Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bulletin 233 - Costa Rica #12 - misc non passerines, blue morpho, bromeliad

The 16" Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) is the largest of the 6 species of New World kingfishers. This is a female with the blue band above the rufous on the breast. The male would have a solid rufous breast. This bird occasionally shows up in Texas.

Ringed Kingfisher - female
The 10" Spotted Wood-Quail (Odontophorus guttatus) is found in the mountains above 3000'. It is brown and covered with spots. The black throat and spots are diagnostic. 

Spotted Wood-Quail
Here is a head on view. It just looks like a ball with a small head.

Spotted Wood-Quail
The 30" Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) was fishing in the river at La Selva.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Tinamous are a small (47 species) family on New World birds that are plump with small heads and almost almost tailless They are terrestrail. They are exceeding difficult to even see as they creep through dense underbrush. I had seen only 2 before this trip. La Selva is one of the best places to see them and I saw all 3 species there, but only got photos of the 17" Great Tinamou (Tinamou major).

Great Tinamou
And a close up.

Great Tinamou
The 15" Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus) is a colorful easy to see rail of the forest. This one was at an artists (cope) house near La Selva. He has a nice set up for photography with a small pond. There was a pair of these rails resident with 2 chicks.

Gray-necked Wood-Rail - adult
The downy chicks were all legs and black and fluffy.

Gray-necked Wood-Rail - chick
I took many photos and as we were watching them, suddenly one of the chicks in the edge of the water started screaming.

Rail pair with chick #1
The parents sensed something was wrong. This next photo shows the chick with just his neck above the water.

Rail pair with chick #2

In the third of the series, just the top of his fluffy head is visible between the legs of the left adult.

Rail pair with chick #3

In the next one, his head is back above the water.

Rail pair with chick #4
As we were watching, the parents were really excited. Cope grabbed his rubber boots and put them on and waded across the pond and rescued the baby. I got a photo as he carried it back to our side of the pond. You can see his right leg has been bitten off below the knee. It must have been a snapping turtle that grabbed him and was pulling him under.

Baby rail with leg bitten off.
This unfortunate bird hopefully survived. I was unaware that I had the photos showing him being dragged under the water until I got home. It was just one of those moments when my camera was pointed in the right direction to record the action.

The 2.8" Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho belenor) is well known to anyone who has been to the rain forest in middle America. The sudden iridescent blue as it opens its wings when flying is a sight you never forget. The outside of the wings is brown. I have tried to catch it with its wings open, but photographing a butterfly in flight is well nigh impossible. On this trip, I did get it landed, but it has its wings folded up, so just the brown outside shows.

Blue Morpho
Lastly was a stunning pink bromeliad called the Corpus Bromeliad. It was about 1 foot tall from the folded down leaved to the top of the cone. It is a native plant in Costa Rica.

Corpus Bromeliad

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bulletin 232 - Costa Rica #11 - cotinga, flycatchers, antbirds, ovenbirds, reptiles

Cotingas are a  small (66 species) New World family of often showy birds. The 8" Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus) male all white with a black bill and eye. The female is grayish.
Snowy Cotinga - male
The tyrant flycatchers, family tyrannidae, is the largest family of birds with more 400 species, all in the New World. We have seen many in the Panama bulletin last year, and many are dull colored, so I will just show a few of the more interesting from my Costa Rica trip.

Empids are small flycatchers and the half dozen species in North America are an ID challenge and best confirmed by voice. This bird however, is an easy ID. The 4" Black-capped Flycatcher (Empidonax atriceps) is gray with a black head and elliptical eye ring. It is found above 7200 feet elevation. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Black-capped Flycatcher
The 7" Dark Pewee (Contopus lugubris) has a crest and no eye ring or wing bars. It occurs in the mountains, as well, but at lower elevations from 4000 - 7000 feet. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.
Dark Pewee
The 5" Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) is a cute brown bird with a bright rufous breast and a crest.

Tufted Flycatcher
Lastly, the 4" Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea) is a gray bird with pale breast. It is found along mountain streams.

Torrent Tyrannulet
I was able to photograph 2 antbirds on this trip. There was a cooperative pair of Black-crowned Antshrikes (Thamnophilus atrinucha) who posed so close that I had to back away to get them in the camera. The male is gray with white spots on the wings and a black cap. The female is brown and can be seen here.

