Thursday, 21 September 2017

Costa Rica - Storm in San Francisco!

The San Francisco species tally was helped by a brief storm which had what I believe is a Dark Pewee seeking sanctuary of a high tree branch at the entrance to the village. As soon as the insects emerged it was busy feeding away returning to the same spot. This matches the behaviour of the bird but it is suggested this species is confined to 1100+m elevations in the central highlands of Costa Rica.
The hummingbirds were also seeking sanctuary of branches rather than chasing each other around the numerous flowering gardens with flowering plants. A female Green breasted Mango struck an elegant pose for long enough to capture the moment.
A male White Necked Jacobin was far more productive on the Laguna side of the village taking short rapid flights between flowers.
I was called into a garden to look at the Collared Aracari and found a Masked Tityra at the top of the tree. This was a pleasant surprise and a species I was familiar with from my time in Paraguay.
Black Bellied Plover has been present in the last couple of days on the beach perhaps another victim of the stormy weather.
A regular but very spotty Spotted Sandpiper was as close range on the west shore giving excellent photo opportunities. Most of the birds seen here are not in breeding plumage.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Costa Rica - Turtles On Your Marks, Get Set! Gooo!

Early morning turtle census involves walking a three mile stretch of beach to check all the existing turtle nests for predation, progress in the hatching stage and to take sand samples that will be analysed for micro plastics. All turtle tracks are swept to and from the sea in an attempt to disguise any new nests.

The walk this morning started with Anna in the usual way in overcast conditions (which is always good!). We started work making our way up the beach. At we were nearing the half way point when I noticed numerous tiny turtle tracks heading straight for the sea. I called Anna over and we traced the origin of the tracks. As we both looked at the small holes that had already been made a tiny head appeared in the sand. Then another and another until there were five little heads just above sand level.
This was my first group of hatchlings and they were Hawksbill Turtles who only had one thing on their mind and that was to make it to the sea. Anna became protector, wildlife film and documentary photographer as the five scuttled as fast as their tiny flippers could take them down the beach.
We shadowed the five making sure each one made it to the sea and said our goodbyes as each entering the water and with a single sweep of a wave disappeared from view.
This was truly another great moment and for five hatchlings another leg of their perilous journey into adulthood begins. Woo Hoo!

Pictures by and used with permission of Anna Harris (USA)

Monday, 18 September 2017

Costa Rica - San Francisco - Bird Conundrums!

The order of the day was a species census in San Francisco. The morning I would spend alone with Jane joining me during the afternoon to hopefully add to the mornings tally. The local people are very friendly inviting me into their gardens to look at my feathered friends. The local children are also fascinated and can’t wait to thumb through my bird guide to show me what birds they like or have seen. This is also a good opportunity to practice some Spanish which sometimes causes amusement amongst the gathering friends.
There were also some new birds added to my Costa Rican tally. A Lesser Greenlet was the first seen on the walk through the outskirts of San Fransisco.
A more familiar Ruddy Turnstone was on the shore but I could not re-locate the Short-billed Dowitcher Charlotte had during her shorebird survey. A pair of Pale-billed Woodpecker was observed pecking away at the trunk of a tree as I entered the village.

The mornings total was a reasonable thirty five species but there were some regulars that were missing off the list. Enter Jane the afternoons eagle eyed self confessed birder from Canada!
A tanager like bird was seen on the wires along the main path. It has been confirmed by Pete Morris as a moulting Summer Tanager. Thanks Pete.
The next species I have not identified yet but they were described as cute as they huddled together on a bush just off a paved path. The camera once again secured the evidence allowing further scrutiny of this species. - I think Yellow Tyrannulet!
The last conundrum of the day was a pair of yellow birds that were feeding amongst grass on the edge of the village. With so many species falling into this bracket the identity has not yet been confirmed which incidentally is a nice change from everything being a small brown job!... Ironically enough I think this is a Yellow Warbler!

The next few days are a mix of Turtle, Macaw census and further visits to San Francisco....

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Costa Rica - Tortuguero - Macaws Have a Feast!

Chris and I had a fantastic day of Great Green Macaw observations with a group of birds frequenting the trees within the grounds of the Sea Turtle Visitor Centre in Tortuguero. The birds were seen feeding on the fruits over a two hour period. A sample of the fruit has been taken and photographed depicting its various layers.
The birds rest for a short period before flying back over the waterway and out of view. It is not clear if the birds visit other fruiting trees or have a preferred resting site. A couple of Scarlet Macaw was seen but although both species consume the same fruits they did not join their Green cousins on this occasion.

More from San Francisco next..

Friday, 15 September 2017

Costa Rica - More birds of San Francisco!

