Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Nice Surprise

As it was a rare calm morning I decided to open a net in my garden - even though hordes of Blue Tits were mobbing the feeders as usual.  And was I glad I did?

The second visit to the net revealed these two jewels, both males fledged this year. As good as anything from the CR jungle, in my eyes at least!
Yes they're real!
TRG have previously ringed five Firecrests including last week's bird, all on the Teifi Marshes reserve, with two turning up in the same net once before, on Bonfire Night 2011.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

More from the Costa Rica highlands

The last of my Costa Rica photos to brighten a dull November night in Wales.
While we were here at the Costa Rica Bird Observatory Station at Madre Selva in the Highlands we were without internet so the end of the story still to tell.

This is the ringing table laid before the start of a busy day.
Migrant and resident birds are ringed with different rings so that means two sets of paperwork, rings and pliers. A journal sheet is kept recording which nets are used, weather, net round times, species caught, banders, visitors etc.The banding sheets themselves have more columns than the BTO red books including columns for codes of how birds were aged and sexed (in Spanish!)

The Optivisor is invaluable for studying the Hummingbirds caught. Species of Hummingbirds were all different to those we were catching on the Caribbean coast.
This Green Violet-ear was the largest.
 The White-throated Mountain-gems were the commonest species caught..
The bands are tiny and hard to read with the naked eye but retrap data is valuable as knowledge about moult and breeding cycles is still being researched.
This below is a Violet Sabrewing
Difficult to catch the iridescence but a very beautiful hummingbird including its tail.
An extra early start was needed to catch the following two species.
Firstly, a Dusky Nightjar which we understand had not been ringed before. They were often heard around the station but to see one in such detail is one of those priveleges that bird ringers have.
Here the wing being photographed for the CRBO archives of residents moult patterns.
The other bird was a Common Pauraque which are often seen around the lake at dawn. This was an adult female retrap ringed at the start of the year.
Another species of birds rarely ringed here were 2 Blue and White Swallows which roost under the eaves around the house. They pair for life and the two we caught were a male and female in the net together.
Flame-coloured Tanagers were the first birds to find the bananas on our newly built feeding station. We ringed this female
but not the bright red male who was often spotted in the pine trees behind the house.

The stay at Madre Selva was a wonderful but very different experience to our 6 weeks on the Caribbean coast. More resident birds and we didn't see snakes, Iguanas or brightly coloured frogs in our net rides but the variety of moths attracted to the outside light was fantastic considering the altitude of 2,500m.
This was the largest at over 5 inches,  Rothschildia sp.

This is Amastus Aconia
and this from the same family and also with a well-marked head - Amastus Suffusa.
The scenery in parts could be rural Wales

The mountain lakes are particularly beautiful.
Torrent Tyrannulets, Least Grebe and Black Phoebe were regularly spotted here.

While Richard spends another few weeks ringing with Ivan from Spain and Diego from Costa Rica...
I am back to the cold of a Welsh winter but that means the start of the lamping season. Last night we caught 2 Woodcock. One was a retrap from March this year having found its way back to the same field.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Yellow-browed Warbler

Following on from the excitement of catching a Firecrest last week we were very pleased to catch this Yellow-browed Warbler on the Teifi Marshes today in scrub adjacent to a reed bed.
A first for the group and a chance to study its identification features at close hand In particular the spotting of the ear coverts, a feature not readily seen through binoculars.
In a Hume's Leaf Warbler, the ear coverts are paler and less spotted and the dark shadow under the greater coverts formed by the base of the secondaries is narrower and less distinct.(Advanced Bird ID Guide - Nils Van Duivendijk)
Other birds out of the 36 caught today included 2 Lesser Redpolls, a Redwing, 9 long-winged & heavy Blackbirds and 8 Goldcrests.

Ochre-bellied, Olive-backed.....a good-bye to Cano...snakes and frogs

At our last ringing session at Cano Palma this morning, this Ochre-bellied Flycatcher was the final bird to be ringed.
 We caught three last year, only the second of this trip.

A noise that never leaves the lowland Caribbean forest is the wing-snapping of  male Manakins. Here is a close up of the wing showing the shape of the primaries that help produce the snap !

