Sunday, April 23, 2017

the Spring Wren and the Spring Sparrow

From a midwestern perspective, Winter Wren would be much more aptly called Spring Wren.  Of course you could say that for most of our migrants.  I've never been able to get a decent pic of one until earlier this week in Warren Woods where a bird was way more intent on belting out a huge song from a tiny bird than evading my lens

 He sat long enough that I video'd him.

It then hopped up a branch and ruffled his feathers before disappearing.

White-throated Sparrow was the theme at Floral today.  There were hordes of them.

I was hoping to get one standing next to a trillium but couldn't quite pull it off.

A robin actually came the closest...

Friday, April 21, 2017

a Cattle, errr, College Egret

One of Tim's friends texted him a pic of an odd bird they'd seen at LMC.  It was a Cattle Egret.  The bird was still there when I went over in the last evening light.  At first the bird was distant, feeding on the berm across the pond, but after about 20 minutes the bird took flight, flew directly overhead, and then disappeared over the college.  A quick walk around the building brought the bird back into view.  It was oblivious to the car.

It stalked about hunting for small prey items in the lawn.  With the combo of mowers to keep the grass down and Canada Geese to boost the, uhhhh, organic nature of the greenery it seemed to have pretty fair success.

At least once it appeared to have caught a slug.

The bird just kept working closer and who could complain about a fully plumed out bird.

My spreadsheet shows this is the 4th year I've had Cattle Egret in the county.  Most years a person can find at least one uncommon long-legged wader.  Here's hoping that bittern (or Little Blue!) are soon to come...

Friday, April 14, 2017

the bird at the end of the White Stone Road

otherwise known as Lajas Blancas.  The road that is.  The bird was Great.  But we'll get to it a few pics down.  We alternated walking and idling down the road in the half-truck and stopped when Domi spotted a Red-breasted Blackbird, a bird I've seen a few times but always at a distance.  The full adult male has black where this one is streaked.

We had decent luck with swifts that morning with Lesser Swallow-tailed and these Short-tailed Swifts being unique for the trip

We were watching the swifts when Cathy spotted another new bird for the trip, a Cattle-tyrant.
 It's a flycatcher that acted like a robin, was shaped like a thrasher, and colored like a Western Kingbird.

 About an hour later Domi heard the other candidate for bird of the morning (with Red-billed Scythebill the other candidate), another one he'd been trolling for at intervals.  It came right in to his tape this time, a Great Jacamar.

We enjoyed walkaway views of a bird I'd really hoped to see last year.   We eventually headed back to camp, but not before Domi stopped the truck for a White-whiskered Puffbird we drove practically on top of.
We saw this bird at dusk last year and a few of us saw it on the trails at Canopy Camp, but this bird at point-blank range made it unanimous for the group.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kinglet's crown

Last year for spring break I took the family to Costa Rica.  This year ... I worked.  Which was less fun.  So with a week and a half of densely packed shifts behind me it felt great to be outside again.  Lincoln Twp Beach can be a good place to spend an hour, or maybe 20 minutes.  There was a big flock of kinglets today and some steep sections meant a person could look down on some of the birds.

I'd actually forgotten just how active kinglets are through the lens.  This was my first visual on a Ruby-crowned this year.

A Pine Warbler announced it's presence with the more recognizable melodic version of its song.  It was a bright male.

Turns out warblers are flighty too.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Who wouldn't want to see a Scythebill?  There are 2 members of this woodcreeper sub-group in Central America.  I've briefly seen the more widespread Brown-billed at Rancho Naturalista but Domi efforted Red-billed all week, occasionally trolling with tapes in likely looking spots.  He had his work cut out for him to not make post-eagle day anti-climactic, but we were at his next location pre-dawn the next morning and Red-billed started calling right out of the bus.  He was able to pull it out of the gloom somewhat with a few more audio cuts.  This was easily among one of my top 10 most wanted for the trip.

Maybe an hour later we would have been able to see the red bill but we weren't going to complain.

Interesting birds continued to appear as we alternately walked and rode in the back of the flatbed halftruck with new becards and woodpeckers for the trip such as this One-colored Becard.

 There were several birds we heard on a daily basis, such as Bright-rumped Attila and Brown-capped Tyrannulet but this was the group's first visual on the ever-excitable Attila

As the sun rose so did activity.  Can you spot the bird in this next pic?

here it is a little more zoomed in, still not easy to see.
It's a Mustached Antwren, a canopy special that a couple of us glimpsed last year.  It's essentially the size of a winter wren but with a heavier bill and no tail.  Black-and-white striped upperparts combined with a lemon yellow belly made for a fairly unique bird.

