Saturday, March 29, 2014

Slaty-backed Gull!!!

Kip found a Slaty-backed Gull at the 3 Oaks Ponds this morning.  These ponds are usually good for about one really good bird most years (last year Pacific Loon, previously Arctic Tern).  I guess this means we don't have to check them any more this year.

The bird was just resting amongst the Herring and Ring-billeds.

 I was shooting through a fence, I put in a couple similar pics here, I'm not sure they're all that different though I tried a few different settings on the camera.

Note the size is about the same as the HERG, it's more pot-bellied though.  It's got a really wide white tertial skirt which is typical of SBGU (per the books, unlike Kip, I'd never seen one).  The legs are solidly pink.  The eye is pale with a little dark smudging around it giving it the fierce look.  The mantle color looked just slightly darker than what a LBBG would have.

And the money shot...
 At one point it did some preening, and after that leaned forward and stretched.  You can bet the shutter was banging away.  It's got the sub-terminal white spot on P8 and P7 that creates the "string of pearls."  It didn't quite spread the primaries fully all the way open, I bet even more white would be visible with a well timed flight shot.

After that it went back to sleep.  You can get a hint of some of the other vestiges of winter dark head markings, though again it's pretty distant.

Hybrids always have to be considered with gulls.  I don't have gull references available just now so I'm not going to go into them in great detail, but the mantle color, eye color, head markings, tertial skirt, leg color, and wing pattern all seem very average for Slaty-backed.  Various dark-mantled hybrids including GBBGxHERG, GBBGxGLGU, and whatever Gull-nasty is have been featured on various posts here, just click on the "dark-mantled hybrid" tag on the right hand column under labels.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Good BYE winter

hopefully I'm not jinxing it.

These are random pics that didn't quite fight through the all-Costa Rica all-the-time blitz I was on for 6 weeks.  It was a good blitz.

Probably my best ever birds-in-a-snowstorm pic, Hooded Mergs from last week...

About a month ago Rhoda and I were walking Warren Dunes not expecting much.  A Sharpie was mildly interesting.  Then we watched it fly up to a tree trunk and rip a Red-headed Woodpecker off the trunk.  It disappeared over an edge and I started sprinting through 2 feet of snow following the screams.  I overshot it and it kicked away.
I was able to use some cover to work my way down to it.  Rhoda saw a Pileated buzz it while I was turtled up over the viewfinder.
 The half-ring of dark gray that comes below the eye from behind is a very good mark for Sharp-shinned if you're close enough to see it.

A surviving Red-headed from the same walk.
I didn't put the time in to get the full-frame low shot of one I should have.

These are pics from just your average mid-March blizzard.

Finally a Red-throated Loon and White-winged Scotor that didn't make the cut in the Long-tailed Duck post...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the end

We spent the last morning birding the grounds of our hotel minutes away from the airport.  Most of our flights didn't leave until noon so we had about 3 hours.  Not surprisingly, I spent most of it working and re-working the limited grounds.

 Not long after dawn I heard a Plain Wren and played its song once on the ipod.  It came in fairly close, the first time I managed a good look at the species over the 2 trips.

Mostly though, it was the common birds that were about, a Red-billed Pigeon in nice light,

Rufous-naped wrens preening each other.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird...
Gray Saltator...

Clay-colored Thrush...

Lesser Vulture-flycatcher (ok Boat-billed)

A couple of Cinnamon Hummingbirds surprised me.  The only reason I took a picture of the first one (which I expected to be Rufous-tailed) was that I had had trouble separating Rufous-tailed from Snowy-bellied and Steely-vented at various points and figured I'd build up my reference photos.

We were about 20-30 miles west of Hotel Bougainvillea though, clearly enough for at least some changes in the birds.

The total from the trip was a little over 300 birds in all.  That included about 20 birds of prey, an additional 7 owls (all seen), 26 hummingbirds, 6 trogons (with a 7th heard), 36 flycatchers, 4 manakins, and 15 tanagers.  About 60 birds were lifers including 10 hummingbirds.  I had been to the highlands before (where only a couple birds were lifers).  The majority of the rest of the trip was in the Pacific lowlands.  My next (year's???) trip will focus on the mid-elevations.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New habitat, new birds

The dry thorn forest along Guacimo Rd that we birded in the afternoon was remarkably birdy for the heat of the day.  It'd be interesting to see it first thing in the morning.

We started along a shady creek that was surrounded by the much taller trees it supported.  We saw a subadult male Long-tailed Manakin, but it lasted only a few seconds.  A Black-hawk was more patient.

