Posts in Category: nature

Wood Rails at Cope’s

Russet-napped Wood-rail: Donde Cope, Gaupiles, Costa Rica — One of the highlights of a visit to Donde Cope, for several years now, has been the opportunity to see a Russet-napped Wood-rail up close. He had a pair coming to his tiny talapia pond. They stayed in the deep shadows on the far side in the back corner of the pond, but they were there. Perhaps because Covid kept visitors away for over a year, the Wood-rails have gotten much more bold. There were at least 3 visiting the pond the day we visited Cope…and they came right out into the open and on the near side of the pond. What a treat! Sony Rx10iv at 424mm equivalent. Program mode with multi-frame noise reduction. Processed in Pixomator Photo and Apple Photos. Equivalent ISO 6400 @ f4 @ 1/320th.

Right place, right time, ready!

Red-legged Honeycreeper: Donde Cope, Gaupiles, Costa Rica — When I teach wildlife and nature photography I tell my students that 90% of wildlife photography is “being in the right place, at the right time, and ready”. Donde Cope…Cope’s home in Gaupiles, Limon, Costa Rica…is one of the “rightest” places I can image. Cope has created a miniature bird and wildlife sanctuary on the tiny village plot around his home, where you can see and photograph birds, lizards, and frogs (and some years sloths) at incredibly close range. And most days are the right time to be there…some better than others of course…dry weather is nice (or at least not pouring rain…or maybe better, not dark rain), but then a gentle rain will make the birds more active, and deepen the colors…so, yes, most any time is a good time to be at Cope’s. That only leaves “ready”. And by “ready” I mean a whole bunch of things that the photographer can do, and should do, in advance…but I also mean the sum total of the photographers experience brought to bear on each moment. You need, of course, a camera that you are comfortable with and which you know well enough so that you no longer have to “think about how it works.” You either need to have set it up for a variety of situations, and have those settings stored for easy access, or you need to know how to set it quickly as conditions change. To my way of thinking the best camera is the one you have to think about least while taking photos. You need to be able to read the light well enough to know which program to set on the camera. At Cope’s the canopy is close and heavy, so light levels are always low. I set my camera for my “low light” program…which includes multi-frame noise reduction, and hope for the best. Then it is all about seeing the subject and framing. And taking a lot of photos. Birds, especially are always moving. You need to keep them in sight and in frame. Then you just press the shutter button and let the camera do its work (or that is my theory anyway). This honeycreeper, one of the brightest and most active birds at ground level in the rain forest, landed on a stump only a few feet from me. I got it in frame and shot off a series of photos. I have the focus set to a small movable spot in the center, which I trust to put the bird in focus if I can get it anywhere on the bird. Because you can not use multi-frame noise reduction and continuous shooting at the same time, taking multiple shots meant pressing the shutter button repeatedly while the bird was still in frame. All three of the shots I saved from the sequence are keepers. This is perhaps my favorite, and I, personally, think it is stunning! I love the color, the detail, and the dynamic pose. I love what it says about the bird…how absolutely Red-legged Honeycreeper it is! Just right time, rights place, and ready. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 561mm equivalent (I must have zoomed back a bit to keep the bird in frame, but that is almost instinctive at this point and with this camera, and I trust the zoom to be tack sharp at whatever setting I need). Program mode with my low light modifications. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. Equivalent ISO 6400 @ f4 @ 1/320th. (And again, I am confident enough of the my low light program to just let the camera do its thing…I did not choose those settings…the camera did. 🙂 So, right place, right time, and ready.

Waders of the Sarapique

Cattle Egret, Green Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron: Sarapique River, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: The Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, posted yesterday, was not the only wader we saw from our boat on the Sarapique River out of Puerto Viejo…it was just the most Costa Rican. The Green Ibis, I suppose, is definitely Central American, but the Cattle Egret, Little Blue Heron, and Green Heron could have been seen almost anywhere in the US. Still happy to see them, of course…anywhere, any time 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Pixomator Photo and Apple Photos.

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Sarapique River, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica: The most common and widespread of the three Tiger-Herons of Costa Rica (and Central America)…we found this one along the Sarapique River while on our boat safari out of Puerto Viejo. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. ISO 800 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Green Basilisk

Green Basilisk: Sarapique River, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica — You do see all kinds of things from the safari boat on the Sarapique and Puerto Viejo rivers. We came along side this group of Green Basilisks. We saw the adult male first of course…or rather our boatman, who is on the river every day, and knows were to look (as well as having a natural talent for spotting birds and wildlife, which he has demonstrated on every trip with him over the years) saw it. Only as we drew near in the boat did we spot the two females below the male in the tangle of branches (one might be an immature male??). The Green Basilisk is called the Jesus Christ Lizard by the locals, because of its ability to “walk on water”. It does indeed run across the water, moving fast enough and light enough not to break the surface tension. I have seen lots of Basilisks…in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama…but I have yet to see one on the water. Sony Rx10iv at 534mm. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. ISO 400 (females) and 250 (male), f4 @ 1/500th.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird: Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park, La Virgen, Costa Rica — Really, if I were a Scaly-breasted Hummingbird I would want to know if that was the best name they could come up with…I mean, “scaly-breasted” lacks a certain elegance, and really does not do justice to anything as refined as a hummingbird. Scaly-breasted indeed! How about “pale-green cowled” or “aqua hooded”? True, the Scaly-breasted is not among the flashier hummingbirds and is easy to overlook among the Jacobins and Rufous-tailed, the Hermits and the Plumeleteers, but it is certainly an elegant little hummer when you get a good look. Dave and Dave’s is the place to do it. Though the Jacobins do their best to keep all the other hummers away from the flowers, patience will pay off and the Scaly-breasted is a regular visitor. (Though Dave and Dave’s is called a Nature Park…you should not confuse it with anything like a zoo…it is a carefully managed persevere for birds and wildlife in their natural state, that offers great opportunities for close observation, but the birds and other critters come or go very much on their own terms.) Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 250 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Wet White-necked Jacobin