We saw a number of raptors as we bumped down the road, including the first perched Swallow-tailed Kites that most of us had ever seen, as well as the ever-present Roadside Hawks and a couple Double-toothed Kites with their distinctive dark central throat stripe.

Fun birds continued all morning but I'm going to save the second half for later...

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ow-OW, Wow, KaPOW, WOW

or something like that.

Harpy Eagles weren't the only thing we saw at Rancho Frio in Darien National Park.  Red-throated Caracara was another memorable bird that was quite common here.
It's a fairly unique bird to look at; it's a crazy bird to hear.  If a parrot could get high on meth and then channeled its inner OutOfControlLittleLeagueDad, it might sound something like this...

 I never managed to video one squawking out of control, but they were something else once they got going.

Stripe-throated Wren was another vocal species.
Tropical wrens are just a bear to see, they're a lot more satisfying to learn by ear.

It'd be hard to learn this next bird by ear.
It's a Golden-crowned Spadebill.  They have fairly nondescript insect-like calls that go along with their tiny size.

We had a bonus Gray-cheeked Nunlet appear amidst a little mixed flock

Finally some Black Vultures above Canopy Camp ending a memorable day.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Forest Eagle Slam

So you want to see a Harpy Eagle do you?  Well, it's not so hard.  Get on any highway, take it south.  All the way south.  When you can't go any farther south, get on a different highway, keep going south.  Eventually you'll be on the Pan-American highway; take it until it ends and you can drive no farther south in "North" America.  Then get in a motorized dugout canoe, take it up the river until it's basically too shallow to go much farther and get in a truck that was ferried in to the village at some point in the past.  Take it down the two track leading to Darien National Park and go until it ends.  Then start walking.  Two miles through the hot humid jungle to reach the Rancho Frio camp.  Did I mention that the adult will likely be gone from the nest by 930 and only 4 people at a time can visit the nest site?  No pressure.  The group the day before us had gotten there too late and only saw some tufts of the scruffy chick.

We got up at 4am, and were on the road by 5am.  We were at the end of the road by 6am and dawn came as we motored down the river.  Cocoi Herons were pretty common along the river.

The boatman mentioned he'd seen a big raptor the day before and Domi had him slow down and then stop when this appeared 600 yards away atop a massive Ceiba tree.

It's a huge gray and black eagle with a single crown feather, a Crested Eagle, even rarer than our target Harpy.

Since only 4 people at a time would fit into the blind Domi suggested that half walk ahead and so 4 of us double-timed it an hour down the trail.  Did I mention that the rangers only speak Spanish?  It took a few minutes to explain when we reached the Rancho Frio camp that we didn't want to wait for the rest of the group, but eventually we figured it out and were escorted the last quarter mile to the blind.

The female was waiting.

The nest was probably about 125 yards distant, above is one of Rhoda's digi-scoped images, the following are mine.

It was very humid and overcast and photography (or even looking through the scope without fogging it) wasn't easy.  Our 20 minutes with the intensely-anticipated bird passed in what felt like one.  Maybe less.  It was a hard bird to walk away from.  We timed it about perfectly though, we arrived back at the camp just as the other half was ready to take the final spur.  The bird remained a similar amount of time for them and then flew off into the forest.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Uncommon Antbirds

After a break for drinks, snacks, and a chance to buy palm mask crafts from the local people (my kids loved theirs) we took a 2nd trail and despite the midday heat we saw a surprising number of birds.  There were a few small mixed flocks but the first bird to tee up well was a Black-tailed Trogon.

Domi picked up on Bare-crowned Antbirds calling in the thick brush beneath the trogon.  I think this species has been possible on every trip I've ever taken to Costa Rica or Panama, but a quick look at the female was the first I'd ever seen the species.  Domi taped in the male.

This honestly was one of the birds of the trip for me (not least because he's bald...).  Eventually I'll get some video up.

 The walk's goal was to get to a little lagoon where more kingfishers would be possible.  This was my closest ever view of Rufescent Tiger-heron and I probably should have spent more time with it.

Studying every little branch and twig projecting over the water turned up these Lesser Kiskadees

Eventually we were rewarded with walkaway looks of Pygmy Kingfisher.

Another antbird started calling and I recognized it as being different.  Domi knew it was a Great Antshrike.
For one of the largest antbirds this bird was very hard to see, singing sequestered deeply in a thicket with very few windows to offer views.  I understand now why Steven on our very first trip to Costa Rica announced a singing bird and made absolutely zero effort to find it.

Finally an 88 Butterfly, we saw this one a couple times...