Natalia

About Natalia

Colombian biologist guide at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge

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

Surprises that come with the rain

We all love sunny days.  Everything is pretty, you can do all type of outdoor activities, but, we’ve got to face it: without rain, we would not have all the green we have at Tranquilo Bay year round, and associated with that, all the diversity that comes with it.  Well, all this explanation in order to tell you about a little inhabitant of the rain forest, the mud turtles!

Mud Turtle Panama

The Kinosternon genus is only found in the Americas.  With 25 species, it has one of the highest numbers of species for mud turtles, and from those, three are found in Panama. These turtles are small animals in comparison to other fresh water turtles.  They have an oval shape shell, usually dark brown, which helps to camouflage themselves.  A particular characteristic of this genus is the presence of one or two “hinges” in their plastron (bottom part of the shell),  This adaptation allows them to close themselves completely to keep them safe from most predators.

They are often found in ponds and other habitats associated with calm fresh water and a muddy soft bottom. They feed on a variety of things, being mostly carnivorous, but sometimes they eat fruits and/or plants.  Some mud turtles can burrow themselves in to the mud or underneath dead leaves during times of drought, and stay “semi-dormant,” until the rain comes.

At Tranquilo Bay, we usually get to see one of these after a strong rain, sometimes crossing the side-walk, moving from one temporary creek to other, or just there, with their head sticking out, like enjoying the rain.

Mud Turtle Panama

More news about the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Panama Migrant Birding

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the first observations, for this year, of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), a migratory hummingbird that it is uncommon in this part of the country.

So far we know that its been around, since the end of February, and we have photographed three different Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a male, a female and an immature male. Christine Warren, one of our guests, got a picture earlier this month of the young male.  You can just see the first red feathers coming in on its throat.  Thanks a lot Christine for sharing your picture with us!

The winter visitor is back

Migrant Hummingbird PanamaTwo days ago, Ramon and a guest saw a male and female of an uncommon but quite punctual migrant hummingbird at Tranquilo Bay, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). This observation is the third we have had of the species in the last four years, with very few days of difference between observations.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is an uncommon migratory species in this part of the country. The day Ramon and the guest saw the elusive migrant they saw a female and a male.  So, of course the next day, as soon I got a chance I went to wait for the visitor.  After a little more than half an hour waiting, a female Ruby-throated showed up for a quick visit to the same plant the two birds visited the day before.  I patiently continued waiting and the female bird came again.   I got to take some decent pictures to share with you.   We will keep an eye on the bird and keep you posted about the extent of this 2016 visit.

How to put on a mask

How to Put on a MaskIt’s a few simple steps to put a mask on the correct way.  To have a successful snorkeling experience it is important choose the right mask and adjust it properly.  Today I am setting  together some simple tips to help you with mask selection and a proper handling.

Choosing the right mask

  1. Put the mask on your face and press slightly, don’t put the strap behind your head.
  2. Inhale a small amount of air through your nose and release your hands.
  3. The mask should stay on your face.

If it does, that means the seal of the mask is good, and you are using the right type of mask for your face shape. You can also try this when you put the snorkel in your mouth, move some face muscles to help to see how well mask seals.

It is very important to push your hair away from your face. If you are already in the water, and is water leaking in to your mask, a little bit of hair can easily be the reason why is water getting in to your mask.

The strap

  1. A common mistake is to put the strap directly on your ears; the proper place is behind/around your head. What holds the mask is a good seal, not how tight you put the strap behind/around your head.
  2. Masks have different adjustment mechanisms, check, when you have it in your hand how it works, to know, in case you need to adjust the strap, how to release it or tighten it.

Keeping the mask from fogging

  1. Spit into the inside face of the mask when the mask is dry.
  2. Move it around your fingers a bit.
  3. Rinse it in the ocean and you ready to go!

Snorkeling PanamaWell, I hope some of those simple tricks are useful for your next snorkeling experience. I hope you get your snorkeling gear on and get in the water to enjoy the underwater world soon!

Well hidden animal

Wildlife Panama

One of my favorite reptiles, besides turtles, is the Smooth Helmeted Iguana or Helmeted Lizard (Corytophanes cristatus). This lizard can reach about 11 cm in length, and usually has a light brown color, but can change color pretty quickly going from light brown, to olive or dark brown, allowing him to be very well camouflaged.  His habitat, dense forest, near dead branches and leaves, also hides him so people frequently miss this beautiful creatures.

This specie is found from the east of Mexico to the south of Colombia. The animals are usually found in trees from 2 to 5 meters above the ground, and are found close to the ground during breeding season. A common behavior of this animal is to “perch” in a branch, with its head up, and stay still, and when an insect walks close the insect is ambushed by the lizard.

Not much information about this secretive creature.  The status of the specie is unknown, but clearly, habitat loss could be a reason for reduction of the population of this peculiar animal.