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.