Black-crowned Antshrike - male
The male 7" Fasciated Antshrike (Cymbilaimus lineatus) is finely barred black and white with a bright red eye. The female is brown and white.

Fasciated Antshrike - male
The ovenbird family is a huge (312 species) New World family of mostly small brown birds. I will just show a couple of interesting ones from this trip. The 6" Ruddy Treerunner (Margarornis rubiginosus) is rufous with a white throat and eye stripe. This one was preening after bathing in a stream. It is found in the mountains above 5000 feet and is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama

Ruddy Treerunner
The 7" Buffy Tuftedcheek (Pseudocolaptes lawrencii) is named for its flared cheek feathers. It is also the only ovenbird in Costa Rica with wing bars. It is found above 5200' elevation.

Buffy Tuftedcheek

I photographed 5 reptiles on the trip..3 lizards, a turtle and a snake. Many people are afraid of snakes, but I have had many trips to the rain forest and only have seen 5 in all the time.

The Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)  is a 7" lizard that changes color readily from green to almost black to match the surface he is on. This one was found above the tree line at about 11,000 feet elevation.

Green Spiny Lizard

There are 4 species of basilisk lizards. I had photographed the Common or Brown Basilisk in Panama last year. The Striped Basilisk (Basilicus vittatus) is only about 20" when full grown. It is found on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica. It is brown with two yellow lateral stripes.

Striped Basilisk Lizard

The Helmeted Basilisk Lizard (Corytophanes cristatus) is smaller and only 14" when full grown. It is rare to see it as it usually is motionless on a tree trunk or vertical branch. We just happened to see this one on the path at La Selva. It is brown with a large hood on it head and neck.

Helmeted Basilisk Lizard

The largest snake in Costa Rica is of course the Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor). This snake can grow to 14 feet in length. This one was found at La Selva by another guide at dusk as it was crossing a path and they watched it climb into a tree. We refound it the next day. They estimated it at about 7 feet long. I think if you look closely you can see its eye about the exact center of the photo. This was a life reptile for me.

Boa Constrictor
The Black River Turtle (Rhinoclemmys funerea) grows to 14". This one crawled out of the river at la Selva dragging a fish and was eating it. My guide said he had never seen this species of turtle eating a fish previously.

Black River Turtle - eating fish

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bulletin 231 - Costa Rica #10 - Parrots, Pigeons, night birds

There are 17 species of parrots in Costa Rica. I have always found parrots to be 'cool' birds as many are kept for pets, some talk, and many are brightly colored. However, photographing them is another story. They usually stay in the tree tops are are often seen flying way above the canopy of the forest. Then you just hope they land in a tree near you and are in the open to so you can see them. I was able to get photos of 4 species.

The 9" Sulphur-winged Parakeet (Pyrrhura hoffmanni) is a resident of the mountains above 5200 feet. It is green with a red ear patch and yellow on the wings. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Sulphur-winged Parakeet
The next larger is the 10" White-crowned Parrot (Pionus senilis). This was a case where a group of birds were flying over and landed on top of a tree about 50 yards away. The bird is green with a white face and chin.

White-crowned Parrot
The 15" Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa) is all green except for a red patch on its wings. In this case, you can see how hard it would be to pick this bird out in a tree. Fortunately a pair of them were eating fruit in a tree along the path and about 15 feet up.

Mealy Parrot
Lastly, I got my first photo of a macaw. This bird was a lifer for me, the 33" Great Green Macaw (Ara anbiguus). It would not be a hard bird to ID as there are just 2 macaws in Costa Rica and this is the only green one. It is resident on the Caribbean slope.

Great Green Macaw
Almost as difficult to photograph as parrots are the large arboreal pigeons of the genus patagieonas. They are seen flying over the canopy and you hope they will land close enough for a photo. There are 6 species in Costa Rica, one of which is also in the USA and I had photographs already. I got photos of 4 of the other 5, so I was very pleased.

The Red-billed Pigeon (Patagieonas flavirostris) actually has a mostly white bill with just some red at the base. This bird occurs in the USA along the Rio Grande at Salineno. I had seen it there, but it was too far for a photo. This one was on a wire along the road.

