Tuesday 29 October 2013

Forty days in the rainforest, Talamanca mountains next...

Today was our final day ringing in the lowland Caribbean Forest. Tortuga Lodge our final venue and it gave us a great send off with three new species for the trip.
First was this seven inch male Green Kingfisher, one of three kingfisher species caught and of five species seen in the lowlands. Tennessee Warbler and Thick-billed Seedfinch the other two new species.
We don't often catch the adult male White-collared Manakin, but one today. This species is the most commonly caught resident - 73 our final total.
We caught more Swainson's Thrushes than any other migrant species, with 502 ringed. Thrushes made up a large proportion of our numbers --208 Veery and 158 Gray-cheeked  in the total of 1568 birds caught, but we did ring 73 species. Below a Swainson's Thrush, and like all the thrushes, different races were recorded.

We haven't really mentioned flycatchers, and Costa Rica has over 70 species, we caught 14 of them !
This Great Kiskadee was rather smart..

Another nice flycatcher, this Great-crested Flycatcher.......
During our 40 days ringing...a few breaks
- To be invited on a 3 hour pelagic was great and some close up views of Brown Boobies and other seabirds, this a Royal Tern resting on drifting wood.

We lived next to18 miles of turtle nesting beach which produced several species of waders  with small numbers seen most days. This a Willet.
Tortuguero's famous Green Turtle nesting beach...with c180,000 nesting visits being made this year !
More on turtles when Wendy is home...we did spend four hours one night with the turtles - quite amazing....and....a stunning photo of a female Green Turtle returning to sea after egg laying with a few words by Ralph - our "Turtle Man"

 "The raw beauty of Tortuguero is unmatched by any other place I have ever been. If you are looking for white sand beaches where you can sit under shade and sip a cocktail with a miniature umbrella, it may be best to skip Tortuguero. But, if you are looking to quench that desire to feel alive, I believe this may be your place."
Ralph Pace, Field Research Co-ordinator

At our next location in the Highlands at 2400m, we guess we may have poor internet service, here is the link to our previous visit last November ...

...a taste of...Madre Selva

Sunday 27 October 2013

Costa Rica latest - more residents than migrants...

The peak of migration seems to be over with only 8 migrants banded today including our 50th Northern Waterthrush.
The emphasis turned to ant related birds at Cano Palma station in the forest.
A Caiman's eye view.....
as we arrive at Cano Palma for dawn after a 20 minute boat ride along the canals of Tortuguero.
The Caiman himself....
Back to the resident birds, the highlights today being 4 Chestnut-backed Antbirds, 2 Western-Slaty Antshrikes and this female Chequer-throated Antwren.
From Antwrens to Wood-Wrens....
2 White-breasted Wood-Wrens were caught today.
These are one of the most tuneful dawn songsters along with Stripe-breasted Wren.
Only two days banding left on the Caribbean coast before we head to San Jose and then the Highlands for 2 weeks. Our last banding sessions will be at our two other primary forest sites in the hope of studying more resident birds and also wonderful forest  butterflies and moths...
 Also other residents such as these Ghost Crabs who live in holes in this coastal forest floor.
From ghosts to phantoms...... seems right to show this picture again of this beautiful translucent forest butterfly, the Blushing Phantom.
Off to Parque Nacional de Tortuguero pre-dawn with a forecast temperature of  24°c at 5am for our one mile walk.....

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Eight gram Antwrens delight us.....but the Spadebill.....!!

Our 5am boat to Cano Palma, our ringing site for the morning, was greeted as usual by the combination of Short-tailed Nightjars, bats...and the cackle of Green Ibis..
An early net round produced two great migrant warblers, Our 3rd Worm-eating Warbler and our 1st Hooded Warbler.
 With the sight and sound of Great Green Macaws above the nets, Wendy found this little 8.0g gem ....
A female White-flanked Antwren....with flank plumes too...
Soon afterwards, Wendy returned from the nets with an 8.6g wonder.... a golden wonder !
 A male Golden-crowned Spadebill -  a species we are not familiar with.
A bird with a very descriptive name, and part of the Flycatcher family.
 The hat-trick bird next for Wendy ! This 7.6g male White-flanked Antwren, an amazing end to the session.

A morning which also included migrant species including Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, and Kentucky Warbler. The best other resident species a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper.
The photo to finish, a panorama of the scene that we see as we leave Cano Palma Research Staion via the canal back to Tortuguero.

Monday 21 October 2013

Frogs, snake and a Kingfisher...

Another day of banding at Tortuga Lodge in primary tropical rainforest brought us more than birds.
Our nets are set around a nature trail - the following net was put up as usual tied to a tree, a tranquil scene?

It was only later that one of the hotel guides told us that there was a deadly Eyelash Viper right next to the tree. If you look back at the picture above the snake can be seen lurking to the right of the tree low down.
It sat there for the rest of the morning so we were very careful when near that net ! It gets its name from the modified scales above its eyelids.
There had been some rain overnight that seemed to have caused an increase in the number of  Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs seen on our net rounds.
There were more ants around too so we weren't surprised to catch two more Chestnut-backed Antbirds but the day was quieter for migrants.
Continuing the frog theme, the night Security Guard at our base was delighted to show us a Tree Frog that he had  found.

