Friday, January 21, 2022

Day 5: Lifer super chase: A bridge (and a bird) too far.

Somedays, one wonders if a plan is just too much, too ambitious and despite valiant efforts one may just be trying to attain the unattainable.  In 1944 in an effort to end World War II, the British Army concocted Operation Markey Garden, to recapture Dutch territory and get a bridgehead on the Rhine into Germany, but despite a big plan, the project was just a "Bridge to far," to steal a movie title about the event.

Quite possibly attempting to get five lifers in five days in four states was, like this 1944 plan, attempting too much and attempting to get a bird too far, and in this case a stakeout on an old and somewhat rickety swing bridge (The Southport Bridge, Boothbay Maine), so my trip to Maine was a bridge and a bird too far....

It was the big dipper of bird chases, for the biggest eagle, and a big nothing. 

Stakeout at the closed Aquarium overlooking Boothbay Harbor

It was a cold 2 1/2 days on a stakeout in snow, heavy wind, and cold, but luckily it was not on the Beaufort scale cold like it was here a few days ago OR like it will be in a few days. I had had a marvelous week of 4 lifers, but after the exhausting two plus days and a day of getting there and back, I was frustrated, beaten. and happy to get home, and I had forgotten the past success.  Like life, birding for big listers is much about the high or low from your last chase, a tick or a dip, and what I will remember about my time looking for the great Steller's Sea Eagle, the king (or queen) of Birds, a huge, one of a kind bird that should not be anywhere close to the Northeast, in fact even seeing one in the Bering Sea islands is a once in a lifetime event.  

So I missed the bird on Tuesday by about three hours, it has not been seen anywhere since. This bird has been seen at least in Quebec, New Brunswick, Massachusetts, Maine, in later 2021, but in March 2021, it (well probably) was seen in Goliad County, Texas, and then in 2020 it was seen and photographed in Central Alaska (which is confirmed the same bird), so this eagle has wondered around the North America some 7000 miles.  

From the Bangor newspaper, I hope to someday get another chance

This morning, the sounds of dozens of long-tailed ducks calling and echoing across the bay was almost as cool as seeing the majestic eagle.  Long-tailed ducks are handsome critters and their incessant calling was neat.  A new group of searchers showed but after an hour of nothing, many wandered off for breakfast or places unknown.  It is hard to stay at a stakeout as long as one may need to.

Long-tailed ducks, handsome even in winter.

Red Breasted meganser

Common Loon

I also saw three species of Alcids, Common murre, black guillimot, and razorbills

Black duck at sunrise before the snow yesterday

How does one evaluate what ended up being a six-day adventure with seven flight segments, three rental cars, maybe a thousand miles of driving, and some really bad meals? All in all, it was a good trip, maybe a bit long, and it ended badly, but was a big epic bird chase, maybe too big.  Maybe the eagle will even head towards Florida.  These eagles go to the southern islands of Japan in the winter.  

It is good to be home.  I was able to jump and earlier flight in Baltimore yesterday afternoon and still, no eagle reports.......but I was exhausted.  I need to get in better birding shape and in shape in general.

You may want to ask me, would I do this again? I will say it now, that I will never have the opportunity to do this again.  Mostly, because I will never have 5 lifer birds on the ground at the same time.  It was a fluke occurrence. The odds are so against it, that I was somewhat shocked it happened.  Of course if it wasn't for sloth and COVID I would not have had this happen, so it was good that I finally....finally got going and out birding.

Maybe it was a bridge too far, and an old rickety bridge, but it was a good bridge, just as it was a bird too far, but it was such a good bird, that if it is refound, I'll probably jump a Frontier or Southwest flight to get myself back up there

Until them, stay warm out there.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Day 4: Lifer Super chase: Maryland eastern shore and beyond


It was a very short night.  My flight to Baltimore from Houston TX last night was late and then I remembered why I did not like BWI airport the last time I blew through in 2013, the rental car experience.  First, I could not figure out at 0100 if Hertz was even still open, the phone number for them said they were closed, and then where was the shuttle pickup, it wasn't like ANY shuttle was running, I did see a Hilton shuttle, but then with the help of a parking lot shuttle drive sleeping in his van, he gave me some direction and then I found the stop.  No signs of anything, and was cold outside, cold for even me.

