Back to Costa Rica!
We left off at Talari Mountain Lodge, our first real birding stop of the southern Pacific slope of Costa Rica. The birding was great...mixed flocks, lifers everywhere, feeders and bananas to bring in frugivores. "Birdgasms galore" is a good way to describe the time we spent there. I highly recommend a night or two at Talari, especially if you haven't birded Costa Rica's southern Pacific slope before. The birding is not difficult and of fine quality...other non-photographed birds we had here include Black Hawk-Eagle, Double-toothed Kite, Orange-collared Manakin, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, and a quail-dove (Buff-fronted?) that I did not get to see.
Blue-crowned Motmots added themselves to our trip list at Talari. I struggle to find the correct words for this bird. Facemelting? Crippling? Blinding? Motmots (all species) are all fantastic birds...they are big, don't move very fast, and are not terrified of you.
Speaking of crippling, meet Bay-headed Tanager. A lot of bird photographers poo-poo the use of flash, but I sure am glad I used it here. Not exactly a brutal crush, but this shot gives you a good idea of what we have on our hands here. Absolutely stunning. Brilliant.
This not an uncommon bird in Costa Rica. You do not have to be a bird Jedi to find one. I am under the impression they don't come to feeders, but we had them in many mixed flocks.
As this male Variable Seedeater can attest, black and white is fashionable for birds in any environment, be it 40 miles off the coast of California or balls-deep in a tropical rainforest. In case you haven't been, this is one of the most abundant and widespread birds in Costa Rica.
This picture is utter bullshit. It captures a moment of utter bullshit. No one in our group knew what this bird was, no matter how long it sat still for. However, I should point out that Stilt did suggest the correct ID, which I incorrectly napesed. The bird is, in fact, a female Turqoise Cotinga, shot in someone's backyard across the street from Talari. I assumed that such a bird (males are some of the most stunning creatures on the planet) would be more partial to actual forest, but this target bird of ours did not give a fuck about my preconceptions.
Here we are idiotically scanning for Turqoise Cotingas right after actually looking at one. At least we were doing it comfortably (and the birding is very good around that deck). I don't know what Stilt is doing but she looks pretty pleased with herself. Dipper Dan is displaying constant vigilance.
After Talari, our next destination was Alexander Skutch's house. He is worshipped by many as a bird god. We got there in the middle of the day, which as everyone knows is the absolute best time of day to go birding in the tropics. Right? We got a few life birds (Rufous Piha, Baird's Trogon, etc.) but the birding was fair at best. Dipper Dan lifered some kind of obscure tyrannulet that was never seen again for the rest of the trip. I can see the potential for the site, but it was not a Great Success. Of course, it may have been a very different story had we got there in the morning.
I should mention that one of my favorite insects now is helicopter damselfly. They boggle the mind when seen in flight...they locomote through the air in a fashion I have never seen before. The fact that they are enormous insects greatly adds to the effect of freezing the brain. I think this is Megaloprepus caerulatus, but if you are a tropical insect nerd feel free to correct me...I tried finding some good flight video online but didn't come up with anything.
This is some kind of small wasp nest, which is attached to a tree trunk. It looked like the tree had a weird penis that wasps were going in and out of. It made no sense to me then, and no sense to me now.
Perhaps these strange insects, bizarre penile extensions, and unfamiliar birds are too much for you. To bring everyone back to earth, here is a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. They are pretty easy to find in Costa Rica during the winter months.
Not as easy to find but a billion times easier to identify, Laughing Falcons are hilarious tropical birds. They hardly seem to move and have disturbingly large heads. They are also loud as fuck.
We blundered into this Tropical Mockingbird pair between Talari and Skutch's. They made everyone very emotional...we didn't expect to get these birds so far from the Panama border.
As evidenced by the habitat visible in this photo, I imagine Tropical Mockingbird will still survive in the coming era of Post-Nature.