Saturday, July 24, 2010


My camera may be dead, but I still have a ton of photos from the field trips I went on these past 5 weeks. I found these butterflies, for example, feeding on mud near a small river in the Rio Sapo area, in northeastern El Salvador last week. Click on the photos for close-up views.

It was cloudy and there wasn't much light, but these critters were so busy feeding on the nutrients they find in mud, that they were oblivious to my very close presence. At times the lens was only two or three inches above their heads.

The white skipper is a Common Enops (Polyctor polyctor) which, despite its name, certainly is not common in Mexico, although it may be more common in Central America. I've seen it at other sites in the region.

The pretty blue one is Aztec Bentwing (Cycloglypha thrasibulus), fairly common throughout the region.

The gray skippers are male Dusted Spurwings (Antigonus erosus), and in these photos the brown ones are also males, only older and more worn. The females are all brown, with two small transparent windows in the wings. Rare in southern Texas, it is often abundant in Mexico and Central America. Their flight is fast and erratic, and usually just inches above the ground. It's rare to find this species perched or flying more than one meter or three feet above the ground. It's been my experience that aggregations such as this one often consist largely or even solely of males. I don't know why that is.

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...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Cinquera is a small village near the Cerrón Grande in central El Salvador, not too far from Suchitoto. I was there for a few days to participate in field work documenting biodiversity in a protected area, on the same project I have been writing about in the last few blog entries. After this trip, two more trips remain in this project.

This area is rich in butterflies, especially now in the rainy season. The butterfly above is a male Sinuous Mottlemark.

Here's a Red-spotted Scrub-Hairstreak.

Probably the most exciting find in the avian department was this Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, a species not previously registered in the area.

Fan-tailed Warbler was another cool bird to document in this area. Other notable observations included Nutting's Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Pacific Screech-Owl, and - numerous - Long-tailed Manakin.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cerro El Tigre

Another installment in the tales of the traveling circus documenting the biodiversity in certain protected areas of El Salvador. Basically the same group of biologists went to Cerro El Tigre, on the slope of Volcán Usulután in eastern El Salvador, for another 5-day expedition executing field work for MARN, the Salvadoran Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, or Ministry of Environmental Affairs.

The bird at the top is a Rufous-and-white Wren, a common species in humid montane forest. I took this photo in the Laguna de Alegría, a small crater, with a lovely little lake in the middle, where we did a day of field work.

There we found some Yellow-faced Grassquits, small finches of open, grassy areas. I saw a female emerge from a clump of grass, and figured there had to be a nest in there. These hatchlings are probably just one or two days old.

This bird, a Striped Cuckoo, was also pretty common in Cerro El Tigre. Usually this species stays well hidden and is far more often heard than seen.

A bird I had never seen before, but again common in this area, is Prevost's Ground-Sparrow. Roselvy joined us on this trip as bird bander, and she and I caught a few of these charismatic birds with big Elvis 70s style sideburns.

Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush too was common. We heard their pretty little songs constantly, and we caught several individuals.

Unusual sightings included White-breasted Hawk, a bird of pine-oak forests in the north of the country, and previously unreported for the area, and Yellow-backed Oriole, also more commonly found in pine-oak. Worth mentioning too are Greenish Elaenia, Lesser Greenlet, White-throated Thrush, and Bar-winged Oriole.