Thursday, July 02, 2009

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica 4

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.

Thursday morning, we retraced our route to La Selva Biological Station and met up with the station's head naturalist guide, Rodolfo Alvarado (Voice 1). Connie, Al and I benefitted a lot from Rodolfo's expertise as well as that of Alex and Clay (below), who helped us I.D. many species.

Our group briefly walked the same concrete path and encountered another trogon -- a Slaty-tailed -- before stopping to watch a poison dart frog as it called repeatedly. The red amphibian puffed up immensely before each call. (Did you know a group of frogs is called an army?) Then we got to feast our eyes on a Violet-crowned Woodnymph -- such a delicious hummingbird -- before crossing the river via Stone Bridge, named for Dr. Donald E. Stone.

Connie and Al Kogler of Loveland, Colo., on La Selva's Stone Bridge

The suspension bridge provided neat looks up and down the river, where crocodiles roam. On the other side of the river, Rodolfo used a green laser pen to point toward four lesser sac-winged bats roosting on a tree -- pretty cool. Along the paved path, a firebush attracted White-necked Jacobin and Blue-chested Hummingbird. Wow!

Rodolfo also showed me the hummingbird flower mites within a firebush flower. When a hummer feeds on the nectar inside a flower, the mites hitch a ride on the bird's bill to get to another flower and a new supply of nectar. Then we encountered more of the pendulous woven nests (below) created by Montezuma Oropendolas, the incredible birds spied with Alex Martinez on Wednesday morning.

Moving into the forest, we followed a paved path and spied a huge white moth flat against a tree, quickly followed by a bullet ant -- the biggest ant I've ever seen with reportedly the most painful sting ever. Continuing down the path, we heard Bay Wrens making a ruckus. The object of their loud scolding? A beautiful, yellow and black kingsnake.

Deeper into the forest, we enjoyed looks at Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant (very pygmy!) and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher before seeing these tree frog eggs on the boardwalk. I was fascinated by the gelatinous glob.

Then we walked into an area that yielded wonderful delights: Rufous Motmot (the species on the cover of WildBird's March/April issue!), Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, White-collared Manakin, Broad-billed Motmot and howler monkeys!

Here's a little taste of the rainforest for you:

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Blogger Mike said...

What a trip. How I envy you guys!

July 03, 2009 4:52 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

When I was in Costa Rica in 07 we hired Rodolfo for a couple days. That guy is truly a great guide.

July 06, 2009 2:33 PM  
Blogger silviazani1 said...

Love birds. unfortunately not a very expert birder...
i would love to invite you all to visit Samasati nature retreat (

July 15, 2009 1:17 PM  
Blogger Connie Kogler said...

Best thing ever. That was an amazingly fun trip. Loved it so much.

July 16, 2009 7:44 PM  
Blogger matthew said...

Wow - those frog eggs are SO cool! I can see why you were so fascinated by them!

July 20, 2009 7:37 PM  

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