Somewhere about 0130, I'm thinking of do I just sleep in the terminal and scrap my hotel room in Annapolis, and how am I going to even get a rental car?  Then, a bus heads my way, I figure it was a city bus, looked like a city bus and the last time I was here they had individual busses for each rental car line, by then I see Rental shuttle and it steams past me like I am the Devil, some guy a good block down from waves to the bus and it slams to the curb maybe a half a block past him.  He runs, and I think this is my last chance, I run.  Luckily, this older guy is not fleet of foot and I'm cold and desperate and as I near I hear the bus powering up and I hit the last door just as it is closing I throw a hip into it, the door freezes momentarily and then opens up and I peel myself off the door and fall in.  

"Stop blocking the door back there!" I hear on the overhead mic...""If you stopped the f^$$ing bus at the stop..." I mutter and off the bus goes before I sit down.  

I ask the guy next to me "where is this bus going?" I realize there are 6 people on this bus.  

"Rental lot." 
"Where did you get on?"
"At the rental bus stop at "A" terminal."

Surprisingly Hertz had a staff and my car so off I go to Annapolis then I pull up to my hotel "Hilton Garden Inn" at 0200, it turns out, there are two and the other one is on  the other side of town, it is 0220 until I get my room, realize the "buffet breakfast" is another $20 per person and I stumble to my room.

0600 came early and I skip the breakfast and see a Dunkin's, and pull through for a quick birder breakfast.  The credit card machine won't take my card, and finally the girl at the window winks and says just go.  So I got something

The Bay Bridge was nice to see at first light, I forget it is toll, well i think it was a toll bridge, it was hard to tell, but whatever, I'll see the bill later.  I pull into the Northern Lapwing spot, where there was only one report yesterday.  It was not a welcoming spot, no trespassing signs were everywhere, so I put on my flashers in the shoulder of the narrow road and scan from the warm car.  It is cold outside.  I scan the almost frozen pond with some black ducks and a small Canada goose flock keeping it open.  Shore looks frozen tight, and then I see a lump.  I get out my scope as trucks, cars, a bus roll past me on the edge of the road.  I see the head, long trailing crest on the head.  It is hunched down, like it is almost succumbed to the weather, but the head moved.  

Distant photos, but here is what it is supposed to look like
I had not seen one of these in Europe, yet, either and the numbers of this bird have dropped substantially in the last 20 years and it is no wonder that this bird usually seen almost every season in North America has not for the last decade.  I have been watching for any reports.  My friend Jim Brown one of the last ones seen in New Jersey years ago.
It was for me lifer bird number 4!!

It wasn't moving, I looked at the snow geese flocks, spotted a couple of Ross's geese, 
 and then I repositioned the car and could not refind it so at 0800 I made a break for the airport.  A nonstop flight for Portland, so I drove hard.  I sped into the rental car lot, and on the bus to the terminal I booked a ticket, got through security.  Found my gate and boarded, I was off to the last stop, four in the bag.

I think I was in my rental car at Portland before the plane was fully unloaded.  I drove to Boothbay Harbor to look for the crazy Steller's Sea Eagle spotted here and almost everywhere else, Texas, Quebec, and I think this might have been the bird spotted near Denali in Alaska over a year ago.  It has been around New England a little as well.  The Common black hawk of 2018-2019 looks almost sedentary compared to this bird.

I got up there near 130 PM after getting lost, could I get a double?  It was no problem being late, the bird was seen early in the day and sittings.

