Costa Rica birding applications revisited

by Harry Hull

Birding apps for Costa Rica have now been around for several years, and this post revisits the birding applications (“apps”) dedicated to Costa Rica’s rich bird life that I reviewed in March 2013: Costa Rica Birds Field Guide and BirdSounds Costa Rica. Both apps are now available for Android devices as well as Apple mobile devices—iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Another app, BirdsEye Costa Rica, has also become available since my first review.

costaricabirds-appCosta Rica Birds Field Guide, published by Birding Field Guides. $14.99 for full version, $2.99 for Basic version  for Apple iOS 8.0 or later for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. $9.99 for full version, $2.99 for Basic version for Android 2.3.3 and later. Size: 405 MB (full version); 206 MB (Basic). This app became available in January of 2012 in the iTunes Store, and is now also available on Google Play. It has steadily been improved as the publishers continue to add species, photos, and sounds. It considers itself the first digital field guide completely focused on birds that are seen in Costa Rica. (The publisher also has an app for the birds of Panama.) Michael Mullin, head of programming for Birding Field Guides, expects this app to make it easier for eco-tourists and birders of all levels of experience to identify and learn about Costa Rican birds with images, range maps, and text for more than 890 species. Vocalizations of more than 660 bird species are also included along with a search filter and other features. The latest full version now seems appropriate for serious birders as well as more casual bird enthusiast visitors to Costa Rica.

Basic features of the full version:

  • All Costa Rica bird species are listed. (The Basic version covers 360 of “the most spectacular and commonly encountered bird species”, appropriate for more casual birders.)
  • Photographs for more than 890 species.
  • Range map for each bird.
  • Description, including field marks and habitat for each bird.
  • Bird sounds for around 660 species.
  • Extensive search options, including searching by name, by “Group” (for example, “Barbets & Toucans”), by Family (for example, “Accipitridae”), and detailed search filters (for example, “Region” and “Stratum”; “Color[s] (2)” and “Size”, “Head Pattern”, etc.). [“Stratum” indicates whether the bird frequents the “Understory”, “Mid Canopy”, “High Canopy”, “Ground”, “Sky” or “Water”.]
  • New “Similar Species” feature allows quick comparison of field sightings.
  • Place for personal notes, recording GPS position, and ability to email notes.
  • Ability to access device’s camera and photos from within the app.

My take: Based on my use of the app on my iPhone, I find the data included in the app quite well organized and easy to navigate, with the search functions comprehensive and pretty intuitive; and the latest version of the app is very comprehensive, enough to be a digital substitute for a paper guide, especially if you’re only a visitor to Costa Rica.

birdsounds-costa-rica-appBirdSounds Costa Rica, published by Bernard Geling/BirdingApps (they don’t yet have a new website up and running as of this writing). $19.99 for full version, free for Lite version; requires Apple iOS 5.1 or later for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. The same price for the full  version (and free for Lite) on Android 2.3.3 and later. Size: 1.02 GB for the full version, slightly less for Android version; 69.5 MB for the Lite version. This app became available in January of 2013 in the iTunes Store, and is now also available for Android devices on Google Play. This app is dedicated exclusively to an extensive collection of bird sound recordings: there are no bird photos, range maps, or other data about the birds covered. According to the publisher, BirdSounds of Costa Rica is “the perfect complement to your paper field guide to the birds of Costa Rica;” however, the most recent version of the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app reviewed above has bird sounds for about 660 species, so some might not feel this is as essential as it once was. All of the sounds are included in the app, so there is no need to connect to the internet to access sounds or other content. This is why the full version of the app is in the hefty 1 GB range.

