Friday, March 28, 2008

Pale-billeds at Yaxha

The male pale-billed excavates a grub from the base of a large tree.

On March 4, many of the participants in The International Birdwatching Encounter in Guatemala were split up into teams for a birding challenge. The team that saw the most bird species during the day would be the winners! There was much kvetching about who would be on what team and where would we go and so forth. It ended up just being another wonderful day of birding in The Peten.

We were bussed to Yaxha, an ancient Maya city much like Tikal, but less developed and excavated. The birding was brilliant. The weather varied between hot and humid, hot and rainy, hot and sunny, and just plain hot.

The day started auspiciously with at first one, then a pair of pale-billed woodpeckers. Although it was foggy, we all took many photos of these members of the genus Campephilus—same genus as the ivory-billed woodpecker.

That white thing hanging down from the woodpecker's bill is a giant wood-boring grub.

This image looks like a painting to me.

A quick flap to help hike up the tree trunk.

The pair, foraging together. Look how their pale bills and eyes stand out even from a distance.

I love the blazing red on the pale-billed's head, bisected on top by darkest black.

I wished Julie (confirmed ivory-billed woodpecker lover) had been there with me to watch these birds dig effortlessly into the base of a huge tree for similarly huge grubs. The grubs were so big, they looked like long white cigars in the bills of the woodpeckers. Alas Julie had awakened that morning feeling ill and elected (wisely) to stay at Villa Maya. Poor thing was down for two days.

Though these images aren't top quality, I thought I'd share them. These are special birds. Wish we still had our own Campephilus woodpeckers here in the USA. Who knows, maybe we do?

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At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great birds! Wish we had them here in the U.S.--Chrissy

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

That larva looks like a cerambycid, or long-horned beetle larva, very much like the ones pictured in Tanner's book on the ivory-billed woodpecker. Imagine the kind of beetle that becomes!

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Jayne said...

How thrilling to see these magnificent birds in person. Thanks for sharing them with us.

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Oh, your images are top quality. Suited for paintings, for sure.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Way cool bird. Even though you weren't satisfied with the pictures, I'm glad you shared images of this great bird!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

That´s the closest we all gonna get to the ivory billed woodpecker...its fairly well distributed ive seen PBWP at the beach and in cloud forests around 2000 meteres...big bird too!


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