Central America is a fascinating area to visit. It is a relatively short plane ride and boasts an excellent variety of habitats. Recently we visited both El Salvador and Nicaragua. I could write a book about the 18-day journey, but will spare you. The Nicaragua leg of the trip was marvelous although not as birdy as I had hoped.

We started in Granada which is a town on the edge of Lake Nicaragua that has been restored from damage inflicted during the civil wars of 1978-1979. It is now an international city with a large number of foreign residents and 15 years of political stability. An easy city to walk around, one can enjoy a large central park and outdoor museum in which parakeets, colorful tanagers, great-tailed grackles and white-winged doves abound. A trip by small boat around the small islands (isletas) in Lake Nicaragua will provide you with views of the herons, egrets, shorebirds and kingfishers of the region as well as a plethora of ospreys.

We needed to branch out and check out at least one of the 83 national protected areas in Nicaragua. These reserves cover about 20 per cent of the country and include areas around 50 volcanoes, Lake Nicaragua, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, cloud forests, rivers and dry forests. We chose to visit El Jaguar which is a private reserve located near the town of Jinotega located north and east of Granada.

El Jaguar is about 250 acres (100 hectares) in size of which 20 hectares are in coffee and 80 hectares are set aside as a private reserve registered with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Natural Resources. The coffee is certified by the Rainforest Alliance and is sold exclusively to Whole Foods. But the most important aspect of El Jaguar is that it is in a cloud forest and there have been 270 species of birds seen there. Liliana Chavarria and George Duriaux own the property with their son Jean-Ives Duriaux. Liliana and George maintain two bird banding stations while Jean-Ives, who studied agriculture, manages the coffee farm.

El Jaguar has six cabins with double bedroom, bath with a hot water shower, terrace and solar energy for reading lights. The birding from the terraces was the best. Birding on one of the five paths that have been developed on the farm was okay, but as George and Liliana said, it would be better earlier in the year. Shucks, I guess we will have to return.

It was fascinating to see many of the birds we had seen in the wild, especially the large violet sabrewing hummingbird, in hand as Liliana, George and their two assistants, Moses and Oscar, banded the birds after they sexed, aged, weighed and measured each bird they caught in the mist nets. The training of local youngsters to identify, and help with the bird banding station is one of Liliana and George’s projects. They hope locals will take over and maintain the banding stations some day.

Bird Sightings

They’re back, the osprey, the American oystercatchers and the piping plovers. Snowdrops are blooming. Hang in there, spring is on the way!

On March 12 and 13 Sally Cook of Chilmark spotted the first ospreys of the season at the Wades Cove pole. I checked with Dick (osprey man) Jennings and he said that the pair at the Wades Cove nest is always early to arrive and first to fledge young.

Buddy Vanderhoop saw ospreys at the Lobsterville pole on March 13.

Allan Slater spotted an osprey by his Chappaquiddick pole around 9 a.m. on March 19. At 4 p.m. the same day Lanny McDowell saw two ospreys over the Mill Pond in West Tisbury. About the same time Donald Beaton watched an osprey fly over the Outermost Inn in Aquinnah.

On March 20 Mike Syslo spotted an osprey on the pole between the state lobster hatchery and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in the morning. Cathy Chase saw probably the same osprey at around 4 p.m.

One of the osprey of the Felix Neck pole arrived in the afternoon on March 22 according to Suzan Bellincampi. Jared Hull watched two ospreys carrying nesting material near the Quitsa Pond nest in Chilmark the same morning.

On March 12 Martha Moore and Joe McConnell saw an osprey on the Long Point pole.

Gus Ben David, Dick Jennings and Will Geresy spotted the first piping plover of the season on East Beach on Chappaquiddick on March 18.

On March 16 Laura Murphy spotted a pair of American oystercatchers on the shore of Sengekontacket Pond. Two days later Harry Newman saw the pair on Sarson’s Island. Matt Pelikan reminds us that some of the American oystercatchers that visit and nest on the Island are color banded and the people banding and studying them would like information as to where and when they have been banded. Matt suggests a Web site to do just that: www.ncsu.edu/project/grsmgis/AMOY/Banding.htm.

Fran Clay of Chappaquiddick counted 30 cedar waxwings in her Chappaquiddick yard on March 16 and is pleased that the eastern bluebirds that have been around all winter are still in residence.

Buck Reedy spotted a turkey vulture in Tisbury on March 17, and, yes, these birds are now common on the Vineyard.

Shirlee Miller heard a great horned owl at 3 a.m. in the pines by her Chappaquiddick home. I won’t ask why she was up at three in the morning!

Eloise Boales had a brown creeper, Carolina wren, tufted titmouse, red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers and northern flickers in her Chilmark yard.

Nancy Weaver watched a northern harrier hunting the fields across from the Polly Hill Arboretum on March 21.

Luanne Johnson caught a brown thrasher on her otter cam the week of March 14.


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to birds@mvgazette.com.

Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is www.vineyardbirds2.com.