Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica 3

Background info: In each November/December issue, WildBird subscribers have the chance to crown one of their peers as Birder of the Year. The candidates appear as Forum Birders and Backyard Birders in each of the previous five issues. The contest is open to everyone who responds to the questions posed in the Birder’s Back Yard and Lister’s Forum departments in every issue.

As 2008 Birder of the Year, Connie Kogler of Loveland, Colo., received a Swarovski 8x32 EL binocular and an expenses-paid five-day trip for two to Costa Rica with Swarovski and WildBird hosts. She also received a Swarovski squall jacket as well as “The Songs of Wild Birds” by Lang Elliott and the fifth edition of “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America,” provided by Houghton Mifflin.

Connie, her husband Al, Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik and I flew to Costa Rica in early June to bird for four days with Clay's Costa Rican colleague, Alex Villegas. Aided by our driver, Rafael, we covered a fair bit of ground starting on June 10.


After our refreshing stop at Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve on Wednesday afternoon, we drove to nearby La Selva Biological Station to explore the road that leads into the property. Originally a farm, the private biological station began operating in 1968 and typically receives more than 13 feet of rain throughout the year. Thirteen feet!


We leisurely strolled down the gravel road, absorbing the lush flora and the incredible birds. Much to Al's pleasure, we saw a nice trio of woodpeckers: Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker. We spied some juvenile Northern Barred-Woodcreepers, flamboyant Green Honeycreeper and zippy Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds.


Amid the excellent birds -- including Olive-backed Euphonia and Clay-colored Robin -- I enjoyed the extravagant vegetation. Can someone put a name to the silvery-green leaves above?


Those aren't levitating pieces of leaves above. Leafcutter ants are carrying those fragments back to their nest. The leaves provide food for the fungus that sustains the ants. I love watching the trails of farmer-insects as they carry leaves for what must seem like m-i-l-e-s. Here's a quick National Geographic video of them in action.


We ventured onto the station's grounds, spying Black-cowled Oriole, Bananaquit, Variable Seedeater and Gray-capped Flycatcher. Then we began walking this paved path...


where Rafael found a Black-throated Trogon. Our first day included two trogons -- excellent! What delights would we find on Thursday, when we joined a guide and explored more of La Selva?

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