Thursday, March 7, 2013

New wrens

Lava flows at El Playón, San Salvador

I'm currently on a business trip, my business being nothing more fancy than getting my ass out of Honduras (or northern Central America, to be precise), in order to renew upon return my visa status in that country. A necessary evil, I figured I might as well design the trip to get myself a couple of life birds, and the theme I chose for this trip was "wrens". 

A trip to Tapachula, just across the border in Chiapas, Mexico, would do the trick, and would allow me to connect with Giant Wren, a restricted-range species endemic to the Pacific lowlands of Chiapas. Since I was traveling by bus (about ten times cheaper than by air), I decided a stopover in San Salvador would allow me to get Rock Wren. Both these wrens would be new for me.

Roselvy was already in San Salvador, and together we set out for the lava fields on the back side of the San Salvador volcano. Although only 30 minutes by car, our bus trip to the lookout of El Playón as it is called took us quite a bit longer. However, once there an obliging Rock Wren presented itself within 5 minutes.

Rock Wren

This is a cool bird that thrives where few other critters find anything of their liking. These lava flows are just rocks on top of rocks, with little or no vegetation. However, where resources are sparse, so is competition, and this bird evolved to fill that particular niche. It's also found in much of western North America, but its distribution in Central America is quite local. The birds here are much paler than the northern Rock Wrens.

I've been coming to El Salvador for years, but somehow had never really looked for this species at the few places where it is found. While we were in the area, we decided to visit the nearby Laguna Chanmico also. 

It was midday and our expectations were modest, but we did really much better than expected. As soon as we got there, we realized the place was packed with ducks!

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal is not a common species anywhere in Central America, yet here we found no fewer than four males and two females. 

Northern Shovelers

More common in this part of the world, though usually in much smaller numbers, is Northern Shoveler. We estimated about 150 birds present, mixed in with about 900 Blue-winged Teal. 

Ruddy Ducks and Blue-winged Teal

A spectacular number of Ruddy Ducks were also present. We counted no fewer than 380 individuals here, a huge count in this part of the world. We found a single Ring-necked Duck as well. Who knows what else was hidden among the duckage there – a scope would probably have resulted in additional noteworthy sightings.

The next episode will deal with Giant Wren. Just to whet your appetite for this spectacular bird, here's a sneak preview:

photo Kris H. of Picture Topeka, licensed through Creative Commons

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