Wednesday 6 May 2015

Costa Rica

Following on from last year's successful tour, I co-led another Ornitholidays group to Costa Rica in March. We stay in five main centres, at various altitudes and on both Pacific and Caribbean slopes. In the mossy, cool forests of the highlands we found a pair of Resplendent Quetzals excavating a nest-hole. This is the male, but the female took turns too throwing out beakfuls of rotten wood. This is such a special bird that the Guatemalans have adopted it as their currency. However, they don't seem to value it much: one US dollar buys you (at today's rate) 7.74 quetzals! As the four corners of the photo suggest, I took this through the telescope. 

In tropical heat on the Pacific coast, our local guide Herman led us to a roosting pair of Black-and-white Owls at their day-time roost. They are strictly nocturnal, flying after dark to feed on large insects, small rodents and bats. This is another digiscoped image.

Back in the highlands, Herman took this portrait of a Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, a member of a small American bird-family more closely related to waxwings than to flycatchers. They feed more on berries than insects, and build a beautiful nest of mosses and lichens that is very well camouflaged with the branches that support it. It is the size of a thrush, but with long tail and pointed crest, quite a different shape. This species is one of over 100 that are endemic to Costa Rica and West Panama, though only three or four of these, including two hummingbirds, are strict Costa Rica endemics. 

Here the highland forests are much better preserved than in other Central American countries. Costa Rica, which has no army and so no military expenditure, directs an unusual proportion of its income towards the environment.   

The tanager family is huge and usually colourful. This is the male Passerini's Tanager, a common bird of open country on the Caribbean slope. The female is less brilliant, being olive on the back and orange-buff below. The male's plumage is a velvety-black, making a vivid contrast with the neon-bright scarlet rump. 

Though primarily a birding tour, we are always happy to watch other wildlife - like this Northern Tamandua. Sometimes known as Lesser Anteater, they feed on ants, termites and bees. Their long, sharp claws are designed to rip open termite nests. This one moved fast in the canopy, on a hunting mission. They are both diurnal and nocturnal, but on hot days they curl up in a ball in the canopy and sleep. I failed to capture any in-focus shots, but luckily Mark was more successful. 

This strange portrait of a Black Iguana or Ctenosaur is from Carara National Park, on the Pacific coast. These large lizards are great burrowers and climbers, often noisily clambering about on roofs (and sometimes falling off). They frequent fields and savannas more than forest, and are mostly vegetarian. However, birds' eggs and young are also on its menu.  

As for invertebrates, some Costa Rica species are huge. This is Rothschild's Silkmoth, which was attracted to a lamp and white sheet at a lodge on the Caribbean slope. Many thanks to Herman and Mark for the two photos; the others are mine.