Monday, April 30, 2018

Pale-billed Woodpecker

On 15 July 2018 we visited Costa Rica’s La Selva Biological Station. I looked forward to visiting this research area run by The Organization of Tropical Studies. Despite its nearly 4000 acres of forest, I was slightly disappointed by this famous location. The entry fee was high and I was surprised that the station was adjacent to a major highway. I thought the center was more isolated. The station teamed with biology students and the forest paths were wide and very well-travelled. A station guide was mandatory, sort of like an official minder. We saw very few birds, although, of course, our main goal was finding dragonflies.

Our tour guides took us directly to a large, overgrown pond full of dragonflies, as you will see in the upcoming posts. As the morning progressed, new dragonfly species seemed to appear from either the pond or the surrounding forest. (The official minder was a pleasant fellow who knew little or nothing about dragonflies.) Along the way, we did find a Pale-billed Woodpecker. This large bird is common from northern Mexico to western Panama. It is less tolerant for deforested habitat than the similar Lineated Woodpecker and is now absent from parts of its former range (Schulenberg 2009).

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird

Although common in Costa Rica, Scaly-breasted Hummingbirds proved to be hard to photograph. On 15 July 2017 I captured this image at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge. The bird was perched in a treetop. The species is found in a wide variety of habitats, both in open and forested areas, across Central America and parts of Colombia. These birds drink the nectar of a number of plants and also flycatch after small arthropods. They are dominant and aggressive against other, smaller hummingbirds.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Olive-backed Euphonia

Euphonias are finches that were once thought to be tanagers. Several species inhabit the New World tropics. Olive-backed Euphonias range along the Caribbean slope of Central America, from southeastern Mexico to western Panama. Being consumers of fruits, they readily visited the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge bird feeders during our July 2017 visit.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Little Swamp Dasher

One of the attractions of Costa Rica's La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge’s gardens were a couple of ponds. We found a few interesting dragonflies there, including this Little Swamp Dasher (Micrathyria pseudeximia) on 16 July 2017. Males often perch on pond-side vegetation. Females lay their eggs in ditches and ponds (Delasalle).

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Red-throated Ant-Tanager

We spent three nights and two days (14  to 16 July) at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge in Costa Rica. This upscale hotel consists of a group of duplex cabins surrounded by ten acres of forest. The lodge maintains a large garden, with a stream and ponds. Best of all, the lodge has an active bird feeder. We made two major side-strips, one to La Selva Biological Station and one to Braulio Carrillo National Park. On the 17th we returned to San Jose and, early the following morning, we flew to Dallas.

Red-throated Ant-Tanagers were the first birds at the feeders. These tanagers inhabit forests and thickets from Mexico to northern Colombia. Ant-Tanagers travel in flocks of up eight birds. They eat insects and fruit. The females build the nests and incubate the eggs. Males and other flock members help feed the young (Chiver and Morton 2010).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Purple Gallinule

On our Costa Rican travels on 14 July 2017, we stopped for this Purple Gallinule. I am not sure I have ever seen a gallinule outside of a marsh. This grassy field, however, was near a wetlands. Gallinules are, however, adaptable creatures. They are known to wander far, with individuals straying to Switzerland and the Galapagos. Normally they are found in the Americas from southern Canada to Argentina. Many populations are migratory, others are year-round residents. Because of this vagrancy, Purple Gallinules do not vary consistently across their wide range—no races are described (West and Hess 2002). I did think our Costa Rican bird was slightly larger than those I am more familiar with from Florida, but perhaps that was because it wasn’t half-hidden by marsh vegetation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

White Hawk

On the afternoon of 14 July we drove to La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge. Along the way, we stopped when our driver, Ramon, spied a White Hawk. (The name White Hawk is a good example of why we should always capitalize common names.) This raptor with common from southern Mexico south through Central and South America. White Hawks in Central America live up to their name, while South American populations can be mostly black.

White Hawks are forest birds that eat a wide variety of prey. They are especially fond of snakes. White Hawks seem to prefer coral snakes, despite those reptiles’ neurotoxins. Other prey items include arthropods, birds, mammals and amphibians (Magnier and Schulenberg 2013).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Argia sp.