It was somewhere between frozen and frostbite out there on the stakeout.  I got a tip of where a local saw it near 4 PM but I scrambled to where that was but i found a room and now I await for tomorrow.  This surely is not going to be an easy get.  It may make the bat falcon, seem easy, and a heck of a lot warmer.
Long tailed ducks, something to pass the time

So, tonight, I sleep, tomorrow, I'm wearing every piece of clothing I have with, and we'll see....we'll see if I see the great and mighty eagle.

Stay warm, cause it is cold outside here, 



Monday, January 17, 2022

Day 3: Lifer super chase, The Blues

The morning sky was blue, this morning in New Mexico after I drove past so much flaring of methane in the Permian the flames seemed almost blue at times.  I drove up to Rattlesnake Springs, the first time I had been here since 1993, and I got my lifer Audobon's warbler here, before it was taken away, on my first birding trip in America.  THE PLACE has changed or maybe it is January versus April, IDK. It was cold, many people's skins were blue, and I was driving a sweet blue Rav4 (actually it was a piece of crap, the check engine light was on)

It was a sweet color though

Then there was something far sweeter, the bluest of all blue birds in North America, the elusive blue mockingbird, it popped up right were I was and was only seen badly and many saw it only briefly, there were maybe 20 on the stakeout.  It wasn't good so I was patient, then everyone scattered and many were in groups talking and not watching.  

A half hour went by, some were shivering but it wasn't that cold, so I figured where it would come out again.  I young guy for Albuquerque came over who was birding on the quetzel stakeout a couple years ago.  "I heard a flicer call, was that the mockingbird?"  

"No, that was a flicker"  I replied.  Then I got the feeling someone or something was watching me.  I put up my camera instinctually.  I had it and it was looking right at me, the crazy skuly bastard was looking at me.  I froze, and took pictures.  "The Bastard is looking at me Ray, the crazy bastard is looking at me, I can't move."  It was frozen mid-preen.  My camera was fogging up and all I could do was stay froze eventually a couple of others wondered over and as best we could by voice, gave directions.

   Then finally it relaxed and I could move and change lens quick to something not steamy, it was nice to get a better perspective but it was still watching me.
It flew into a hackberry and fed and despite 10 yards away, i\t was all twigs, almost all the time.  I never got a window and the bird was so flighty and skulky I dids not want to move and no one else did.  No one this time was talking about football or the chase a month ago or New Mexico politics

A most gorgeous bird, just a huge thrush, but it never really came out when it came out.  Then it made the loudest flicker call I have ever heard, and flew back in the Russian olive thicket and amde another call and that....was that.  We walked back to the parking lot happy, shared our good fortune with those still warming up and left
I meandered back to Midland, drank a "Blue" Moon lifer beer, CHEERS!  Lifer beer savored, and then I booked a ticket on the Blue-tailed airline, United bound for Baltimore tonight and the next leg of this crazy trip.  Three days down and three lifer birds.....will number four fall tomorrow?  

I guess all I can say is stay tuned.  The Blue Mockingbird is a cool bird,  but I think the next two are cooler.  

Keep birding out there


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Day 2, life bird chase, It is a long and winding road to Pecos Texas

They say a picture is worth a thousands words, except when it isn't.  Find the Bat Falcon in the above picture..can you?  Clear as mud, I would assume.  I saw the bird with my naked eye and this is already at 7x.  

David Junkin and I were on the morning stakeout for the Bat falcon at Santa Ana NWR at Alamo TX this morning with 200 other people, it reminded me a lot of the Marfa Lights stakeout as neither of them turned up.  A lot of hopeful and some passerby lookers, It was a nice morning (no wind) and after it was a big "dip" about half went home and the others scattered around the park, or mostly around the parking lot, the tower filled up with the 8-10 people on it and we decided to walk in a far corner of the refuge because we had overheard someone say it had been seen on a snag there.  I left my scope in the car so there would be less to carry.  That would turn out to be the first of many errors for the day.