No Macaws were seen at Cano Palma watchpoint this morning but there was time to catch up with a pair of Prothonotary Warbler that have been camera shy over the last few days.  This species generally busily skulks about in dense foliage and has been tricky to photograph. A pair have also been seen in SanFrancisco.

A Green Ibis made its second appearance along the canal regularly changing position but did offer any explanation for its movements. This ibis is generally dark in colour with the green sheen showing in brighter light.
There was a huge number of Hirundines rolling in off the coast circa 1500. Sometimes the sky was littered with birds on a mission to get somewhere. Barn Swallow was amongst the masses and after many attempts pictures of what I think are Grey breasted Martin were taken.
The afternoon was spent in San Francisco where a Passerini’s Tanager almost made good its escape from the wires. This species is being seen regularly in San Francisco at the moment.
An Amazon Kingfisher was far more relaxed around the paparazzi allowing close views of this large Kingfisher.
The bird of the afternoon was one of the last on the list a Black-cowled Oriole which again was very approachable as it rested in a garden off the main path. This species is common in the Caribbean lowlands perhaps they have just been avoiding me!

Next up a Macaw update..

Monday, 11 September 2017

Costa Rica - San Francisco - Sloth Steals the Limelight!

The birding team of Chris (NED), Jane (CAN) and myself started out at stupid o clock this morning with a tour of San Francisco in their sights. The aim was to record species that frequent the area and interact with the local people who’s gardens provide sanctuary for the birds.
After a short boat ride we made land and the birding began in earnest however it was not a bird that stole the show as I spied a slow moving mammal high in a tree to Charlotte’s old house. A Sloth no less this was a perfect start to the day with very good views of this magnificent creature.
The toucans were next to announce their presence with Chestnut Mandibled, Keel Billed and cousin Collared Aracari following close behind! A pair of Pale billed Woodpecker took our attentions away from the toucans. A male Olive backed Euphonia was my first new species of the day. A Black and White Warbler was the first migrant of the day high in a tree by the path leading into San Francisco.
We continued our journey towards the school and Charlotte’s house logging a few usual garden suspects in Variable Seedeater, Ruddy Ground Dove, Rufous tailed Hummingbird, Groove billed Ani, Great tailed Grackle, Montezuma Oropendia, Great Kiskadee and White ringed Flycatcher.

A brief watch of the channel gave us brief views of the second non birding surprise of the day in a pair of Dolphin. Mangrove and Barn Swallow were also passing in numbers.
The walk back to the boat produced a Roadside Hawk and the Costa Rican national bird Clay Colored Robin. We had recorded forty species with many other regular species missing from this tally. Macaws were heard but not seen during this visit.
Migration is gaining pace in the area with an Osprey passing over the Cerro the previous evening. The Cerro is the highest point in the area at 119m and access is only permitted on Macaw survey days which is a great shame as the four hundred plus steps to the viewing platform dissects pristine forest habitat. Once you reach the viewing platform you get a panoramic view of San Francisco. Great Tinamou have been heard here at dusk.

A return to San Francisco is planned for Jane and I on Wednesday and on today’s count of forty species I am looking forward to it already.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Costa Rica - Tortuguero - Masses of Migrants!

The Sea Turtle Biological Station Macaw survey is a good opportunity to observe species that are currently migrating using the river and canals surrounding Tortuguero. The skies today were alive with Hirundines all of which seemed in a great hurry to get somewhere.
There was a handful of Laughing Gull today. This is normally a family I don’t get too excited about (with c10000 daily in the winter at Beddington Farm) but these were the first gulls I have seen on this trip so a very small celebration was in order.

The Macaws were absent in the morning as Chris (Netherlands) and I kept watch. The Macaws arrived just prior to the beginning of the afternoon survey and were present for a good part of the afternoon. The largest group was twenty three Green who appeared from behind the Biological before landing in the trees on the west bank.
A Mangrove Swallow was judged as photo of the day. It was rather obliging sitting on the roof of a tourist charter boat taking brief circular flights to hawk insects.
A juvenile Bare-throated Heron kept the observers company as it fished from under the overhanging trees. Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret were also added to the trip list.
Migrants of the day came in an untidy procession of circa,one hundred Common Nighthawk. This was a truly amazing spectacle of birds and a species I had not seen in such numbers before! This is a regular event along the Caribbean lowlands.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Costa Rica - Cano Palma - Surveys Galore!

Since my last post I have taken part in morning turtle and Otter surveys with Anna and an afternoon mammal survey at the back of the base where a Jaguar print was found by Manuel. The Otter survey involves Kayaking down the canal looking for Otter scat (faeces!) which is used by the otters to mark out territories and various data is recorded as we each progress along opposite banks of the transect. We did not get to see any otters but this is common.

