Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Common Tody-Flycatcher

We occasionally observed Common Tody-Flycatchers during our Costa Rican travels. This individual posed for us at the Hotel de Campo on 11 July 2017. Although this species is absent from much of the Amazon Basin, it is common in disturbed forests from southern Mexico to Argentina. These flycatchers often forage in pairs near the ground or low in trees (Cornell).

Monday, February 26, 2018

Automeris metzii

This is the caterpillar of Automeris metzii. I bet it would be a bad idea to pick it up. When he found this creature, our intrepid guide, Dennis Paulson, let out a delighted expletive. The caterpillar crawled in a bush at the Hotel de Campo on 12 July 2017 (in northern Costa Rica).

Sunday, February 25, 2018

White-tipped Dove

Elsewhere I have posted notes on White-tipped Doves that Erika and I photographed in southern Texas. The species is also found south to South America. The dove in this picture in the undergrowth in the campus of the Hotel de Campo in northern Costa Rica on 11 July 2017.

Despite being common across their wide range, this dove is little studied by ornithologists. This lack is particularly troubling since it is an important game bird in many countries (Hogan 1999).

Saturday, February 24, 2018

One-spotted Prepona

One-spotted Preponas are found in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and northern portions of South America. Two records exist from southern Texas. We found them on the grounds of the Hotel de Campo in Northern Costa Rica on 11 July 2017.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tropical Pewee

On 12 July 2017, several Tropical Pewees foraged for insects from low perches in the garden at the Hotel de Campo in northern Costa Rica. This pewee is found from southern Mexico south across much of South America. In many respects, the bird is similar to North American pewees (and may be closely related to them). This flycatcher is found in a variety of wooded habitats and feeds on insects.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Flame-tailed Pondhawk

I took this photograph of a Flame-tailed Pondhawk in the grassy marshland behind the Hotel de Campo near Caño Negro, Costa Rica, on 12 July 2017. This habitat is typical for the species, which perches in and patrols low over heavy marsh grasses. The species is found from Mexico south to Argentina. It is also known from Jamaica and there is one record from southwestern Texas.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Black-cowled Oriole

The Hotel de Campo in northern Costa Rica supported a rich diversity of birds. One reason for this diversity was the feeders the owners maintained in front of many of the cabanas on the campus. On 11 July, we photographed this Black-cowled Oriole. A cowl is the large hood warn by some monks. The name seems appropriate for this oriole.

Black-cowled Orioles are common along the Caribbean slope from southeastern Mexico to western Panama. They eat fruits and arthropods and favor secondary forest edges other other disturbed habitats. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Red-mantled Dragonet

I am aware of only one United States recond of the Red-mantled Dragonlet—one from the National Butterfly Garden in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, on 18 December 2012. Normally the species ranges from Mexico and the West Indies south to Brazil and Bolivia. Erika and I found them to be common in a grassy lake edge at the Hotel de Campo, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica on 12 July 2017. Abbott (2015) reports this habitat is typical for the species. Males (lower photo) and females (first photo) perch low in grass near and over water. Males defend small territories. Females lay eggs in dense vegetation.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tropical Kingbird

We saw Tropical Kingbirds across most of Costa Rica. This flycatcher is common from central Argentina north into southern Arizona and Texas.  Northern populations appear to be expanding. This bird is often encountered in gardens, towns, and other human-modified habitats. This image, my best for the species, was taken at the Hotel de Campo on 12 July 2017. 

Tropical Kingbirds tend to perch in the open, often perching on roadside power-lines. They specialize on large, flying insects. Similar kingbirds use other feeding techniques and consume a wider variety of prey. Like other kingbirds, however, Tropical Kingbirds also eat fruit (Stouffer and Chesser 1998).

Friday, February 16, 2018

Cracker Butterflies

Crackers are butterflies found from Arizona and southern Texas south across most of Central and South America. Nine species are found in Costa Rica. We found two species at the Hotel de Campo on 11 July. Both perched on tree trunks. Crackers always perch with their heads pointed downward. They feed on fruit and tree sap.

