Friday, February 27, 2015

Driving to Tapanti in the Rain

Upon our arrival at Hotel Tapanti Media Lodge, a Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti) in a tree was found on a walk around the hotel grounds.   We saw a few other birds, but it was still raining and gray and our walk was short.  

The hotel's Imperial cerveza sign with a colorful neighborhood in the background hints at the area's hillyness. 

Above and below, Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similes) photos taken from the open van window.  I love these lemon-yellow breasted flycatchers.

When the bird turned to reveal it's beautiful yellow breast, with twigs in front, alas the photo is out-of-focus.  C'est la vie. We were driving through a coffee plantation and that's a coffee tree with coffee beans the bird is perched in.

I am not saying it's a great photo, but I am proud of my Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus aurantiirostris).  Sometimes the challenges of getting a shot make me fonder of the outcome.

This raging river is likely all the more so because the rain of the day before and throughout the night added to it.  It certainly reveals the low clouds and gray weather.

Silhouetted Northern Rough-winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) included here because one is singing.   Lyle also found a few Southern Rough-wing (S. ruficollis) a couple of times.

The big messy nest of Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma). 

We saw many oropendolas in the middle elevation places we visited. More photos later, but here you can see the flight style of a Montezuma o. and the yellow outer tail feathers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How could I forget? Resplendent Quetzal!

I jumped the gun with our second morning Golden-browed Chlorophonia experience and forgot our Tuesday morning Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) experience.

This was an early morning birding fest with every birding group staying at Savegre gathered in a tiny woodland opening.  When we arrived there was already a group present and watching the quetzals.
Following our arrival a steady stream of birders joined us - possibly as many as 30 or so birders were there when the birds were the most active.  The very early morning light was not great and I struggled with my photos.  But they are, hand-over-fist, better than the shots that I got last year.  This year I also took some brief videos.  

I like the way the tail is crossed.

The small green head, beady eye and little yellow beak are so unique on this bird.

This birding event fit into the category of a life experience.  Maybe not as great as graduating from college, getting your first job, your first raise, or getting married and having children - but pretty darn memorable.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wet Birds

It's official - we have left the chlorophonias, had breakfast, checked out and now we are leaving the highlands.  A little sad, because Savegre Lodge and the highlands are great.  Vernon had a final stop to make to try for an important highland bird we had missed around the lodge.  He hoped to find it on some trails behind Miriam's restaurant.  

Several Spotted Wood Quail (Odontophorus guttatus) were seen well but try, unless you are Matt, getting a photo of these guys.  Actually I did get a couple of fuzzy photos last year when we saw the quail behind Savegre Lodge.  Buffy-crowned Wood-partridge (Dendrortyx leucophrys) and Black-breasted Wood-quail (Odontophorus leucolaemus) were missed.

It was now raining for keeps - but uniquely so.  The sun was shining and the sky was, more or less, blue.  It was as if the sky had turned on its misters.  Misty or whatever, but we got so wet!  And so did the birds. 

As the last one up the trail, I got several nice photos of this Mountain Elaenia.  Not too wet yet, it perched on the red branch and seemed to enjoy the combination of rain and mist.

Vernon had to see Miriam, so we spent a few of our last minutes back on the deck.  Look at how soaked this Black-billed Nightingale-thrush is!

Another wetter Mountain Elaenia

Same bird

I love this photo of Sooty Thrush - the water droplets can be seen on its feathers.


Now we are climbing higher.  It's raining.  The clouds are low and gray. We are heading to the top of the mountain location where the media and cell phone towers are planted and the only place to see Volcano Junco (Junco vulcani).  We saw it very well.  Everyone got out of the van to get photos.  Knowing I had photos from last year's trip, I didn't endure the windy rain.  A little further down this road we also saw a little family of Timberline Wrens (Thyrorchilus browni) and Peg-billed Finch (Acanthidops bairdi) - both with limited high elevation ranges and both difficult to see - especially the Peg-billed finch was seen well.

We left this spot and drove to a nearby weedy and littered roadside location and piled out of the van.  With no let up in the heavy rain, Vernon heard the vocalization of the Wrenthrush (Zeladonia coronata) and we ducked into a small cave-like area of low trees, bushes and weeds. Large rain drops dripped from overhead and fell on our heads. Above this narrative and below are my horrible efforts at photographing the Wrenthrush.  What saves them at all is the visible orange cap.  I knew I would not be able to get good photos with my camera secondary to the bird's jumbled habitat and skulking habits. Matt has posted a relatively decent photo on his blog, Birding Berrien and Beyond.  It's not obvious from this, be we actually saw the Wrenthrush fairly well. This kind of birding experience is one I don't want to forget.  

Approaching Cartago, above and below, the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen.  It seemed to go on for miles.

We arrived at some railroad tracks near Cartago for a single target bird. I'll make the birds in the photo above quiz birds.  They were tucked together in a tree at the edge of a small, fenced area, possibly a schoolyard, that was along the railroad tracks.  If you have trouble with the ID, again, check out Matt's blog, Birding Berrien and Beyond.   By now it was again raining - I mean misting - heavily and I was getting soaked so I returned to the van.  We also saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)* - a very uncommon winter migrant in Costa Rica - in the trees of this yard.  