A male White-collared Manakin...
We regularly take photos of the upper and under wing, back and tail for research. Quite often we are handling species for which moult and juvenile/ immature plumage is poorly or in some cases not understood. Occasionally the text describes the nest as....""unknown....""
Here he is showing his tail...!!
We also caught a female Olive-backed Euphonia today - the first of the trip.
The birding highlight yesterday was a male Tiny Hawk found in the afternoon at Cano Palma Base Station. Hummingbirds are it's favourite prey !
We have recently caught a couple of species of which only one or two are ringed per year.
Amazingly our third Magnolia Warbler, another juvenile -
This immature male Spotted Antbird, a  good find, and also our third.
 The largest flycatcher we catch - a Great Kiskadee, large and always noisy in the surrounding trees !

Last night we took the opportunity to go on the weekly Cayman count. Success as usual with 20 seen from the boat but the highlights were other species including a Rufescent Tiger-Heron, a nice one for me !
 Snakes were the target (with license to catch and release) for Joan, one of our Spanish herpetologists. Seen here enjoying a Coke, and discussing our taste for British music from the late 70's !
Events on the boat exploded at 2135 and went like this -
Manuel spots a swimming Boa with his lamp -
We lose it, I pick it out with torchlight sliding up the bank -
Manuel parks ... the boat up the bank !! -
Joan scrambles off the boat .......

What a beauty, a mature female Boa Constrictor, length 2.07m.
Such a stunner........the metallic blue sheen was amazing.
A Tree Boa was also collected last night.
Back at Tortuga Lodge two days ago our ringing was affected by rain, we did however notice that "Wendy's pet"" deadly Eye-lash Viper had actually moved, and was now closer to our net pole. We have made our final visit to this site too !
 For those who haven't been introduced to the viper, it is in line with the shelf-string loop...
....and lets look a little closer.....
Oh what lovely legs you have......
Tomorrow our last day in National Parque de Tortuguero...and the plan is to go to the Pacific coast.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Teifi Redwings and Firecrest

Rather a chilly start to ringing on the Teifi marsh but a good early winter session with 33 birds caught.
The highlight was a juvenile Firecrest, the 5th ringed on the reserve since 2009.
Other species ringed included 10 Redwing, 3 Goldcrests, 1 Coal Tit (unusual for the reserve) and a Woodpigeon. Also a very fat male Blackcap with a fat score of 5 weighing 21.8g.

For anyone attending the Pembrokeshire Bird Conference tomorrow - we have a Teifi Ringing Group display so come and say hello and find out more about our activities.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Coral Snake....Night life on the jungle floor

The view with a light beam....
The Cano Palma forest...... where we have 16 net rides.
The following is a night-time wander with Joan and David, herpetologists from Spain, visiting the station and joining us for banding,... birds will follow !
The day-time beauty of the forest hides .....
  Tarantula sp. were not hard to find.....thankfully they are impossible to find during the day !
Different frogs appear at night too...this species of tree-frog, an unusually dull looking, but smiling one.
This Norops lizard - one of 150 species of Norops lizards. He must think he is rather smart when he inflates his throat ?  Below features a species of web-casting spider, it builds a mobile web....and uses it like a racket to catch prey...
A close up....amazing lines as ever with a spider....
Joan and David  wanted snakes..!!..This one from the night before...a Coral Snake.
 A very colourful example of this deadly snake....and our trio of night time trackers take a closer look in  daylight.
(left-right) Joan, David, and Manuel the expert local tracker based at Cano Palma Research Station.
This a Tree Boa, not the crushing power of the Boa Constrictors we found recently...but these are around too.
Just a couple of the c170 species of snake found in Costa Rica, and a tiny sample of life in the Caribbean Lowland Rainforest.
In the morning and banding at Cano. Interesting as ever, with Western Slaty Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and this, Chequer-throated Antwren, one of two caught.
A young juvenile, seems likely to have fledged outside the known breeding period..?

Today we finally caught our first Gray Catbird of the season !!
Hopefully not our last migrant species of the trip.....