White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird: Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park, La Virgen, Costa Rica — Another shot from Dave and Dave’s. They put out fresh Heliconia flowers each day as perches for the hummingbirds that frequent the sharp slope and natural vegetation behind their home, where you can sit on the deck and watch and photograph the birds as close you could want. Even the pouring rain of the passing cold front that greeted us on our arrival in country, could not dampen the hummingbird’s sprits, or ours, while we watched them. White-necked Jacobins are the dominant species at this elevation and in this habitat, and they jealously guard their favored perches and the heliconia flowers. It is fun to watch the other species of the area make lightning raids on the flowers whenever they think the Jacobins have let down their guard. They zoom in a snatch a drink from the flowers. Oddly, it is rare to see the Jacobins actually drinking from the flowers. They seem more interested in making sure no one else does, than in using the flowers themselves. I like this shot of the wet and slightly ruffled hummer because it shows so much of the feather texture and detail. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 800 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Red-eyed Leaf Frogs

Red-eyed Leaf Frogs: Selva Verde Lodge. Costa Rica’s Best Chocolate, and, Danta Corcovado Lodge, Costa Rica — The Red-eyed Leaf Frog shares top billing with the Resplendent Quetzal as the emblem of conservation and ecological awareness in Costa Rica. You need, as our guide Edwin says, “a sexy” emblem to get people excited about conservation. People love Leaf Frogs. We always go out looking for them at Selva Verde Lodge one of our first nights there. This year the pond near the dinning hall, which is maintained specifically to attract the frogs, was under repair, so they were not as abundant, or at least not as easy to see, as they have been on past visits, but we still found a few on good perches for photography. The gallery includes a male and a female from Selva Verde, showing off the typical colors. I have included two frogs with similar poses, one from the Chocolate Tour at Costa Rica’s Best Chocolate, just across the road from Selva Verde in the Sarapique Valley of the Caribbean lowlands and one from Danta Corcovado Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in the Pacific lowlands. At first I was convinced the Osa frog was a different species, but it turns out there are at least 3 distinct color variations of the one species. They are all Red-eyed Leaf Frogs. The Pacific variety is not the one you see on the conservation posters, but it is still a great frog! Sony Rx10iv at various focal lengths to frame the frogs. Program mode with multi-frame noise reduction. Taken with flashlights (not camera flash) to disturb the frogs as little as possible.


Montezuma’s, Chestnut-headed, and Crested Oropendolas: Costa Rica — Golden-pendulums…Oropendolas…there are three in Costa Rica, and between our two December 2021 trips at least 4 of us (if you include Edwin, our guide, who sees these birds all the time) saw all three. The two common lowland Oropendolas are easy to see as high as the foothills (up into the the Central valley for the Montezuma) of the Caribbean slope. In fact the largest of the three, the Montezuma’s is pretty hard to miss. It’s bubbling, gargling call is emblematic of the rain forest, and its nest colonies, with up to 50 huge hanging nests (again “pendulous” nests) in a single large tree dominate many a ridge and clearing. Oropendolas are giant Orioles and it is perhaps easier to see that when you look at the nests. They are daily visitors to the feeders at Selva Verde Lodge along the Sarapique River. You can see their nest tree just across the road and up the hill. The Chestnut-headed is a somewhat smaller bird, and less common, but locally abundant and easy to see if you are in the right places. They come to the feeders at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park in La Virgen, not far from Selva Verde, and at Donde Cope’s in Gaupiles. These shots are from Selva Verde and Dave and Dave’s. The Crested is much harder to see. It is a South-American bird that just barely makes it up over the Costa Rican border in the far south-western corner of the country. It is locally common around San Vito. We saw this bird from the deck at the dinning hall at Las Cruces Biological Station (Wilson Botanical Gardens), but most birders seek out the well know colony trees just outside San Vito, only a few miles from Panama. Sony Rx10iv. Montezuma’s at 424mm equivalent. The others at 600mm. (The Crested is heavily cropped and enlarged for something more like 3000mm equivalent.) Montezuma and Chestnut-headed, Program mode with multi-frame noise reduction. Equivalent ISO 6400 @ f4 and 1/320th (Monte) and 1/500th (Chestnut). The Crested is Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. ISO 100 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Black Guan

Black Guan: Mirador y Soda Chinchona, Costa Rica — Big bird! The turkey sized Guans of Costa Rica and Central America are among the biggest birds of the region. The Black Guan, found at mid to high elevations is slightly smaller than the Crested Guan of (generally) lower elevations. And it is blacker. 🙂 The red eye and red legs and feet, and that touch of blue on the beak, are its only attempts at fancy dress. Though they are large, they can be hard to see, as they move through the forest, on the ground or, as I have seen them most frequently, up in the trees. As you can see, these photos were taken in the pouring rain of our first afternoon in Costa Rica. Sony Rx10iv at 470mm equivalent. Program mode with multi-frame noise reduction. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. Equivalent ISO 6400 @ f4 @ 1/125th.