So we walked, and walked and then when a few birders I knew passed us on the trail, and they were on the tower, I got the feeling they knew something so we kept up.  We arrived at the Cattail Pond over look and they were calling ducks, white tailed kites, but did not say anything about a falcon, and then a tiny black dot caught my eye through a narrow window...too far for my bins to discern, but it looked like a falcon, I took a snap shot of the bird and blew it up which on the camera is only the second one and not as sharp as I can on the computer.  "That is definitely a falcon," I said to one of the guys I did not know, I asked to use his scope and then, the bird turned, white collar, red belly, the bat falcon.  My eyes and birdy sense had got it.   Pictures are nice, but it is hard to beat a scope.

It turned out they had seen it from the tower a mile away and were trying to figure out where they had seen it.  Before we could sneak closer and closer may not have helped as that window was pretty narrow, it flew around and was gone, but bird seen and found by me, even with no help and I think we were the only ones to really find it today.  It ended up being a nice 5 mile hike.  It had been a decade since I was down in this location of the refuge. I yearned for my bicycle.

It is amazing how many people come for a few moments look, see "no bird" and then drive away.

It was time to bug out of the valley, I had miles to go and birds to seem so we went to Hertz, David dropped me off, and after a long line, (The Monterrey flight had just came in) I got the last car apparently in town, and drove north and west.  It was a nine hour journey of football, talk radio, Mexican country music, having to back track 18 miles and nearly running out of gas.  I actually filled with more than the stated capacity of the tank, I exaggerate not ( I violated the first rule of western driving), I then found out I bailed only 7 miles FROM a brand new truck stop that was NOT on my cellphone (thanks for nothing Siri!), and then later I was going the wrong way at the freeway (yes, jumped the curb driving a full circle around the wrong way sign), after getting totally lost and have two conflicting Siri's telling me where to go but to places on opposite sides of town (thanks again for nothing Siri!), luckily I wasn't killed, no one paints roads in west Texas.  I then ended up at the wrong Best Western hotel and forced to jump another curb and finally I got a room, and .........a lifer beer.  I needed a beer.  Maybe needed one 300 miles back.

I think all the flaring of natural gas (which should be illegal!) was affecting my mind.  Tomorrow worries me, I have an early appointment with a skulky bird and it is on the other side of the time zone, breakfast starts at 0530, but which 0530?  Sunrise is at 0658 and 0757, but depends on which time zone, and so can I get breakfast before I go or what?  Can I even get out of this hotel?

Natural gas flare, one of thousands in the Permian

The next lifer, a blue mockingbird awaits, we'll see, then I will need to head to the east coast

...and I have only been gone 48 hours...


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Social Birding, Day one of lifer trip

Well, I'm trying to clean up "birds on the board" for my North American life list, somewhat shockingly, I have left 6 birds simmer out there, which is kind of hard to really do.  I left these "ducks on the pond" as one could say because, 1) there was COVID, 2) thinking I had Covid (test negative), 3) I went birding to Puerto Rico, 4) nothing close 5) home for the holidays, 6) family trip 7) make sure I did not get COVID, 8) RV had to go to the shop for recall on a taillight 9) I promised to move someone's hot tub to the dump, 10) Do I want to fly with COVID protocols?  Finally the wife said, "go."  Then a few days later, "why aren't you going?"  I quoted reason 8, then a day later, "Why not now?" I quoted #9, finally yesterday morning I bought a ticket, moved a hot tub, jumped a plane to Texas and here I am in McAllen.

I started this morning at Santa Ana NWR, the place is essentially closed, the visitor center is tore up, no tram. they are not feeding birds, like no one cares, but again, why would the US Government or the local people care about birds and birders down here, how much tourism is birding to the Lower Rio Grande Valley?

