Monday, December 11, 2017

White-tailed Deer

After leaving Monteverde, Costa Rica, on 7 July, we made a side trip north, before turning around and driving south. Our northern foray ended at the Hacienda La Pacifica. The hacienda was a working cattle ranch. Tourist facilities may have been attached, but we had reservations at La Ensenada Lodge (also a working cattle ranch) for that afternoon. Actually, the original plan to to stay at the Hacienda Solimar, yet another ranch and often frequented by bird tours. But the Solimar was booked and would not allow us to enter without our paying an exorbitant entry fee.

We stopped at the Hacienda La Pacifica and asked if we could look for dragonflies. A small pond promised to be excellent habitat. The owner graciously gave us permission, saying, “be careful for crocodiles”  (He would not be responsible for the crocs). Further, when we finsihed at the pond visible from the highway, which you can see in the photo, his foreman took us to a much larger and wilder wetland. Finally, there was a cafe along the nearby Rio Corobici. The cafe would provide more dragonfly opportunities and, more importantly, lunch.

A small herd of White-tailed Deer grazed near the pond. White-tailed Deer are found from Canada and the United States south through Central America to northern South America. I am not sure how wild these deer were. They may have been a feral herd or they could have been wild. Overall, we spent an excellent midday at the Hacienda La Pacifica.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Resplendent Quetzal

I have many photographs that are candidates for The World’s Worst Bird Photography Club. The bad news is that this image is one of them. The good new is that I DID get a picture of a Resplendent Quetzal. We were boarding our bus at the curassow/trogon stop. Our driver, Ramon Vargas Monge, suddenly froze and whispered, “I hear a quetzal!” He pointed into the treetops. I fumbled with my camera and snapped the shutter just as the quetzal flew.

You can almost see how impressive is the quetzal’s tail. In the breeding season, earlier in the year, the tail is almost two meters long. Now, after the season, the tail is broken and worn down from the bird’s entering and leaving its tree-cavity nest.

Pre-Columbian people prized quetzal feathers. The birds fare poorly in captivity. Early people may have trapped and, after harvesting feathers, released the birds. Other birds may have been hunted. With the advent of Europeans, many quetzals were collected, The birds survive now due to their wild, mountainous habitat. Deforestation threatens the species. Quetzals are now found from southernmost Mexico to northern Costa Rica.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Orange-bellied Trogon

While we were watching the curassow in the last post, an Orange-bellied Trogon flew into the trees high above us. Known only from mountainous areas of Costa Rica and western Panama, this trogon is  a mystery bird. This species was formerly thought to be a color morph of the red-bellied Collared Trogon, also found in Costa Rica. The two populations are known to interbreed, so they may be variations of the same species.

Whatever its taxonomic status, not much is known about Orange-bellied Trogons. They eat fruits and insects and inhabit humid, tropical forests. Despite its restricted range and threats of deforestation, this species is not included in lists of threatened species (Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

Friday, December 8, 2017

Great Curassow 1

Leaving Monteverde, Costa Rica, on the morning of 7 July, we made a quick trip back to the Monteverde National Park. All but the most die-hard dragonfliers wished to see a Resplendent Quetzal. But we struck out at the park, The quetzals were not breeding and are silent, making them hard to find in the rainy season. On the way back to town, we came to a screeching stop for this Great Curassow.

I never expected to see a curassow. Elsewhere in the tropics, these turkey-sized birds are heavily hunted and elusive. Despite being protected in Costa Rica, curassows are common only in a few locations. This female fed nonchalantly along the roadside. We were to see more curassows during our tour, and, later, I will have more to write about them.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Frosted Flasher

On our last morning at the Hotel de Montana Monteverde, 7 July 2017, while waiting for our bus to load, I noticed an azure skipper in a hedge row. I had no idea that skippers came in such a stunning color. I assume, with a little help from Liam O’Brien, that this butterfly is a Frosted Flasher, Astraptes alardus. This species is found from Argentina to Mexico and Cuba. It strays to the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Green Spiny Lizard

On the morning of 7 July 2017, a Green Spiny Lizard greeted us at the Hotel Montana Monteverde. Another name is Emerald Swift. They spend the early moring foraging for insects, but bask in the sun during the rest of the day. If they get too hot, they retire to burrows or under rocks or logs. Unlike most lizards, they are ovoviviparous—their eggs hatch inside the females, which give birth to fully formed young (Wikipedia). Look for Green Spiny Lizards from southern Mexico to Panama.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Minnesota Birds

Over the past two months, I have posted a bunch of Costa Rican images. But I have also photographed a number of common Minnesota birds that I will quickly share with you now. I have linked each species to my previous posts with more information. The first image is of the yellow-shafted race of the Northern Flicker. I have written about how, out West, the flickers have red or orange shafts to their feathers. Winter is a good time to look for these western birds in Minnesota.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are fairly common in our back woods, although we hear them more often than see them. In the second Red-bellied photo, you can actually make out the bird’s red belly.
Earlier this fall, on 12 November, Erika and I strolled in the Carleton College Arboretum. We happened upon a large flock of American Tree Sparrows. On this late afternoon, the setting winter sun cast a pretty yellowish light across the prairie.
Beginning birders are often surprised by winter records of American Robins. But robins are always possible anywhere sufficient berries remain on bushes or trees. From banding, my hypothesis is that our winter birds breed much further north and west of us. Winter robins tend to be much darker than our breeding birds. This robin, however, is relatively pale. Perhaps, on 27 November, it is just a slow migrant. Or my hypothesis is wrong.
Finally, on 28 November, I discovered a Greater White-fronted Goose among the larger Canada Geese in a suburban pond here in Northfield. White-fronts are common enough in eastern Minnesota, although nowhere near as abundant as migrant through the Dakotas.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Grayish Saltator

Grayish Saltators are yet another Costa Rican species that has ornithologists confused. First, scientists do not really know what family belong to—are they cardinals or tanagers? DNA studies suggest they are large tanagers. Next we are unsure how many species of Grayish Saltators exist across their range from Mexico through much of tropical South America. Genetic research and song analysis suggest that the Grayish Saltators from Mexico south through Central America differ from those in South America. By whatever name, Grayish Saltators are fairly common in Costa Rican fields and gardens. We found this individual at the Hotel de Montana Monteverde on 6 July.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mountain Elaenia

Elaenias are difficult to identify neotropical flycatchers. The relatively large size and mountain habitat of this one at the Hotel Montana Monteverde indicate that this individual is a Mountain Elaenia. It is found from Guatemala south to Panama and northwestern South America. It prefers open woodlands and shrubby areas. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hoffmann’s Woodpecker

Hoffmann’s Woodpeckers range from Honduras and Nicaragua to Costa Rica. DNA research suggests that these woodpeckers are not as closely related to Golden-fronted Woodpeckers as once thought. They enjoy a wide variety of arthropod prey, many fruits, and even the nectar from large flowers. They are primarily arboreal (Winkler and Christe 2017).

Especially in Costa Rica, these woodpeckers are often abundant. They readily adapt to human altered habitats. We listed them often during our travels, even within greater San Jose. These photos are from the Hotel Montana Monteverde.