Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finally, some migration!

I'm still in El Salvador, where bird migration so far has been evident, but not conspicuous. Yes, every tree here now has a Yellow Warbler in it, since a couple of weeks. The local botanical garden has Green-breasted Mango's which it didn't have earlier. And we had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in a big tree outside the SalvaNATURA office, downtown San Salvador, a few weeks ago.

But I wasn't seeing any hawk migration. Last week, the counters in Veracruz had half a million Broad-winged Hawks in a couple of days, and yesterday I went to Suchitoto, 70 km north of San Salvador, hopeful that I would see some hawk migration there. But I only saw two Osprey, and some resident raptor species. I didn't see a single broadwing.

Today, however, I finally did get to see some of the spectacle of migration. Roselvy and I went to Walter Deininger National Park, on the Pacific coast near the town of La Libertad. Without a car, we had to take three buses to get there, and got off to a late start. This, and the fact that it was a cloudy, hazy day, made for unexciting birding, the best birds probably a pair of Green Kingfishers along the river that transects the park.

However, once we got to a lookout with a view of the coastal hills and the Pacific Ocean, we noticed immediately that the best birding at that time of day was to be found not inside the forest, but directly above it. Literally thousands of swallows were streaming through, and little groups of American Kestrels (above). In just half an hour of counting, we saw 30 American Kestrels, 1 Merlin, 1 Common Nighthawk, and five swallow species: Cliff, Cave, Bank and Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin (below).

Hungry, and without lunch, we left the park and took a bus back to a little mall right on the beach of La Libertad. This mall, Centro Comercial El Faro, included a building built next to a lighthouse. They had turned the lighthouse into a staircase with a (non-functioning) elevator in the middle, leading to various levels, all but one of which were still undeveloped. On the fifth floor we found a restaurant called Bar Grill Tres 60, which provided excellent views of the ocean and a strip of land roughly 500 m wide, between the surf and the towering hills.

Having enjoyed some tasty seafood, we resumed our watch. Between 2 and 4 PM, we saw the following migrants pass by:
American Kestrel 24
Peregrine Falcon 1
Osprey 5
Ictinia kite, presumed Mississippi Kite 50 (distant)
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Snowy Egret 1
Wood Stork 17 (two small groups)
American White Pelican 3
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Thousands of swallows, mostly Cliff, Cave and Bank Swallow (above), and a few Barn Swallows as well. The percentage of Bank Swallows here was considerably larger than we saw earlier from the lookout at Walter Deininger, which is slightly more inland.

1 comment:

Oliver Komar said...

You mentioned two birds that are really great records, but I am guessing from the non-chalant mention that you do not realize it! Purple Martin has never been documented in El Salvador! Did you get any conclusive photos? The one you published on the blog looks like a silhouette so I could not tell from the photo that the bird wasn't Gray-breasted Martin. You also mentioned Common Nighthawk. Believe it or not, there are no records during migration, just a few calling birds during the breeding season over the pine-forests where it presumably breeds. Please consider reporting these to North American Birds (or another records journal). --O.K.