Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mississippi Kite

During a brief visit to Flower Mound, Denton County, Texas on 19 July 2017, I was delighted to find Mississippi Kites. I have not been in Mississippi Kite territory since seriously taking up bird photography and found it difficult to capture in focus images of these raptors as they swoop back and forth. 
This kite dove into a residential yard and came up with what appears to be a small snake, which the bird consumed in air. Numbers of Mississippi Kites are on the upswing, and in the southern Great Plains, they can be abundant. In many parts of their range, populations have moved from forests into urban areas. They often breed in large colonies. Mississippi Kites eat insects, often on the wing. They also take small vertebrates, like frogs, snakes, lizards, birds, and mammals.

These kites breed in woodlands and city parks. In parts of the western United States, kits attack people who approach nesting sites, resulting “many public relations, management, and educational challenges” (Parker 1999). I found the last kite in this post in a small Flower Mound city park. The day was painfully hot and humid, with temperatures above 100 degrees F. Great weather for Odonata, but a bit tough for birds and other dragonfly hunters.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

2018 Florida/Texas Roadtrip

We left Northfield on 15 January 2018 for a winter vacation to Key West and Sanibel Island, Florida, and then over to Mission, Texas. On our first three days, we encountered some of the worst winter driving of our lives. The roads all the way from Minnesota to Mobile, Alabama, were ice-skating rinks. 
On the morning of the 17th, we visited Bonita Lakes City Park in Meridian, Mississippi. The temperature was 14 degrees F, and the night saw a light dusting of snow. Many songbirds, like these Yellow-rumped Warblers, fed on the ground. They appeared to be eating fallen cedar berries. There is nothing that surprising about a Yellow-rumped Warbler on the ground—only none of them fed in the trees.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Two-toed Slouth

As we loaded the bus on 16 July to return to the San Jose, our driver, Ramon Vargas Monge, asked, “Would you like to see a sloth?” “Sure,” we replied.  Ramon took us a short distance down the road. A Two-toed Sloth lounged in a tree by the road—complete with a young sloth it its arms. Sloths are mostly vegetarians and mainly eat leaves, which are not a high energy source. Consequently, sloths spend much of their days hanging upside down in the trees.

We are often asked how we made the decision to take our Costa Rican dragonfly tour. Actually we did no research. I knew Dennis Paulson by fame, both as a premier dragonfly expert and as a birder. Dennis posted an announcement of the tour on FaceBook (of all places). I turned to Erika and said, “Amorcita, this trip will be the tour of a lifetime!” Somewhat to my surprise (neither of us is fond of flying), she immediately agreed. We knew nothing about Sunrise Birding. Steve and Tom Bird proved to be superb birders, guides, and marvelous traveling companions.

So ends my Costa Rican blog report. (I am sure there are more photos to share—we took over 7000 images during the trip—but I will spare you.) We returned to San Jose and, early on the morning of 17 July, flew to Dallas. We spent two days there visiting family, and then drove back to Minnesota. We did see a few interesting creatures in Texas, and I will share them with you in the next few posts.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Golden Amberwing

At least four amberwings are found in Costa Rica. They are hard to identify, I think even for experts. All the amberwings I photographed proved to be Plain Amberwings. Finally, on our last evening at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge, I captured a Golden Amerwing over one of the hotel’s ponds. Note the greenish sides to the thorax and the distinct yellow spots and  the yellow stripe down the abdomen. By my count, I photographed 97 species of dragonflies and damselflies during our trip. The official tour list was 128 drgaonfly species. Erika and I listed 236 bird species, not too shabby for a trip spent looking down for dragonflies.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Roadside Hawk

On our way back to La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge on 16 July 2017 we stopped our bus and photographed a Roadside Hawk. This raptor gets it name from the fact that it is often seen along roadsides and forest edges. Roadside Hawks mostly feed on insects, but also take small vertebrates. We saw these hawks several times during our Costa Rican travels.

Roadside Hawks range from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. Some have even wandered into the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. With such a large range, it is not surprising that twelve races of the species have been described. Populations range from gray to largely brown. Previously in this blog, I have posted an image of a brown, Argentine subspecies.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Limón Flatwing

Only yesterday did I add the Limón Flatwing (Philogenia expansa) to my Odonate list. On 16 July 2017 at the Braulio Carrillo National Park, San José, Costa Rica, our fearless leader, Dennis Paulson, originally identified this dragonfly as a Costa Rican Flatwing (Philogenia carrillica). I dutifully took these photographs, but, having seen Costa Rican Flatwings near Monteverde earlier in our tour, my images were forgotten in my 16 July computer folder.

