Friday, June 04, 2010

Birder of the Year: Costa Rica, Thursday

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.

Thursday gave us a volcano "hat trick" before noon. Although we weren't playing hockey or soccer, we definitely scored by seeing the smoking Turrialba volcano, Volcano Juncoes and Volcano Hummingbirds.

How often do you get to see volcanic ash forming a long horizontal cloud in the sky? The volcano erupted in early January and continues reminding ticos (Costa Rican natives) of its presence. While traveling south from San Jose through the Talamanca Mountains, we inspected the cloud during an impromptu stop along the Pan-American Highway (Hwy 2).

Click on an image to see a larger version.

That stop gave us our first look at the national bird, Clay-colored Robin, and a regional equivalent of House Sparrow: Rufous-collared Sparrow. (They seemed to be everywhere!) Slaty Flowerpiercer, an endemic that occurs only in Costa Rica and western Panama, also made an experience.

Continuing across Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death), we drove further and turned right at the "forest" of radio towers. There, we scored our second volcano: Volcano Junco. Such bright yellow eyes! The fearless, little endemic birds came within maybe 7 feet of us and created many photo ops.

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

Reaching 10,000 feet, we pulled into La Georgina with much anticipation. The mountainside restaurant maintains multiple sugarwater feeders, attracting gobs of hummingbirds for visitors' delight.

That's how we saw our third volcano: the endemic Volcano Hummingbird. The smallest (just 3 inches long) of the species at the restaurant's sugarwater feeders, the Volcanoes looked adorable in comparison to the much larger Magnificent Hummingbirds (5 inches), Fiery-throated Hummingbirds (4 inches) and Green Violet-ears (4 inches).

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

At La Georgina, I became intrigued with Large-footed Finch, quite appropriately named and another endemic; Hairy Woodpecker, whose tan breast threw me; Sooty Robin, another endemic; and the restaurant's new windows. Oh my word, the windows are such an improvement, and they slide open for wonderful photos and videos of the nonstop action at the hummingbird feeders.

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Blogger Melissa said...

How fantastic. I wanna go, too.

June 04, 2010 8:33 PM  

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