No trip to Orlando Wetlands Park in Christmas, Florida would be complete without an Alligator or two. They have some big ones there, and they are in the habit of hauling out at the water’s edge to warm up in the sun. On occasion they even get right up on the pathways. My rule is “never get closer to a gator than twice the length of its body” and don’t get close at all if you can help it. This shot was taken at 212mm equivalent from about 15 feet away…which was a little closer than I was completely comfortable with, but the alligators never even blinked as I edged by on the path above it. The worst part was that there was a Little Bittern in the reeds behind it, and I could not get a good shot of the bird without getting closer to the Alligator…such is life at Orlando Wetlands Park. Sony RX10iv at 212mm equivalent. My birds and wildlife modifications of Program mode. 1/800th @ f4 @ ISO 100. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr.
Back in Florida for the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival in Titusville. I got out to Merritt Island and Black Point Drive this morning and saw all the usual subjects except for Wood Stork. The Roseate Spoonbills, in full breeding plumage, were particularly cooperative. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My 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.
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.
We spent a few hours at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Pavilion while in the Sarapiqui region of Costa Rica. As I have said before, Dave and Dave, father and son, have created a rich habitat for wildlife and birds and an exceptional space for photography on the banks of the Sarapiqui River. They have feeders on the high bluff, at canopy level, that attract a wide variety of local species: from Toucans, through Tanagers and Honeycreepers, to hummingbirds. They also have a trail down the steep bluff to the river. It involves a lot of stairs up and down, and then, depending on water levels, a hike along the dry river bed. Sometimes the river is right at the foot of the stair, but the day we visited it was several hundred yards across river gravel and what must be an island at high water. Among the highlights of the hike down to the river are the Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs. They also have the much more common Blue-jean’s or Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, but Dave and Dave’s is an excellent place to find the Green and Black in high numbers. We found these in a brush pile near the foot of the stairs. According to Young Dave, the patterns are like fingerprints or Zebra stripes…no two are exactly alike. You can see that I have 5 different individuals here in the panel. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Anti-motion Blur mode to handle the low light and long zoom. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
One of the reasons I like to visit Cope, the artist and naturalist in the tiny village of Flores, near Gaupiles, Costa Rica, is that he always knows where there are Honduran White Tent-making Bats roosting, and he can generally find them. Tent making bats make a tent to roost in by chewing along the spine of large leaf until it collapses over them. They leave just enough spine intact to create a safe space. The rainforest where they regularly roost is full of such tented leaves and it is only a matter of checking enough of them to find one with bats inside. These shots were taken in the light of Cope’s flashlight, using Anti-motion Blur mode on the Sony RX10iv at about 80mm equivalent. It is a slow painstaking process to get in the right position for photography without touching the leaf and sending the bats flying, but Cope always seems to guide the whole group through it without disturbing the bats over-much. I always ask Cope to find us bats, and he has not failed in three visits, but his real speciality is owls and we were in the forest in search of Crested Owl and Spectacled Owl, both of which he also found for us. Bats are just a personal bonus for me. 🙂
I am back from 15 days in Costa Rica. I will, maybe, do a make up post in the next few days with some of the images I posted to Facebook and Instagram while on the trip. This is the Green Hermit, caught in the act at a little Soda (mom and pop restaurant) just over the continental divide in the Central Volcanic Range on the way from San Jose to Selva Verde Lodge. For $2.00 you get a cup of coffee, a slice of cheese quesadilla, and the privilege of watching birds coming into their feeders from the deck overlooking the San Francisco waterfall. Such a deal! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.
We spent the morning at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center in Weslaco Texas yesterday. It was overcast but the birds were still beautiful on the pond by the Visitor Center, there was lots of activity around the trails. This White Ibis is caught in a classic pose over its reflection. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. +1EV to deal with the bird silhouetted against the bright water. Processed in Polarr.