The two species are nearly identical and can not be saftely told apart in the field. As far as is known, however, the two do not overlap in range, and the Limón Flatwing has been collected in the national park. According to Dennis, “There are four species of Philogenia in Costa Rica that look exactly alike, males distinguished only by their appendages and females by very slight differences in the prothorax. [A] ... fifth species has a blue thorax.” To further confuse the issue, the Limón Flatwing was initially described from a female specimen. Females have not been seen with males, so one must assume the the local male flatwings are the same species as the females.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hercules Skimmer

The last dragonflies Erika and I saw on 16 July 2017 at the Braulio Carrillo National Park, San José, Costa Rica, were Hercules Skimmers (Libellula herculea). We saw them over the stream we followed back to the park headquarters. We also found this one in a garden at the edge of the parking lot. These large dragonflies prefer open areas, ditches, secondary growth and forest edges. They range from Mexico to Argentina.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Peralta Cora

One of the strangest damselflies we encountered in Costa Rica perched on a twig along a rocky, mountain stream in the Braulio Carrillo National Park on 16 July 2017. The Peralta Cora looked like it wore antique aviator glasses.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

White-faced Flatwing

White-faced Flatwings sit in the shade above streams. They range from Mexico to Costa Rica. We encountered this individual where a stream cut through our mountain forest trail on 16 July 2017 at Braulio Carrillo Naxtional Park (Quebrada González), in San José Province, Costa Rica.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Red-striped and Bronze Rubyspots

We found this Bronze Rubyspot (Hetaerina capitalis) on 16 July 2017 during our walk at Costa Rica's Braulio Carrillo National Park. The species is found in mountain forests from Central America into South America. We saw several rubyspots during our Costa Rican adventure. At least nine rubyspot species inhabit Costa Rica. One rubyspot (not found in Costa Rica), the American, actually ventures into Minnesota. Seeing a rubyspot here in the northland is, indeed, a tropical vision.
The second and third photos here are of Red-striped Rubyspots (Hetaerina miniata), which do not seem to have much of an Internet footprint. Apparently they are uncommon along Central American jungle streams. These images are of a male and female from La Selva Reserve taken of 15 July 2017.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lowland Knobtail

At Braulio Carrillo National Park on 16 July 2017, we followed a well-maintained forest trail. We had most success in and around a creek that ran through the forest and crossed the trail. We also followed a creek that ran down from the Quebrada González park headquarters. This habitat, rocky streams draining mature forest, is about perfect for Lowland Knobtail (Epigomphus tumefactus) (Novelo-Gutiérrez et al. 2016).

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Violet-crowned Woodnymph

We saw other hummingbirds, including this Violet-crowned Woodnymph, at the abandoned orchard on the way to Costa Rica's Braulio Carrillo National Park on 16 July 2017. This hummer can be abundant from Guatemala to Colombia and western Venezuela. Males are gorgeous; duller females do all the nesting building and incubation. Both sexes eat nectar and small arthropods. Males feed in the forest canopy, while females stay in the understory (Wikipedia). These photos are both of males. Of course, the sexes must come together sometime, or woodnymphs would be in short supply.

Friday, May 18, 2018


16 July 2017 was our last full day touring in Costa Rica. We travelled from La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge to Braulio Carrillo National Park. The park was in a mountainous area and the idea was to pick up a few different dragonflies. Along the way we made a brief stop at an abandoned roadside orchard. This day, we saw a few birds and many dragonflies. 

The abondoned orchard is a well-known location for seeing Snowcaps, which are tiny hummingbirds. Curiously we did not see the stunning male Snowcap, which has a purple body and a shinning, white cap. The duller females, however, where plentiful. Perhaps the sexes feed at diffferent times or visit the gardens in different seasons. Males are polygynous and are highly territorial. Snowcaps are found in Central American mountains from Honduras to Panama (Wikipedia; Kistler and Schulenberg 2013).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

White-lined Tanager

White-lined Tanagers are found from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina and eastern Peru. They inhabit open forests and gardens. We found them at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge. This individual appears to be a male molting into adult plumage. Fremales are rufous. The species is named for its white underwings, which are displayed during courtship. These tanagers eat fruit, nectar, and arthropods. They sing a variety of whistles and, in parts of their range, they are prized as cage birds (Wikipedia, Cornell).

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Palm Tanager

Palm Tanagers are widespread inhabitants of lowland forests across Central and South America. They prefer forest edges, and are easily seen. Birders tend not to be very excited at such a common and dull bird. In fact, Palm Tanagers seen up close prove to be mutedly elegant. They are often seen in palms, but they are not adverse to other trees They consume fruit and arthropods. They forage in pairs or in small groups, but, except at fruting trees or bird feeders, seldom travel with other species (Cornell). I took this photo on 15 July 2017 in Costa Rica at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Grayish Saltator

After visiting La Selva Research Station, we spent a second night at La Quinta Sarapiqui Lodge. We listed a few more birds at their feeders. Grayish Saltators are common and found from Mexico to Argentina. This species is conspicuous in lowland scrub and open areas. Saltators eat seeds, fruit and arthropods. I think I have previously posted in this blog that saltators were traditionbally thought to be close to Cardinals, but genetic studies now place them with tanagers.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tuxtla Leaftail

This Tuxtla Leaftail flew below us as we watched for dragonflies from a bridge spanning a small creek at La Selva reserve in Costa Rica on 15 July 2017. Streams are their preferred habitat, although they are occasionally found away from shading streams. They also venture into more sunny areas of the creeks. Males often perch on stream-sides, waiting to make amorous or aggressive pursuit flights when other Tuxtla Leaftails fly along the waterway. This leaftail ranges from Mexico to Costa Rica.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Red-and-Black Flatwing

