Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paraiso passerines

Paraiso was also our first introduction to the high elevation passerines.  Mountain Robin started displacing some of the Clay-colored's.  We had brief views of Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow Silkies.  The first Volcano Hummingbirds, Slaty Flowerpiercers, and Yellow-thighed Finches appeared as well.  We spent some time scoping and scanning trees for a calling Chlorophonia before we picked up some sitting quietly in the treetops.  This shot is pretty heavily cropped, the birds were very tough to pick out and didn't want to really come down at all from the treetops.

A Volcano Hummingbird displayed for a female.
After a bit the guides latched onto a mixed flock where the first Collared Redstarts and Slaty-capped Bush-tanagers appeared.  A tapaculo and Spot-crowned Woodcreeeper put in brief appearances.  A Rufous-browed Peppershrike flashed through but couldn't escape Steven's bins.  It flew across and down the trail and landed for a couple seconds on a crossbranch.  Luckily my settings were close as there would have been no time to adjust them.
There were dribs and drabs of some of the common birds for the elevation, our first Black-billed Nightengale-thrush...
A Sooty Robin also teed up cooperatively.  It looked like it had a tick attached to its left cheek so I walked past it along the trail to shoot the more photogenic side.
Finally a Black-capped Flycatcher.  This distinctive empid was actually in my top 20 or so birds I really wanted to see.  Call me nuts, but how can you turn down a chance to use the words "distinctive" and "empid" in the same sentence?
Up next post will be a high elevation feeder set-up with undoubtedly the best tanager photos I've ever taken...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hummingbirds of Paraiso

After leaving Hotel Bougainvillea we headed a couple hours up in elevation and stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Paraiso del Quetzal (or something like that).  It was quite good, however, the reason to go there was the clouds of hummingbirds that descend upon their feeders.

Green Violet-ears were common to say nothing of photogenic.

The real attractions, however, were the hordes of Fiery-throated Hummingbirds that didn't come into feeders anywhere else to my memory.  A person could hold their finger up to the perch and they would land on the finger to drink.  The birds would whip past your ear so close you could feel the air from a hummingbird's wings.  I would guesstimate that I took about 800 shots of Fiery-throated alone, trying to catch that throat lit up.

Magnificent Hummingbird was the other common hummingbird.  It's a different subspecies from the one that sneaks into Arizona and will probably eventually be split into Rivoli's Hummingbird per Steven.
The female (above) has a longer bill than the male presumably to allow them to to feed on different flowers and not expend energy defending a patch from a mate.  Here's a young male:

The final hummer present here was Volcano Hummingbird, a small Selasphorus species that I'll talk more about in future posts.  I assume this is a female.

Monday, February 25, 2013


I got back early this morning from a trip Mike Mahler organized through Sarett and Costa Rica Gateways (with Steven Easley and Vernon) to Costa Rica.  It was incredible.  For those of you who've never been, Pura vida is an unofficial motto of Costa Rica that translates loosely to the Good Life.  It's a common greeting (often shortened to "Pura").

We were gone for 8 days with days 1 and 8 being wholly dedicated to traveling.

The tour started on the grounds of Hotel Bougainvillea in San Jose.  Most of the birds there were relatively common, kiskadees, blue-gray tanagers, yellow and Wilson's warblers, things we would encounter frequently but there was no way anyone would not start out birding on the first day and so bird we did.

White-eared ground-sparrow was an exception, a bird that we would not be encountering again, Steve picked up on the call note and after a couple tries the bird teed up nicely on a branch in the open.
This was the first of several large sparrow-finch things that seemed to fill the niche of towhees.  It was certainly a fairly unique bird.

Gray Saltators, Hoffman's woodpecker (a red-bellied class thing), YB Sapsucker (apparently quite a good bird in CR), Melodious Blackbird, and many others were about as well.  We spent some time initially trying to see Rufous-capped Warblers which were calling and giving glimpses only, I took this pic after breakfast as people were finishing up.
I've glimpsed it once in Arizona and once in Belize, this was the first good look I'd had of one.

Finally a shot of Rufous-collared Sparrow.  I heard it singing and it took me a bit of time to track it down.  They turned out to be a very abundant bird the first couple days though you never forget your first.

I took some shots of the really impressively landscaped grounds, my 40D broke down (again) after a day or so this is the last time I'll have a lot of flower shots, but these are pretty worthwhile.  The 7D went strong.

Orchids came in various sizes, shapes, and colors.

There were others that I have even less of a sense of what they are.

After this we headed up into the highlands, as Steve said, to find some real birds!

We had a lo-ong layover in Miami on the way back, I've got photos edited for at least 6 more posts, so check back often!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Prelude to some color

It's going to be a long prelude.

Earlier in the week the sun came out at midday and I spent about an hour on the pier with the duck flock that slowly worked its way back.

The ice bergs made for a composition change-up and I would have liked to have had more time but you take what you can get.

White-winged scotors are accumulating, there's been high double digits most days.

Males have been pretty well represented, sometimes they'll be quite close to the end of the pier.  It's cool when they're up close and you can get a sense of that thick jaw and heavy neck.  There's not many birds where I would describe the males as bulls but it's probably as applicable as any here.

Check out how the trail bird is stepping on the lead bird here.
They weren't impacted, you can tell by the pale scaps on the trail bird that it remains the trail bird.

It'll be probably be a week and a half until the next update, but there should be some quality then.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

VATH redux

I could hardly let as sharp a bird as the Whirlpool Varied Thrush escape unphotographed.  VATH may be the first bird I ever photographed; I spotted one underneath our feeder when I was a kid in Midland Co and my dad let both my brother and I take a shot of it with his camera.  It hung around for at least a couple weeks that time, as has this bird.

It was somewhat of a trick to crop out the signs, sidewalks, and starlings.
I never did quite catch the wingflash.  I was somewhat surprised that it's actually white, I was thinking that it had an orangish tone.  The Catharus thrushes have more of a color tone to it (unless theirs is also an illusion).
It would frequently perch quite quietly up in the branches.  This was the only time it was relatively clear.
I've gone back a few times hoping to find the Bohemian(s) that have been around.  While I've usually found some Cedar Waxwings, I haven't found big brother.  With the trees close to out of berries and since I'll won't be out this weekend I may miss that one.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seeds' nightmares

This is the female Red Crossbill that's been coming into Tim's feeders.
 The bill reminds me of one of those gnarly tropical ants with the huge jaws.  It looks like it has an extra cutting edge to the lower mandible...
...which seems to cleave into the outer shell without anywhere near as much chewing and rotating as does a cardinal or house finch.
By the time the bill is closed the shell is in bits.

These are all shot through a window.  I heard it call once from outside as it flew off into a thicket.  The call sounded level to me which might argue for a Type 1 bird, though my understanding is that most of the ones that irrupted this year were Type 3.  Clearly I should have tried to video-record the bird.