Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Red-bordered Stink Bug

A Red-bordered Stink Bug at the Villa Lapas Hotel in western Costa Rica. This species is found from Mexico to Argentina. It eats leaves, occasionally causing drop damage.

Like all animals, stink bugs have three choices in life: hiding, running, or fighting. When it comes to fighting, stink bugs vigorously shake their antenna and secrete repulsive chemicals. Stink bug nymphs are often guarded by ants. The nymphs pay for the ants’ service by secreting sweet droplets, which the ants drink. Stink bugs, nevertheless, are often preyed upon by various ants, wasps, and other bugs (Americaninsects.net).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Turquoise-browed Motmot

Turquoise-browned Motmots are found from southeastern Mexico to Costa Rica. This species is common and conspicuous, often perching in the open as it searches for insects and small reptiles. After a productive afternoon on 3 July in the Tarcoles District of Puntarenas Provencie, Costa Rica, we stopped for supplies and to arrange for a boat tour the next day along the Tarcoles River. We discovered a pair of motmots in the garden of a local store.

Motmots are strange birds. They have racketed tails that they swing back and forth like a clock pendulum. The rackets are formed because the feather vanes are only weakly attached to the shafts. The vanes are not plucked by the birds, but simply detach.

Both sexes sport elaborate tails. Males use their tails to advertise sexual fitness. Males with the longest tails have greater reproductive success. When a predator is nearby, both sexes wag their tails as a “pursuit-deterrent signal.” The predator is warned that it has been seen by the motmot, thus attacks will likely be unsuccessful (Wikipedia).

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Green-eyed Firetail

At the motel pond we visited in Tarcoles District in western Costa Rica on 3 July, we photographed several Green-eyed Firetails, Telebasis isthmica—a gorgeous damselfly. They inhabit temporary rain pools and marshy pastures. The species ranges from Mexico to South America.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Woodcreepers used to comprise their own family but many ornithologists now consider them to be a group of ovenbirds (Furnariidae) with stiff tail feathers adapted for tree climbing. Streak-headed Woodcreepers are found from southern Mexico to northern South America. They are common habitat generalists—they are happy in secondary growth and human-modified areas. The first photo was a glimpse of one at the Tarcoles ponds on 3 July. The second is from later in the trip at the Hotel de Campo near Caño Negro.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Common Blue-eye

We saw several Common Blue-eyes (Anatya guttata) around the Tarcoles ponds on 3 July in western Costa Rica. This image is of an immature female. The genus inhabits partially shaded ponds and other waterways (Cresswell).

These are interesting times for neotropical dragonfly watchers. As I have mentioned, dragonflies outside of the United States and Canada lack official common names. Dennis Paulson hopes all this changes in a few years when he publishes his guide to Costa Rican Odonata. Meanwhile, these dragonflies often have different common names. Paulson calls this one the Common Blue-eye, although, like many dragonflies, eye color varies among sex and age classes. Cresswell names this ode the Spotted Anatya—Anatya being the creature’s genus—which, offhand, means little to me. Perhaps a compromise of Spotted Blue-eye might be in order.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

We have seen Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Texas and Florida, where the species is common and expanding its range. This duck is also found in other southern states and in Arizona. Whistling-ducks used to be called tree-ducks, but the Black-bellied is far more often found in trees than are other species of whistling-ducks. Elsewhere in this blog I discussed how birds can sleep with one eye open. I wonder if the opposite eye of each of these birds is closed or open.

Black-bellied Tree Ducks were abundant in western Costa Rica. These two guarded one of the Tarcoles ponds. These ducks range south to northern Argentina (Dale and Thompson 2001).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tikal Spreadwing

A Tikal Spreadwing on 3 July 2017 at one of the Tarcoles ponds in Puntarenas Province, Costa Rica. The second photo is of another we saw later on our trip, on 15 July, at La Selva Reserve in Heredia Province. Tikal is the location of famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, and this species is found from southern Mexico to Panama. This spreadwing is common in many locations across its range

Tikal Spreadwings are found along shallow ponds and marshes in forested areas. They prefer regions that enjoy marked dry and wet seasons. Prolonged drought, however, and deforestation might adversely affect this species (IUC Red List).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Claret Pondhawk


Claret Pondhawks (Erythemis mithroides) are rarely recorded in the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. This dragonfly is found across much of South America, with an isolated population in Central America (Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras). At one time, the northern population was thought to be a different species. But subsequent study revealed that Claret Pondhawks are simply variable across their range (Paulson, per. com.).

Claret Pondhawks patrolled the Tárcoles ponds we visited on 3 July. This pondhawk and others we observed usually faced toward the pond centers—better to see prey and competitors. I am not sure to which population these Costa Rican pondhawks belong.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Squadron of Pelicans and a Red-banded Gull

What do you call a flock of pelicans? Google suggests a squadron. Considering the smell of a pelican colony, I find that answer somewhat fishy. How about a whiff of pelicans? 14 September found Erika and me at nearby Circle Lake as we took photos of American White Pelicans. A few gulls, Franklin’s and Ring-billed, loafed in front of the pelicans. I noticed one sported red bands on its left leg. A post to the Minnesota Birding FaceBook group drew this response: "Todd Froberg Hi All, I'm a graduate student at the University of Minnesota working on this project. Thanks very much for the report on RBGUs with red bands. They are part of a University of Minnesota study on presence of non-pathogenic avian influenza in gulls. Birds were banded at 3 colonies and at various landfills in MN. We have had reports of gulls we banded as far as Lake Erie and Lake Michigan so far this late summer/fall. The bird in the photo was probably banded at the Rice county landfill. One aspect of the study is to learn about gull movement among different locations in the state, particularly in relation to poultry farms, so your reports and photos are of great help and interest. For more info, send questions/reports to Francie Cuthbert (cuthb001@umn.edu).”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shadow Darner

During the last week, a large, dull darner hovered over our water feature. Each time, I ran for my camera, only to have the dragonfly disappear. Friday, 15 September 2017, I caught an image. This observation is not my first for a Shadow Darner in the backyard. In an earlier post, I commented about this species’s cold tolerance.

The species deposits eggs into “wet, rotting wood of a floating log or a partially submerged log” (Mead). This day the darner behaved strangely. It repeatedly returned to the dry, mossy edge of our artificial pond and appeared to deposit her eggs along a crease along the pond wall, The eggs seemed to be placed deep into the mossy mat about four inches above the high waterline.