Basic features of the full version:

  • More than 2000 recordings for 764 species of birds found in Costa Rica, a pretty high percentage of the species found here, leaving about 80-90 species unrecorded. (The Lite version covers 133 recordings for only 30 species, clearly a teaser version.) There are multiple recordings for most birds.
  • Several playback modes, including ability to automatically repeat a single track or all of the tracks for a species. There are no annoying voice-overs identifying the bird or track number.
  • Extensive search options, including browsing by Group (for example, Tinamous, Pigeons & Doves; Parrots & Parakeets), by first or last name of the bird, or by typing in any part of a bird or species name.
  • A customizable list of favorite species for quick access.
  • A list of the 20 most recently accessed species.
  • Information behind most of the recordings, including where and when the recording was made and by whom.

My take: I’ve found the bird sounds included in the app of good quality, quite comprehensive and easy to access. The automatic repeat playback mode is really handy if you’re in the field and want to play the bird sound several times in succession without having to resort to the controls. While there are still about 10% of Costa Rica’s bird species not yet included, this is an app worth considering as an audio complement to your bird guidebook; however, now that the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app reviewed above has bird sounds for about 660 species, this app might be less compelling.

birdeye-costarica-appBirdsEye Costa Rica, published by Birds in The Hand. $9.99 for Apple iOS 7.0 or later; Size: 13.4 MB. This app became available in May 2014, after my initial review of Costa Rica birding apps, and I hasten to add at the outset that I have not yet used this app for reasons I’ll mention below. A “free” app for Android 4.1 and later–BirdsEye Bird Finding Guide–purports to do much the same thing but to also cover birding “around the world”; but “in-app purchases” ranging from $0.99 to $79.99 mean the actual cost for Costa Rica use isn’t clear.

This app is somewhat of a hybrid in that it requires an active internet connection in order to access images and bird sounds “for the first time”. (A companion Birds of Costa Rica Sound Collection data base can be purchased and downloaded from the publisher for $24.99 that can then also be installed on your device  via the BirdsEye Costa Rica app.) The description of the app on iTunes contains these caveats: “BirdsEye is not a field guide” (although it’s claimed to be “an indispensable field tool for finding birds”). The bird sounds accessible on the app “are available only for the migrants from North America.” And as mentioned, an active internet connection is required for to access eBird sightings for your location and “to download images and sounds for the first time. Photos are available for more than 95% species but are missing for a few birds that are rare in Costa Rica.”

One of the key features of this app seems to be access to the eBird data base that could give you “up to the minute” updates on species seen in your location. (The app is described as being “powered by eBird,” and all purchases of the BirdsEye app helps support the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, a good thing!) For all practical purposes, this requires that you to have a cellular data internet connection, something not that reliable in many birding areas and certainly not practical for most casual visitors to Costa Rica who don’t sign up for a cellular data plan during their visit. The description of the app also mentions the requirement to sign up for a free Birds in the Hand account in order to take advantage of some customization features (personal bird lists, etc.) and an optional $4.99 monthly BirdsEye Membership “to unlock all the media available in the app for each bird (new photos and updates available daily)” and other search and bird list features. It’s somewhat unclear if this membership requirement applies for access to the basic “media” (especially photos) for the app or only new media, whatever that might mean.

My take. Because the more straightforward Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app reviewed above requires no internet connection to use in the field (only to download from the relevant app store), I am not inclined to pursue this app further. However, if anyone reading this has used this app in Costa Rica, I’d welcome your thoughts. It’s certainly possible that by not personally trying the app,  I’m not doing it justice here.

Some last thoughts. In 2013, shortly after I wrote my initial review of these apps,  I ran into Robert Dean, co-author of Garriques & Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide, and he confirmed that an app based on this popular field guide is underway. One of his goals is that the app be as complete digitally as his field guide is in the print media, with the addition of other features such as bird sounds, photos, and access options that digital guides can so readily provide. Presumably, such an app will also include Robert Dean’s wonderful bird illustrations. I suspect that when this app eventually appears–and as of this writing, it still hasn’t–it will likely become the best Costa Rica bird app available.

A Little Citizen Science?

On three different occasions and locations this week I have noticed Baltimore Orioles sharing a tree with Gray-headed Chachalacas.