Today it was a Macaw survey from the watch point at the front of the boat dock. This is a covered area therefore protection from both ends of the ever changeable weather is naturally provided. Point counts are the survey method used with varying degrees of Macaw activity. Scarlet Macaw activity was slightly higher in the morning with fourteen birds and ten in the afternoon. No Green Macaws were seen despite both species favouring the same fruits.
I finally secured shots of a male Slaty-tailed Trogon which is usually seen with its back facing the lens. This is one family that I never tire of seeing. A Chestnut Colored Woodpecker was another addition to the growing life list.

I am beginning to get to grips with some of the more regular species in particular the Parrots which can be tricky to identify without good flight views. Mealy and Red Lored were both recorded today.
A Grey-capped Flycatcher posed on the wire across the canal late on in the day.
There were signs of migration with Hirundines including Bank and Barn Swallow, Eastern Kingbird and a pair of Prothonotary Warbler and a female Yellow Warbler.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Costa Rica - Tortuguero - Macaw Survey!

The day started with a boat journey to the Sea Turtle Biological Station in Tortuguero. This was the site for a two part Macaw survey the morning with Naomi (FRA) and the afternoon solo. En route Manuel spotted a Dolphin that had found its way into the river system. The local fish were not as keen on this unexpected sighting as they leaped out of the water to avoid becoming the Dolphins breakfast!
The morning survey was productive with a few small groups of Green Macaws crossing the river.
The afternoon survey saw a large group of Macaws land and feed in the trees at the Biological Station. It is always good to see this species roaming free in its natural environment and it appears that Macaws are not kept as pets in the area.
Groups of White-crowned Parrot were also observed crossing the river. Flight identification of each species is difficult at times with some birds left as parrot sp.
The Red-lored Parrot is one species I have difficulty in identifying in flight but thankfully a group stopped to feed in the same group of trees the Macaws were to frequent later on in the day.
Bonus bird of the day was a Royal Tern which made an appearance along the far bank before continuing North. Anhinga and Neotropical Cormorant were seen on the river both species taking time out to dry their wings in the sun. Great White Egret and a scattering of Bare-faced Tiger Heron were also present. A Ringed Kingfisher announced its presence as it commuted along the river. Spotted Sandpiper was the only shorebird represented and Hirundines that were identified were Grey breasted Martin, Northen Rough Winged Swallow and Barn Swallow.
Magnificent Frigatebird also patrol the area at irregular intervals. Brown Pelican were also seen in flight on the Caribbean Coast.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Streak-headed Woodcreeper were the key birds of interest at the Biological Centre. A Black Hawk made the briefest of appearances during the morning survey.
The day ended with a Cayman Survey with staff Anna and Jimena with Manuel completing the expertise in particular in aging Caymen!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Costa Rica - Shorebird Survey!

It was shorebird survey morning with a steady walk through mile and a half transect with Charlotte. The majority of the birds were around the river mouth. There were some familiar names on the list Collared Plover and Semipalmated Plover escaped the camera lens.
Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage was evenly spread along the route giving excellent views.
Small groups of Sanderling were making themselves busy feeding along the shoreline. I am still fascinated at the speed their small legs can move across the sand.
Whimbrel was not as common with lone birds at the shoreline.
The walk back from the beach produced a group of Scarlet Macaw feeding in the top of a fruit tree. A Black-cheeked Woodpecker was spied on the trunk of a tree close to the path.
The bonus bird of the morning came in the garden to Charlotte former house. A splendid Passerini’s Tanager showing its red rump as it flew low between bushes.

Next up Macaw survey in Tortuguero!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Costa Rica - An afternoon in San Francisco!

I took a walk into San Francisco which is a small village and where I would be gathering some bird species data. There is one main concrete path through the village with a school and soccer field at the top end. There are several side paths that have houses right down to the waterfront.
The gardens offered good opportunities for passerines with pairs of seedeaters and Seed-Finches moving around. Bird of the afternoon and a personal favourite of mine was the magnificent Scarlet Macaw. A couple of birds were feeding in a tree next to the soccer field giving glorious views before both took to the skies.
I joined Charlotte who was in the midst of a Macaw survey noting a couple of Great Greens during this period.
A Yellow Warbler of the migratory Northern race was noted in the gardens. Mangrove Swallow was fairly regular along the canal flying low almost skimming the surface of the water as they fed.
The seedeaters are tricky to identify the female being the easiest to distinguish between species.
Thick billed Seed–Finch (top) are one such similar species to the Variable Seedeater (above) both of
which are found in the gardens in the area.
Blue-Grey Tanagers are far easier to identify usually heard before they are seen but obvious once located.
Groove Billed Ani and Great tailed Grackles are also common in the area. I am sure there will be more to find in the weeks to come.
Next up shorebird surveys! Woo Hoo!