Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring? Dare I Hope?

Photos from around here today

More Mountain Bluebirds - honestly, I have never seen so many of them as we have this year.  I expect most will be on their way north soon.  However, many will stay in this area to breed.   

Snowpack break-up on Long Creek

A lean and perky Richardson's Ground Squirrel  (Spermophilus richardsonii) having a  nibble of dead grass - it was a long, cold, hibernating time this past five or so months.

A winter casualty

The Souris River at Taylorton Bridge

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Jabiru mycteria .  Jabiru are the tallest flying birds in South and Central America.  An adult male is 5 ft. in height.    

The name, Jabiru, comes from Tupi-GuaranĂ­ language and means "swollen neck". The black head and neck are bare of feathers.  The rosy-red throat  collar turns bright red when the bird gets irritated.  They are usually quiet, but do a lot of bill-clapping when a new bird drops into the group.

We found these three, with the Great Egret, in a marshy low area near the road on the way to Surama.   In dry season, the birds may gather in groups in shallow ponds and may fish in unison with the group working together to disturb prey.  In the rainy season, deeper water is prefered and the birds become solitary.

This is a member of the stork family, but is the only living member of the genus Jabiru.  The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) of Australia is often referred to as jabiru.  It isn't closely related.

More info at: 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk  (Buteo lagopus)  flying in the valley this afternoon. 

Very distinctive markings on this bird - it's an adult male  light-morph, by the way.

Update:  my blogging/photo problems seem to be settled.  Yay

Mountain Bluebirds

Sialia currucoides

Some let me get a little closer this afternoon

Stay Tuned - if you want to

I have no idea what is going on.  The post I wrote before....don't know what happened to it.  Maybe Google drop-kicked it!  I'm so ticked right now I could spit nails. 

One thing I know for sure, I hate Picasa and I hate Google.  If I find a different blog server, I might be changing addresses.  In the meantime, I will try to - well, I don't know what I'll try to do.  There are no actual people at Picasa and Google and 'Help' is just a four-letter word.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Leaving Karanambu

One last look at the Giant River Otter cubs

And a Thank You, to Diane and to Andrea & Salvadore (below)

We load, one last time, into the  boats - Marilynn, Martin, Elaine, Clif; Kenneth driving the boat and Salvador on shore

Down the Rupununi to Ginep Landing, birding along the way, but we're a little behind schedule so we don't dawdle much.  We're about 1 1/2 hours on the river at a good speed.

Where we are met by Ron, Milner and drivers from Surama village

It was a two hour drive to Surama - the distance probably wasn't all that far, but the road was full of potholes.  The road is the main thoroughfare from Georgetown on the coast to Lethem and into Brazil. 

We made a pit-stop at The Oasis.  Oh my, I bought a Coke.  I dearly wanted a bag of chips or something junk-foodie, but no.  Dang, this is a healthy country!

We would be back at The Oasis to walk, no climb, that Panorama Nature Trail in a few days.  In the meantime, on to Surama. 

Why not visit Andrea & Salvadore's blog  at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the Rupununi River (Back to Guyana...)

Life at Karanambu is closely associated with the Rupununi River.   We spent a few hours daily cruising the river, usually in the late afternoon and into evening, quietly floating home/downstream after dark. 

Someone enjoying a hot afternoon swim

Cocoi Heron   Ardea cocoi 

And another of it flying, having got tired of us all snapping photos as we glided by

Black Skimmers  Rynchops niger

Amazon Kingfisher  Chloroceryle amazona

Jabiru with young on nest.  I'll have a much better photo of  Jabirus in the next Guyana post 

I haven't talked yet about the Capuchinbird 
Perissocephalus tricolor,  (photo from Wikipedia) which was voted the strangest bird of the trip.   We saw it/them at Karanambu

It is a cotinga, and I will put together a post about all the cotingas we saw, which was, happily, lots.

And catching up on my Lifer List:  (25 Lifers at Karanambu Savanna and along the Rupununi River)

Crested Bobwhite    Colinus cristatus
Greater Yellowheaded Vulture    Cathartes melambrotus
Zone-tailed Hawk    Buteo albonotatus
Pied Lapwing      Vanellus cayanus
Plain-breasted Ground-Dove      Columbina minuta
Lesser Nighthawk      Chordeiles acutipennis
Band-tailed Nighthawk       Nyctiprogne leucopyga
White-tailed Goldenthroat       Plytumus guainumbi
Long-billed Starthroat       Heliomaster longirostris
Striped Woodcreeper       Xiphorhynchus obsoletus
Buff-throated Woodcreeper      Xiphorhynchus guttatus
Northern/Gianan Slaty-Antshrike     Thamnophilus punctatus
White-fringed Antwren      Formicivora grisea
Black-chinned Antbird     Hypocnemoides melanopogon
Bearded Tachuri      Polystictus pectoralis
Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant     Lophotriccus pilaris
Capuchinbird     Perissocephalus tricolor
Blue-backed Manakin     Chiroxiphia pareola
Lemon-chested Greenlet  Hylophilus thoracicus
Ashy-headed Greenlet     Hylophilus pectoralis
Buff-cheeked Greenlet     Hylophilus muscicapinus
Plumbeous Seedeater     Sporophila plumbea
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater     Sporophila minuta
Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch     Emberizoides herbicola
Red-rumped Cacique    Cacicus haemorrhous

