Monday, June 14, 2010

Cerrón Grande revisited

Last Saturday, Roselvy and I went to Suchitoto, to bird the Embalse Cerrón Grande. About a month ago, I birded that spot also, and wrote about Snail Kites I saw there.

This time, we saw only a couple of Snail Kites cruising over the water. Of course we saw many of the same species that I had seen there a month ago. Migrants and winter birds are all up north now, so what remains are residents such as Neotropic Cormorant, Northern Jacana, Great, Cattle and Snowy Egret, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Wood Stork, Crested Caracara, Gray-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow, and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, to name a few.

The bird at the top is a Cattle Egret.

A notable difference between now and a month ago was the number of butterflies around. In May, the rainy season had just started, and it was still a little early for decent numbers of butterflies. Now, we saw many individuals of several species, including these four fresh Guatemalan Kite-Swallowtails. I have seen these also in Mexico and Nicaragua.

A month ago I found a group of Roseate Spoonbills sitting in the trees on one of the 'bird islands'. In the middle of the reservoir is a group of islands, one of which is known locally as the 'isla de los pajaros' (bird island), although several islands here have rookeries that support large numbers of egrets and herons. Even though I didn't find any spoonbill nests back then, I assumed the birds in the trees were part of the rookery and were either breeding there or - I thought more likely - had just finished breeding there. Many spoonbills I saw were in immature plumage. And after all, spoonbills don't feed in trees.

But, as I since learned from local experts, these birds almost certainly did not breed there. The bird populations of those islands are monitored by Salvadoran biologists, and a breeding population of large, pink birds would not have gone unnoticed. Perhaps the birds were scouting the area for future breeding, and will return next year? Or they may simply have been in transit, using the reservoir as a stopover site, and one of the rookeries as a great place for an afternoon nap.

However, since we were there, we thought it prudent to revisit the island and to see if the birds were still in the area.

We paid a local woman to take us (and her daughter, left) out to the islands by boat. From the water, these islands look deceptively similar, and I kept saying "I'm almost sure this is the island where I saw the spoonbills". Eventually we did briefly land on one of the islands to check it out. In what seemed the correct trees on the correct island, we found many Wood Storks, as well as Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-herons.

But not a trace of Roseate Spoonbills...

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