Birding from the Canopy Tower

On a recent Bird Walk at the Wilson Botanical Garden, our group of 10 climbed the Canopy Tower to look for returning migrants. Although we did not see any of those, we did see two Masked Tityras, spotted by Caroline Torres.

Masked Tityra. Photo by Mark W. Eaton.

Masked Tityra (Photo by Mark W. Eaton)

I’m not sure why but these birds always give me a jolt of surprise. Maybe it’s the incredible white plumage or perhaps it’s the bright pink orbital skin around the eye and face? Being close to them in the canopy was a thrill as their size is often diminished when they’re seen – typically high in the trees — from the ground. Here, on the Tower, we had the chance to view them at slightly lower than eye level, allowing us to experience them as striking-looking, big, white flycatchers.

When the Tower was inaugurated in May 2011 (click here to read more about this event), we decided to keep a list of all species seen and/or heard in the immediate vicinity. On our recent visit we added add two new ones to the Canopy Tower Bird List: Laughing Falcon (heard not seen) and Spot-crowned Euphonia.

Laughing Falcon (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

Laughing Falcon (Photo by Alison Olivieri)

The falcon’s resonant, slightly eerie call is described by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch in A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, as “. . . . a long, rhythmic series of loud, hollow notes with somewhat the quality of a child’s shout.”  The local name of this raptor, Guaco, is synchronous with its call so once you learn and hear it, you can be certain it’s a Laughing Falcon. It is well known that this bird of prey’s favorite food item is any kind of snake so they are cherished by local people and those of us who wish they would visit often and eat their fill.

Our female Spot-crowned Euphonia perched quite close to the Tower, affording some of the group excellent looks at her distinctive field marks of rufous forecrown and belly. Identifying this species is easy if you are prepared to do a little work with your field guide. The males are the only euphonia with yellow spots on the crown patch but, if you are looking from below, it is often easier to identify the female. This is a puzzle where the range maps in the Garrigues and Dean field guide (The Birds of Costa Rica) really come in handy. You’ll quickly see another species with similar markings on the female, Olive-backed Euphonia, but a glance at the map will tell you the Olive-backed is found on the Caribbean side and Spot-crowned is the bird you see here.

To date we have 67 species on this list and 10 birders have contributed sightings. If you are curious and would like a copy, don’t hesitate to contact us. Likewise, please let us know if you see or hear a species we are missing.

Thanks to Caroline Torres, Roni Chernin, Jeff Wick, Barb Barton, Judith and Joe Ippolito, Donna and Tony Pagano and their surrogate grandson Rolando for joining us on this walk.

Oropendola Colony Found in San Vito/Colonia de Oropéndolas encontrada en San Vito

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Sharp-eyed member Wendy Bernstein reported a new oropendola colony at the San Vito air strip.

Oropendola nests. Photo by Monique Girard.

Oropendola nests. Photo by Monique Girard.

If you drive from San Vito toward Sabalito, the pendant nests can be seen across the air strip about one-third of the way down the runway. They are hanging on the left side of a tree with the common name ‘Poro’ that attracts orioles, warblers, bananaquits, hummingbirds and more when it flowers.

We need to do a stake-out to be sure the birds are Crested Oropendolas! This species was first recorded here in 1999 having expanded its range from nearby Panama. Historically, San Vito had a population of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas but the newcomers routed them and are now the only species found in the southern Pacific region.

Nuestro miembro de excelente vista Wendy Bernstein nos ha reportado una nueva colonia que se ha establecido en la pista de aterrizaje de San Vito.

Si ud. viaja de San Vito a Sabalito los nidos colgantes pueden ser observados al otro lado de las pista aproximadamente a una tercera parte de la pista. Los nidos están colgando al lado izquierdo de un árbol comúnmente conocido como “Poro” que atrae además a orioles, reinitas y bananaquits, colibríes y muchos mas cuando esta en época de floración.

Necesitamos comprobar que estos nidos corresponden a Crested Oropendolas, una especie que fue primero contabilizada en 1999, habiendo expandido su rango de distribución  del contiguo país Panamá. Históricamente, San Vito tenia una población de Chestnut-headed Oropendolas pero los recién llegados las han desplazado y hoy por hoy son la única especie encontrada en el Pacifico Sur .




Mystery: a Missing Colony?

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On a recent birding trip to Rio Negro, we drove home through Sabalito, looking for activity in a site where we have reliably seen Crested Oropendulas nesting in the past.

Oropendula nests. Photo by Monique Girard.

Mysteriously, all the nests have vanished and not a bird was found.

More recently, three sightings of a flock of these beautiful and conspicuous birds have been reported in San Vito — one at Casa Botania, one at Finca Cantaros, and one flying over the Linda Vista bus stop. As many as 14 birds were counted, and in two of the sightings, several were carrying nesting material in their bills. A flock was seen in Sabalito, too, near the town center.

Our question is: where are they building their new colony? Please keep your eyes and ears open, and if you find them, please CONTACT US.

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En un reciente viaje a Rio Negro, manejamos a casa pasando por Sabalito, buscando actividad en el sitio donde siempre estaban las Oropéndolas anidando en el pasado. Misteriosamente, todos los nidos han desparecido y ningún ave fue encontrada.

Crested Oropendula. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Mas recientemente, tres avistamientos de estas hermosas y conspicuas aves han sido reportados en San Vito — uno en Casa Botania, uno en Finca Cantaros y otra en la parada de buses de Linda Vista divisada mientras pasaba volando por el lugar. Al menos 14 aves han sido contabilizadas y varias cargaban material para los nidos en sus picos. Una bandada fue vista en Sabalito, también, cerca del centro del pueblo.

Nuestra pregunta es: donde están construyendo su nueva colonia? Por favor mantengan sus ojos y oídos abiertos y si las encuentran, por favor déjenos saber pulsando este link: CONTACT US.