Sunday, December 6, 2009

El Imposible

About two weeks ago, field assistant Kashmir and myself traveled down from Mexico to El Salvador, to start on the fourth field season studying the winter ecology of Golden-cheeked Warblers in Central America. But matters beyond our control have thus far prevented us from starting with the project, so we have been birding in El Salvador instead. We spent most of our time in a national park called El Imposible, where I stayed before (see here and here).

Long-tailed Manakins (an immature pictured above) are common here, and their melodious call is often heard. This bird is called Toledo in Spanish, a fairly accurate representation of that call.

One of the most common neotropical migrants here is Tennessee Warbler, a fairly drab looking warbler that is superficially similar (but unrelated) to Old World warblers in the genus Phylloscopus, like the Chiffchaff or the Willow Warbler.

Herpetofauna is well represented in the park, and includes this small but charismatic amphibian, the Maki Frog. They are hard to find in the daytime, but come out at night to sit on leaves overhanging wet spots in the park.

The last few days we were there, Kashmir and I assisted with the bird monitoring project in El Imposible. In this photo, Kashmir is taking notes while Ricardo is processing a female Elegant Trogon.

Familiar neotropical migrants such as this Black-and-White Warbler are abundant in the park. In this part of the winter range, females are more common than males.

Another very common winter visitor to the park: Swainson's Thrush.

A tropical family with three representatives common in the park is that of the woodcreepers. This is an Ivory-billed Woodcreeper. Ruddy and Streak-headed Woodcreepers are also found here.

An exciting late-afternoon catch was this Northern Bentbill, a 'lifer' (first sighting) for me. I removed this bird from one of the nets in the very last net run Friday. Although daylight was fading, it wasn't quite as dark as it seems in this picture. Shortly after its release, we heard its odd referee-like whistle.

We saw many other exciting birds here, including King Vulture and Black Hawk-Eagle almost daily. I had hoped to see White Hawk here also, but that bird was more elusive. It is more commonly seen in an area of the park that we didn't get a chance to visit this time. I did find another, rather unexpected lifer during a short visit to nearby Barra de Santiago, a strip of mangrove forest and beach on the Pacific coast. There we found a Black-vented Shearwater in a mixed flock of terns and pelicans fishing on a school of fish, close to the beach. This is a small shearwater that is found in Baja California. Unlike most shearwaters, it tends not to wander too far from its breeding grounds. It is still a rare bird in El Salvador, although it may be more regular here than previously thought, for this represents the seventh or eighth sighting within the last couple of years, according to Oliver Komar.

Now back in San Salvador, we should be on our way to Honduras and Costa Rica in a matter of days.

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