Just before departing La Selva Tropical Research Statation on 15 July 2018, our tour stopped at a small creek that passed beneath the road. We quickly added several dragonflies to our ever-growing list. The first of these was a Red-and-Black Flatwing. This species is the most common and widely destributed of its genus, Heteragrion, in Costa Rica. The creek provided ideal habitat for this flatwing.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Amelia’s Threadtail

Amelia’s Threadtails range from south Texas to Panama. They inhabit the edges and pools of streams, and ponds where they hover over quiet water or perch in shady branches. This damsel perched and hovered above a small stream at the edge of La Selva Reserve, Herredia, Costa Rica on 15 July 2017.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Jade-striped Sylph

We should have spent more time at La Selva Reserve in Costa Rica on 15 July. We stopped at an overgrown pond in the jungle and a small stream at the edge of the reserve. At the stream, we netted this Jade-striped Sylph. This dragonfly cruises slow-flowing, forested streams in south-central Texas south through Mexico to Venezuela. They either perch on leaves or hang from bushy stems (Paulson 2009).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Great Butterfly Moth

As we were leaving La Selva Tropical Research Station on 15 July 2017, we chanced upon a Great Butterly Moth, Castniomera atymnius. These moths fly by day, so confusing them with butterflies is easy. Unlike most other moths, this species has clubbed antennae. These moths range from Mexico to Brazil. The larvae develop on Heliconia and the adults often visit banana trees.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pale-banded Darner

Pale-banded Darners (Gynacantha gracilis) are fround from Central America to Argentina. Williamson reports this species in ponds with dense, knee-high vegetation. This description fairly well matches the habitat we found it—an overgrown pond in the forest at La Selva Tropical Research Station on Costa Rica on 15 July 2017.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Swamp Skimmer

Swamp Skimmers (Orthemis cultriformis) are widespread from Costa Rica to Argentina. The species is reported from streams and rivers, temporary pools and marshes in the forest (Guillion)—exactly the habitat we found this one. We encountered it at Costa Rica's La Selva Tropical Research Station at a dragonfly-laden and overgrown forest pond on 15 July 2017.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Gold-tipped Darner

A Gold-tipped Darner (Gynacantha tibiata) was an amazing dragonfly at La Selva Biological Station. It patrolled back and forth, low over the jungle pond we searched on 15 July 2017. What was different was that it would occasioonally stop and hover in mid-air. This species inhabits forest ponds from Costa Rica south into Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Erika was surprised at the small size of this red poison dart frog. We had been looking for one, discovering this frog at the dragonfly pond at La Selva Tropical Research Station on 15 July. The race of Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs (Dendrobates pumilio) in Costa Rica is sometimes called the Blue Jean Poison Dart Frog. They kind of seem to be wearing blue jeans.

Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs are abundant from Nicaragua to Panama. Poison dart frogs are named for their poisonous skin. Their bright color serves as an effective warning to most predators. As a result these frogs are active during the day. Males tend their eggs after mating, even keeping them damp by bringing water to them or urinating on the eggs (Animal sake). Females feed their young with the female’s unfertilized eggs (Wikipedia). This sacrifice of reproductive potential seems to be odd and suggests low survival of clutches that lack such maternal care.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Fork-tailed Dasher

Fork-tailed Dashers (Micrathyria mengeri) range from Guatemala and Belize to northern South America. The species frequents grassy ditches and flooded meadows. We found several at a small forest pond at La Selva Biological Station in central Costa Rica on 15 July 2017. This species’ blue eyes are typical of the genus.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Blue-striped Spreadwing

Erika and I found a Blue-striped Spreadwing at La Selva Reserve in Heredia, Costa Rica, on 15 July 2017. This damselfly perched on the underside of a plant in an overgrown pond that was surrounded by jungle. The species ranges from southern Texas and southern Florida to northern South America and the Antilles. Males, like this one, usually perch over water in thick vegetation. Although July is within the wet season in Costa Rica, Paulson (2011) suggests that this species, at least in some parts of its range, may spend the winter as adults and the wet season as larvae.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Amberwing (Perithemis sp. nov.)

A dragonfly without a name greeted us at the jungle pond we visited at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica on 15 July 2017. Clearly an amberwing, this dragonfly has yet to be described by entomologists. Our guide, Dennis Paulson, was aware of this creature’s existence. He commented that scientists just haven’t gotten around to publishing a name or description.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bromeliad Helicopter

As we approached a dragonfly-laden pond at La Selva Reserve in Heridea, Costa Rica on 15 July 2017, we spied the third helicopter damselfly our our tour. Bromeliad Helicopters range found from northern Mexico to Colombia. Abbott includes this species as one to be looked for in southern Texas. Amundrud et al. found this damselfly’s range is restricted by low temperatures and high mountain ranges. This species may actually benefit from global warming. In any case, Bromeliad Helicopters are habitat specialists—the larvae only develop in tank bromeliads. In La Selva, this species is found mainly in secondary forests and is not as common as other helicopter damsels.