This Grey-tailed Mountain-Gem shows that you need to look at hummingbirds from all angles. One turn of the head and the bird takes on a whole new appearance. The feeders around Savegre Mountain Lodge are great for this species, and well worth the long drive into the valley.
Thursday, 22 February 2007
After Ranco Naturalista we headed for the highlands of Cerro de la Muerte. I'd been here before, but always felt that I'd not done the area justice. So this year we stayed a couple of nights at Savegre and it paid dividends. On arrival we checked the feeders near the hotel where this cracking male Scintillant Hummer was fighting off birds twice its size!
A short stroll into the forest from the lodge and you reach a very busy hummingbird feeding station. If you can drag your eyes away from the Snowcaps there's plenty of other stunners to look at. The Violet-crowned Woodnymphs (top) are pretty common here and spend a lot of time perching on the exposed twigs near the feeders. The chunky Violet Sabrewing, with its decurved bill, comes readily to the feeders but prefers to perch a a short distance away and low. The Green Hermit (lower) comes in for short spells but spends a lot of time very low on perches in the cover of fallen branches. This is one of the more vocal hummers near the feeders and spends a lot of time just "singing"(if you can call it that).
It's not just antbirds that attend the swarms; often woodcreepers such as Plain-brown (top) and Northern Barred Woodcreepers can be found nearby too. These birds remained almost motionless on some of the trees near the swarm for ten minutes or so giving great looks.
Finding an ant swarm is always a bonus in the Neotropics. We came across one on one of the trails at Rancho Naturalista and a few Immaculate and Spotted Antbirds were present. Suddenly this Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush popped into view and fortunately kept returning to the same little spot (where I got this snap, despite low light levels).
OK, I know it's a bit "fuzzy", but I never got a chance to go to the feeders with the camera in the best light conditions! Snowcap (like this male) is undoubtedly the star bird of Rancho Naturalista where we stayed for three nights. Despite a rather unfavourable report on the web of late we found the birding at Rancho great and the accommodation, service and food very good indeed. Other good birds at this site included Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Black-crested Coquette, White-ruffed Manakin, Scaly-breasted Wren and Yellow-throated Warbler (apparently a good "Rancho Record").
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Apart from all the tables laden with fruit at Vista Cinchona you have to keep an eye on the hummingbird feeders too! It's a great place to see Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliants, Brown Violetear, Coppery-headed Emerald and best of all White-bellied Mountan-Gems.
After a morning at Virgen Socorro I always spend an hour or so at Vista Cinchona before lunch. It's a great place with good views over some forest, waterfalls and best of all a great feeding station. These Silver-throated Tanagers are pretty common here but Red-headed and Prong-billed Barbets and Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanets come to the station. I usually look around in the trees for Golden-browed Chlorophonia and on the ground below the balcony for Sooty-faced Finch but we were in for a real shock this time when a Buff-fronted Quail-Dove walked back into the forest below us!
Today we visited the Caribbean foothills at Virgen de Socorro not far from Cinchona. It's an easy day trip from Selva Verde / La Selva and most groups tend to just spend a long morning in the area. Personally I'm seeing fewer birds each time I go there and others have said the same, explaining the the quarry workings are causing too much disturbance. In the past I've seen White-tipped Sicklebill, Black Guans and Blue & Gold Tanager here. Nothing as good this time but the forest always seems to produce Barred and White Hawks anyway. We made our way down to the river to look for Torrent Tyrannulets (which we found), but this American Dipper was a nice surprise as I'd never seen one there before. Don't know why - I usually see them nearby from the main road!
Here's another of the reasons you don't get far round the trails at La Selva! We spent quite a bit of time studying this Double-toothed Kite perched over the trail. I usually see these birds soaring around over the canopy with the white feathers on the side of the rump all "fluffed-out" (they often appear as white-rumped birds), or more rarely following monkey troops in the forest. Apparently they do this to pick-off any small mammals or birds flushed by the troop. A smart bird indeed.
Back to Costa Rica for the third time and what better way to start than in the Caribbean lowlands at the La Selva Research Station. We had a fair sprinkling of good birds on our way down to the lowlands including Black-bellied Hummingbirds at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, the usual Sunbittern in residence on the river at Selva Verde but La Selva was as usual the best. The only trouble here is that it's hard to drag yourself along the approach road and into the forest what with Great Green Macaws and others flying over! Anyway we made it in eventually with great views of White-whiskered Puffbird, Broad-billed Motmot, Red-footed Plumeleteer and of course this Black-throated Trogon.