Laughing Falcon

One of the many impressive things about my visit to Guyana was the raptor show. On my earlier trips to the tropics, I’d been disappointed to find all the warnings come true: raptors are much harder to see in the south than in North America and Europe. We lucked out this time, though, and Laughing Falcon was one of the birds of prey we saw, and heard, most frequently.

This is a lousy photo of a bird that flew in and perched for several minutes at the Shanklands Resort, a lovely little place above the Essequibo River. Such wonders as Green Ibis, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, and Barn Swallow distracted me from my intention to sneak up on this watchful beast for a better image, but even this blurry, distant shot shows the odd head shape of this beautiful raptor, with great puffy cheeks forming a sort of mane, particularly when the bird looks at you head on.


Bat Falcon

Cool name, cool bird! To our delight, Bat Falcons proved common in just about any open habitat in Guyana, from riverside clearings to agricultural lands. These natty little blue-and-orange birds weren’t the least bit shy, either; every morning we were at Iwokrama, one picked off the bats returning to roost in the thatched roof of the dining area.

This individual gave us what were certainly the closest views we had of a perched bird, sunning and stretching on a nice blue-sky morning.


Surama Birding

A day at Surama, a small village just up the road from Rock View Lodge. The road there, which is also the highway from Georgetown to Brazil, produced the usual savannah species: Burrowing Owl, Cocoi Heron, Vermilion Flycatcher….

We enjoyed  wonderful meal at the village’s fine little eco-lodge, then set out to look for birds. Savannah Hawk was a revelation,  even larger and more beautiful than the books make it seem. A Great Potoo was a welcome stake-out in a damp bit of woods, and there was also a pair of Black-crested Antshrikes there–does anyone know why that bird is called canadensis?

But the bird of the day, head and shoulders above even that stiff competition, was a Spotted Puffbird perched low above our heads, flashing out every few minutes to grab a bug, then returning to its customary stolidity. There’s something about a puffbird that screams ‘tropics’, and this bird, along with the day’s Black Nunbirds and Swallow-wings (a funny name for a funnier bird), left no doubt about where we are!


AOU Check-list: 48th Supplement

It’s here, it’s here, the newest Supplement to the AOU Check-list. No great earth-shattering surprises this time, but a few changes of note to us amateurs.

BJ Rose, Bean Goose, Nebraska

First, the Bean Geese have been split; the species that has occurred in the 48 contiguous US states is Anser fabalis, the Taiga Bean-Goose (hyphen copyright 2007, AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature). I was fortunate enough to be half of the CBC team that discovered Nebraska’s first occurrence of this species in 1984, and was proud (I hope not prideful) to see that exciting record cited in the Supplement.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis has been split from Larus cachinnans, Caspian Gull; the only records for Yellow-legged Gull sensu novo accepted in the Supplement are from Quebec, Newfoundland, Maryland, and DC.

I was startled to read that Sacred Ibis “seems to be on the way to establishment” in Florida after individuals escaped from zoos after Hurricane Andrew. If poor Florida continues on this path, it will be more like escaping into a zoo.

The really big news, though, for those of us who like to collect odd facts for those cocktail parties I seem never to get invited to (wonder why) is the repositioning of the New World vultures. Remember how much fun it was to point out to new birders that “vultures are really storks”? Well, it turns out that vultures are really vultures, and the family Cathartidae has been returned to the order Falconiformes, though with one of those ominous asterisks indicating “uncertainty as to exact placement.”

My sentiments exactly.