And finally back to birds - this morning we caught a Green-and-rufous Kingfisher. Only a few have been banded here in the last 20 years. It is an uncommon resident of the Caribbean lowlands. According to Skutch (Birds of Costa Rica) its nest is undescribed.
Quite a bill...
Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Our days in Costa Rica are always full of surprises.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Our first 30 days in Costa Rica....Some totals

After our first 30 days, a complete list of our capture totals.
 Highlights are many, depending on your objective.

We have been targeting Catharus Thrushes with some great totals achieved. As on our last visit an amazing variety, with all birds caught using 12m mist nets.
The totals are shown in two tables, migrants  then residents. Due to the focus on migrants we haven't visited our  Highland sites, therefore a bias towards coastal migrants in these figures.

  We leave the coast on 29th Oct for the Highlands. The change in species will be almost complete, with maybe one of these residents species found at at high altitude, and a few of these migrants species captured so far.

The post wouldn't be complete without one of Wendy's photos, here a stinkhorn found next to a net ride at the Aeropuerto site.

Friday 18 October 2013

Ant-shrike to Coatimundi..

Another visit to Parque National Tortuguero, and the non-birds stole the show !
First, this fine adult male Western-slaty Antshrike with interesting moult typical of Neotropical birds. 
This caterpillar was only c30mm long, but when crawling into your data book.......hmmm !
A great find when Wendy went off on a net round....before the 1st net- this Coatimundi hiding around a tree.
 A short while after the Coatimundi, an Anteater up a tree, both were seen within 50m of aour banding station.
Howler Monkeys are the usual above the nets, so today for a change Spider Monkeys paid us some attention.
Our final bird of this session, an  Ovenbird. With only half a dozen of these migrants caught annually as part of this project, it was particularly pleasing to catch this adult in this primary forest location.

Iguana - action in our net rides

After 5 hours of standard net rounds we suddenly came across this Iguana apparently holding territory. With two nets beyond needing to be checked there was no option........
Iguanas around our base generally just munch the grass so this behaviour was quite a surprise!

Tuesday 15 October 2013

The unexpected in our Costa Rican net rounds..

Hanging above the nets, and dropping fruit and seeds into the nets - Howler Monkeys at three of our five lowland forest sites.

What we didn't need in a second shelf bouncing around - an adult female Montezuma  Oropendola, leaves and twigs everywhere, and an unpleasant creature to handle - we don't have rings for these either !
What find in the net at 2pm today, a great bird for the Costa Rican lowlands - this juvenile Magnolia Warbler.
This five foot of Iguana took offence to our path between net rides, amazing scene with that tail being thrown around, mainly in my direction....
Our first good bird of the day, a Yellow-bellied Eleania, common according to the field guides, but only one a year caught here.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Worm-eating Warbler starts our Costa Rican day..

After early morning rain, this 1st year Worm-eating Warbler was a great find in a net adjacent to the garden at Cano Palma ....
To end the morning, this 1st year female Bay-breasted Warbler was found neaby in the forest .With only a handful of records each year here this was a great find.
Today was another of migrant thrushes, with around 30 caught including our 2nd Wood Thrush of the autumn. Yesterday at Aero, our coastal scrub migrant site, this 1st year Common Yellowthroat our best find.
We now have ringed over 700 migrant birds during this visit to Costa Rica, and we are still finding resident species new to us. Below, a Tawny-crested Tanager caught at Cano Palma today. Little information exists on the juvenile plumage of this species, and one we have never seen or captured. The project records very few, and  maybe non for a few years.... 

Not only do the birds amaze us, this Giant Red-winged Grasshopper was along side the path back to our Sea Turtle Conservancy base. At 16cm long, a giant that thankfully keeps clear of our mist nets...
Just after dark, a security guard located a calling Great Potoo with torchlight, a great end to the day... 

Friday 11 October 2013

Chestnut...from forest floor to canopy.

Prior to banding in the National Parque de Tortuguero a visit is made to the Parque office to confirm with the rangers. As part of this hike we did manage to get great views of three Great Currasows ! Banding was slow yesterday, but we did band this fine adult male Chestnut-backed Antbird.
Our first Chestnut-sided Warbler too..
Today we were banding at our base, The Sea Turtle Conservancy, where we had a great day with migrants...more Chestnut-sided Warblers, our first Wood Thrush, and amongst the six Summer Tanagers this first year male Scarlet Tanager
Last night we took up an offer of a 4 hour night patrol with two of the turtle researchers......
....what an experience !  More in a dedicated posting soon.

Monday 7 October 2013

Tortuga Lodge.....more migrants than residents.

Deeper into the forest....and disproving my final comment on the last post, three species of Catharus thrush, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and  a Canada Warbler !
Joining our multi-national banding today, Blanca from Spain, and Juan, one of the Lodge wildlife guides.
Juan, releasing a Grey-cheeked Thrush, with Blanca learning the CRBO banding data requirements.
The resident bird highlight of the day was two Wedge-billed Woodcreepers.
Very difficult to age, sex etc, but a delight in the hand, this perhaps the smallest of the Woodcreepers with this unique bill and weighing only 13.7g.