Monday, December 5, 2016


After not having a lot of luck at Santa Rosa NP the day before, I decided to try Palo Verde on my 2nd to last morning.  It was about 2-3 hour drive, but given I was used to eastern time it wasn't hard to arrive at dawn.  There are a lot of rice paddies around Palo Verde National Park and I knew that this was one of the better areas for Jabiru (as well as some of the rarer rails that I didn't try for).  I pulled over when I saw some egrets in a ditch and then some storks farther back.  In the half-light a Wood Stork with its head at an odd angle gave me a rush of adrenaline as I lifted my bins.  I somewhat sheepishly let the binoculars fall, only to have a Jabiru drop down right in front of them.  Using the car as a blind, the bird paid me no notice and ended up walking right past.

The massive bird was hard to fit into the viewfinder.

I found a few more a little farther down the road.  The bird seems like something out of Africa.  Check out the size difference between it and a puny looking Wood Stork.

Spoonbills were fairly common here as well, this one gave up better photo-ops than any I've encountered in Florida in the last few years.

Finally a Double-striped Thick-knee.
These giant nocturnal plovers (?) would sometimes appear in pastures, but this was my first chance to stop for one.  The birds looked like a pheasant had been stretched into the proportions of an Upland Sandpiper.  It'd be interesting to know how they act when they're foraging.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Santa Rosa National Park

A trip to Costa Rica in November technically falls in what they optimistically call their Green Season.  aka Rainy season in verbiage not polished for the tourists.  That being said, I only had one day where rain affected my birding, about the same as what I've usually experienced in Dry (Peak) season in the tropics, but that day was at Santa Rosa.  There were a number of species (like Lance-tailed Manakin, Elegant Trogon, among others) that I was vaguely targeting and eBird suggested Santa Rosa as a reasonable spot for them.  It was about a 2.5 hour drive from the motel, but I arrived just as it was brightening.  Roadside Hawks (and Great Currasows) appeared at intervals along the entrance road.

 I found a random place to pull over and started finding a few orioles and doves.  Inca Doves were common.

A family of White-breasted Magpie-jays was probably the highlight of my walk.
 This group was quietly working the middle layer of a huge tree whose foliage was stopping some off-and-on again sprinkles.  This is either a female or a young bird, males have a much better defined black breastband.

The sprinkles turned into frank rain and I left, hoping to find somewhere dry.  I tried driving to another National Park that was on the map that I knew very little about.  The reason for that turned out to be that it was essentially undeveloped;  access was apparently some unlabeled dirt two-tracks that I didn't feel like braving with some rainstorms in the area.  However, turning around brought some parrots into earshot.

I was surprised to see Yellow-naped Parrot, a fairly uncommon amazon class bird that I wasn't expecting to have much shot at.  There turned out to be 4 of the birds tucked into the greenery.

Continuing the green theme, here's a few more Orange-fronted Parakeets close the motel (after rain turned me back from a twisting gravel ascent into another national park)

The sun had come out by evening as evidenced by this Stripe-throated Sparrow.
I saw them daily, though they were a lot shier than I had expected.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

a Snowy doberman

Upton is taking his security seriously.
The owl actually did stop a beachwalker.  The second time that is.  The bird flew in low off the lake originally (doing a reasonable impersonation of a Glaucous Gull), landed in the wrack line and was fairly content to rest there.
 I saw the beachwalker coming and should have run up the beach to get in front of the bird when it would flush past.  I managed a decent shot of the paws, err talons, instead.

The bird flew to the sign at the top and then to the cut in the dune on Upton's northern border giving good looks from the Tiscornia side.

I sat there for about 30 minutes seeing if it would fly.  It thought about it as a dogwalker cut through the grass behind me, but ultimately was content to sit there.  It was still there an hour later.

Ironically while I was sitting there seeing what the owl would do a Glaucous Gull did fly over.

On the other end of the color spectrum is a flock of Black Scoters from yesterday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

no Tiger-herons at Tiscornia

My first morning along the beach I was out before sunrise.  Of course since sunrise in Costa Rica was at 530am, effectively mountain time, that wasn't particularly difficult.  I was hoping vaguely for a Collared Plover, a cousin to Wilson's, but eBird did not suggest that my chances were that good.  And indeed whatever they were, I didn't see one.  Most of the birds initially were birds I would see at Tiscornia, Semi Plover and Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, a few turnstones and sanderlings, a whimbrel that held my interest for a bit, and then this bird, that suddenly appeared in front of me.

It's a Bare-throated Tiger-heron.

I'd never noticed the ventral racing stripe before.

I stayed with the bird until the sun crested the mangroves (and hotels).

Eventually a left the bird to look (unsuccessfully) for mangrove passerine specialties and managed to again walk up on the bird on the way back, flushing it.
You can see how the bird has multiple areas in the primaries and secondaries where it has molted a few feathers and then likely suspended molting for the breeding season.  I would guess this bird is a least 2 or 3 years old based on that.

