We are enjoying an extended dry season down here, after an uncharacteristically rainy March.
So it is exactly the right time to avail yourself of this learning experience: a new offering from the Finca Cantaros Environmental Association.
One of our most productive and interesting birding sites, the team at Finca Cantaros is growing trees, managing a sizeable reforestation plot on site, running an environmental art project, installing a blind specifically for photography, and continuing its Women Caring for the Earth Project. Please offer your support to their ongoing work.
Erratum: alert reader and contributing photographer Jo Davidson noticed a slip-upin our last post. The flycatcher with the retort nest is a Yellow-oliveFlycatcher, not a Golden-olive Flycatcher.(In a Google search, it also comes up as a Yellow-oliveFlatbill.)
A new program called Caminata Matutina (Morning Walk) is being offered twice a month on Saturdays by the Finca Cantaros Environmental Association. These walks are free and open to the public, announced in advance on social media.
Recently, we were on one of these with Executive Director Lilly Briggs and Regent Biologist David Arias Rodrigues. While enjoying the sights and sounds of birds around us everywhere (*see a partial list below*), we were startled by one of the huge Caligo butterflies that display big ‘owl eyes’ on their closed wings. This astonishing creature rested obligingly on a tree trunk for several minutes, allowing the ‘Matutineers’ a chance to see it well in the telescope.
We also had great good fortune to observe two of the country’s squirrel species: Variegated and Red-tailed Squirrels, seen below in an old version of the invaluable Guideto the Mammalsof Costa Rica by Fiona Reid. Drawings 1-6 are variations on the Variegated version, more commonly seen in Guanacaste than Coto Brus, and the little one at bottom right is the Red-tailed.
An environmental art project created by the FCEA’s Women Caring for the Earth program has beautified and informed a rancho next to Laguna Zoncho. In the foreground below, one of the artists, Karla ‘Lita’ Esquivel, discusses the representative water birds painted onto the table tops with members of our group from Santa Teresa de Sabalito.
Just before we tap out our impressive bird list, we pay homage to the fascinating plant group called Costus, closely allied with heliconias, gingers, marantas and bananas.
And now finally to the birds — unusually busy at this time of year engaged as they are in local courting, nesting and caring for young OR eating as much as they can for the impending long migration to northern nesting grounds.
The morning chorus was in full voice and we were happy to hear Roadside Hawk, Tropical Parula, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Green Hermit, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Buff-rumped Warbler, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Gray-capped Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher and a newly-fledged White- throated Thrush with attending adults!
Does Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter ring any bells?
I’m back in CT, and raring to go! One look at the weeds, already six inches tall, reminds me that I returned two weeks later this year. I’m already that much behind with my Lettuce seeds and the other cold hearty veggies. I arrived to summer- like temps in the 80s and couldn’t wait to get things started.
While enjoying the Daffodils and Tulips in bloom, I turned over the beds and planted my seeds. it’s been dry and rain was expected. Exhausted but happy I got the job done, I went down to the end of the raised bed where the Thyme and Marjoram were. I wanted to trim them back.
To my surprise, I lifted the dead bits and found a nest with the four baby rabbits ! I caught two and one raced out and hid in the garden. The fourth, must have been Peter, stayed put. I found my have- a -heart trap and put them in jail! It sounds heartless, but each spring we have bunnies about, and these were big enough for their next adventure. I returned to collect the one who ran to the flower garden and added him to the trap. Back at the den, Peter had made a run for it and I couldn’t find him anywhere.
I jumped in the car with a brown paper bag covering the trap, a bowl for water, a piece of lettuce, and the nesting material from their den. Off we drove to CT Audubon Birdcraft Museum where I band birds. There is splendid rabbit habitat in a protected tract of land that is too small for Fox or Coyotes and is fenced for deer. I found a nice tangle, set up their new residence in the paper bag with the nest, and bade them farewell. I checked this morning and they are all gone , pruning the tangle and tasting spring grass, I assume. The Easter bunnies who stayed!
I’ve been waiting anxiously for Mrs.Common Tody Flycatcher to take up residence in the nest that took ages to build. Last week, all went quiet, no action for several days. I was sad, and kept looking as they are such adorable birds, so busy and friendly.
I was rewarded as I saw them back, but working on a new nest just 6 feet away. This time the nest is hanging in plain view from the arbor at the pool!
I figure it must be the same pair, birds being territorial when it comes to breeding. Could it be that Mrs. didn’t like the first nest? I know Wrens make several from which the female chooses. Is it another pair and the first abandoned the site? For sure a mystery that could only be solved if the bird was banded. This Bird Bander is frustrated!
I will have to be happy watching the action from here on!
You may have seen me, Greg Homer, along with a whole bunch of other folks sitting and standing along the highway lately…between the Pina Colina gate and the Las Cruces bus stop.
There is a very special tree leaning out over the highway and it is just full of fruit; aguacatillos, to be exact. These fruits (little avocados) are very desirable to many different kinds of birds. The larger variety of aguacatillo fruit found up in the cloud forests is often a good place to fine the Resplendent Quetzal.
The aguacatillo tree in question is just FULL of small (about the size of a green Skittle) fruits. And so…many of us have been camped out in front of this tree to view the feeding frenzy. A wonderfully diverse birding experience.
