Friday, June 24, 2016

Bulletin 265 - Costa Rica 2016 #9 - wrens, flycatchers and others

The tropical wrens are unlike our North American wrens in our yards. Most are very secretive and generally heard rather than seen well, so it was a treat to get some photos of a few new species.And although they are essentially all brown and white, it is the joy of the pursuit and getting a good photo that makes them exciting for me. There are 22 species of wrens in Costa Rica vs only 9 in North America!

The 4" White-breasted Wood-Wren (Henicorhina leucosticta) resides in the lower elevations from the coast to 5900" on the Pacific slope. It is IDed by the brown back, white eye stripe and white throat and breast.

White-breasted Wood-Wren
The 5" Riverside Wren (Cantorchilus semibadius) is endemic to SW Costa Rica and western Panama. It has a brown back and fine black and white barred underparts.

Riverside Wren
Flycatchers are the largest bird family with 431 species all in the New World, so one always sees several species on a trip. Here are a few of the more interesting ones. The 7" Nutting's Flycatcher (Myiarchus nuttingi) is an occasional vagrant to the USA. For those of you who read The Big Year or saw the movie, it starts out in Nogales AZ on New Years Day with several birders looking for a Nutting's Flycatcher.

Nutting's Flycatcher
I had an opportunity to visit the refuge that was the homestead of Alexander Skutch who authored the first 'Birds of Costa Rica" in 1989. The 5" Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus) was seen there. It is olive with an ochre belly.

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
There are 7 species of Flycatchers of the genus Attila. The 8" Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus) is the only one in Central America, the rest being in South America. This was my second one of this genus to photograph. It is rather dull olive, but has a long hooked beak.

Bright-rumped Attila
The tiny 3" Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant (Myiornis atriacapillus) was good to get off the bucket list. These diminutive flycatchers can be devilish to photograph.

Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant
The stunning 7" male Turquoise Cotinga (Cotinga ridgwayi) was a treat to find high in a bare tree. He is turquoise with a purple throat and belly. It is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

Turquoise Cotinga - male
The 7" Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) is an occasional visitor to south Texas. Interestingly, the southern races of the birds here in Costa Rica do not have the rose throat. The female shown here is brown with a gray cap. This is the best photo I have had of this species.

Rose-throated Becard - female

The 4" Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) is a member of the vireo family. 

Tawny-crowned Greenlet
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bulletin 264 - Costa Rica 2016 #8 - hummingbirds

Of course I had to take some hummingbird photos as they are my favorites along with the owls. The 3" Coppery-headed Emerald (Elvira cupriceps) is a Costa Rica endemic. The male has the copper colored head and white lateral tail feathers.

Coppery-headed Emerald - male
The same genus is the 3" White-tailed Emerald (Elvira chionura). The female is green above and white below with green spots on breast. The male would have a solid green breast.

White-tailed Emerald - female
The 4" male Magenta-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox bryantae) has a magenta throat and distinctive white patches on the sides of his rump.

Magenta-throated Woodstar - male
The lampornis genus are hummers called mountain-gems. There are 4 species in Costa Rica and I got 3 on this trip. They all have a vertical white stripe behind the eye.I had missed the 4" White-bellied Mountain-gem (Lampornis hemileucus) last year, but got it on a feeder this time. The male has a purple throat. It is listed as uncommon and is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama

White-bellied Mountain-gem - male
This 4" male Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaemus) had flown into a window as we were watching other birds. the guide picked it up and put it on a branch where he recovered and flew away.

Purple-throated Mountain-gem
The 4" male White-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis castaneoventris) is all green with a white throat and the white line behind the eye. This is probably a juvenile male as he doesn't have a completely white throat.

White-throated Mountain-gem - juvenile male
The 5" Scaly-breasted Hummingbird (Phaeochroa cuvierii) is a drab green and gray hummer with white tips on the tail.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird
The last is another drab hummer, the 4" Steely-vented Hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei). He has the typical red bill of an amazilia.

