Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica, Friday

Background info: WildBird offers its readers a really neat opportunity in every issue. The magazine poses to two questions in each issue, readers can respond to one or both, selected replies appear in a future issue, and one of those respondents receives prizes from Swarovski Optik and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt -- and the chance to win a Swarovski binocular and a trip to a birding hotspot as Birder of the Year. We've been fortunate enough to offer a trip to Costa Rica for three years, and the 2009 Birder of the Year recently returned from her trip.

As 2009 Birder of the Year, Dianne Patterson of Columbus, Miss., 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 “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America” from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Dianne, her husband Jim, Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik and I flew to Costa Rica in late May to bird with Clay's Costa Rican colleague, Alex Villegas. Aided by our driver, Rafael, we covered a fair bit of ground starting May 27.


Click on an image to see a larger version.


Friday, 5:30 a.m., Savegre Mountain Hotel in San Gerardo de Dota: Dianne, Jim, Clay, Alex and I meet to enjoy the dawn chorus in the cloud forest. Within 90 minutes, at least 17 species graced us with their presence; I say "at least" because there are no doubt other species that Clay and Alex heard or saw that Jim, Dianne and I didn't catch. Isn't this an incredible scene?


Thank goodness Alex provided his expertise to Dianne, Jim and me. By the way, some folks might think it looks odd for a birder to wear a stocking cap, bulky jacket and mittens (below) in Costa Rica, but at that elevation (7,220 feet), the temperatures run to the cool side. In fact, I packed silk long johns based on our Birder of the Year trip in June 2009.


Among the species that we enjoyed before breakfast: Flame-colored Tanager, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Collared Redstart, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Streaked Xenops, Common Bush-Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Dark Pewee (endemic and so cute!), Band-tailed Pigeon, Yellow-winged Vireo, Flame-throated Tanager, Acorn Woodpecker, Yellowish Flycatcher, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager and -- incredibly enough -- Mangrove Cuckoo.

One of the birds that delighted was me was Tufted Flycatcher. The cute 5-inch-long tyrant flycatcher perched often on a long twig and gave a bunch of high-pitched calls. I felt smitten by the little work of art.

Clay Taylor/Swarovski Optik Digiscoping.
Created with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD scope
with 20-60x eyepiece and Pentax K-x D-SLR with 50mm lens

While Clay remained snap-happy in the tree-ringed meadow, Alex led Dianne, Jim and me -- plus Shawn, a Boston native going to college in Ohio but doing research in Costa Rica for 2.5 months -- down the gravel path and past the "cabinitas"... where he spied a Black-faced Solitaire. The beak and legs looked luminous in contrast to its sooty feathers, and when it sang... oh my word.

Clay Taylor/Swarovski Optik Digiscoping.
Created with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD scope
with 20-60x eyepiece and Pentax K-x D-SLR with 50mm lens

Black-faced Solitaires create the most amazing sounds. They sound ethereal. Listen to these recordings on xeno-canto, and hear what I mean. (Be forewarned: The third clip has the background of loud rushing water.) Of the eight clips, the seventh song has become my favorite. Some day, I want to hear a Black-faced Solitaire as the ringtone on my cell phone.

After eating another tasty and filling meal, we soaked up more of the hummingbird action around the restaurant and patio. The same size as the Volcano Hummingbird, the 3-inch-long Scintillant Hummingbird sports an equally impressive name, no? Look at how sassy this little guy appears.

Clay Taylor/Swarovski Optik Digiscoping.
Created with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD scope
with 20-60x eyepiece and Pentax K-x D-SLR with 50mm lens


Even when clouds obscured the sun, we constantly saw rainbows in the form of Fiery-throated Hummingbirds. Endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, they look different from Magnificent Hummingbirds because the fiery-throateds have bluish rumps and bluish-black tails.



Clay Taylor/Swarovski Optik Digiscoping.
Created with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD scope
with 20-60x eyepiece and Pentax K-x D-SLR with 50mm lens

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