I digress.  I was met by local snowbird birders Dave and Sandi at the hotel after  a short night after delayed flights and tight connections.  My shins hurt from the Houston Dash, The cold front met us at the stakeout for the bat falcon, the first one of these little falcons ever seen in North America.  The crowd was large.  a half a million in optic equipment sat waiting for a show.  As it turned out, there really wasn't much of a show

At half light the bird flew over, and with a 25mph gust of wind, it was quick, and was gone.  I took a photo of those watching or missing it. The people immediately next to me never saw it.  It landed on the line 4 power lines down, some people ran a quarter mile and got too close and it was gone, 0730 and the chance was done.  IT LEFT THIS BIRDER WANTING! ....wanting to see it again.

So, we went for the back up bird, a social flycatcher at UT RGV in Brownsville.  It had been there for a while.  We arrived and then we saw what could have been it 80 yards away through grass, my photos were blurry as could not blow them up on the camera to see what it was, then an hour later, we had another quick view.  Then the birds went away, all birds, well not all of the birds, the local Muscovy ducks were there.

Then I practiced shooting photos through the grass at a couple of least grebes and a blue heron, it was not a good location but what do I do, get a machete? 

I looked for butterflies, and the sun came out, I found a tropical checkered skipper

Then four hours at this stakeout, it was halftime and we went for lunch, food sore and hungry.
We came back 40 minutes later, filled with Stripes tacos.  Half time worked.  I spotted it a time time in the grass again a crappy photo and disappeared but then posted next to the trail and the viewing window was tight but photos were had by all, I think.


So we went back to the falcon stakeout and three hours of cold wind later, no bird.  I had missed flights out of town so I found a room, walked to the mall to get food since, no one delivered, had no place sadly to even get a lifer beer and so I came back to my room with Chinese food from a place with a Japanese name, served by a Hispanic, oh well, food is food on the birding trail.  I needed to plot my escape from the valley tomorrow after a third visit to the bat falcon stakeout. 

A lifer bird a day, today, I guess 1 1/2 lifers, we'll say 812.5 lifers, I hope to get better looks and even a photo tomorrow to clean up that half.  I saw it but....., The morning will be cold, I bought a stocking hat, it is going to be nasty at 7AM

more tomorrow on day #2



Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Despacito...aves photocito, in Puerto Rico, despacito

I just got done with a birding adventure that was so good, the group wrote a song about it, and not to the tune of "Despecito," we chose Ricky Martin, "La vida loca"  I will get to this later in the blog....despacito, take it slowly, passionately.....

After a nearly two year hiatus from COVID, my island endemic project continued on what should be an American state...Puerto Rico, where 17 island endemics waited my viewing and an unknown total of butterflies including.....a really really rare one, so rare it makes my local Dakota skippers look common.

We teamed up with 5 other birders, really nice people, three from Michigan, one from Boulder, and another from Youngstown Ohio.  This was a normal "Wildside Tour" with Gabriel Lugo as a guide.  A man I once met in a parking lot at Estero in South Texas, in the small field of birding.  I got his name from another birder I picked up from the side of the road near Nome on birding trips past.  That birder from South Florida remains a Facebook friend.  

The trip was a bit punishing for the non-driven birder (no beach, no pool, no nightclubs, the bed was one's guilty pleasure after night birding, but with good to great food, great sights, good lodging and a great group, heck, and being bored to death from COVID, and sitting in our RV after a second year of having a Bhutan trip postponed, it was a good time to go birding and a great time to get Puerto Rican birds.  The trip had two spots left in November when I got the urge and Silja came too!

We had a safe trip.  The mountains on the island are great.  Things look back to normal post Irma, maybe more back to normal than we are from our lost house.  The villages are more fun than San Juan.

We sort of got attacked by a guy meticulously leaf blowing a main road in front of our euphonia stakeout.  I think he would have blown the dust off my shoes if I had held them up.  Gabriel swore he did not work for anyone, but apparently he liked a very clean road.  When birders notice OCD, you know it is bad.

