Friday, December 30, 2016

trip's end

All good things must come to an end, and so it went with my birding conference trip to Costa Rica.  I hiked the beach before lecture started on the final morning again hoping for Collared Plover or mangrove specialties but struck out on them.  Streak-backed Orioles were about though not particularly cooperative.  I'd seen a Whimbrel the first morning, but it was in nicer light on the final morning.

This was the first decent sized Hermit Crab that I've encountered.  It still would have fit on the palm of my hand, but before this I'd never seen one bigger than the end of my thumb.

This caracara was on the road leading away from the hotel.  I'm assuming the breast skin is some sort of breeding appendage but admittedly haven't really done any research into it.

I'd planned to put a few sunset shots into this post, but unfortunately the SD card they were on corrupted before I got them downloaded so a lot of the scenic pics from the trip are lost.
Ah well.  Just one more excuse to go back right?  But before I go back to Costa Rica there might be somewhere else to return to...  Give it a few months.

Monday, December 26, 2016

are You a Nutting's Flycatcher?

Any time a person goes to the tropics wishlist dreams of antpittas, tanagers, and toucans run rampant.  However, a bird I had on my radar this last trip was Nutting's Flycatcher, a Myarchid whose range is centered in Mexico, barely vagrating to the U.S. and at its southern border in NW Costa Rica.  The problem is I'm not super familiar with all the other Myarchids given that we're limited to Great-Crested here.

SO, a whole lot of "are you a Nutting's flycatcher?" when I would run across one.
I had hopes for this bird, the CR book talks about Nutting's having a cinnamon rump which I guess this bird has, but it looks a little heavy billed.  Brown-capped Flycatcher would fall much more in the heavier-billed camp.  In addition Nutting's frequently has the edging of the secondaries blend the rufous of the primaries into the whitish of the tertials; this bird looks whitish on the secondary edges which also supports Brown-capped.  I recorded this bird and/or its mate; I have trouble differentiating Brown-capped and Nutting's even comparing them back to back.

Are You a Nutting's Flycatcher (2 pics)?

Again, I think it's too heavily billed.  In addition the top pic shows the underside of the tail; Nuttings should have a mostly rufous underside with darker edges.  I'm going to guess this also is Brown-capped.

Are YOU a Nutting's Flycatcher? (composite pic of the same bird).
 This one is probably the best candidate, the bill looks a lot smaller than the first birds', with the caveat that the bird is turned somewhat away.  I didn't hear this bird call (much less record it) so I don't know that I can say for sure.  Howell's Rare Birds of North America says that Nutting's has a brownish cheek whereas Ash-throated (also somewhat small billed) has a grayish cheek.  I'd vote grayish on this bird, but Ash-throated is a vagrant in Costa Rica.  SO, probably a Nutting's.  It'd be nice to have better than 'probably' for a lifer though.

I can say definitively this critter isn't a Nutting's Flycatcher.
This is probably Brown Longtail (or a cousin).  Long-tailed skippers are typically found only in SE Arizona and the Rio Grande valley in the U.S., so it was nice to see.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Foul weather CBC

This is the view of a Great Black-backed Gull in clear overcast yesterday

This was the view today with a 30mph NW wind ripping off the lake in a snowstorm.
 And that was in the area with good visibility looking downwind somewhat sheltered behind a dune.  This was the view looking out towards the lake...
It was that kind of day.  The wind scoured the overlooks clean of ducks.

It was the kind of day where you circle back around the block in St Joe to take a pic of a flock of House Sparrows.

I did take my best ever photo of a...
Starling.  Of course it's probably the first photo I've ever taken specifically of a Starling.  In my defense I pulled over hoping to photograph one of the robins.  OK, you're right, that's no defense.

Monday, December 12, 2016

500 for Costa Rica

As I mentioned last post, I arrived at Santa Rosa National Park at daybreak. I had the place entirely to myself and crossed paths only with a few workers who gave friendly waves.  Well maybe not entirely to myself.  The mosquitoes were by far the most noticeable that I've encountered in the tropics.  I fairly quickly started hearing Thicket Tinamous, but there was no way to try an uber slow approach to see one, once off the road I was getting eaten alive.  The sounds of laughter started from the treetops as I beat a hasty retreat.  Laughing Falcons turned out to be quite common, a species I'd seen only once before in Belize.
I couldn't tell if this Roadside Hawk was on a nest or not.

I walked a random road for the better part of an hour, sometimes braving some side trails when I encountered them.  The birds were much more vocal here, and I probably could have studied more; even Stripe-headed Sparrow was unfamiliar.  Anis are always more melodious than I expect them to be.

Some parrot squawking turned out to be White-fronted's, another bird I hadn't seen well since Belize though I'd seen flyovers on most days of this trip.

The heat started getting on and I decided to try a different road before I had to return for the afternoon sessions of the conference.  A herd (?) of Collared Peccaries slowly worked across the road.

I drove a couple miles and the habitat seemed to change, so I ascended another path somewhat at random and fairly quickly started getting into new birds.  I tracked down a singing Rufous-capped Warbler and then had a couple female and subadult Long-tailed manakins (one of my main targets) fly in.  A Stripe-headed Woodcreeper put in an appearance

Finally in flew a female Elegant Trogon.  She turned out to be one of a half dozen birds that worked past.  This is a male.
The eye teardrop certainly was unique.  You can see why our (in Arizona) subspecies used to go by the name Coppery-tailed Trogon.  Ironically I think despite it being in the U.S., of the trogons I've seen it's the trogon I've seen the least.  Prior to this morning I'd only seen one.  I noticed on eBird a week or so ago that this was my 500th species for Costa Rica, tallied over 5 weeks of birding the country spread over the last few years.  I would have liked to have spent longer with this group but a rain squall (one of the heaviest I've seen in the tropics) chased me back to the car.

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.