On our last day at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, 14 July 2017, I photographed this dancer, perched on the railing of the lodge. No clue what it is. Perhaps it is an immature Green-eyed Dancer. Too bad I lacked a net or a degree in entomology.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Common Loon Bathing and Preening

On 19 April was sunny and warm. I returned to the Superior Drive Pond here in Northfield, Minnesota, to take waterfowl photos. Two loons loafed on the lake. I took a couple of hundred images of a bathing loon. These seven pictures, all of one bird, more or less represents what I saw. The loon began by “showering.”
For almost a minute the loon splashed water all over itself. Then it raised its body almost to the point of tipping over. Presumably it was drying itself after showering. Although loons bathe infrequently, this behavior is well-descriped in the literature (Evers et al. 2010).
The loon proceeded to preen its feathers. Loons can preen at any time of day. Preening lasts from one to 29 minutes (Evers et al. 2010). After floating almost on its side while it worked on its belly feathers, the bird rolled over and floated on its back, with one foot pointing upward. I did not notice this loon shaking its leg, a behavior described for other loons. All the while it continued preening its belly.
After finishing its belly preening, the loon worked its back and breast. Loons often preen, almost always while on floating on water. Loons spend their days alternating between preening and feeding.
Finally finished, it floated with its neck held high. Then it swam off, fishing, like one would expect a loon to do.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Black Vulture

Black Vultures are found in the eastern and extreme southeastern United States, south though much of South America. This Black Vulture sunned itself on the morning of 14 July 2017 at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Costa Rica. Unlike Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures do not locate carrion by smell. They rely on their eyesight. Often they will follow Turkey Vultures to carcasses, where they are able to displace the Turkey Vultures. Clearly sunning dries and warms vultures. Sunning may also kill bacteria acquired while the vulture feeds on carrion.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Brilliant Redskimmer

Brilliant Redskimmers range from Belize and Guatemala south northern South America. They inhabit lowland forests along “rivers, streams, sloughs, ditches and lakes, and along forest trails and open fields” (von Ellenrieder 2009). During our short excursion from the Laguba del Lagarto Lodge on 14 July 2017, we found several cruising along the edges of a small lake at the edge of a forest.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Black-cheeked Woodpecker

We found Black-cheeked Woodpeckers nearly everywhere in Costa Rica. This was my best photo, taken during our morning jaunt on 14 July 2017 near the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. This woodpecker is common from southeastern Mexico to western Ecuador and is found in open woodlands, wet forests, and old secondary growth. The diet consists of insects, fruit, and nectar (Wikipedia).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Red-tailed Skimmer

The Red-tailed Skimmer, Orthemis schmidti, is a widespread tropical species found in Central America through much of northern South America. We found this one in a wetland near the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 14 July 2017. Dragonflies looking identical to Red-tailed Simmers are also found in the Florida Keys. The South American dragonflies, however, have different mitochondrial DNA. Scientists don’t seem to know how to handle these populations—nor do they know their exact ranges (Paulson 2011 and pers. com).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bat Falcon

During our short excursion on 14 July 2017 from the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge we spied a pair of Bat Falcons. The birds perched high in distant trees overlooking farmland and a large river. This habitat is typical for the species, which ranges from Mexico to northern Argentina. These falcons are well named. They eat bats. Consequently they often hunt at dawn and dusk. They also take birds and insects, usually capturing them in flight (Cornell).

Monday, April 16, 2018

Common Loon

Thanks to Penny Dinneen Hillemann for alerting me to this Common Loon at the Superior Ave Pond here in Northfield. Common Loons are my favorite birds, even though Erika says I say that about the bird of any species I just saw.

Glossy-fronted Dryad

On 14 July 2017, our dragonfly tour took a bus ride a short distance from the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in northern Costa Rica. We were only a few miles from Nicaragua. We visited two ponds, and added a few dragonflies and birds to our ever-growing lists. This Glossy-fronted Dryad (Nephepeltia flavifrons) is found from Guatemala south through in much of South America. Note the upward pointing anal appendage.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Buff-throated Saltator

Buff-throated Saltators sport a big, finch-like bill. These birds used to be classified with the cardinals and grosbeaks. Recent genetic research places them with tanagers. Buff-throated Saltators range from southern Mexico south to northern Bolivia and southeastern Brazil. We photographed this individual at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Costa Rica, on 14 July 2017.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Montezuma Oropendola

This bird is a Montezuma’s Oropendola at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 14 July 2017. I have previously posted images of these huge blackbirds as they courted. Males have extra skin on either side of their chin—no clue what these structures are used for, presumably impresses their mates or intimidates their rivals.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Guatemalan Spinyneck

I can find remarkably little information on the Guatemalan Spinyneck (Metaleptobasis bovilla). This damselfly is found in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, presumably on the Caribbean slopes. We found this individual during our forest hike behind the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 13 July 2017.  It hung from a leaf.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gray-waisted Skimmer

Jungle trails were frustrating. The front of the line seldom waited for the back to catch up. We were supposed to change positions in line, but, for a variety of reasons. this strategy proved to be difficult. Consequently we missed a lot on these excursions. Such was the case on a late morning hike through the forest at Costa Rica’s Laguna Lagarto Lodge on 13 July 2017. We searched for lagoons that were either non-existant or dried up. We did, however, pick up a few interesting dragonflies, including Gray-waisted Skimmers.