*Addendum on 02/27/15:  Today we received an email update from Lyle Hamilton with photo evidence that the Yellow-billed Cuckoo was, in fact, a Mangrove Cuckoo.  The Birds of Costa Rica field guide describes Mangrove Cuckoo as a winter resident favoring second growth and gardens over mangroves in Costa Rica.  I've never seen Mangrove Cuckoo.  This won't be my life bird, but this kind of discovery gets to the heart of just one reason birding is so fun and interesting.   

Above, Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyges minor), photo by Lyle Hamilton and used with written permission.

Along with some teenage boys, this handsome dog was seeking cover from the rain on the train platform.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Golden-browed Chlorophonia

On our final morning at Savegre, across the road and up a steep hill, we enjoyed one of our more relaxing and downright fun mornings.  But it didn't quite begin that way.

When we arrived at the top of the hill it was to visit a very cleverly thought out feeder station; again, another example of how important birding is to Costa Rica.  

The feeder station was an abandoned apple orchard with twenty or so old, squat trees in an area about the size of a suburban backyard.  Cut up fruit - papaya, bananas, and whatever else - was arranged on tree branches and feeding platforms.  And, this attracted birds!  The little orchard was full of chlorophonias feeding vigorously - at eye level - on the fruit.  According to Matt these birds are typically treetoppers.

But the weather was overcast and misty, and because it was early, the lighting was not good for taking photographs.  Female chlorophonias were feeding and active.  All of my photos were terrible.  The thing is, when not familiar with the habits of a particular species - as here I was not - I kept thinking, these birds are going to fly and my chances for a couple of decent photos will fly with them.  

But not so.  The morning became lighter, the mist stopped and the sun, here and there, even came out.  We spread out around the orchard and the birds came to us.  We all got so many chlorophonia photos.  The six below are possibly my best.  I had a hard time going through the visceral deletion process  required and even kept some of my not so good shots.  

Golden-browed chlorophonia (Chlorophonia callophrys) male






I don't think I'll ever see a Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) eating fruit in the states.

Tennessee warbler - terrible picture, but many were feeding with the chlorophonias.

Female Slaty Flowerpiercer (Diglossa plumbea)

Scintillant Hummingbird (Selasphorus scintilla)

I had a start when I first saw this bird.  I thought it was a Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), an uncommon migrant which has shown up in a few places in Costa Rica.  Nah - juvenile Rufous-collared sparrow.  I was disappointed, but then glad to see what the juvenile bird looks like.  The photo below is of a hidden Rufous-collared sparrow building a nest.

Golden-browed Chlorophonia was one of my wished for target birds for this trip.  I hoped we would see one or two and that I might get a photograph.  Never did I expect such a fun experience as this.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Savegre Lodge and Spa and nearby woods and trails

Savage Lodge and Spa is not far from Miriam's so our arrival here brought a close to an amazingly fun and birdy day. 

When on a field trip such as this, busy and active day-after-day with lots of new and different things, I rely on the order of photographs on my card to help me remember and sort out the days to tell the story.  In the highlands around Savegre there is so much to do and see that two days here will bring a schedule of events that, when home and looking at photos, their order becomes important to help remember.  When I downloaded my photos I accidentally got them out of order.  Since I have so many photos, (most already deleted) I don't want to go through and download again.  Doesn't really matter; the story seems to be unfolding anyway.     

Over the trees in the hills, a swirl of Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) are always thrilling.

The fuzzy photos above and below are of a female Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus), a life bird for me.

Above and below Male White-throated Mountain Gem (Lampoons castaneoventris

Again.  I think this bird gives me trouble because the illustration in the new (2014) Birds of Costa Rica field guide by Garrigues and Dean is limited and not very good.  Some of the new illustrations are better but, as Vernon pointed out, there are some birds that would never be identified from the illustration included in the new guide.

Magnificent Hummingbird

Terrible photo of female White-throated Mountain Gem.  Too bad because it's a really pretty bird.

Above and below, Dark Pewee (Contopus lugubris)

Sooty-capped Chlorospingus nee Bush-tanager - I have better photos, but I like the busyiness - all the plants and colors - in this photo.

Hummingbird nest built into a very low vine along a deep bank.

Last year my photos of Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea) were of fuzzy, little gray balls.  This year they are still fuzzy, little gray balls, but this year at least the fuzz ball has eyes.

Freshwater fish is a popular dish served at the Savegre Lodge restaurant.  The above photo is feeding time at a fish farm within walking distance to the lodge - salmon, I think.   

Night photo of a perched Dusky Nightjar (Antrostomus saturatus) which gave away it's presence by calling.  Sounded a little like a whippoorwill.  This was a quite night.  While it was raining hard we had amazing looks at both Bare-shanked Screech-owl (Megascops clarkii) and the nightjar - both highland specialties.

Other birds on another trail.

Above and below:  Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus pileatus)

What does it sound like?

Have a listen.

Above and below, Mountain Thrush (Turdus plebejus) tucked deep into some branches.  Not great photos, but I was happy to get them.

Unknown butterfly that actually landed.

Swallow-tailed Kite in the mist.

Again, in clear sky.

Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor) knows its been spotted.

I love flycatchers - Yellowish Flycatcher (Empidonax flavescens)

Streak-breasted Treehunter (Thripadectes rufobrunneus)

Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus)

Black-faced Solitaire (Myadestes melanops) - easy to hear, hard to see.

There is one vocalization at the beginning of this video.

From the backside, a Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus frantzii)