By far, the most common bird family feeding on these aguacatillo fruits are the Flycatchers (pecho amarillos). Flycatchers are challenging to identify; due to the great number of species and the similarity of their markings.
Bird watching at this aguacatillo tree has been a wonderful classroom; an invaluable opportunity to differentiate many of the flycatcher species. Subtle differences between:
*Streaked Flycatcher and Supher-bellied Flycatcher
*Social Flycatcher and Gray-capped Flycatcher
*Great Kiskadee and Boat-billed Flycatcher
*Piratic Flycatcher and Streaked or Sulpher-bellied Flycatcher
Somewhat of a paradox, eh? Flycatchers gorging of little avocados.
A good lesson for all us perhaps. Eat a varied and well-balanced diet.
Aquacatillo tree in fruit. Photo courtesy of Greg Homer.
Every September we look forward to the many species of migratory birds as they begin to arrive in San Vito. Their arrival helps us mark the passage of time. (In years past, the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition was another such marker of time’s passage.)
Now, it is April and so we must say ‘adios’, ‘goodbye’, ‘adieu’, ‘arrivederci’, ‘sayonara’, and ‘aloha’ to our avian chums as they head north (and some of them south) to raise their families; a long and perilous journey.
Be assured, we will keep the metaphorical ‘Welcome’ sign in the metaphorical window as we look forward to their return next September.
Tempus fugit (time flies).
Cedar Waxwings, northern migrant birds. Photo courtesy of Helen LeVasseur.
Five of us were birding together along the dirt roads of a tiny Mexican village near the town of San Blas—three to four blocks of makeshift houses, dusty yards, scruffy trees, blossoming grasses and bushes with the promise of maybe a painted bunting. Suddenly, one of the group let out a cry, “HUMMER!” We all converged to peek around a bush in the backyard of one of the houses in search of the flutter of a close-by hummer. Jane was the one who called it out. And for the rest of her life, Jane has never lived down the ignominy and spirited laughter of the rest of us when we rounded the bush and there found a contented pig, nuzzling a pile of garbage while gently snorting, sounding not unlike the familiar wingbeat of a hummingbird.
Relaxing on the sofa one afternoon, I spied a Golden hooded Tanager peeking in a hole below a Bromeliad, about 20 feet up. Then I realized that it was inspecting it for a nest. The mate sat on a branch above, awaiting the decision. Seems that she liked it , I was secretly crossing fingers, as today they were back but with bits of plant material in their beaks! Aren’t I lucky to have a front row seat to watch the action!
But wait, today I was at the pool and couldn’t miss a tiny Common Today Flycatcher weaving a hangy down nest from a branch only 5 feet above the ground! Only half done, it’s nearly in the same spot as last year’s. A lot of plant fibers and spider webs are holding it together. I’d like to be a baby rocking in that nest when he’s done.
It seems everywhere I look, new families have moved in, all furiously working on the new generation.
(from SVBC members and supporters, David and Audrey Fielding)
So, we were birding in the town of San Sebastian in the mountains just east of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, hoping to see Green Jays. It was morning and the birds were using the tree foliage off our porch as a highway to local fruit trees. Suddenly, we heard a cacophony of birdcall headed our way. The calls varied: harsh, tuneful, peeping, squeaky, mockingbird-like. And then, there they were! Green Jays, deep green, blue, yellow and black, hopping here and there. The same thing happened two or three more times, mainly in the mornings—first, the peeps and squeaks, melodic and just a bit mournful. And then the gang of Green Jays! We learned to listen for the morning concert, then run out to the porch to catch the Green Jay parade. We felt pretty smug about our ability to ID the Green Jay by its song.
. . . One morning, however, a brown bird we didn’t know perched directly in front of us on a branch and began singing the exact same song!Merlin helped us identify it—a Brown-backed Solitaire, famous for its song. So THAT was what we had been hearing—not the Green Jays after all, but the contrapuntal symphony of tinkling glass falling in minor chords of the Brown-backed Solitaire!. Who knew!!!
Green Jay and Brown-backed Solitaire photos, courtesy of David and Audrey Fielding)
We have exciting news to share with all our members from last Sunday’s Annual Meeting 2023. A unanimous vote cast by attending members forged a strategic alliance with the Finca Cantaros Environmental Association (FCEA) to present the ongoing Detectives de Aves education course in local schools.
It is a happy and natural fit. The sole mission of the FCEA is environmental education and, as you will see in the video below, they are coming at it in many different and innovative ways.
Your restricted gifts over the years to support this effort will be — as always — channelled directly to teachers, transportation and supplies.
Meanwhile, the San Vito Bird Club will remain involved and work closely with the team at FCEA. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments; we always want to hear from you.
Here is a message from Dr. Lilly Briggs, the Director of the Finca Cántaros Environmental Association:
Finca Cántaros Environmental Association (FCEA) considers the San Vito Bird Club (SVBC) one of its most important allies, and we are grateful for all the ways that SVBC members have supported our work. Learn more about how FCEA got started thanks to connections through the Club in the following video, and about how we are fulfilling our environmental education goals through the themes of forest restoration and birds.
We are very excited about the positive changes that this collaboration will bring to the Cantón of Coto Brus, and to all of us as well who have had the pleasure and honor to work together to build a better community.
You must be logged in to post a comment.