I've been fortunate to have seen all 3 tiger-herons reasonably possible in Central America this year with a Fasciated Tiger-heron in Costa Rica on spring break and Rufescent Tiger-heron last winter in Panama.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Costa Rican dry forest

The conference was on the pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula in the NW corner of the country, an area I'd never been.  It was much drier overall than the caribbean side, or really either side as you go towards Panama.  That meant that the overall number of species was less than in wetter lowlands but that there were common birds that I hadn't yet been in range for.  One was Orange-fronted Parakeet, seen basically every day.
 They fed in roadside weediness and frequently you would be walking along and see one or two, and suddenly a flock of 20 would erupt out of dense vegetation.

Black-headed Trogons were also common.  The trogons seemed to be in a down aspect of the breeding cycle since on a number of occasions I saw little flocks of 5 or 6 birds usually mixed fairly evenly between males and females.  This is the male...
 and the female, calling softly in this case.  I'm not sure if they do something like our cardinals where the females sing and grade the males on who is most responsive to singing back or if they're simply more vocal birds than I give them credit for.
 I was surprised by their green back on a couple of occasions; I would catch a glimpse of a green trogon and think that I had an elegant (though that would come eventually...)

Common Black-hawk is a bird I've seen before but never in the numbers that were present in this region.

One other bird that also fell in that category was Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  I think I saw more this trip than I've seen anywhere my whole life.
This one is still growing in the longest outer tail feathers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Another nemesis down

As I mentioned last post Three-striped Warbler had been a bird I'd hoped to see for some time but didn't come across until Monteverde.  Ditto for Sooty-faced Finch (though the pic is too terrible to share).  Magenta-throated Woodstar also fits in that category.  I'd hoped for all of the above at the La Paz Waterfall site in the spring but struck out.  The Monteverde eBird bargraphs indicated a pretty reasonable shot at the woodstar when I planned the trip which appeared diminished when I checked the night before and saw that no one had had one there for 3+ months.  Fortunately, after 5 minutes at the feeders either I got lucky or no one has been eBirding recently as the woodstar appeared very quickly.

 The size of a Ruby-throat, the bird stood out immediately in size from the surrounding violet-ears, sabrewings, brilliants, and mountain-gems.  Its thorntail-like long tail (often held cocked up) is apparent in the pic as is the very noticeable (and fairly unique) white flank spot.  Next is a better view of that giant fat olive hummingbird on the right of the above pic.

Oops.  Not a hummingbird at all, a Bananaquit instead.

 The lighting wasn't awesome and I didn't spend a ton of time at the feeders as I'd gotten pretty good pics previously of the species present.  This (female) Purple-throated Mountain-gem was too cooperative to pass over however.

The woods had a ton of flowers, it was no surprise hummingbirds were well represented.

By early afternoon activity had definitely tailed off.  I would happily have stayed another day, but I had to move on to my conference on the Pacific coast.  The drive back down was an adventure.  The roads up to Monteverde had been fairly dubious; mostly unpaved with plenty of twists, hairpins, and pick-up trucks flying around the corners.  I took a much smaller (straighter road down).  Smaller and straighter meant A LOT steeper; I spent a good amount of time in 2nd (and 1st gear) braking down a rough two-track that I'm not totally convinced I could have gone up if I'd wanted to (which likely explained why aside from a single four-wheeler I met no oncoming traffic).  I was ok with that though, and it meant I could stop when Gray-crowned Yellowthroats teed up at roadside.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cloud forest is awesome

I went back to Costa Rica this last week.  For a conference.  You know, higher learning.  I might have gone a day early to fit in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a location I've never birded.  The roads getting there are mountainous and treacherous, but I managed to arrive just at dusk.  Dawn came slow.  But arrive it did and I took a trail relatively at random and immediately started seeing birds.  There were a lot of little flocks, most commonly led by Gray-breasted Wood-wrens.
 Bursts of their snappy songs (often duetted between a couple individuals) rang out frequently.

Also very common were groups of Three-striped Warbler.
 These confiding little crosses between a kinglet and a worm-eating frequently foraged at close range.  Despite the book stating they're one of the core species of mid-elevation mixed flocks I'd never seen one before, but here they were very common.  Clearly they have a pretty limited elevation band that hosts the bulk of the population.  Perhaps because of neatly demarcated ranges, Three-striped Warbler was split into 3 species and the form in Costa Rica technically now is called Costa Rican Warbler.
 One group was accompanied by a White-throated Spadebill, another lifer.

Common Bush-tanager is the other species that the book notes is a core mid-elevation flock species.  And they are common in a lot of places.
 Spotted Barbtail is another restricted elevation species that I've only seen a couple times.  Similar to the warbler, they were quite common here and would associate with the little flocks.

Black-faced Solitaire has arguably the prettiest song of any bird I've heard, kind of a merger between a veery and wind chimes.
 The birds are very hard to see when singing, but were much more obvious when moving about foraging.

This was my best look at Slate-throated Redstart, one of my favorite neotropical warblers.

Finally a pic of Olivaceous Woodcreeper.  Ironically this was one of the first woodcreepers that I ever saw (in Belize over a decade ago), but one I've rarely (if ever?) seen since.