to the larger Crested Oropendola, the former has a black tail and yellow rump, while the latter has this reversed.

yellow rumped cacique

 

 

 

 

 

 

As 24 hours elapsed, we ended our tally of 77 avian species. Many thanks to our human and feathered family at Hacienda Jacana!

The list:

  1. Little tinamou
  2. Striated heron
  3. Turkey vulture
  4. Black vulture
  5. Osprey
  6. White hawk
  7. Zone-tailed hawk
  8. Gray-cowled wood-rail
  9. Purple gallinule
  10. Southern lapwing
  11. Wattled Jacana
  12. Pale-vented pigeon
  13. Gray-fronted dove
  14. Ruddy ground dove
  15. Smooth-billed Ani
  16. Squirrel cuckoo
  17. Tropical Screech Owl
  18. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
  19. Common Pauraque
  20. Gray-rumped swift
  21. White-necked Jacobin
  22. Rufous-breasted hermit
  23. Little hermit
  24. Green hermit
  25. Ruby-topaz hummingbird
  26. Black-throated mango
  27. Tufted coquette
  28. Long-billed starthroat
  29. Blue-chinned sapphire
  30. White-chested emerald
  31. Copper-rumped hummingbird
  32. Guianan Trogon
  33. Green Kingfisher
  34. Rufous-tailed jacamar
  35. Golden-olive woodpecker
  36. Lineated woodpecker
  37. Bat falcon
  38. Orange-winged Parrot
  39. Green-rumped parrotlet
  40. Red-bellied macaw
  41. Black-crested antshrike
  42. Barred antshrike
  43. Plain-brown woodcreeper
  44. Forest Elaenia
  45. Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  46. Southern beardless-tyrannulet
  47. Ochre-bellied flycatcher
  48. Tropical Pewee
  49. Great Kiskadee
  50. Streaked flycatcher
  51. Tropical Kingbird
  52. White-bearded manakin
  53. Rufous-browed peppershrike
  54. Golden-fronted greenlet
  55. Southern rough-winged swallow
  56. Gray-breasted Martin
  57. House wren
  58. Rufous-breasted wren
  59. Long-billed gnatwren
  60. Cocoa thrush
  61. Spectacled thrush
  62. Tropical mockingbird
  63. White-lined tanager
  64. Silver-beaked tanager
  65. Blue-gray tanager
  66. Palm tanager
  67. Turquoise tanager
  68. Grayish Saltator
  69. Blue-black grassquit
  70. Bananaquit
  71. Northern waterthrush
  72. Yellow warbler
  73. Crested oropendola
  74. Yellow-rumped cacique
  75. Yellow oriole
  76. Trinidad Euphonia
  77. Violaceous Euphonia

9 thoughts on “Birding Hacienda Jacana: Jan/Feb

  1. Holy moly Red-bellied Macaws!!! My mind is in overdrive.

    Lovely shots of the Amazonas and parrotlets as well. Hacienda Jacana is providing prime real estate for the psittacines.

  2. Nice Faraaz – I just spent 2 nights there (carnival friday & saturday) – I did manage to see everything except the bat falcons and red-bellied macaws which I think the orange-winged have been trying to drive out according to Helen. Nice article! It’s definitely a place I will return to!

    1. Aw man, sorry you didn’t see them – I didn’t see them on many visits there in the past, don’t worry. You only have to continue visiting and eventually they’ll make themselves visible. Cheers!

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