Saturday, January 20, 2018

Great Curassow 2


The Arenal Observatory Lodge bird feeders hosted Great Curassows. The first photo is of a male. The second two are females, which come in three morphs—barred, dark and red. These curassows are found from eastern Mexico, through Central America, and along the Pacific Coast of Colombia and Ecuador. Costa Rica is one of the few countries where healthy populations persist. Elsewhere the birds are heavily hunted or captured for use as domestic fowl. Habitat destruction also threatens these birds. The Handbook of Birds of the World estimates that fewer than 40,000 individuals survive across their range.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Arenal Observatory Lodge


Although, as I said in my last post, I shake my head at the concept of building a hotel half-way up a very active volcano, the view from the Arenal Observatory Lodge is phenomenal. The lodge is surrounded by jungle and maintains active bird feeders, making it a birder’s paradise. Miles of nature trails wind their way through the forest and the lodge maintains large flower gardens.

Unfortunately for us, 10 July, was the rainiest of our tour. The weather cut down on the birds we saw and made finding dragonflies difficult. As you will see, however, we did not completely strike out in the wildlife department. The tour was planned for the rainy season, since this time affords the best dragonfly viewing when it is not raining. The good news is that we enjoyed fairly dry days for almost all the other days of our trip.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Turkey Vulture


A Turkey Vulture bade us adieu at the Ensenada Lodge in western Costa Rica. 9 July proved to be mainly a maintenance day during our expedition. I think I explained that our 18-day tour was actually two back-to-back segments. People signed up for one, the other, or both. When I proposed the trip to Erika, not only did she immediately accept the proposal, but she also proclaimed, “If I’m getting into an airplane, we are going to stay in Costa Rica as long as we can!” 

Erika, I, and two other intrepid souls were the only continuing participants. We drove to the airport in San Jose, let most of the group scramble for their out-bound flights, and waited to meet our new companions. Our destination that afternoon was the Arenal Observatory Lodge. I still shake my head at the concept of building a hotel half-way up the wide of a very active volcano. The photo below shows our approach to Mount Arenal.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

White-throated Magpie-Jay

White-throated Magpie-Jays joined us for breakfast on our last morning (9 July 2017) at the Ensenada Lodge in western Costa Rica. These birds are found from western Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica. 

The behavior of these jays is extraordinary. These birds form flocks comprised of a dominant female, her female offspring, and her mate. Young males leave the flock and randomly accompany other flocks, so long as the dominant female is not nesting.

The females in the flock feed the dominant female (their mother) and help her feed newly hatched young. A helper female occasionally attempts to nest, but she is not assisted by the other females in the flock—unless the dominant female’s nest fails. Helpers, however, occasionally lay eggs in their mother’s nest—the resulting chicks are raised by the group (Cornell).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stripe-headed Sparrow

Stripe-headed Sparrows are found in western Mexico and western Central America. Mexican birds lack the gray breast band. Erika and I saw several in small trees and shrubs along a roadside near the Ensenada Lodge in western Costa Rica on 8 July. These birds are the only New World sparrows that breed cooperatively, where offspring help fledge their parents’ subsequent brood (Cornell Neotropical Birds). Evolutionary biologists wonder why the young would sacrifice their own reproductive potential in favor of their parents. Presumably time spent “baby sitting” improves the young’s chance of successful reproduction when the young get around to breeding.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Blue Grosbeak


Blue Grosbeaks breed from the United States south to Costa Rica. They nest in shrubs along forest edges or roadsides (Lowther and Ingold 2011). Erika and I flushed this one from a roadside near the Ensenada Lodge in Costa Rica on 8 July 2017. Blue Grosbeaks eat arthropods and, to a lesser degree, seeds of weeds and grains. They are parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds in the United States and by Bronzed Cowbirds in Central America.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Banded Orange Heliconian

Banded Orange Heliconians are found from Mexico to Brazil. They are rare vagrants to Texas and Kansas. Erika took this image at the Ensenada Lodge, Costa Rica, on 8 July 2017. I was paying less attention to the abundant butterflies of the area. At the time, my plate was full of dragonflies and birds.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gulf Fritillary

I was surprised to find a Gulf Fritillary on 8 July 2017 at the Ensenada Lodge in Costa Rica.  I knew this butterfly from Key West, Florida, in 2011. The species is found from South America into the southern United States. They wander further north—there is even a record from central Minnesota (Butterflies and moths.org).

Friday, January 12, 2018

Little Blue Heron

Another oceanside bird at Ensenada Lodge on 8 July was a Little Blue Heron. I have previously posted in this blog: “Little Blue Herons come in all-white and all-dark plumages. Little Blue Herons are unique among herons in that these plumages are correlated with the age of the bird. Young are white, older birds are dark. A white young bird molting into its dark adult plumage is sometimes called a Calico Heron.”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Brown Pelican

Erika and I spent most of the afternoon of 8 July 2017 exploring the grounds of the Ensenada Lodge in western Costa Rica. We found a Brown Pelican guarding the end of a rickety pier. We were familiar with Brown Pelicans along the coasts of the United States. They range south into northern South America. Other posts on the species can be found by searching this blog.

Ogden Nash did not write the famous pelican limerick:


A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!


Instead this poem was written by Dixon Lanier Merritt (1879–1972). He was not only a poet and humorist, but also a founding member of the Tennessee Ornithological Soceity (Wikipedia).