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Birding Hacienda Jacana: May/June

This edition of the regular Hacienda Jacana mission found nesting season in full swing. Coinciding with the flowering of many native trees, there was much hurried activity – which funny enough, made the forest quieter than usual. It’s almost as if frivolous activities like singing one’s life away for no apparent reason were sidelined for the more serious business of securing the next generations. Oh, how this world would be if politicians took that lesson. Hah.

Interestingly enough, the mornings were even more devoid of birdsong than the afternoon periods. Even the Orange-winged Parrots were quiet! I just happened to look up at the right moment in the right direction through the right gap in the trees to see a bird flying in the distance that didn’t fly just as the Orange-winged Parrots do. Definitely a psittacine, but what was it? It was only 6:07am and the sun seemed to be slow in waking. I had to click the shutter¬†to make sense of the silhouette, and a sighting of a Blue-headed Parrot was a fine way to start the ball rolling.

blue headed parrot







Flycatchers were the most active during the early morning period, with the usual Piratic Flycatcher occupying the highest exposed perches.

piratic flycatcher-2










An exciting addition was the first Fork-tailed Flycatcher for the season. These flamboyant birds migrate here each year from South America, just as Swallow Tanagers do.

fork tailed flycatcher







In the high branches, Yellow-rumped Caciques bounded along, almost as monkeys do. Playful and noisy with a fascinating array of vocalizations, they are always fun to watch. All other birds seemed to be chasing the Cacique, everywhere it went. The smaller passerines just seemed to be annoyed by its presence.

yellow rumped cacique










A Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl elicited an exponentially worse reaction from all avian neighbours, though. Hummingbirds and thrushes alike continually bombarded this tiny predator – much more severe than plain annoyance, this was survival.

ferruginous pygmy owl










In the hunt for food, many different birds passed through my particular stakeout for that period of the morning. Generally, they all seemed to be travelling in more or less the same direction – west to east. One of the things I love most about nature is how she makes one think, and wonder “why”.

It makes each sighting all the more special, – if I wasn’t in that exact spot at that exact time, I would’ve not seen this White-shouldered Tanager. (although the counter-argument that I probably missed out on something else, elsewhere is also quite valid!)

white shouldered tanager






Some birds are even easier to miss. Half the size of a woodcreeper but with the same habit of creeping and hopping along branches and twigs, the Streaked Xenops is as enigmatic as its name. Its bill looks like it was attached upside-down!

streaked xenops







A little more conspicuous was the aptly named Boat-billed Flycatcher.

boat billed flycatcher







Although there was rain forecast, the showers only started to accumulate once the ground heated up sufficiently. So for the first few hours of daylight, the sun blazed everywhere. The rising thermals didn’t show a wide variety of raptors, but for a brief moment there were so many Plumbeous Kites in the sky I just had to put my camera down and enjoy the moment. I’d say easily 200 Plumbeous Kites – they just kept on coming! And just as mysteriously as they drifted into the sky above our heads, they disappeared.

plumbeous kite










I contemplated running for my wide lens, but I would’ve missed that moment. Sometimes it is better to soak it all in!

Hungry mouths mean all hands on deck – and isolated incidents of throwing caution to the wind. There was a lot of behaviour that I had never experienced before – all which can be attributed to the earnest pursuit of more food. I observed a pair of Green Honeycreepers picking berries and plucking insects simultaneously, for that extra protein.

green honeycreeper-2







We even saw a Purple Gallinule regularly leave the comfort of the ponds to climb onto this banana tree and gorge on its ripe fruit.

purple gallinule






The normally unseen Rufous-browed Peppershrike was also a welcome sighting, and guess what it was doing? Scouring each branch for anything edible, of course.

rufous browed peppershrike










Now I didn’t see any direct evidence of the resident Green Kingfishers nesting – but being able to sit comfortably on a bench and have a stunning male Green Kingfisher fly in multiple times and perch almost too close to us was definitely atypical behaviour of this species. I’d make a wild guess and say that he has young ‘uns to feed.

green kingfisher






Just over the water where the Green Kingfisher was hunting, a tiny cup in a fork housed two (or three) tiny hummingbirds-in-process. Mama Black-throated Mango was busy drinking from flowers, as well as checking the edges of leaves for any insects. She didn’t pass up a single opportunity to get that nutrition in.

black throated mango feeding young






Also working tirelessly was a pair of Red-eyed Vireos. This is an interesting species, as some are resident and some are migratory. Both are different races of the same species. And there’s another subspecies that can be found on Tobago. Yeah. This pair was definitely homegrown, even if we never saw the nest we heard them vocalize. Migrants are usually silent.