Could there be a commensal* relationship going on?  Are the Baltimore Orioles benefitting as the big, sometimes clumsy Chachalacas stir up arboreal insects and other invertebrates?  We see a similar type of relationship with cattle and cattle egrets, monkey troops and Gray-headed Tanagers.

Please contact me if you notice this Gray-headed Chachalaca/Baltimore Oriole affiliation:

president@sanvitobirdclub.org

Thanks everyone; Greg.

*Commensal–a relationship between two different organisms, where one benefits and the other is (seemingly) not affected.

 

2017!

A very happy New Year to all of our San Vito Bird Club members, family and friends.

Please continue to follow our activities and please remember to send us your bird photos for our Photos of the Week (POW) feature.

You may send photos (and also pay your 2017 SVBC membership dues) by following the links on our SVBC homepage.

I hope 2017 is a great year for all of you!

And as always, your donations are appreciated.

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Prospero y feliz ano nuevo a todos de nuestras San Vito Bird Club amigos, miembros y familia.

Y por favor…continua a enviar sus fotos por Fotos de la Semana (POW) contesta.

Y ustedes puenden pagar sus duedas aqui en el website.

Espero que 2017 es un ano magnifico!

Saludos.

Greg Homer/President SVBC

AMHelenandGreg,photobyJoDavidson

Helen LeVasseur with Greg Homer, photo by Jo Davidson

Pale-billed Woodpecker and Alexander F. Skutch — Foto Diarist

Local Club member and frequent photo contributor Gail Hull of Finca Cantaros recently published an interesting look at one of our most dramatic woodpeckers here, the Pale-billed Woodpecker. To see the full post and photos, click on the link after “via” below the excerpt.

I was walking in our forest on a hillside trail in mid-November and suddenly heard the characteristic drumming, just two loud knocks in rapid succession, of the impressive (14½” or 37 cm) Pale-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus guatemalensis). This is not a common sound, but coincidentally just two weeks earlier I had heard the same distinctive drumming […]

via Pale-billed Woodpecker and Alexander F. Skutch — Foto Diarist

Who are “The Taxonomists” (and what have they been up to lately)?/¿Quiénes son “los taxonomistas” (y qué han estado haciendo últimamente)?

After reading a previous article on this site about name changes for some of our Costa Rican birds, you are probably either cursing taxonomists or wondering who they are and what they do. Although we can’t help you control the first reaction, we can at least shed a little light on the second.

A taxonomist is a scientist who classifies organisms into various categories. Carolus Linnaeus developed the taxonomy for animals in 1758, and we are still using his system of seven levels today: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, species. As science and methodologies become more advanced, researchers find new information (through DNA testing, for example) that may change a species’ place in the taxonomic structure.

In the case of birds, researchers submit their proposals for taxonomic changes to the American Ornithology Union. The North American Classification Committee (NACC) for North and Middle American Birds is a group of taxonomists within that organization. NACC members review every proposal and determine which have sufficient merit to warrant actual changes to the taxonomy. Those changes are published once a year. We sometimes may be a bit perplexed by a name or classification change, but now at least we know that actual science is behind each decision.

Here are the changes to English and scientific names approved this year for Costa Rican birds:

Plain Wren has been split into three separate species.

  • Isthmian Wren (Cantorchilus elutus).
  • Cabanis’s Wren (Cantorchilus modestus)
  • Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni)

Gray-necked Wood-Rail is now Gray-cowled Wood-Rail

Three-striped Warbler is now Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis).

Blue-crowned Motmot is now Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessoni).

Green Violetear. is now Lesser Violetear (Colibri cyanotus).

Only the scientific names of the following species have been changed.

  • Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) is now Ardenna creators
  • Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) is now Ardenna pacifica
  • Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) is now Ardenna grisea
  • Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) is now Ardenna tenuirostris
  • Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) is now Cercomacroides tyrannina
  • Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) is now Tunchiornis ochraceiceps
  • Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus) is now Pachysylvia decurtata

References:

http://www.wildbirds.com/Identify-Birds/Bird-Taxonomy

http://www.americanornithology.org/content/aou-committee-classification-and-nomenclature-north-and-middle-american-birds

(From SVBC Taxonomy reporter Jo Davidson)

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Después de haber leído un artículo previo en este sitio sobre los cambios de nombre de algunas de nuestras aves en Costa Rica, usted estará probablemente maldiciendo a los taxonomistas o preguntándose quiénes son y qué es lo que hacen. Aunque no podemos ayudarle a controlar la primera reacción, podemos al menos ayudarle con la segunda.

Un taxonomista es un científico que clasifica organismos en varias categorías. Carolus Linnaeus desarrolló la taxonomía para animales en 1758, y aún estamos utilizando su Sistema de siete niveles hoy: Reino, Filo, Clase, Orden, Familia, Género, Especie. Conforme la ciencia y los métodos avanzan, los investigadores encuentran nueva información (a través de pruebas de ADN, por ejemplo) que puede cambiar el lugar de una especie en la estructura taxonómica.

En el caso de las aves, los investigadores envían sus propuestas para cambios en la estructura taxonómica a la American Ornithology Union (Unión de Ornitólogos Americanos). El North American Classification Committee (NACC) (Comité de Clasificación de América del Norte) para aves del norte y del centro de América es un grupo de taxonomistas dentro de esa organización. Los miembros del NACC revisan cada propuesta y determinan cuales poseen suficiente mérito para provocar cambios en la taxonomía. Tales cambios se publican una vez al año. Ocasionalmente puede que un cambio de nombre o clasificación nos deje perplejos, pero al menos sabemos que es la ciencia la que está detrás de cada decisión.

Aquí están los cambios en inglés y nombres científicos aprobados este año para aves en Costa Rica: Plain Wren ha sido dividida en tres especies separadas.

• Isthmian Wren (Cantorchilus elutus) (Soterrey de Panamá)

• Cabanis’s Wren (Cantorchilus modestus) (Soterrey Chinchirigüí)

• Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni) (Soterrey de Zeledón)

El Gray-necked Wood-Rail es ahora Gray-cowled Wood-Rail. Mantiene su nombre en español (Rascón Cuelligrís).

El Three-striped Warbler es ahora Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis) (Reinita Costarricense).

El Blue-crowned Motmot es ahora Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessoni). Mantiene su nombre en español (Momoto Coroniazul).

El Green Violetear es ahora Lesser Violetear. Mantiene su nombre en español (Colibrí Orejivioláceo Verde). Solo los nombres científicos de las siguientes especies han cambiado.

• Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) (Pardela Blanca Común) es ahora Ardenna creators

• Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) (Pardela Colicuña) es ahora Ardenna pacifica

• Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) (Pardela Sombría) es ahora Ardenna grisea • Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) (Pardela Colicorta) es ahora Ardenna tenuirostris • Dusky Antbird (Cercomacra tyrannina) (Hormiguero Negruzco) es ahora Cercomacroides tyrannina

• Tawny-crowned Greenlet (Hylophilus ochraceiceps) (Verdillo Leonado) es ahora Tunchiornis ochraceiceps

• Lesser Greenlet (Hylophilus decurtatus) (Verdillo Menudo) es ahora Pachysylvia decurtata

Referencias (inglés): http://www.wildbirds.com/Identify-Birds/Bird-Taxonomy http://www.americanornithology.org/content/aou-committee-classification-and-nomenclature-north-and-middle-american-birds Referencias (español): https://listaoficialavesdecostarica.wordpress.com/lista-oficial/ https://listaoficialavesdecostarica.wordpress.com/lista-oficial/lista-oficial-online/

(Desde Jo Davidson; especialista de taxonomia por SVBC.)

What Was That Name Again?/Qual es su nombre otra vez?

We have new names for some of our familiar Coto Brus birds.