Steely-vented Hummingbird
After 2 trips, I have now photographed 40 of the 50 species of hummingbirds in the Costa Rica guide book. So I still have some work to do. :)

I was just updating my master list and discovered that the Magnificent Hummingbird has been split (IOC) as of July 2015. The birds from sw USA to Nicaragua are now called Rivoli's  Hummingbird, but the larger birds from Costa Rica to Panama are now Admirable Hummingbird (Eugenes spectabilis). Fortunately, I have photographs from each area. So let me introduce the newest hummingbird.

Admirable Hummingbird - male
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Bulletin 263 - Costa Rica 2016 #7 - tanagers, finches

I photographed several new tanagers on this trip. The 7" Carmiol's Tanager (Chlorothraupis carmioli) is a dull olive bird that has now been moved into the cardinal family.

Carmiol's Tanager
The 5" Rufous-winged Tanager (Tangara lavinia) is bright green with rufous on the head and wings. I only got the female in a photo, and her colors are subdued.

Rufous-winged Tanager - female
Another tangara genus that I got a better photo is the 5" Spangle-cheeked Tanager (Tangara dowii). It is hard to describe this multi-colored beauty.

Spangle-cheeked Tanager
However, the star of this group is the amazing 6" Blue-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia arcaei). The bangsia genus consists of just 5 species, all in the mountains from Costa Rica to Ecuador. I had really wanted to find this bird, but the guide told me we would not be in the right location, but we did find one! They have a rather short tail. It is dark blue above, gold below and he has a bright red eye.

Blue-and-gold Tanager
The female 4" Blue Dacnis (Dacnis cayana) is green with a blue head. The male would be all blue. They both have a red eye.

Blue Dacnis - female
The euphonias are fruit eating finches of the tropics. I was able to get photos of several species on the trip. The males of many of them are blue above and yellow below with a yellow crown. The 4" Scrub Euphonia (Euphonia affinis) resides in the dry northwest part of the country.

Scrub Euphonia - male
The 4" Spot-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia imitans) is similar but he has a few spots on top of his head. His range is the southwest part of the country. If you look closely, you can see a few faint dark spots in the yellow cap above his eye.

Spot-crowned Euphonia - male
The 4" male Olive-backed Euphonia (Euphonia gouldii) is olive with a yellow forehead and rufous belly.

Olive-backed Euphonia - male
However, the most stunning is the appropriately named 4" Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima). The male has a baby blue nape, dark purple face and back and orange underparts and forehead. 

Elegant Euphonia - male
The female is also elegant.

Elegant Euphonia - female
The 5" Golden-browed Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia callophrys) is a bright green finch. The male has a yellow stripe over the eye and yellow belly.

Golden-browed Chlorophonia - male
The female is similar but lacks the yellow stripe over the eye.

Golden-browed Chlorophonia - female
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bulletin 262 - Costa Rica 2016 #6 - owls, motmots, prong-billed barbet

As you know, owls are probably my favorite subjects to photograph. Of course, being nocturnal makes them even more difficult. But my wonderful guide got me 3 new owls and a fourth that I already had, but it is always nice to see them. We only missed one of the 5 we tried for.

The one I already had was the 15" Black-and-white Owl (Strix nigrolineata). This one was found roosting in a tree in the daytime.Here he is with his head down and standing on 1 foot.

Black-and-white Owl
The first night, we were able to call up the 10" Bare-shanked Screech Owl (Megascops clarkii). This brown owl is described in the book as having an indistinct facial disk. He first appeared so close that this was all I could get in the photo. Well you can see why the face is indistinct, as the feather extend beyond the edge of his head.

Bare-shanked Screech Owl

So I backed up a little bit until I could get most of the bird in the photo. Cool bird!

Bare-shanked Screech Owl
The next 2 owls were real prizes. The 15" Striped Owl (Pseudoscops clamator) perches regularly on the wires along the highway beside the beach resort of Jaco on the Pacific coast. However, our spotlights were too dim to allow auto focus on my camera, so I had to resort to manual focus and hope and pray that it would work. I am not used to manual focus and my old eyes aren't too good. I took a couple of photos and we moved closer for more. I didn't think I would get anything worthwhile, but was amazed when I looked at them in my hotel room that night. This is a brown streaked owl with ear tufts. He is looking down, so the tufts don't show.