Puerto Rico seemed a friendly place, but one somewhere stuck between the US and whatever it is.  They are metric, mile markers in Kilometers, gas in Liters, but drinks in ounces, and the speed limit signs are in MPH.  They drive on the right, unlike St Thomas USVI drives on the left for some reason.  They have the US Post office, US Dollar, and it all appears American and despite this being a long ways from Florida, oddly, Diesel is $0.75 a gallon (well it is $0.73 a liter) cheaper here than Florida, heck it is cheaper here than Oklahoma.  It is the cheapest Diesel in America.  Where do they get it?  Gasoline is a little more than Florida prices and above diesel.  I am still bewildered, with all the EPA mandates in America, it looks like they sell old fashioned high Sulphur diesel here, which is used to power mostly old trucks.  There were a couple new Volvo trucks on the road.  

The roads are narrow and in places, full of pot holes...the Eighties were calling and wanted their roads back.  Parking is sort of on faith as is meeting other cars. Gabriel only had to move in his side mirrors once.  Roads on state trunk roads flood out due to lack of ditching, when we had heavy rain where, "This is the dry side of the island." We drove through water the Weather Channel says to never do. Traffic is crazy in the towns but it seems to work.  They even sell Ice cream out of trunks of cars that drive around with their trucks open and prices written on the underside of the lids.  Other cars are decked out with full speakers in open trucks, blasting us with a Puerto Rican beat, sort of hip-hop meets a Latin beat.  The school buses have been privatized, so many of the buses are painted up with Latin flair.

They also have a great chain restaurant here, Meson Sandwiches, it is almost too good to work in America, though.  There is one in Orlando.  Toll roads abound here.  They are pretty COVID cautious, few if any mask objectors and the vaccination rates here are very very high.

What kind of name for milk is "Tres Monjitas" three nuns.....think about that.  Milk and nuns...??

Not a chain, just a local cafe we stopped by to eat a little lunch, what we ate I do not know.  Some of it tasted like chicken, but iguana....also tastes like chicken...whatever it was or called, it tasted good.

The place does not appear perfectly set to do it yourself.  The Parrot especially is not inviting to just a random walk to get the bird as it hangs near the rehab center and it is not very inviting to birders.

Silja at the parrot stake out which is basically outside the gate of the parrot rehab center.  The wild birds come and talk to their captive cousins.  We got lucky on this bird.

The verdant mountains, a part of the island few see.  There is more than a cruise ship port, beachs and old San Juan

Mofongo, a local dish of plantain and chicken.  The sauce was very, very good

    As it would turn out, this was the only birding trip where I have been the only photographer.  I do wish we had stopped more to photograph other stuff, for you to get a better flavor of the place but I would not have probably taken that many photos as I would have been looking for birds and bugs.  


#1 The Elfin-Woods Warbler, just identified in 1968, and a threatened bird

#2 Adelaide's warbler, a composite of two photos, one of each end showing the field marks of the bird

#3 Green Mango, a larger hummer

#4 Puerto Rican Emerald

#5 Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo

#6 Puerto Rican Owl, which does truly have a head, but even getting this photo at night with only a flashlight was good

#7 Puerto Rican Spindalis, this showy male liked the parking lot of our hotel the second night.

#8 Puerto Rican Parrot, nearly extirpated due to deforestation over the years and then hurricane Irma, the numbers are now higher, but higher than the 70 birds estimated 15 years ago puts its peril in a little perspective.  Definitely along with the blackbird and the Elfin-woods warblers, to see them before they die out, and were the birds of the trip.  I found this bird perched through the tiniest of unobstructed holes in the forest.  Everyone got it as well.

#9 Yellow-shouldered blackbird. a bird so threatened and obscure, I had never heard of it before researching this trip, with populations dropping to around 300 in the mid-Eighties, there are now nearly 1250 pairs by estimate.  They aren't as sexy as the parrot and does anyone really care about blackbirds? Their lives are spent in three geographically distinct areas including the Roosevelt Military base, and the offshore island of Mona.  For blackbirds, they were not that easy to find or see.