red eyed vireo with prey-2








Our largest species of woodpecker was also in the race to successfully raise young. We enjoyed observing an entire family of Crimson-crested Woodpeckers forage leisurely – I managed to fit mother and her young son in the frame as they flew into this palm tree.

crimson crested woodpeckers










Just as I was photographing the Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, a sudden movement to my left caught my eye. A pair of the smaller Golden-olive Woodpeckers gave me an eyeful then flew off.

golden olive woodpecker







Those who weren’t seeing after their young were in the process of scrambling nesting material before they lose the window. I observed a pair of Violaceous Euphonias stocking up on silk from a spider’s web. Both male and female birds took turns – they are a gorgeous pair and are generally seen together even when they’re not breeding. I’ve never been to another place where this species was more common. Not that I’m complaining, as they make wonderful images!

violaceous euphonia






Also usually seen in pairs are White-lined Tanagers. The male can be mistaken for the smaller White-shouldered Tanager, but the presence of a female erases any possible ambiguity. The female White-shouldered is olive green and grey, while the female White-lined Tanager is a warm cinnamon brown.

white lined tanager f










On the topic of tanagers, Palm, Blue-grey and Silver-beaked Tanagers were all in attendance. Epiphites on some of the large trees were sending out their flowers, which was providing quite the banquet for the tanagers and euphonias.

silver beaked tanager-2










While the tanagers would pick the petals off, hummingbirds like this White-chested Emerald enjoyed some of the nectar available deep within.

white chested emerald










Usually detected by its call, I managed to find a pair of Yellow-breasted Flycatchers also in the grind of nest-building. They always choose their nest location carefully – to within a foot of a large wasp’s nest.

yellow breasted flycatcher with nesting material










There was one bird that seemed content to sit back and observe the goings-on of everyone else, though. Not that she didn’t have the success of her offspring in mind just as the others. She just had a different – albeit more sinister – plan. Shiny Cowbirds are notorious brood parasites and will hijack an unguarded nest and lay her own eggs – thus ensuring that someone else will raise her young.

shiny cowbird







Even though it seemed relatively quiet, we still managed to record a reasonable number of species in our limited time – 84 to be exact.

  1. Little Tinamou
  2. Magnificent Frigatebird
  3. Striated Heron
  4. Cattle Egret
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Black Vulture
  7. Plumbeous Kite
  8. Long-winged Harrier
  9. Grey-lined Hawk
  10. Grey-cowled Wood-Rail
  11. Purple Gallinule
  12. Southern Lapwing
  13. Wattled Jacana
  14. Scaled Pigeon
  15. Pale-vented Pigeon
  16. Ruddy Ground Dove
  17. Grey-fronted Dove
  18. Lilac-tailed Parrotlet
  19. Blue-headed Parrot
  20. Orange-winged Parrot
  21. Squirrel Cuckoo
  22. Smooth-billed Ani
  23. Tropical Screech Owl
  24. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  25. Common Pauraque
  26. Short-tailed Swift
  27. Rufous-breasted Hermit
  28. Little Hermit
  29. White-necked Jacobin
  30. Black-throated Mango
  31. Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
  32. White-chested Emerald
  33. Copper-rumped Hummingbird
  34. Guianan Trogon
  35. Green-backed Trogon
  36. Green Kingfisher
  37. Rufous-tailed Jacamar
  38. Channel-billed Toucan
  39. Golden-olive Woodpecker
  40. Lineated Woodpecker
  41. Crimson-crested Woodpecker
  42. Streaked Xenops
  43. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  44. Black-crested Antshrike
  45. Barred Antshrike
  46. Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  47. Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
  48. Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
  49. Tropical Pewee
  50. Piratic Flycatcher
  51. Great Kiskadee
  52. Streaked Flycatcher
  53. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  54. Tropical Kingbird
  55. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  56. Golden-headed Manakin
  57. Black-tailed Tityra
  58. Rufous-browed Peppershrike
  59. Red-eyed Vireo
  60. Golden-fronted Greenlet
  61. Grey-breasted Martin
  62. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  63. House Wren
  64. Rufous-breasted Wren
  65. Long-billed Gnatwren
  66. Cocoa Thrush
  67. Spectacled Thrush
  68. Tropical Mockingbird
  69. White-shouldered Tanager
  70. White-lined Tanager
  71. Silver-beaked Tanager
  72. Blue-grey Tanager
  73. Palm Tanager
  74. Turquoise Tanager
  75. Green Honeycreeper
  76. Bananaquit
  77. Blue-black Grassquit
  78. Greyish Saltator
  79. Crested Oropendola
  80. Yellow-rumped Cacique
  81. Yellow Oriole
  82. Shiny Cowbird
  83. Trinidad Euphonia 
  84. Violaceous Euphonia

See the previous lists here (Jan/Feb) and here (Mar/Apr).

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