  1. Next time you see a Blue-crowned Motmot be sure you call it a Lesson’s Motmot.
  2. When you see a Plain Wren in Coto Brus, call it an Isthmian Wren. But if you’re up in Guanacaste, call it a Cabanis’s Wren and call it a Canebrake Wren when you’re birding over on the Caribbean coast.
  3. The Three-striped Warbler still has three stripes but we must now call it the Costa Rican Warbler.
  4. When you spot a Green Violetear hummingbird, you’re now actually looking at a Lesser Violetear.

More to come on WHY these changes occur. Stay tuned.

(From SVBC Taxonomy reporter Jo Davidson.)

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Tenemos nombres nuevos de algunes aves de Coto Brus.

  1. El Motmot capa azul; ahora es el Lesson’s Motmot.
  2. El Plain wren? Ahora es el Isthmian wren aqui en Coto Brus; pero en Guanacaste es diferente—es el Cabanis’s wren y en el lado Caribe es Canebrake wren.
  3. El Reinita de tres rayas, toda via tiene tres rayas pero su nombre es el Costa Rican Warbler.
  4. Y el colibri Green Violetear—ahora su nombre es Lesser Violetear.

Porque los cambios? Mas vience pronto. Gracias.

(Desde Jo Davidson; especialista de taxonomia por SVBC.)IMG_2892.JPG

After the Storm/Después de la tormenta

We’ve had some very powerful and dramatic storms lately in San Vito, storms generating massive amounts of energy; energy enough to snap big branches off of trees and even knock over sizeable rain forest trees.

Should we look at this storm damage as a bad or negative thing? Absolutely not! One reason a tropical rain forest is so vibrant and diverse is because of this damage. A rain forest, you see, never gets too comfortable; never reaches a state of stability.

Instability and change are a constant part of a rain forest ecosystem. Storms, landslides and other natural environmental events do isolated damage, yes, but in so doing, opportunities are created for new plant species to join the club. Plant diversity follows damage; and bird diversity too!

Rain forest trees have a very shallow root system. It doesn’t take much to knock one over; and when a rain forest tree is knocked over a ‘light gap’ is created. This ‘light gap’ permits sunlight to reach a patch of ground where the full sun may not have shone in many years. Sunlight, as we all know, is how plants make their living, through photosynthesis.

Here is how a rain forest ‘light gap’ works; many rain forest seeds lay dormant until a ‘light gap’ appears and the sunlight warms and shines on them. Some rain forest trees grow to no more than a few meters and then stop growing until a ‘light gap’ appears and they are finally bathed in sunlight. Then, stand back boy…those little trees quickly shoot up to canopy height.

So when you hear that ‘CRAAAACK’ sound out in the forest…don’t despair; its just part of the natural cycle of diversity.

Also, my horticulturist friend and SVBC member Dave Janas, gets real jazzed when branches and trees fall down. This gives him the opportunity to go out and search for rare and seldom seen canopy epiphytes…like orchids!

Hemos tenido unas cuantas tormentas fuertes y dramáticas últimamente en San Vito, tormentas que generan cantidades masivas de energía; suficientes para separar ramas grandes de los árboles e incluso traerse abajo algunos cuantos árboles del bosque lluvioso.

¿Deberíamos ver los daños de estas tormentas como algo malo o negativo? ¡Absolutamente no! Estos daños son una de las razones por las que el bosque tropical lluvioso es tan vibrante y diverso. Un bosque lluvioso, verá, nunca está muy cómodo; nunca llega a un estado de estabilidad.

La inestabilidad y el cambio son constantes en el ecosistema del bosque lluvioso. Tormentas, deslizamientos y otros eventos de origen natural provocan daño aislado, sí, pero al hacerlo, se crean oportunidades para que nuevas especies vegetales se unan al club. La diversidad vegetal viene después del daño; ¡al igual que la diversidad de aves!