#10 Puerto Rican Tanager

#11 Puerto Rican Woodpecker

Hey, DESPACITO!  Take it slow with your gal, you're in Puerto Rico...

#12 Puerto Rican Tody, the little guy of the forest, everyone's favorite

#13 Puerto Rican Oriole

There is a lot more yellow on that bird than it looks from this view.  This is the only one we saw, for reasons unknown.  On this and the Puerto Rican Flycatcher, another bird, we saw once or twice, it was good I got photos

#14 Puerto Rican nightjar, The white dot is its eye, you can see the white tail band, this was taken in the dead of night, 30 yards away, using a flashlight and ISO at 30,000.  It seems a good get to me?

#15 Puerto Rican Vireo, a bit elusive, skulky, and fast, we also did not see this bird much

#16 Puerto Rican Bullfinch, we played peekaboo with this bird the whole time here.  A handsome finch, that just did not want to come out and be photographed.

#17 Puerto Rican Flycatcher. bad effort on my part, they'd be all over, but like the oriole, only a single other bird would show up in morning light, ...and my ISO was still set at 70,000, I tried almost everything to fix this photo up, but alas, below was the best I could do.  A sad end to my 17th endemic, and a bit of a downer.

There were also a few non-island-only endemics that I needed which would be considered more West Indian endemics
Lifer, Plain Pigeon 

Lifer, West Indian Whistling Duck

Lifer, Antillean Euphonia

Lifer, Antillean Mango, the only one we saw, over exposed into the sun, but the identifying white patch is visible, so it counts 

Lifer, Lesser Antillean Pewee, photo sucks but well, we saw it twice, and this was the best I could do.

That made 22 lifers for the trip, as in birds I have never seen before.  about 110 species overall.  I saw an exotic to the island, an Indian silverbill, what one does with that, IDK. 
Then there were birds that I have seen before that will make additions when Puerto Rico is added to the "US/ ABA re-revised List," especially as I believe this should be a state.  Why Hawaii and not Puerto Rico?"  The ABA is having their conference here next I am padding my PR numbers.  You heard it here first.

Caribbean Elaenia, first seen in St Martin FWI

Pearly-eyed thrasher, first seen in St Martin FWI

Scaly-naped pigeon, first seen in St Martin FWI

Greater Antillean Grackle, first seen on Jamaica

Loggerhead Kingbird,  first seen on Jamaica

Green-throated carib, the dominant hummingbird of St. Martin

There was also a Crested Antillean Hummingbird, which I only half-heartedly put a camera on and got a blurry vision of a cool hummer, I have photographed many times before in St. Martin. 

Then there are the introduced birds....would they count on an ABA Puerto Rican 51st state kind of list?  
Venezuelan troupial, has been here the longest, over 100 years, but I shot so many photos on Curacao that I took only two of this bird.  Is the yellow faced grassquit introduced or not, Indian Silverbills, assorted parakeets, munia, and...even the red jungle fowl, including this handsome fellow.  The chicken is already on the list in Key West and Kauai, but he is STILL a handsome fellow.

The rooster was heading towards this handsome fellow.  He was also watching me watch this chicken, possibly, HIS chicken.  There were feral or semi feral cats all over the island. 

"Hey human, go stuff yourself.  This field is owned by cats." 


The oddly named Modest Sister

Cassius blue above and this one

Ceraunus blue

Dingy purplewing

Florida purplewing

Apricot sulphur

great southern white

Gulf Fritillary 

Hispaniola mimic-white



Mexican fritillary 

Nero skipper otherwise known as a Puerto Rican Panoquin

Ocala skipper

Pale cracker, a good mimic

Wow, the goal bug of butterfly hunters everywhere, the Puerto Rican Harlequin.  I saw two of them at two sites!  This butterfly was down to a census of 70 individuals estimated, 25 years ago.  Why it declined is unknown.  It has plenty of food plants.  This insect might not outlive me as a species, sadly.  I wanted to see one, and, Gabriel found them.