Vernon's pishing (and pygmy-owl tape) attracted a few of the local passerines.  This is a Northern-beardless Tyrannulet (at least that's what we called it.  I'd never seen one before).

This is the last bird where we blew the ID.  It was called a White-lored Gnatcatcher for the very good reason that it has white lores.
The problem is that Tropical Gnatcatcher has even more extensive white in front of the eye (White-lored's is set off by the black eyeline extending to the bill).

This was the first Olive Sparrow I've seen since I birded the Rio Grande Valley in high school

We drove on a ways to the next thicket or flowering bunch of trees (seeing the ground-doves from a few posts ago).  Don Brooks spotted 2 Thick-knees just off the road.

We stopped at a pasture where Vernon was hoping for Magpie Jays, but a new trogon for the trip, Black-headed, appeared first.

One of the White-throated Magpie-jays did come in for a view.

Finally a Banded Wren that appeared for Vernon right on cue.

With that we headed back to San Jose for the flight out the next morning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

dry forest hummingbirds

After the morning boat ride and lunch, we had time for one last habitat, the dry thorn forest along Guacimo Road.  A lot of birds reach their southern-most range in that area, this last afternoon provided probably 15 trip birds despite birding it in the heat of the day.  I wasn't quite sure how to break it up into manageable chunks so I just pulled out the hummers for today, the rest of the birds tomorrow.

I'd been surprised to see Long-billed Starthroat a few days prior, I was just as pleased to see Plain-capped.
 This is the sharpest/least over-exposed pic, but it's kind of misleading.  Plain-capped has an eyebrow stripe and Long-billed just a white pip behind the eye.  The angle of this pic makes it look like it just has the pip; other pics do show the eyebrow stripe much better.

A young Green-breasted Mango was working the same set of trees.
 We found the adult farther down the road.

A Cinnamon Hummingbird was my last lifer hummingbird for the trip, a bird I'd hoped for but missed a decade or so ago in Belize.  They seemed to have slower wingbeats than other hummers I've encountered.

Finally a shot of Steely-vented Hummingbird, a bird we'd seen several times over the course of the day but which was a bugger at getting to hold still long enough to really see well.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

3 mystery birds

We saw a lot of birds in CR obviously.  Some of them were left unidentified with views too brief or too dim.  A couple (the first yellow-headed caracara and the spadebill) were mis-identified.  These three seem like they shouldn't be as hard as they were.

The first is a small flycatcher near the Tarcoles boat launch.  We were hoping for Panama Flycatcher, a myarchid class bird when this one flew up.  It flew away in seconds.  I'm fairly confident it's Greenish Elaenia based on the dark eye, narrow bill, pale base to the lower mandible, and lack of wingbars (Yellow-olive Flycatcher, a bird that never quite looks like the books to me, would have opposite features).

Next is a female becard from the same patch of forest.
Rose-throated Becard is a lot more common than Cinnamon at this location.  The book shows Rose-throated as having a more contrastingly dark gray cap than this bird has.  My memory of Cinnamon from last year though, was of a more blank-faced bird.

Finally is a small group of ground-doves from Guacimo Rd.  There was a pair of Ruddy Ground-doves.

And there was a 3rd bird, pictured here.  The female ruddy is on the left, but is the bird on the right Common Ground-dove or Plain-breasted Ground-dove?
It does seem to have a plain breast (but do all ages of Common lack scaling?) and seems to have a darkish bill, lacking the pink base of Common.  The color is a little off on these pics since they're shot through the bus window.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Back to Tarcoles

and after yesterday's foray into the St Joseph River for Long-tailed Ducks, we return to the Tarcoles River with considerably different flora and fauna.

This meditating (ok sun-bathing) young Bare-throated Tiger-Heron was actually from earlier in the boat ride, but I forgot the pics the first time through.

 More adults were around as well.

 I wonder how many of these disappear down heron throats every year, or how big they have to be for the spines on the crab to prevent them from becoming a meal.

There was a frigatebird feeding frenzy; probably 50-100 of them were swirling around and diving down towards the water.  I'm not sure I've seen a frigatebird since the birds at Tiscornia.

A Yellow-headed Caracara perched directly above another boat.  It quickly flushed and landed right at water's edge.

There were other predators along the water too.
 We probably saw 10-15 crocodiles of various sizes.

Finally two large shorebirds without North American counterparts, first a Southern Lapwing.  I was surprised by how big the two birds we saw were.

Even larger was a double-striped thick-knee.  It was really long-legged.
These nocturnal shorebirds are closer in size to a Little Blue Heron than the killdeer class I expected.