Natalia

About Natalia

Colombian biologist guide at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge

Exciting new specie for our Birdlist – Jabiru

The latest addition to our Western Caribbean Slope Birdlist, is a specie I have been hoping to see since I was a little girl. This bird is often seen in the nature documentaries of Latin American tropical birds, I am talking about the spectacular Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria).

Birding PanamaThe Jabiru is the biggest stork found in the Western Hemisphere. They can reach a hight of 131 cm (52 in) with a wingspan of 256 cm (102 in). It’s found from Mexico to Argentina. Besides its size, the best way to recognize this species is the entirely white plumage in flight with the bare black head and neck, and a pink or red ring around the lower part of the neck.

Panama BirdwatchingThe populations of this species in some countries of South and Central America are abundant, but the situation is completely different for countries like Panama, where the specie is vagrant. A vagrant species means the bird is hundreds of miles from its familiar territory, and that is what makes this observation a very special and exciting encounter.

Underwater Chorus

Snorkeling Bocas del ToroPhoto. Juvenile Caribbean Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)

Historically birds have surprised and filled the life of humans with their calls.  In the past, mostly as pets in cages, where some species were more desired than others because of their songs or the ability to speak.  Parrots are very well know for the last skill.

Caged Bird Graphic

Source: http://krutishah0703.blogspot.com/p/caged-bird.html

More recently people are interested in enjoying these melodious creatures in their natural habitat.  Bird watching is growing around the world, year by year.

Golden-collared Manakin

Photo. Male Golden-collar Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) displaying on its lek

We (humans) always have related the songs in nature to the birds. What if I tell you fish sing? A few days ago I was reading an article about singing fish.  They have proven that fish do sing.  It make sense, living creatures need to communicate, animals as different as insects, frogs, birds, whales … do it, so, why not fish?

This study occurred in Western Australia, and during a period of 18 months they recorded and identified seven different choruses, from different species of fish, happening at dawn and at dusk. Those choruses are used by the fishes to regroup, settle territorial disputes or find food.

If you want to read the full article, visit: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106331-fish-recorded-singing-dawn-chorus-on-reefs-just-like-birds/

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A bird-watching day: target Red-billed Tropicbird

Birding Panama

Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) floating in the waters near Bird Island.

Early this year, we made a bird-watching trip to the mainland, to see some species of birds that we do not have on Bastimentos Island, but the main target of this trip was the elegant Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus).

We all had a blast, with big groups of herons, ducks, pelicans and terns, in addition to some local and migratory beauties along the Snyder Canal.
Birding Panama
After a gorgeous day and several new species for our guests, we headed to Bird Island. Unfortunately the sea was a little rough and the conditions where not ideal, but that didn´t stop the guests in their desire to see, what is for me, one of the most elegant birds I have ever seen.  We made it there, and enjoyed some Red-billed Tropicbirds flying near the island, then on our way back, we had several floating birds in the water.

Seabirds Panama

Fishermen in the mouth of the Changuinola river mouth surrounded by birds (Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), Laughing Gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla), Sandwich Terns (Thalasseus sandvicensis) and a Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)).

With these links you can see the species we saw that day:

Snyder Canal: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26655839
Changuinola river mouth: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26656713
Bird Island: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26653094

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A furry resident of the Tranquilo Bay grounds

Three-toed Sloth at Tranquilo BayOne of the most “desired” tropical species that everyone wants to see, when they visit the tropics, is the species I am going to talk about today.   It’s easy to understand why, the sweet face, the lazy and extremely slow reputation attracts everyone’s attention.  I am talking about the Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus).

The truth is that they are not as slow as most people think, and they do more, than most of us think they do. Some studies with animals in captivity show they can sleep an average about 16 hours a day, but studies with wild animals have shown they sleep about 9 and half hours, spending most of their time moving around looking for food, eating and scratching.

Three-toed sloths are found in Central and South America. At Tranquilo Bay this species is abundant and easy to find most of the year.  On site we also have the Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), which is a nocturnal species. On an island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, is possible to find another specie of sloth the Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), an endemic specie, found in one special location on Escudo de Veraguas Island.

Sweet little ball of feathers

Birding at the Chocolate Farm

Today I am going to talk about a pretty and elusive ball of feathers, the Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant.  This bird is one of those species that you can hear many times, but see only a few.  Its size and the places where it likes to spend the most part of its time make them a little hard to see.

Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant  (Myiornis atricapillus) has a large range of distribution, found from the south of Nicaragua, through western Colombia down to the north Pacific coast of Ecuador. Often found in the canopy of the humid forest, its easy to lose this 2.5 inch bird. And like living in the canopy wasn’t enough to make it hard to find, its call is like an insect.

Birdwatching PanamaThis adorable little bird is one of the species we can easily hear, not so easily see, as I mentioned before, on to the excursion to the chocolate farm. Green Acres Chocolate Farm is located on the mainland, and is home to many species that we do not have on the islands of the archipelago.

The pictures are not the best ones, but good enough to show this tiny beauty.

