A studio for bird study

Tag: belize

Illustrating the Harpy Eagle

by Bryce W. Robinson

Untitled-3-01.jpgOver the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to illustrate the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), with the cover art for the Raptor Research Foundation‘s Journal of Raptor Research, and private commission work. Recently, I’ve focused again on the Harpy for a large and exciting project I’ve started with The Peregrine Fund (Stay tuned for details), and I’ll soon be returning to the species for Costa Rica focused work that I’ve also undertaken. I hope you enjoy the products of these upcoming endeavors as much as I’ll enjoy creating them.

Prints highlighting some of these Harpy Eagle images can be found in the shop.

Orange-breasted Falcon Plucking Prey

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

For the Orange-breasted Falcon whose diet consists primarily of avian prey, to eat requires a great deal of work. First, the birds must capture a food item. They specialize in above canopy surprise and pursuit capture, a technique that blends a bit of skill and luck. When the two align and the bird finally captures a meal, they then must prepare it. Falcons prefer to ingest little amounts of feather from their prey items, and thus need to efficiently remove the extraneous feathers to access the muscle. To remove these feathers, they pluck their prey nearly clean. Plucking can be beautiful, as I found with the Orange-breasted Falcon in the video above as it prepared a Great-tailed Grackle. Perched on a limb high overlooking a deep river valley, the bird plucks. The observer can easily recognize the bird’s technique of rip and flick, as it efficiently carries out its daily ritual and feathers calmly drift away in the hot Central American air.

Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher (Myiobius sulphureipygius) Foraging in the Dark Understory of Southern Belize

by Bryce W. Robinson

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I’ve been in Central America for nearly two months, and I haven’t had the time or energy to post any stories, images, or illustrations from my experience thus far. There are of course many stories to tell.

Flycatcher (Family: Tyrannidae) diversity in Central America is very high. Getting to know this diversity has been an excellent challenge. I’ve had a lot of luck seeing most species that I might encounter in Belize, and among my favorite have been the small and endearing flycatchers of the rainforest, such as the Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher (Myiobius sulphureipygius).

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I’ve seen the bird only a few times. It sits low in the understory of the rainforest, near relatively open areas and perch hunts for insects. Its large eyes are obviously engineered to spot prey, and it tactfully watches and waits until it sees an opportunity. This can be for a minute or more.

These birds don’t seem to mind my close proximity when I’m watching and photographing, and seem only focused on its task of procuring food.

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Contrasting this seemingly patient and calculated technique with another small flycatcher, the Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher (Terenotriccus erythrurus) has been enlightening. From what I have observed, these birds are constantly making attempts at captures, and hardly sit still for more than a few seconds. It’s difficult to tell if these many attempts are all successful, because the insects it is after are much too small to observe at any distant.

Hopefully I’ll be able to capture both foraging techniques on video. There’s always another way to describe the behavior, whether it be writing, illustration, or video. I’d like to blend all three for these birds.

Orange-breasted Falcon Painting

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus). Gouache on watercolor paper. ©Bryce W. Robinson.

In a short time I’ll be heading south to northern Central America (primarily Belize and Guatemala) to research Orange-breasted Falcons (Falco deiroleucus). I’ll be working with The Peregrine Fund on their Orange-breasted Falcon project. My main focus will be assessing occupancy at historical territories, investigating potential territories, nest monitoring, banding nestlings, and assessing nest success. All work that I’m familiar with, but in a completely different system.

With the new system comes new opportunities to start fresh and learn. As a birder, my mouth is watering from the anticipation of learning new birdlife to a degree I have yet to experience. Field work with the falcon will be a great vehicle for learning this new bird life, as I’ll be immersed in the system daily, always paying attention to what is around me.

Alaska is an exciting place for an ornithologist, because it is still somewhat a frontier in our basic understanding of some of its birdlife. The Neotropics are similar, but to a greater degree. Due to the nature of the system, and the magnitude of its biodiversity, there is much work still to be done to fill in gaps in our basic understanding of the natural history of some species. This frontier is where I want to be, so I consider myself quite fortunate to begin a potentially five month stint in a place where so many opportunities lay.

I’ll be blogging birdlife along the way, including videos, photos, field sketches and stories. It’ll be a content heavy time, and I’m looking forward to it.