Red-billed Pigeon
The Short-billed Pigeon (Patagieonas nigrirostris) was also on a wire one morning at La Selva. It is IDed by the short black bill.

Short-billed Pigeon
The Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagieonas cayennensis) has whitish belly. Obviously, this bird was very close for a change.

Pale-vented Pigeon
The last is the Ruddy Pigeon (Patagieonas subvinacea). It is reddish all over and a resident of the central mountains above 4600 feet.

Ruddy Pigeon

Birds of the night like nightjars and owls are difficult to photograph as they are hard to find, unless you get lucky and stumble upon one roosting in the daytime. 

The 11" Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) normally stays on the ground and flies up to catch insects. This is the first time I have seen this bird in the open on a fence post. He was under a rare street light and took advantage of the bugs attracted to the light. We saw him several nights in a row at La Selva. It aoccurs throughout Costa Rica and also in the USA in the Rio Grande Valley.

Common Pauraque

The 9" Dusky Nightjar (Antrostomus saturatus) is a bird of the mountains above 6000'. He was also taking advantage of a rare streetlight, by sitting on the wires adjacent to the light. I have spoken to several other Costa Rica birders and this streetlight near Savegre Lodge is the classic place to see this bird. This bird is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Dusky Nightjar
The 6" Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium costaricensis) like other pygmy owls is often active during the day. We tried to tape him lower out of this 100 foot tree, but the one time he did descend, we couldn't locate him in the dense tree where he landed.

Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl
I also saw a 19" Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) roosting way up in the canopy. I had photographed a pair of them in Panama last year, so it was nice to see another. I never tire of owls.

Spectacled Owl

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bulletin 230 - Costa Rica #9 - Thrushes, and Cardinals

Thrushes are a worldwide family of birds. The family name is turdidae. There are about 180 living species and several species have gone extinct in the past century (Hawaii, Grand Cayman). They are popular and well known with the American Robin being familiar to everybody in North America.

In general thrushes are beautiful singers and the sexes are similar. The catharus genus includes several North American species and I saw one migrant in Costa Rica, the 7" Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). It is IDed by the spotted breast and prominent eye ring.

Swainson's Thrush
The 5 local catharus thrushes must be beautiful singers as they are called Nightingale-Thrushes and they all occur in the mountains. The Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus gracilirostris) is a 6" gray and olive brown bird with a black bill.

Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush

The 6" Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus frantzii) is rufous above and unspotted gray below with a yellow beak.

Ruddy-caped Nightingale-Thrush
Myadestes thrushes are called Solitaires. There is one species in Costa Rica, the 7" Black-faced Solitaire (Myadestes melanops). It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama. It is found in mountain forests (3300 to 9000 feet elevation). It has an orange bill and legs and is uniformly gray with a black mask.

Black-faced Solitaire
The largest thrushes are the turdus genus like the American Robin. The 9" Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) is uniformly drab olive brown, with a yellow bill. It is a beautiful singer and occurs throughout Costa Rica and is their national bird. It occurs in south Texas and its range extends to Columbia.

Clay-colored Thrush
The 10" Mountain Thrush (Turdus plebejus) is plain gray and has a black bill.

Mountain Thrush
The last is the 10" Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens). It is black with an orange bill and legs and a pale eye. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Sooty Thrush
The Cardinal family is another New World family of 65 colorful birds including cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, saltators and some tanagers (recently reassigned to this family).
The Grayish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens) is an 8" gray bird with white throat and eye stripe.

Grayish Saltator
The 8" Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) is olive above and gray below with a buffy throat surrounded with a black border.

Buff-throated Saltator
The male Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) is a 7" blue bird speckled with black and a large black bill. The female is brownish.

Blue-black Grosbeak - male
The Black-faced Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster) is a 7" yellowish bird with a black face and gray belly. The sexes are similar.

Black-faced Grosbeak
The next 2 species were formerly in the tanager family. The Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) is a 7" bird that occasionally occurs in the USA. The male is bright orange with dark wings and a streaked back.

Flame-colored Tanager - male
The female is dull yellow green.

Flame-colored Tanager - male

The male 7" Red-throated Ant-Tanager (Habia fuscicauda) is reddish with a bright red throat and the female, shown here, is olive with a bright yellow throat.

Red-throated Ant-Tanager - female

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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