Friday, July 23, 2010

Gulf of Fonseca

This is a view of the Gulf of Fonseca, a small area, littered with islands, on which three countries border: El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The photo was taken from the top of Conchagua, a volcano on the Salvadoran mainland, Thursday afternoon around 6 PM, with a setting sun behind us. You can see the shadow of the Conchagua in the right side of the frame.

The closer islands belong to El Salvador, while the ones further are Honduran territory. There's one tiny island - El Conejo, or The Rabbit - which is claimed by both countries.

Incidentally, this is also one of the last photos taken with my camera, for it died shortly after. It had been hanging by a thread for some time and its demise was not unexpected. What this means for the blog is that there may be fewer photos and more text for a while, until I get a new camera.

I did get to photograph this spectacular species, Boat-billed Heron, in the mangroves of the Bahía de La Unión, also in the Golfo de Fonseca (just left outside the frame of the top photo). This bird had turned into a nemesis bird, a species that I just kept missing whenever I visited its habitat. Finally, I got it. It was with two others, all in juvenile plumage, sitting there in the mangroves.

Another mangrove species, but a lot easier to see, is Mangrove Swallow. These two individuals obligingly provide front and back side looks, as if posing for a field guide illustration.

In that same mangrove forest we encountered several 'Mangrove' Common Black Hawks, most of which were quite tame. This particular individual allowed us to approach by boat within 3 m!

And finally, a shot of a Wilson's Plover in one of the salineros, or salt pans, just outside the mangrove forest. If you also read ID Frontiers, you may remember a recent string of emails about this species. A month ago, a Dutch birder claimed he had found this species in The Netherlands, and had plenty of photos to back up his claim. The problem, however, was that all these photos showed a Common Ringed Plover - a species only superficially similar to this one - which was quickly and politely pointed out to him by various well-known birders. His identification was based on something he had read in a field guide about a species with which he himself was not familiar, something about an 'upright stance'. Supposedly, Common Ringed Plovers do not exhibit this behavior, and therefore the alert bird in the photos had to be a Wilson's Plover - a bird that has never before been found in the Old World! After having been corrected by several more experienced birders, he proceeded to make an even bigger fool of himself by suggesting the possibility of a hybrid. In the end, he had to admit that his 'Wilson's Plover of sorts' was really a Common Ringed Plover...

Well, could this bird be a Common Ringed Plover? Note the hunched stance, and the fact that the bill does not look quite as huge as it would on a 90 degree angled view of the head...

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