Los árboles del bosque lluvioso tienen un sistema de raíces muy superficial. No hace falta mucho para hacerlos caer; y cuando un árbol del bosque lluvioso cae, se crea un “claro de luz”. Este “claro de luz” permite que la luz del sol llegue a zonas del suelo a las cuales el sol no había alcanzado en muchos años. La luz del sol, como todos sabemos, permite a las plantas vivir, a través de la fotosíntesis.

Así funciona un “claro de luz”; muchas semillas de árboles del bosque lluvioso “duermen” hasta que un claro aparece y el sol las ilumina y calienta. Muchos árboles crecen solamente un par de metros y luego dejan de crecer hasta que aparece un claro y finalmente son alcanzados por la luz del sol. Entonces, mantenga su distancia por favor…esos pequeños árboles se disparan rápidamente a la altura del dosel.

Así que cuando usted escuche ese sonido de “CRAAAACK” en el bosque lluvioso…no se desespere; es solo parte del ciclo natural de la biodiversidad.

Además, mi amigo horticultor y miembro del SVBC, Dave Janas, se siente animado cuando las ramas de los árboles caen. Esto le da la oportunidad de salir a buscar epífitas raras y difíciles de observar… ¡como las orquídeas!

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The Solitaire/El Solitario

[An essay from SVBC Members and regular visitors Jeff Worman and Denise Dausey]

While on the every-other-Saturday San Vito Bird Club bird walk (this one near Campo Dos y Media), my husband Jeff and I were surprised hear the haunting lyrical call of the Black-faced Solitaire; puzzling since we were a good 4000 feet below the Solitaire’s natural environment.  We were soon immensely troubled to discover that the song came not from the forest but from a cage suspended from a nearby porch.  While making his urgent calls, the Solitaire flitted about the cage, frequently crashing into the walls in a vain attempt to escape.  As you can imagine, this caged beauty was a very disturbing sight for a group of naturalist/birders such as ourselves.

Simply opening the cage door and releasing the Solitaire was not the answer.  One, we didn’t want to anger the “owner” and two, the Solitaire would quite likely not survive in an environment other than its much cooler natural montane habitat.

For those who feel compelled to keep a caged bird in the home, we implore you; please enjoy the beauty of your native birds in the wild where they belong rather than imprisoning them against their will, unable to live out their lives as nature intended.  In addition, please consider initiating a discussion with those who keep caged birds in their homes so that they might give some thought to appropriately releasing these beautiful creatures to enjoy the freedom they deserve.  Thanks for listening – – – Jeff Worman and Denise Dausey

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[Un Ensayo de SVBC miembros y visitantes regulares Jeff Worman y Denise Dausey]

Durante una sabatina caminata para pajarear del Club de Pájaros de San Vito (esta cerca Campo Dos Y Medio), mi esposo Jeff y yo nos sorprendimos al escuchar el inquietante y lírico llamado del Solitario Carinegro (Jilguero); desconcertante dado que estábamos unos buenos 4000 pies [1200 m] debajo del ambiente natural del Solitario. Pronto nos sentimos severamente atribulados tras descubrir que la canción no venía del bosque, sino de una jaula colgada en un corredor cercano. Mientras hacía su desesperado llamado, el Solitario revoloteaba dentro de la jaula, chocando frecuentemente contra sus paredes en un vano intento de escapar. Como usted podrá imaginar, esta belleza enjaulada fue un inquietante avistamiento para un grupo de naturalistas/pajareros como el nuestro.

Simplemente abrir la jaula y liberar el Solitario no era la respuesta. Primero, no queríamos hacer enojar al “dueño” y, segundo, el Solitario probablemente no iba a sobrevivir en un ambiente distinto a su (mucho más frío) hábitat montano natural.