Plus 86 other bird species for a total of 111 species at Karanambu

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Richardson's Cackling Goose

Richardson's Cackling Goose  Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii

Well, that's what I'm going with anyway.  We have a number of these very small geese in our resident population.  I found this one a few days ago in a group of larger Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

I immediately called it a Cackling Goose.  Then I started looking at various guide books and realized that Cackling Geese are usually darker in the breast.  Maybe this one is more appropriately called a Lesser Canada.  So I checked with two of my expert birder friends.  Their replies were somewhat conflicting.

I got busy on the internet.  Seems there's been a bit of reclassification going on since the original split off of these smaller geese from the larger-bodied Canada Goose group.

This is what David Sibley had to say about it in 2007

First, to clear up some confusion about the names of the species and subspecies: The former broad Canada Goose has been divided into a large-bodied, interior- and southern-breeding species, and a small-bodied tundra-breeding subspecies. The large-bodied group is still known as Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) while the small-bodied group takes the name Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). This means that the English name Cackling Goose, which has in the past been more or less restricted to the smallest subspecies (the far western B. c. minima) is now the species name for all four of the small subspecies. This new species takes the scientific name of the earliest-named subspecies and becomes Branta hutchinsii.

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii – Small-bodied group – 4 subspecies breeding mainly in tundra

B. h. hutchinsii – Richardson’s (or Hutchins’s) Cackling Goose – reportedly intergrades with parvipes throughout range in NWT and Nunavut, but this is uncertain. Small and rather light, pale breast.

B. h. taverneri – Taverner’s (Alaska) Cackling Goose – may intergrade with parvipes in interior AK. Merged by Palmer with parvipes but has unique mtDNA. Similar to leucopareia but slightly larger and lighter in color, with rounder head. Similar to parvipes but breast slightly darker.

B. h. minima – Cackling Cackling Goose – Smallest, with small bill and short neck but relatively long legs; variable color and pattern but typically quite dark brown with purplish cast on breast, bill stubby, straight to convex culmen, nail less elongated than leucopareia, white cheeks more extensive than leucopareia.

B. h. leucopareia – Aleutian Cackling Goose – includes asiatica (extinct). Larger than minima, with paler breast usually gray-brown to dark brownish; white collar usually complete and rather thick with blackish feathering at base of neck; head rather square profile; bill short, tapering to narrow tip and somewhat pointed nail; white cheek patches somewhat more restricted, nearly always black throat stripe.
To read his full account:

Also see:

All About Birds:

Mountain Bluebirds

I've had a bout of Spring Fever or something - whatever it is, I've been easily distracted by any bright, shiny object, as it were.  

Friday morning I went out on a birding drive.  The melt was on and bits of bare ground and stubble were showing in the fields - well, in some places, others, not so much.

Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides) have been flocking through my area.   

Pleasant little birds with very long wings.  They tend to hover a bit before dropping down to the ground to pick up seeds or insects - more seeds than anything at this early stage of Spring. 

There were about 60-65 birds in this flock.  Expect they are long-gone North by now.

Definitely a favourite Spring bird, and usually the first migrating species to show up here.  Bless'em!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Local Stuff....

I drove around my usual birding route here (in the Estevan area of Southeastern Saskatchewan.)

Water is being released from Rafferty Dam reservoir big-time.  Rafferty is on the Souris River.

And from Boundary Dam reservoir as well.  This is water coming into Rafferty from Boundary.

At Boundary - there are thousands of Mallards along that far shore below the snow banks.  All this water release is in an attempt to mitigate the flooding expected as deep snow cover melts in the next few weeks.

A Mountain Bluebird caught in an awkward icy landing

And a few Mule Deer just standing around

Karanambu Savanna

Out on the Karanambu savanna - a place I really liked

Termite or ant nests - the savanna floods, so there are no termite mounds on the ground

And another

Low shrubby trees border the open grassland

Some kind of Sandpaper trees.  These leaves really do feel like a very fine grit sandpaper or emery board.

Savanna Hawk  Buteogallus meridionalis

Here are a couple of photos (not mine) of birds we also found on the Karanambu savanna. 

This is a Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch  Emberizoides herbicola

With permission of Jorge Martin Spinuzza at

Grassland Yellow-Finch  Sicalis luteola

With permission of Jorge Martin Spinuzza at

Savanna grass

Beautiful place, but unfortunately we didn't see a Giant Anteater. 

Thanks again to Jorge Martin Spinnuza at for the additional bird photos.