Monday, March 18, 2013

Filling in more gaps

Yellow-breasted Chat

Back in January, Roselvy and I set out to bird in 'eBird data-deficient' areas in southern Honduras, where few birders venture into the heat of the dry forest. That day, we succeeded in collecting some bird distribution data for four new eBird quadrants. 

The two eBird quadrants we visited yesterday

Yesterday, we went on a similar quest, this time targeting two 'empty quadrants' near the Honduras / El Salvador border. The habitat we found ourselves in was similar to that of our January trip, and many of the birds were the same species, with a couple of notable differences. For example, that day in January we found Banded Wren to be present at practically every location we stopped, but Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl curiously absent. Yesterday, it was the other way around: Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls everywhere, but no Banded Wrens. This illustrates the point that these surveys are often incomplete after just one visit. However, some data is always better than no data.

A pair of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls

We stopped at six locations distributed among two eBird quadrants, and counted birds at each of them for about 20 minutes or so. We left a little late and these quadrants aren't exactly next door for us, so by the time we got to our first stop, it was already 10 AM. In this part of Honduras – the hottest part of the country – that means the temperature is already up to 36° C (or 97°F) by that time. Around midday, the car's temperature gauge read 40° C (104° F). That's hot.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Despite the heat, we soldiered on, reminding ourselves we were 'on a mission from God'. Some birds were present at each point (e.g. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Streak-backed Oriole, Rufous-naped Wren) or at most points (e.g. White-tipped Dove, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Turquoise-browed Motmot). A few birds we had at single points only, like Gray Hawk, Yellow-throated Vireo, Nutting's Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, and Yellow-billed Cacique, but these birds are no doubt still relatively common in the area. We had Striped Cuckoo at two different spots, once in each quadrant. That species is not terribly common in Honduras.

Streak-backed Oriole

Streak-backed Oriole is a common species of disturbed habitats on the Pacific Slope.

Spot-breasted Oriole

Spot-breasted Oriole has a smaller range, but in Honduras is found throughout the country, on both slopes.

Yellow-billed Cacique

Typical birding scene in the Pacific dry forest: endless tangle of twigs with a bird inside. 

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