Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sound Quiz from Costa Rica

A cross-posting here of a sound quiz on my Birdingblogs post from yesterday:

I actually know what it is (I saw it), and I was quite surprised. So now I'm not surprised that there have been no guesses so far, despite my posting it at xeno-canto, and the Birdingblogs page having been visited over 80 times. We'll give it a week.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tapantí National Park Costa Rica – Rich in flowers, birds, bugs, stuff

On my just-finished Costa Rica tour, we spent a half day at Tapantí National Park, a lush area of cloud forest habitat on the Caribbean slope at 1300-1400 meters elevation.

On the way there, we stopped just short of the national park at the upper end of a vast area of sun-grown coffee. While the bird activity was our main focus, I couldn't help but notice this odd fungus-like growth on a twig next to the road.

I looked a little closer and was amazed to see that what looked like fungal strands was in fact the many antennae of a colony of nymphal crickets or katydids. (Click on the photo to open a window with a full-sized image.) What are these?

We saw some great birds up in the cloud forest, such as Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Barred Hawk, and Red-faced Spinetail at a nest, but there is so much to see here.

This is a Black-faced Solitaire on its nest, a mossy cup (almost surely lined with tree fern bark scales) on a bank above the road.

There are a lot of orchids here, but few were blooming. This one appears to be Elleanthus glaucophyllus, and it may be a hummingbird-pollinated species.

It was sunny enough for some butterfly activity, but this isn't the best time of year for them. This is a Harmonia Satyr, Hermeuptychia harmonia.

This clump of lichen was particularly attractive.

Finally, an amazing wasp nest up in a tree. I suspect they are nocturnal and were roosting by day.

What a gorgeous forest, and I already look forward to my tour here next March.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Costa Rica Update – 310 Species at Halfway

We're at the halfway point of my Costa Rica tour, and things are going great. Some participants have had over 200 lifers out of over 300 species that we've tallied, and except for our first morning at Tapantí National Park we haven't even touched the Caribbean Slope yet.

One participant in my group passed her 1000th lifer today. It came a whirlwind of species mobbing a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and it was either Scaly-breasted, Cinnamon, or Mangrove Hummingbird (the latter a Costa Rican endemic), or Spot-breasted Oriole, that achieved the honor as her millennial lifer.

A couple photo highlights from the past days:

A White-crested Coquette at Bosque del Rio Tigre was simply amazing.

And this Orange-collared Manakin at a ridiculously easy to observe lek at Carara National Park yesterday was a joy to watch.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dota Cloudforest Metalmark and Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl

After the first day's whirlwind of lifers for the participants on my Costa Rica tour (some got more than 50), the next day at San Gerardo de Dota was a little less intense – fewer species but more specialties and regional endemics. Here I'll show a couple – a butterfly and a bird.

This butterfly, Corrachia leucoplaga was an exciting find, since I hadn't seen one since Jim Brock's and my WINGS tour in 2006. Even back then it was exciting – Jim recognized it as a metalmark, but like none he had ever seen before. Thank goodness for Philip J. DeVries' book on the Riodinidae of Costa Rica for the ID and for letting us know how special this bug is. He apparently never saw one himself before writing the book and talked to only one person who had seen it – otherwise known from a small handful of specimens. My poor digiscoped photo of the 2006 one is the only photo of a live one I could find on the internet. Now I'll add this better digiscoped image, which will also soon be on my Flickr page.

Not far from the metalmarks (the steep track to the Savegre Lodge trailheads) was this Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl. This cute bugger flew in while we were standing there, but we probably wouldn't have noticed if it weren't for the sudden alarm calls of the Sooty-capped Bush-Tanagers in the tree below. I had heard that there was a nest here and really hoped to see this bird, as after leading tours to Costa Rica for the past 14 years I still hadn't come across one. But, ironically, I found one the day before at a random roadside stop on our way to the hotel. It responded when I imitated the call to try to bring in some small birds. That bird was a rufous morph, this one below (near the nest) is a brown morph.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Costa Rica Pre-tour Butterflying

I met my group of eight participants for our first dinner yesterday evening at our hotel just outside of San José, Costa Rica. I had all day here, mostly spent working on my laptop, but I usually spend the morning in the lush and often birdy hotel gardens. Instead, I decided to check out a nearby coffee farm that might have some nice birds. I'm especially hoping to find a close spot that is reliable for Prevost's Ground-Sparrow, as it is rather sporadic on our hotel grounds lately.

Well, though I didn't find the ground-sparrow (there were several White-eared Ground-Sparrows though) I did see 30 species of birds at the farm, called Rancho Arizona. Better yet, I was pretty amazed how many butterflies I saw. I think I saw about 25 species in just a couple hours, but I was able to put names to only 13 and took photos of a few here they are:

Emerald Longtail, Urbanus esmeraldus

Frosted Flasher, Astraptes alardus

Yellow-stained Skipper, Poanes inimica

Alana Skipper, Heliopetes alana

Yellow-tipped Flasher, Astraptes anaphus

And a strange weevil relative in the family Brentidae