Western Caribbean Slope Birding

Beauty in Purple

purplegallinulendgThe beautiful bird I am talking about today, often catches the attention of the observer, because of its attractive color.  It has a purplish blue plumage accompanied by the bright colors of its beak.  When someone sees this bird’s feet for the first time the feet immediately take all the attention. Their very long claws help them to walk on top of the floating vegetation.

purplegallinulerff

The juveniles’ coloration is somewhere between pale brown and green and it helps them hide camouflaged in the vegetation.

Purple Gallinules (Porphyrio martinicus) are omnivores.  Their diet includes invertebrates, plants, and sometimes small frogs and fish that they catch in floating plants and shrubby areas.

This species has a large distribution range.  It is found from the south-east of United States to the north of Argentina and Chile. This species breeds during spring and summer in North America and may breed almost year round in the tropics (from May until November). The habitat of this species is swamps and wetlands.  Habitat loss is the main threat for this species, but it isn’t in endangered at this time.

Do you know what bird parasitism is?

Birdwatching Panama

Bird parasitism is when one bird lays her eggs in the nest of a different bird species, with the intent that this other bird, the host, will take care of the laying bird’s offspring.  This is  definitely a very smart strategy for the parasite birds, because thanks to this behavior, the parasite birds, do not have to spend all the time and energy raising their chicks.  This allows parasitic layers them to produce more eggs per year.

Around Tranquilo Bay, is one specie of bird that is a parasitic layer of eggs in the nests of other birds.  I´m talking about the Giant Cowbird (Molothrus oryzivorus) who lays her eggs in the Montezuma Oropendola’s (Psacolius montezuma) nest.  In other areas, cowbirds parasite lay in the nests of several other species of oropendolas and caciques.  All those species nest colonially (several nest in one single tree) and build long hanging nests.

Birding Panama

Cowbirds are calm and quiet birds that like to spend time on grassland, looking for insects which is their main diet. The distribution range of the species goes from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.

Another example of parasitic nesting birds is the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), that lay its eggs in other species nest, and when the chicks hatch they pull out of the nest the eggs and/or chicks of the host.  In the case of the Giant Cowbird, the offspring do not destroy the eggs or chicks of the host specie (the photo at the top shows a Wren (left) feeding a chick of Common Cuckoo), source:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0407/03-moth-06.html )

The tower is perfect place to see the oropendolas flying by, and sometimes is possible to see a few cowbirds flying with them. I took this picture of a Giant Cowbird a while back, when a group of Montezuma Oropendolas stop on the balsa tree near the observation tower, and this cowbird was with them.

Parasitic bird nesting in Bocas del Toro

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La Bomba Recipe

Afro Caribbean SpiceYears ago, I began experimenting with Habanero peppers and came up with a nice and fresh hot sauce.  Around here they named it “La Bomba.”  This name is not because it is really hot, but because it adds a lot of flavor to anything you eat it with.

To continue with the chile saga (months ago, I wrote some blog posts about the chile, if you have not read them, and want to know a bit more about one of the most important spices in the world) here are the links:

A bit of history: http://blog.tranquilobay.com/chili-1/

A bit if science: http://blog.tranquilobay.com/chili-2/

La bomba: http://blog.tranquilobay.com/chili-3-la-bomba/ 

Today I´m going to tell you how to make this salsa, but I must say, I do not have an exact recipe I follow every time.  I always make little changes.  Some times I use more of one of the ingredients or it varies a bit based on vegetable availability.  But I think after you make it the first time, you can start playing with the amounts and the ingredients to make it the way you like it. It is important that everything needs to be fresh.

Home-made Hot Sauce

Ingredients:
2 carrots
3 tomatoes
2 onions,
Cilantro (as much as you want, some people love it, some people…)
Any kind of hot peppers
1 bell pepper
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Vinegar (If you used jarred jalapeños: you do not have to add vinegar to the preparation)
Lime juice
Dijon mustard

Clean, peel and cut into medium size pieces all the big vegetables, then add all the ingredients to the food processor, and process until smooth.  Keep it refrigerated and enjoy it when you want!

Blue-throated Goldentail at Tranquilo Bay

Blue-throated Goldentail at Tranquilo Bay

Last week, when some guests and I where preparing to go for a hike, we started by enjoying the hummingbird activity outside their cabin.   To our great surprise, in the group of hummingbirds feeding was an uncommon species for this part of the country, a gorgeous male Blue-throated Goldentail, also known as Blue-throated Sapphire (Hylocharis eliciae).

The bird stayed around the entire day feeding on the same plant, and everybody that wanted to see it, got to enjoy it and photograph it. And off course, after the hike I came back with my camera to get some pictures.

This species has been observed on the Tranquilo Bay grounds only one time before.  This time we have been allowed to enjoy it for a long time, because it is still coming back to the same plant to feed.  It is chasing away the Crowned Woodnymphs, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds and Stripe-throated Hermit, that are feeding on the same plant.

Blue-throated Sapphire