Local subspecies of the Florida leafwing, which I assume will be split into the Puerto Rican leafwing someday

Puerto Rican ringlet

Puerto Rican skipper

Puerto Rican yellow, I almost missed this endemic

Sickle winged skipper, a butterfly whose identity baffled me and Gabriel for days

Southern broken dash

Tropical buckeye

tropical checkered skipper

Vitelline  or "V-mark" skipper

white peacock, which looks like no peacock I have ever seen

This was a good butterfly, even Gabriel got his camera out on this one, and....I sort of screwed up my pewee photo.....ZESTOS SKIPPER, versus pewee?  This butterfly went extinct in Mainland America in 2004 with the last holdouts being on the Key West Botanical Gardens, now they are gone forever.  Maybe not so special in Puerto Rico, but this butterfly was blazened on my mind to notice it and I did, unfortunately in the wrong part of America.

I photographed 19 lifer species of butterflies to go along with the 22 species of birds.  We saw 35 species of butterflies, all photographed except the monarch.  It was fun.  
Lifer beer, after the Yellow shouldered blackbird

I am not sure if the other birders appreciated my looking and obsessing about the harlequin after a long look at a rare Hispaniola white mimic, at some stops, like the plain pigeon spot, with everyone at the stakeout, as the bird did not readily appear, I gleaned diminutive butterflies to photograph.  I was not paying attention, and then I looked up and refocused my camera on a bird in the powerline which 14 minutes later, someone else noticed which was the plain pigeon.  I could have saved everyone 15 minutes on an biting ant laced field.
Olaf (left) and Gabriel (right) on the Plain pigeon, unknown horse helping out


Although I doubt few of the participants will read this, here is the song composed by fellow birder, Linda, last name withheld, sung to La Vida Loca

Were in Puerto Rico
Were ready to fly
were hyped for endemics
oh well, we'll try

Our guide is "spot on"
We got 8 the first day
lizard cuckoo, spindalis, get out of our way

 Puerto Rico, 
Puerto Rico,
Your Caribbean sea, your mountains and wetlands, we'll return to see.

With 8 pairs of bins, the bullfinch came next, 
but the euphonia, and pewee, escaping our grip

through mountains and tree tops,
we gave up our watch,
Puerto Rican Alm-ver-zo,
in town,
was "top notch"

We returned to our watch to get that ^&^* bird, 
we encountered a noise so insane, 
in birding never heard....

In the top of the forest,
and down the road, 
was a man 
and his machine, having his leaves blown, 
Having HIS leaves blown!

Puerto Rico, 
Puerto Rico,
Your Caribbean sea, your mountains and wetlands, we'll return to see.

We dropped our bins down, 
cussing the ground,
Please don't ruin our day, 
but the birds just flew away.

Ah, there he is,
He 's building the nest 
that sweet euphonia,
us birders can now rest,

The trip went on, 
eight birders on the prowl,
one more bird, 
the pigeon we almost through in the towel,
But Under the Tits of Cayay
he suddenly flew our way!

Puerto Rico, 
Puerto Rico,
Your Caribbean sea, your mountains and wetlands, we'll return to see.

Puerto Rico, 
Puerto Rico,
Your Caribbean sea, your mountains and wetlands, we'll return to see.

A trip with a theme song.....if I could only sing
Thanks to all for a great trip, and I apologize for my photographic shortcomings..
Viva Puerto Rico 
but Despacito.....take it slowly
come and enjoy the island of Puerto Rico

Day 5: Lifer super chase: A bridge (and a bird) too far.

Somedays, one wonders if a plan is just too much, too ambitious and despite valiant efforts one may just be trying to attain the unattainabl...