Life's a beach! - Shorebirds photos in Costa del Este, Panama city

Reecently I went to the coast to photograph several shorebirds which are  mostly migrant species that breed farther north but stay in Panama for some time. I headed to Costa del Este's beach which is located east to the city and in the Bahía de Panamá wetland, also made a search on the mouth of Río Matías Hernández just in case something interesting was hanging around.  The spots at the beach are not easily accesible, and I had to jump over a high wall to get to the beach.



Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a resident breeder, and very common on both coasts. Inmatures are completely brown, as shown. Adults have a white front and white neck in non-breeding and brown neck in breeding.




Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) is a medium-sized cormorant found throughout the American tropics and subtropics, from the middle Rio Grande and the  Mexico Gulf and Californian coasts of the United States south through Mexico and Central America to southern South America. It also breeds on the Bahamas, Cuba and Trinidad. It can be found at coasts (including some mangrove areas) and on inland waters.




 Great-tailed Grackle, male

 Great-tailed Grackle, female

The Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) locally known as Talingo is a very common to abundant bird in our country, is not preciseely a shorebird but they do like coasts. A group was foraging for food among the garbage and debris that unfortunatelly is piled up at the beach. I must say that last month a great effort was made to clean the beach but yet a lot of it remains. It's really sad to watch.




The Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) breeding habitat is near fresh water across most of Canada and the United States. They migrate to the southern United States and South America, and are very rare vagrants to western Europe. These are not gregarious birds and are seldom seen in flocks.


Now I'll show you a five frame story of what I think was a fight between two Spotted Sandpipers:


Lefty: "Hey dude what are you doing here, this is my beach!"
Righty: "No, ti's mine, I was here first!"

Lefty: "Hey I'm talking to you, don't walk away from me"

 Lefty: "You asked for it!!"

 BAM! faceplant!

 Nipple twist! 
(just kidding, birds have no nipples)

It was awesome to watch these little birds acting this way, and I spent several minutes capturing them. Then I continued with other species that were also in the area among the reach of my lens.



Western Sandpipers in synchronized foraging


There were hundreds, maybe thousands (I didn't count) of Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) an abundant transient and winter resident. Their breeding habitat is on tundra in eastern Siberia and Alaska. They migrate to both coasts of North, Central and South America. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. These birds forage on mudflats during migration and the non-breeding season by probing or picking up food by sight. This is one of the most abundant shorebird species in North America with a population in the millions.



Willet, non-breeding adult

 Willet, breeding adult

The Willet (Tringa semipalmata), is a very common transient and winter resident and common in summer. It is a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. Adults have gray legs and a long, straight, dark and stout bill. The body is dark gray above and light underneath. The tail is white with a dark band at the end.

Two subspecies (which may actually be different species) have very different breeding habitats and ranges. The eastern willet breeds in coastal saltmarshes from Nova Scotia to Mexico and the Caribbean. It winters on the Atlantic coast of South America. The western willet breeds in freshwater prairie marshes in western North America. It winters on both coasts, from the mid-Atlantic states south to at least Brazil on the Atlantic, and from Oregon south to Peru and Chile on the Pacific. These birds forage on mudflats or in shallow water, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects, crustaceans and marine worms, but also eat some plant material.

The willet's population declined sharply due to hunting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their population has since increased, but they are still considered at risk, especially in light of continued habitat loss.



 Laughing Gull, adult molting to breeding colors

 Laughing Gull, non-breeding adult

The Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) is by far the most common gull. It is a medium-sized gull of North and South America. It breeds on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Northernmost populations migrate further south in winter, and this species occurs as a rare vagrant to western Europe. The laughing gull's English name is derived from its raucous kee-agh call, which sounds like a high-pitched laugh "ha... ha... ha...". In Panama it is a very common transient and winter resident with some birds present in summer, and occurs on coasts and on larger lakes, sometimes found far offshore.

 Semipalmated Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher

 Short-billed Dowitcher showing a close-to-breeding plumage


 His bill got moody after diving it into the mud to get a worm

The Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)  is very similar to Western Sandpiper, especially in non-breeding plumage. Bill on average is shorter and have short webbing between toes (hard to see), hence its "semipalmated" name. In Panama it is a very common transient and winter resident, uncommon in summer. Occurs on coastal mudflats, sometimes in shores of freshwater lakes and ponds but is less numerous than Western Sandpiper. They are long distance migrants and winter in coastal South America, with some going to the southern United States. They migrate in flocks which can number in the hundreds of thousands, particularly in favoured feeding locations.

The Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) is a common transient and winter resident, and rare in summer. Occurs on both coasts, mainly on mudflats but sometimes on shallow freshwater ponds near coast. It feeds on invertebrates often by rapidly probing its bill into mud in a sewing machine fashion. Their breeding habitat includes bogs, tidal marshes, mudflats or forest clearings in different parts of Alsaka, United States and Canada. They migrate to the southern United States and as far south as Brazil. This bird is more likely to be seen near ocean coasts during migration than the very similar and difficult to distinguish Long-billed Dowitcher. This species occurs in western Europe only as an extremely rare vagrant.



 Magnificent Frigatebird female

The Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) is very common along Panama's coasts, especially on Pacific, where it breeds on offshore islands, it's also occasionally seen soaring far inland. It is widespread in the tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands, it also breeds along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Mexico to Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands. It has occurred as a vagrant as far from its normal range as the Isle of Man, Denmark, Spain, England, and British Columbia. It spends days and nights on the wing, feeds mainly on fish, and attacks other seabirds to force them to disgorge their meals. Frigatebirds never land on water, and always take their food items in flight.