The first is a Starry Cracker, the second is a Gray Cracker. Males make a loud crackling sounds when the fly from their perches. The sound comes by their “twanging a pair of spiny rods at the tip of the abdomen against bristles on the anal claspers” (Dennis Paulson, pers. com,). They make these noises as part of their territorial displays and also when predators approach. Just how these butterflies hear their noises is not well understood, and they may have more than one kind of hearing organ located in their wings. They can hear each other and also hear bats’ sonic calls.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfishers range from central Mexican coasts south through Central America to most of Amazonian South America. I am aware of a few strays along the Rio Grande in Texas. They behave similarly to our Belted Kingfisher. The male Amazon Kingfisher has a rufous breast (upper photo), while the female is mostly white. In our kingfisher, its the female with rufous in her plumage.

Both of these photos are from near the Hotel de Campo campus. We found the male on 11 July, and the female on the 12th. Both waited patiently to dive for unsuspecting fish in the water below.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Russet-naped Wood-Rail

Russet-naped Wood-Rails are found from northeastern Mexico south to northeastern Costa Rica. They can be hard to see, since they inhabit swampy forest, river, and swamp edges. This habitat well-describes the lakeshore near the Hotel de Campo on 11 and 12 July 2017. Often they remain hidden in the vegetation Only occasionally, do they venture out into the open. I took these photos with difficulty.

Looking these birds’ bills, you can see why rails are classified in the same order as cranes. They hunt for invertebrates, small vertebrates, and vegetative matter. Russet-naped Wood-Rails used to be named Gray-necked Wood-Rails. But the northern wood-rails are quite different—in both voice and plumage—from those found from southwestern Costa Rica to Argentina. Those southern birds are now called Gray-cowled Wood-Rails.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Red-tipped Swampdamsel

Soon after we arrived at the Hotel de Campo, near Caño Negro, Alajuela Province, in northern Costa Rica, our group located a few Red-tipped Swampdamsels on 11 July 2017. These damselflies flitted about shaded weeds at the edge of a large lake in back of the hotel. The species ranges from Mexico to northern South America. I am aware of only one record from the United States—at Santa Ana NWR on 2 July 2009 (Odonata Central).

Red-tipped Swampdamsels spend the dry season as immatures. With the advent of rains, they quickly mature. Two broods are produced in the rainy season. The larvae rapidly become new immatures (IUNC Red List).

We spent only one night at the Hotel de Campo. On the morning of 12 July, we took a tour boat ride up a nearby river. We saw lots of bird, but dragonfly photography from a moving boat leaves something to be desired. Taking bird photos is hard enough. I have combined my pictures from the hotel campus from 11 and 12 July, and will then proceed with the boat trip images.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kites are found from the southeastern United States south through Central America into most of the Amazon Basin of South America. Swallow-tailed Kites sometimes wander into the American Midwest—here is a photo I took several years ago in South Dakota. The kite in this post was photographed near the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 10 July 2017.

This hawk is another dragonfly hunter. They soar above and through the forest canopy searching for insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, and small birds. I am not sure what causes the spots on this bird’s wings. Perhaps they are the result of wing molt. Such spots are not visible in most photos.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Coral Snake

In North America, upon seeing red, black, and yellow snakes, Erika and I have a mantra. “Red on black, friend of Jack” — a harmless King Snake; “Red on yellow, kill a fellow” — a venomous Coral Snake. I don’t know how well this mantra works in Costa Rica. I suspect this snake we encountrd in the parking lot of the Arenal Observatory Lodge’s parking lot is not good news. Someone obviously agreed and had already chopped off its head.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Satiny Parrot Snake

On our Costa Rican tour, we often made night hikes, with hopes of seeing frogs. During a walk at the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 9 July 2017, Erika was startled by a strange-shaped tree branch. It turned out to be a Satiny Parrot Snake. These reptiles feed on lizards, frogs and small snakes (Wikipedia). The species is found from Central America and most of northern South America.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Creamy Crescent