A aquellos que se sientan forzados a mantener un ave enjaulada, les imploramos; por favor disfrute de sus aves nativas en su ambiente natural – en donde pertenecen – en lugar de aprisionarlos contra sus voluntad, incapaces de vivir su vida como la naturaleza dispuso. Además, por favor considere comenzar una discusión con aquellos que tengan aves enjauladas en sus hogares de forma que tengan oportunidad de pensar sobre liberar apropiadamente estas bellas aves para que disfruten la libertad que merecen. Gracias por escuchar – – – Jeff Worman y Denise Dausey

solitaire

Happy Holidays! Felices Fiestas!

(Sigue en español)

Happy Holidays to All!

We hope you enjoy our beautiful 2015 Holiday Card — a unique greeting created by SVBC Communications Committee chair, Harry Hull.

To one and all, we extend very best wishes for warm and wonderful holidays and a good New Year to come.

From 2015’s Executive Committee:

Alison Olivieri, Greg Homer, Lydia Vogt, Fred Schroeder & Harry Hull

Click image to view full size. If viewing this on the SVBC website, then click the back arrow on your browser to return to this post.

Click image to view full size. If viewing this on the SVBC website, then click the back arrow on your browser to return to this post.

Those interested in seeing more ‘mandalagraphs’ can visit Harry’s photo blog at mandalagraphs.com

Felices fiestas a todos!

Esperamos que todos ustedes disfruten nuestra nueva tarjeta 2015 especialmente creada por miembro Harry Hull.

Esta tarjeta es una manera única y hermosa de extender nuestros mejores deseos de unas felices fiestas y prosperó año nuevo.

Comité Ejecutivo del 2015:

Alison Olivieri, Greg Homer, Lydia Vogt, Fred Schroeder & Harry Hull

Si quiere ver mas ‘mandalagraphs’, vaya al sitio web de Harry: manadalagraphs.com.

A Birder’s Bird

A guest “Viewpoint” written by Greg Homer, a birder’s birder who has led many trips to Costa Rica over the years. Greg and his wife Helen are our newest members. . . . .

It’s possible — even probable — that in the entire history of the world no non-birder has ever uttered the phrase “Ooh look, a Thrushlike Schiffornis!”.  But this wonderful creature, described by field guide author Richard Garrigues as “. . . a non-descript olive-brown bird . . . ” and somewhat more generously by the great Alexander Skutch as ” . . . not brightly colored”, is most definitely a joy to behold when seen by a birder.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Greg Homer, on deck at his new digs near the Wilson Botanical Garden.

Toucans, motmots, most parrots and many tanagers fall into a category of birds often referred to as Charismatic Avifauna (C.A.).  These birds are so colorful and/or charming that both birders and non-birders alike stop what they’re doing to give them a look. It’s extremely easy to love a Bay-headed Tanager or Fiery-billed Aracari.

But the Thrushlike Schiffornis most certainly does NOT fall into the C.A. category.  Not only is the Thrushlike Schiffornis non-descript and not brightly colored, it does not live a particularly exciting or charismatic lifestyle (at least not to all of us non-Thrushlike Schiffornises).  The terms ‘sluggish’ and ‘secretive’ and ‘solitary’ are often used to describe its behavior.  The song of the Thrushlike Schiffornis is unlikely to ever become a Top 10 ringtone.  And, on top of all that, there is the name — to me, ‘Thrushlike Schiffornis’ sounds more like a medical diagnosis than a bird.

“Mrs. Hartoonian, we have the results back on that culture we did on your eye.  You have thrushlike schiffornis.”

 “Is that bad?”

“Well, it isn’t good; but these days it is treatable with antibiotics.”

And get this. . . in my copy of A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch (first edition 1989), the Thrushlike Schiffornis isn’t even called a Thrushlike Schiffornis.  Back then it was listed as a “Thrushlike Manakin . . . which may possibly be a Thrushlike Mourner.”

When I was a kid back in the citrus belt of California, family, friends and neighbors used to look at me, smile and then tell my parents, “Well, there’s a face only a mother could love.”  And so it goes for the Thrushlike Schiffornis — a bird only a birder could love.