Striped Owl
The last owl was the most difficult, the guide told me. We shouldn't expect to see it. It is 6" Central American Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium griseiceps). We stopped on a road where it had been seen previously. Pygmy-Owls are diurnal and can be called in during the day. The guide book says it is uncommon. The guide played the tape once, and the bird responded immediately overhead! He was perhaps 50 feet up in the tree and wouldn't come down, but did move around in the tree and I got this great clear photo. The guide said I was really lucky!

Central American Pygmy-Owl
There are 14 motmots in the family. I got 1 new one and improved photos of 2 others, so now have 9 of the 14.

The 7" Tody Motmot (Hylomanes momotula) is the smallest motmot and lacks the raquet tail.  It has a black and white striped face. I had photographed him in Guatemala, but this was better.

Tody Motmot
The 13" Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) had also been photographed in Guatemala, but they were very common in NW Costa Rica and this one flew in while photographing some other birds. He has the longest bare shaft on the tail of any of the motmots.

Turquoise-browed Motmot
The new one was the 13" Keel-billed Motmot (Electron carinatum).  He is green with rufus underparts and blue over the eye. Notice he is missing one of his raquets.

Keel-billed Motmot

The last bird today is the 7" Prong-billed Barbet (Semnornis frantzii). Barbets are closely related to toucans. But there is another family of just 2 species, the toucan-barbets of which this is one. This bird is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama. It is ochraceous in color, with a red eye and stout bill.

Prong-billed Barbet
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bulletin 261 - Costa Rica #5 - antbirds and relatives, manakins

The antbirds and relatives are generally secretive except for the antshrikes. However, with just 2 people and not a big group trying to see the bird, my success has been much better.I am really starting to appreciate this family of birds now that I can see them well.

The 6" Black-hooded Antshrike (Thamnophilus bridgesi) is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama. The male is all black with white shoulder spots.

Black-hooded Antshrike - male
The female is unusual for an antbird as she is mostly charcoal as well, rather than brownish. She is IDed by the streaking on her head and chest.

Black-hooded Antshrike - female
The 6" male Dull-mantled Antbird (Myrmeciza laemosticta) has a gray head, dark brown back and bright red eye as well as white shoulder spots.

Dull-Mantled Antbird - male
I had seen the 6" Chestnut-backed Antbird (Myrmeciza exsul) in Ecuador, but got a better photo this time. The female shown here is all brown except for the gray head. Like many antbirds, she has a patch of bare blue skin around the eye. The male would be all charcoal except for brown wings.

Chestnut-backed Antbird - female
The 4" Spotted Antbird (Hylophylax naevioides) is a very cute little bird. The male has a gray head, white underparts with black spots and brown back and wings with wing bars.

Spotted Antbird - male
The female is similar but has a brown head.

Spotted Antbird - female

The next 2 birds were real prizes as they are so secretive and hard to see well. Both were lifers for me.

The 5" Streak-chested Antpitta (Hylopezus perspicillatus) was spotted by my guide standing quietly on a log just about 8 feet off the trail. Like all antpittas, they appear tailless. They are described as 'eggs with legs'. The sexes are similar. It is brown backed with white underparts and streaking.

Streak-chested Antpitta
The 7" Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis) was the first antthrush I ever saw. We actually saw it on 2 different days. The walk along the forest floor with their tail cocked up.

Black-faced Antthrush
Here is another showing his head and face.

Black-faced Antthrush

The manakins are family of small colorful songbirds. The males do elaborate dances to attract a mate. The females are usually dull green or olive. I was able to photograph 3 new species on this trip.

The 4" male Orange-collared Manakin (Manacus aurantiacus) has a black crown and wings, orange collar, yellow belly and olive back.

Orange-collared Manakin - male
The 4" male White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera) is all black with a white throat.

White-ruffed Manakin - male
The female is olive, but this bird is a juvenile male as you can see some black on his head as he is starting to molt to adult plumage.

White-ruffed Manakin - juvenile male

The 4" male Blue-crowned Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata) is all black with  blue on top of his head.

Blue-crowned Manakin - male

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

To have these trip reports sent to your email, please email me at the above address and ask to subscribe.