The butterfly people on our dragonfly tour enjoyed an incredible diversity of butterflies along the road leading from the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 10 July 2017. I am now disappointed that I did not pay more attention to our butterfly experts during the tour—there was a lot to be learned. At the time, however, I had my hands full with the diversity of dragonflies and birds.  I may have mentioned earlier that this year seemed to support a surprising number of butterflies in Costa Rica. This Creamy Crescent (Eresia clio) is found from southern Mexico to Brazil and Bolivia. This butterfly feeds on nectar and also comes down to feed on minerals on river sandbanks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

While we hunted for dragonflies along the road near the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 10 July 2017, we flushed up a Rufous-tailed Jacamar. This family of birds inhabits Central and South America. They sally forth from perches in forest clearings, often eating dragonflies. You may notice the jacamar was successful competing against us—the bird has captured a Slender Skimmer.

Jacamars are primitive birds, related to kingfishers, trogons or puffbirds, Ornithologists are uncertain of the exact taxonomic relationships of jacamars.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Costa Rican Wedgetail

Costa Rican Wedgetails are relatively new to science, described in 1985. They are, nevertheless, relatively common in their Costa Rican and Nicaraguan range. They do not require specific habitat, preferring a variety of wetlands like ponds and streams.

We saw them several times, but here, near the Arenal Obseratory Lodge on 10 July 2917, I was able to capture an image of the wedge-shaped structure at the end of its abdomen.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Blue-abdomened Moth

Along the Arenal Lodge road on 10 July, we photographed this creature in some bushes. I assumed it was a rather stunningly colored butterfly. My butterfly expert, however, noticed that the antennae are not clubbed. So this is a moth. “Good luck identifying it,” he said, “there are hundreds and hundreds of moths in Costa Rica.” 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Grinning Heliconian

Heliconius cydno goes by several different common names, including Grinning Heliconian and Cydno Longwing. This butterfly ranges fro Mexico to northern South America. It is usually found in the forest understory.

Grinning Heliconians may be examples of Müllerian mimicry, when clusters of distasteful or poisonous creatures look similar—and thus warning potential predators. These heliconians also have wing clicking behavior, which is relatively rare in butterflies. The sound may distract predators or attract mates.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Iris Calephelis

Calephelis iris is a handsome butterfly found from Guatemala to Colombia. Other butterflies in the genus are called sintellants. I am sorry that little other information on this creature exists in the Internet. This one adorned the roadside near the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 10 July.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Brilliant Greenmark

This Brilliant Greenmark (Caria mantinea) is the most stunning butterfly I have ever seen. The genus is said to be common but elusive (Learn About Butterflies). Adults are usually found in rainforest canopies. Sunny days often bring them lower, even to feed on the ground. Various species of the geus are found from Central to South America. We found this butterfly along the roadside near a small stream as we took an afternoon drive from the Arenal Observatory Lodge on 10 July 2017.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fasciated Tiger-Heron

On the afternoon of 10 July, we took a short bus ride down the road leading to the Arenal Observatory Lodge in Costa Rica. We spent most of our time near a river. Along the road, in a tiny, overgrown seepage, one of our guides, Tom Bird, found a young Fasciated Tiger-Heron.

Fasciated Tiger-Herons are found in rapids of rocky rivers. There they stab fish and large arthropods. This species is found from Costa Rica through the South American Andes to northwestern Argentina, and east through northern Venezuela to Guyana. Despite this large range, this species is uncommon and local (Cornell; Wikipedia).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Montezuma Oropendola

Montezuma Oropendolas are huge blackbirds that enjoy a non-continuous range from southeastern Mexico to central Panama. These photos are from the 10th and 14th of July 2017 at the Arenal Observatory Lodge and at the Laguna Lagarto Lodge. They are common at forest edges and farmlands. They nest colonially in tall trees and make large, hanging basket nests. Only the females build the nests.The average number of nests in a colony is in the low 20s, but sometimes contain over 130 (Sample and Kannan 2016).

Montezuma Oropendolas are polygynous.  Dominant males sire most of the young in a colony. Less dominant males are able to mate with females, if they are away from the colony and the dominant bird. So you can see, it is important to be a dominant male. They display by screeching a loud, gurgling call. Then the male bows, cocks his tail, spreads his wings, and ends up hanging up-side-down. Check out the following images!