Gray-waisted Skimmers are found from southern Texas to Panama. They perch distinctively, with their abdomens parallel to branches. They favor the shade—certainly the case in the forest—and are often found away from water. Females oviposit in dense vegetation (Paulson 2009).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

A flock of Crimson-fronted Parakeets flew into the trees over the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 14 July 2017. This parrot often travels in groups, often along side other bird species, and is found from El Salvador to western Panama. This limited range is surprising, since these parakeets prefer forest edge. They may be benefiting from deforestation and the species appears to be increasing its range. Furthermore, Crimson-fronted Parakeets are only occasionally trapped and sold in the pet trade (Cornell).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Green-eyed Dancer

Green-eyed Dancers are locally common from central Mexico south through Central America. They are found in forests near water, but persist, despite deforestation, if aquatic plants remain (Paulson 2009). We photographed this dancer on 13 July 2017 along the ponds in front of the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in Alajuela Province, Costa Rica.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Brown-hooded Parrot

Brown-hooded Parrots are adversely affected by deforestation, but are not presently considered to be vulnerable. They are distributed primarily over the Caribbean slope of Central America, from eastern Mexico south to Panama, and extreme northern Colombia (Cornell; Wikipedia).
Brown-hooded Parrots visited the feeders at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge. We saw them on 12 and 13 July 2017.
They inhabit lowlands and foothills in open woodlands and secondary forests. Small flocks often feed on seeds and fruits. Away from feeders, they can be hard to see since they are slow moving and silent.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Peten Dasher

We photographed Peten Dashers, Micrathyria debilis, along the ponds of the Laguna Largarto Lodge on 13 July 2017. I’ve had a hard time learning much about this dark dasher. Abbot (2015) writes that, because this dragonfly is found throughout Central America and Jamaica and is common in Mexico, it is likely to show up in south Texas. Needham et al. (2014) write that steel-blue color of the male and his yellowish white face are keys to identification, but have little else to say about the species.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Masked and Black-crowned Tityras

Tityras are in the same family as becards (see last post). The tityras are larger than most becards, being slightly bigger than robins. We saw the Masked Tityra in San Jose on our first day in Costa Rica. I had hoped to get a good photo, but this first image is the best, and only, one I could do.
The remaining images are of Black-crowned Tityras at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in mid-July 2017. The second and third photos are of females consuming large katydids. Tityras often eat fruit, but may feed their young large arthropods. Clearly, however, the female in the following photo has kept her insect for herself. The last photo is of a male.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Cinnamon Becard

Becards are in the family Tityridae, which consists of about 50 medium-sized New World songbirds. Ornithologists argue about the systematics of these birds, both within the family and relative to other birds. Tityridae are closely related to flycatchers and/or manakins.

Cinnamon Becards are found from southern Mexico south to northwestern South America. Across this range, the species is tolerant to converted habitat, and is therefore common. We only saw one at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 13 July 2017. The species is insectivorous and also eats berries (Mobley 2018). 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Tiny Forktail

The Tiny Forktail ranges from northern Mexico to northern South America. Abbott (2011) expects the species to be discovered in southern Texas. This odonate is perhaps the smallest damselfly in the Americas. As yet, official common names do to exist for neotropical dragonflies. In this blog, I have followed names suggested by Dennis Paulson.

By whatever name, this forktail is found in a variety of weedy wetlands. On 13 July 2017, this damselfly was common alongside the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge’s ponds. Due to their small size, photographing any forktail tends to be difficult. I finally sat at the lake shore until one flew up and landed on a nearby weed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Shinning Honeycreeper

The Shinning Honeycreeper was third species of honeycreeper we photographed at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in northern Costa Rica. The species is common and ranges from southernmost Mexico barely into Colombia. Like the other honeycreepers, these birds feed on fruit, insects, and nectar. The first photo is of a female, the second is a male. Note that rain is falling in both photos. I don’t recall rain, except for one day, in Costa Rica, even though we were traveling in the wet season. I must have been too busy chasing birds and dragonflies.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Andagoya Dragonlet

These photographs are of Andagoya Dragonlets. According to my notes, the first photo, a male, was taken at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge on 14 July 2017. The second is a female, taken the same day a few miles from the lodge. The species ranges from Ecuador, Colombia, to Costa Rica. The IUC Red List states populations are not fragmented, thus, presumably, this dragonlet is also found in Panama. The name Andagoya refers to a Colombian town, which was named after a Spanish conquistador.  The preferred habitat for the species is marshes, ponds, and streams (usually within forests). The larvae are unknown.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Red-legged Honeycreeper

The strikingly plumaged Red-legged Honeycreeper also visited the feeders at the Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in northern Costa Rica. This small tanager is very common in Cuba, southern Mexico, and much of northern South America. Cornell’s Neotropical bird website assures us that the honeycreeper has a “catholic diet and will feed on fruit, insects, and even nectar in a variety of forest habitats.”
The first photo is of a male Red-legged Honeycreeper. The second is of a female. After they breed, males molt into a dull plumage. This may be the case in the third photo, which is either a non-breeding or immature male. Having a dull, non-breeding plumage is not typical of New World tropical songbirds.