Monthly Archives: December 2018

Olive-backed Euphonia and Clay-colored Thrush

As we cruised down the Sarapiqui River in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica, we found the national bird of Costa Rica, the Clay-colored Thursh, keeping company with a pair of Olive-backed Euphonias as they searched for seeds or bugs among the mosses growing on the otherwise exposed bank of the river. The Clay-colored Thrush earned its “national bird” distinction because of its pervasive and melodious song, not certainly because of its physical beauty…the clay of the river bank shows just how aptly the Thrush is named. The Euphopnias, on the other hand, are all named for their clear pleasing songs…though they do tend to be more colorful. “Olive-backed” does not really do justice to the beauty of this bird, especially in contrast to the Thrush. This is a long distance shot, taken at 600mm equivalent on the Sony RX10iv and cropped heavily as I processed it in Polarr. Program mode with my custom Birds and Wildlife modifications.

So Emerald!

It was nice of the Emerald Toucanet to pose so perfectly in front of the bright orange flowers after the afternoon rains, when the colors are deep and true. We were visiting Batsu Gardens on the mountain-side above Savegre Mountain Hotel in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica…a must stop for anyone interested in photographing (or seeing) the birds of the Talamanca Mountains. The Emerald Toucanet is not the most sought after bird in this high valley…that honor goes to the Replendent Quetzal…but the fact that the Emerald Toucanet is an “also ran” here says something pretty special about the place. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom bird and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Honduran White Tent-making Bats

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. 🙂

First Brown Creeper in our yard

On Christmas Eve day I was looking out at the feeding station on our back deck behind the kitchen when I spotted a tiny bird on the deck below the feeders, gleaning among the fallen seed. It was a Brown Creeper, the first I have seen in our yard in over 20 years of living here in Kennebunk, and maybe only my third in Maine. It few off into the trees along the treeline between our house and the neighbors, where it stayed long enough for me to call my daughter Sarah, who is visiting for Christmas, to see scattering up a trunk. Yesterday it returned to the feeders…first on the suet and then on the fallen seed, and I managed a few shots of it before it flew off. It is apparently part of a mixed feeding flock which includes at least 6 Eastern Bluebirds, a Purple Finch (also a rare yard bird), White-breasted and at least one Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Downy Woodpecker, and numerous Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. Such excitement! But the Brown Creeper is the real treat. Sony RX10iv at about 800mm and 1000mm equivalent (600mm optical and bit of Clear Image Zoom). Program mode. Processed in Polarr.

Resplendent Quetzal

No one knows, exactly, what function the extended tail coverts on the Resplendent Quetzal serve in the male’s life…though the suspicion is that they are purely decorative…and serve only in attracting the right females. They loose them after breeding season. This male posed nicely in the breeze, giving us the full effect. Sony RX10iv at 3.5 frames per second and 600mm. Program mode. Assembled to an animated gif by Google Photos, and edited in ImgPlay. 

Animated Toucanet

Our brief stop at Miriam’s Quetzals, half way down the road from 11,000 feet on the PamAm highway, to 7000 feet at Savegre Mountain Hotel and Resort, did not get us a Quetzal (wrong season for Miriam’s Quetzal tree), but it did get us (the ZEISS Birding group in Costa Rica) a exceptional view of an Emerald Toucanet. Google Photos found this sequence of 3.5 frames per second shots from my Sony RX10iv, and stitched them into an animated gif, which I then edited and improved in ImgPlay. I have posted a still from this sequence previously, but I can’t resist posting the animated version. I mean, can you really get too much of an Emerald Toucanet? Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode. Processed in Polarr. 

Bluebird’s in the yard…

We have lived here in Kennebunk for 25 years, more or less, and we had the first Bluebirds in our yard two years ago, just about this time, for Christmas. They came all winter that year, and stayed for nesting somewhere in the area (though not in the box I nailed to a tree along the edge of our yard) and they came again the next year, and stayed with us through the first brood last summer…and then they were gone. We did not see them the second half of last summer or this fall. My daughter and I were discussing it as we drove back from the bus station where I picked her up for her Christmas visit. Then, she was standing at the back deck door in the kitchen watching the birds at the feeder and said, “Isn’t that a bluebird?” And, of course, it was. Four showed up over the next few moments, after I went out and shook down some mealworms for them in the feeder…2 males and 2 females (or immature birds from the last brood of the summer). So that is our little Christmas miracle for the year…or one of them. Having 3 of our 5 daughters home (my 7 daughters) and trusting the others are safe, and enjoying the day is another, as is the day itself, and what we remember on this day. Joy. Blessing. The gift of love in the baby Jesus…and, of course, the gift of love in Christmas Eve Bluebirds at the feeder! Merry Christmas.

White-necked Jacobin

This is a series of shots at 10 frames per second of a White-necked Jacobin Hummingbird, taken at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Pavilion in La Vergin, Costa Rica. Dave and Dave, father and son, have a wonderful set up for bird photography around their home, including a hummingbird feeding station that combines just enough feeders (with a low sugar content) to attract the birds, and enough natural nectar sources (with a higher sugar content) to keep them coming back and provide natural perches for photography. Google Photos found this sequence in images in my photo roll, taken with the Sony RX10iv, and animated it to a gif, which I then cropped and edited in ImgPlay, before re-saving it as a high quality gif and as a short video. Note the tongue 🙂 Dave and Dave’s is a must place to visit if you are in the Sarapiqui area of Costa Rica. 

Blue Doctor Butterfly

Pic for today: Blue Doctor Butterfly

We were on our way back from a hike in the secondary rainforest at La Selva Biological Station in the Sarapiqui River Valley of the Caribbean lowlands in Costa Rica when this amazing butterfly flitted across the path in front of us. We immediately started calling for John, the bug guy in our group, to come running and get a picture of it. It was like nothing either I, or John, had ever seen before…well, it was a bit like a swallowtail, but I had certainly never seen anything with this color pattern. It took a bit of searching when I got home, but I tracked it down as a metalmark, the Blue Doctor, Rhetus periander, one of three similar Rhetus species in Central and South America. Some authorities have it ranging from Mexico to Peru, some limit its range in the north to Costa Rica. It is generally listed as “common” in its range, but elusive. Amazing bug! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr. 

Bat Falcon

As we were driving down the Caribbean slope in Costa Rica, between the Continental Divide in the Central Volcanic Range and the Sarapiqui River valley in the lowland rainforest, our driver spotted this tiny Bat Falcon, waaaay over on a dead snag rising out what was left of the La Paz River canyon. I mean waaaaay over, barely a dot against the background foliage. I don’t have any idea how he spotted it. He found us a little margin on the side of the twisty mountain road and we pulled over to study the bird in the scope and take a few photographs. It was a long way awaaaay. These are the best shots I could manage with my Sony RX10iv’s 600mm equivalent. They are heavily cropped, and show the effects of all that air between camera and bird, but they are unmistakably a Bat Falcon. Bat Falcons are small falcons that live, primarily, on small birds caught in flight…but they also hunt bats and dusk, which is clearly where they got their name. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.