I can’t seem to get a break when it comes to Jacamars. I have seen the Rofous-tailed Jacamar in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama, but never in good light, and never as close as I would like. This bird was buried in the heavy undergrowth at La Selva Biological Research Station in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica, along one of the trails in the 2nd growth forest. It was dark enough in under there to require ISO 6400, though I did use Anti-motion Blur to improve image quality. The Jacamar is a strange bird. It looks, to some, like a giant hummingbird, but it is actually more closely related to Puffbirds. In fact Jacamars and Puffbirds from their own family. On the other hand, it behaves, and looks somewhat like, the European and African Bee Eaters…except that Jacamars specialize in moths and butterflies. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Exposure as above. Processed in Polarr.
Perhaps because the Flame-colored Tanager is one of the most common feeder birds in the highlands of Costa Rica, I came back with far too few photos of it. Ah, just another Flame-colored Tanager! It is however, one of the most beautiful birds of the mountains. The range of oranges…from almost red, to almost yellow…is amazing, and each bird seems unique in its shade of orange. And there is enough variation in the plumage of any individual bird to justify the “flame” name, as the color seems to flicker just as a flame does. These shots are at Savegre Mountain Resort in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, at about 7000 feet in the Talamanca Mountains. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Birds and wildlife modifications of Program Mode. Processed in Polarr.
I posted a gallery of shots of the male Three-fingered Sloth taken at Cope’s home in La Union, Costa Rica a few days ago. This is the female with her child, from our visit the week before. Always something fascinating at Cope’s. Again, the sloth was so close the photos were taken at 120-140mm equivalent (except for the close up of the face, which was at 600mm equivalent). And again, it was very dark under the heavy canopy so these were all taken in Anti-motion Blur mode. Notice how green the fur of the female sloth is…that is, of course, algae growing in the fur. We were close enough to see the moths that feed on the algae. I am calling this a Three-fingered Sloth in line with the new naming convention, instead of the more traditional Three-toed Sloth, since, again, both tree sloths of Central and South America have three toes on each hind foot. Processed in Polarr.
The White-throated Mountain Gem inhabits the higher elevations of Costa Rica, from about 6000 feet to timberline, mostly in the Talamanca Mountains south of the Central Valley and San Jose. We encountered this one at Batsu Garden on the mountain side above Savegre Mountain Resort in San Gerardo de Dota on the west slope of the mountains. It used to be called the Gray-tailed Mountain Gem. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My custom birds and wildlife modifications of Program mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
As I have said before, Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park is one of the best places for bird photography in the Sarapiqui region. Perched right on the edge of a high bluff above the river, at tree-top level for the trees growing below, they get a unique mix of canopy and understory feeding birds. Montezuma’s Oropendolas (on the right in the panel) are easy to see in the Caribbean lowland rainforests of Costa Rica. They come to the feeders at Selva Verda Lodge every day, but the Chestnut-headed Oropendola (on the left) is much more difficult. Here, at Dave and Dave’s we had them both at the same time, only a few feet apart. I could not quite fit them in the same frame, but it was close. The Oropendolas are giant orioles, and make giant oriole style nests that hang 2-3 feet below supporting branches. The Oro in their name comes from the yellow tail feathers (gold), and the pendola comes from the hanging nests. Both the Chestnut-headed and Montezuma’s are striking birds. Their burbling liquid calls are one of the most recognizable sounds of the rainforests. Sony RX10iv at 560mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur Mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
The Stripe-throated Hermit, like most Hermit Hummingbirds, rarely perches where anyone can see it…or get a photo of it. Even field-guide photos are mostly flight shots. And, unlike the other Hermits, it is small…one of the smaller hummingbirds of Central America, so it is not easy to catch in flight. This is my best shot from 16 days in Costa Rica, taken at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Pavilion in La Virgen. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My custom flight mode modifications of Program. 1/1000th. Processed in Polarr.
Every visit with Cope, a self-taught artist and naturalist in the small village of Flores near Gaupiles, in the Limon provence of Costa Rica is a rare treat. He knows where the owls and Potoos and bats of the area are roosting, and the little sanctuary he has created around his home is always teaming with an unbelievable number of interesting creatures, from Helmited Iguanas and Wood-rails to many varieties of hummingbirds. This December he had a family of Three-fingered Sloths living in his heavily vegetated yard…a male and a female with a young baby. On the first of my two visits we got to see the female and baby, close enough so we could have touched them, moving along a branch near Cope’s little stream. This sloth has been called “Three-toed” in most references and by most people for years, but there is a movement now to change the common name to “Three-fingered”. Both Central Amercain tree sloths (not, by the way, closely related at all) have three toes on each hind foot. The difference is in the hands and number of fingers. As you can see in the photos above, this sloth has three fingers on each forefoot. On the second visit we were just getting out of bus after a successful search for Specticaled and Crested Owls (and tent-making bats) when Cope called us urgently to come see. The male sloth was moving in the vegetation above a narrow trail, crossing from one side to the other. It is very dark under the low heavy canopy Cope as created. I had learned my lesson on my first visit and brought a flashlight this time, so I was able to illuminate and photograph the sloth without disturbing it. We watched it for 15 minutes or more, as it made its slow way across. Like an accrobat in slow motion on the rings and ropes, it used the vines and branches to preform a series of moves somewhere between yoga poses and styalized dance just a few feet above our heads. Totally fascinating. We could only stand and watch in wonder. Sony RX10iv at various focal lengths…the close up is at 400mm equivalent from about 6 feet. LED flashlight for illumination. Anti-motion Blur mode. Processed in Polarr.
If you sit on the dinning hall deck above the feeders at Selva Verde Lodge on the Sarapiqui River in Costa Rica long enough on any given day, the Toucans will come. Yellow-throated Toucans. They were, until recently the Chestnut-mandibled, or maybe Black-mandibled Toucans, but the bird name gods have been at work, and somehow decided that Yellow-throated was better…despite the fact that the other big toucan in Central America, the Keel-billed Toucan, also has a bright yellow throat…as do several other South American species. Yellow-throated actually lumps both Chestnut and Black-mandibled into a single species with two races, divided north and south. These big, bright birds are emblematic of the tropics. Seeing them in flight it is hard to imagine how they manage to carry that bill out in front…but I am told that it is very thin and light. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur mode (due the very dim light at the feeders). Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
I went out on a cold January morning to see what I could see before the promised snow the following day. It was a perfect day for ice sculptures to form in the spray and splash of rapidly moving water. I found this in the outflow of one of the little ponds along Rt. 9. I am always amazed at the shapes water can get into. Sony RX10iv at 140mm equivalent. In-camera HDR. Processed in Polarr.
At Selva Verde Lodge on the Sarapiqui River in the Caribbean lowland rainforest of Costa Rica, we often met after dinner to go over the bird checklist for the day. The days were full, and photo processing time and sleep time were at a premium, but I was always tempted to do a little flashlight frogging on the way back to bunk. I bought a “daylight balanced” flashlight for this visit to Costa Rica, and it worked well both to spot and to photograph the frogs. I had to turn it down to low power for the photos…at frogging distance (4-5 feet with my 600mm reach on the Sony) it was too bright at high power. Anti-motion Blur mode on the Sony takes three images and combines them, while processing out some motion artifacts, so the results are pretty good. And, of course, photos of the Red-eyed Leaf Frog (sometimes called Red-eyed Tree Frog) are emblematic of Costa Rican wildlife. These were all taken within 50 feet of the dinning hall at Selva Verde, around the little ornamental pools they maintain. I will be returning to Costa Rica and Selva Verde next December with another group of Point and Shoot Nature Photographers. You should join me.