Thursday, June 17, 2010

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica, Saturday 3

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.

After our morning walk, the group enjoyed breakfast on the lodge's patio and watched familiar birds coming to the feeders. Then we noticed another visitor with an eye on the platform feeder's cut fruit. Moving very slowly and blending into the leaves, the emerald basilisk appeared intent on securing a meal...

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

but it eventually retreated from the feeder and into the leaves. This species (Basiliscus plumifrons) can grow up to 3 feet long.

After admiring him for a bit, we started walking toward the sugarwater feeders located deeper into the forest. The easy-to-follow path...

led our group into this lush and noisy environment...

Someone's keen eyes -- was it Cali? or Alex? -- spied two birds hidden well in the dense leaves. Everyone got to gaze on their still and stern visages, and then the photographers (from left: Cali, Alex and Clay) went into action.

The object of their attention: Crested Owls perched side by side. We didn't hear them call, but listen to the second recording here. Kinda cool.

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

Further along the trail, we reached the hummingbird feeders, which were being guarded by a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. (Is that a great name, or what?) The 4-inch hummingbird has pinkish-red feet and used to be known as Red-footed Plumeleteer. We also got to see a Green Thorntail, one of the cutest little hummingbirds with a white rump band.

Amazing what you see while walking through the rainforest. Doesn't this look like an alien?

Then we came upon a huge fig tree, full of activity and a mixed flock. Because of the experienced eyes in our group picking out movement and calling out locations, we got to see Wedge-billed Woodcreeper with its upturned lower mandible; Spotted Woodcreeper; Tropical Gnatcatcher; Golden-crowned Warbler (known for its whistle that ends on an up note; listen to the third recording); Ochre-bellied Flycatcher; Lesser Greenlet, a vireo that looks and acts like a wood-warbler; and Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, a 3-inch flycatcher that's barely bigger than its name. What an excellent tree.

After the flurry of activity, Jim and Dianne updated her list...

and we walked out of the forest and into an orchard that's returning to nature. A delightful stroll took us back to the lodge, where we enjoyed its hospitality before departing to San Jose. A seat on the patio gives you a view of the birdbath and the valley below; wouldn't you like to be there?

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