Ringing and birding Summer 2017- plus an unexpected bonus in October.   Leave a comment

This post covers a few of the ringing and birding activities during the summer of 2017 plus a post script about a Dorset Mega in October.

 

Most of the birds we ring at Durlston and beyond are small passerines so I felt it would be useful for my trainees to get some experience in handling larger birds such as geese or swans. Fortunately we were all free to join the annual Canada Goose ringing session at Chew Valley Lake in Somerset.

 

Margaret, my trainees Ginny and Chris, Olly, another ringer from our group and I drove up to Chew Valley. Most of us went out on the boats to round the geese up. Unfortunately for the ringing program many of the geese were feeding in a shallow, weed filled area where the boats couldn’t get so the total number ringed/processed was smaller than usual.

 

As they moult most of their flight feathers simultaneously the geese are flightless in early July so using some well-practiced boat maneuvers, the flock was shepherded ashore and into a corral.

 

Each of us was handed a goose and we proceeded to the a table where the ‘scribe’, ably assisted by Margaret, handed out the rings and recorded the details.

 

Although they had never held such a large bird before Ginny and Chris managed very well and were able to close the large ‘L’ rings around the goose’s tarsus.

 

Chris enjoying his visit to Chew Valley. This may be a rather inelegant view of a Canada Goose but it is the safest and easiest way to carry one.

 

Closing a large ring on a large bird involves a very different technique to say ringing warblers or garden birds. Although an introduced bird, the monitoring the movement and population growth of alien species like Canada Geese is very important, so ringing these birds is so much more than just an outing for trainees.

 

In the end the ringers compared their ‘war wounds’, a torn t-shirt, a few scratches and a bit of (human) blood on your sleeve.

 

A Collared Dove was an unusual bird ringed in my garden this summer. This species naturally colonised the UK from the 1950s onwards and now is an established breeder throughout the country. However they were introduced to the Caribbean from where they have spread to the USA and in a very short period colonised much of North America.

 

Our ringing at Durlston commenced on the 19th July with local breeders like this  Common Whitethroat (note the grey head and pale eye of an adult)  ….

 

…. but the highlight was this 1st year Nightingale. As we also trapped an adult in the spring it is likely that the species has bred locally. Like many woodland birds Nightingales have declined markedly. Our ringing group had ringed 99 Nightingales prior to 2017 but none of those were after 1994 showing the scale of the decline.

 

Details of wing length, weight and moult status are recorded. This year a few Willow Warblers must have bred near or at Durlston as we trapped a few adults in moult as well as juveniles. Willow Warblers used to be common breeders but with climate change their range has shifted northwards. This bird is missing its 6th primary, a little tricky, as the exact shape of this feather is what proves categorically that it not a Chiffchaff. However there were enough other features to prove its identity beyond doubt.

 

One feature that is sometimes seen on young birds is ‘growth bars’. As a bird is growing its remiges and retrices (primaries, secondaries and tail feathers) in the nest, the quantity and quality of food delivered to it will vary depending on the weather. This can affect the growth of the feathers and as the feathers are grown simultaneously appear as a bar across the tail. Growth bars across the primaries and secondaries are usually much less obvious than across the tail. This Reed Warbler is notable because of the strength of the growth bars across all the flight feathers. It must pointed out that this is not a plumage characteristic of the species but an anomaly in this particular bird.

 

Of the more unusual captures, this Northern Wheatear was notable.

 

One of the features of ringing this summer/autumn was the capture of nine Nightjars, seven in August and two in September . All were juveniles and presumably were on migration, or at least undergoing making postnatal dispersal prior to migration as the species is not known to breed on the limestone grasslands and scrub at Durlston. Most likely we only discovered their occurrence in the park because this year we took to arriving on site that bit earlier, typically about 0430 in August.

 

On one occasion a Nightjar was trapped just on dawn so we were able to photograph it in what appears to be daylight. In fact it was still quite gloomy, I was just using a very slow shutter speed!

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Another benefit of getting the nets up before dawn has been the capture of a record number of Grasshopper Warblers. Most years we ringed 10-30 of these skulky little warblers, last year that rose to over 100, this year to over 200 with 65 on a single day. This huge increase cannot just be attributed to earlier starts, the species must have had a very good breeding season. We also had our first Grasshopper Warbler ‘control’, a bird ringed last autumn in Hampshire. We also ‘controlled’ a Tree Pipit, a Willow Warbler and two Reed Warblers, all ringed in various parts of the UK but our only Bullfinch recovery was a bird we ringed in the spring that was found killed by a Sparrowhawk in a garden less than a mile away.

 

I mentioned in my previous st that we visited London for the day. On our way from Victoria coach station to Trafalgar Square we passed through St Jame’s Park.

 

Many people think the only ‘wildlife’ in London parks are the pigeons but in fact a lot of wildlife lives there.

 

That said many of the wildfowl are introduced, if this female Smew had been seen on a reservoir in the east of the UK in winter it would unhesitatingly be treated as wild but in St Jame’s Park in July – no way.

 

The existence of free flying birds like this White-headed Duck (WHD) in ornamental collections confuses the true status of any potential vagrants to the UK. Before Ruddy Ducks escaped from captivity and became established in the UK, WHDs (away from collections) were very rare. The commoner Ruddy Ducks became the more vagrant WHDs were seen. Logic was that British Ruddy Ducks wintering in Spain were pairing up with WHDs and returning to the UK with them in tow. Of course it was this interbreeding with Spanish native WHDs that forced the UK authorities to eliminate the Ruddy Duck, but guess what once the UK Ruddy Ducks were gone then so were apparently wild WHDs as well. Clear evidence that those WHDs away from collections in parks etc were genuine vagrants from Spain.

 

Whatever you think of the status of wildfowl, there is no doubt that this Grey Heron was wild even if it was walking around on well used public footpaths.

 

Although I continued my ‘New Year Resolution’ to go ringing or birding every day, July wasn’t a great time for rare birds. A few nice waders were seen at Lytchett Bay but a highlight of early August was this American Bonaparte’s Gull that pitched up on Brownsea Island. Bonaparte’s Gull was not named after Emperor Napoleon but after his ornithologist nephew Charles.

 

Several weeks later, on 22nd August to be precise, we had a most unexpected treat when an another American bird, a Yellow Warbler turned up on Portland. This is migrates relatively early in North America and so seldom gets caught up in the severe weather systems that propel migrant New World warblers all the way across the Atlantic. However the remnants of a hurricane reached the UK just the day before and was undoubtedly the reason why the lovely bird graced our shores. Photo by Chris Minvalla.

POST SCRIPT

Nothing to do with summer 2017 but yesterday (17/10/17), only minutes after I had returned from a very busy morning’s ringing at Durlston I heard that a warbler first seen two days ago at St Aldhelm’s Head had been identified as a Two-barred Warbler (formerly known as Two-barred Greenish Warbler). So it was an immediate turn round and a quick return to Purbeck, the site is just 4 miles west of Durlston. The weather by this time had deteriorated, but in spite of the rain I had nice views but got no photographs. I left about 4pm by which time less than 20 birders had seen the bird. Along with the Yellow Warbler above this was a new species for my British and of course Dorset, Lists. Fortunately for twitchers across the UK it remained overnight and was seen by hundreds today. Fortunately my ringing colleague Chris and his father Tony saw the bird well and Tony has given me permission to use his excellent photo.

 

Two-barred (Greenish) Warbler – formerly treated as a race of Greenish Warbler, hence the inclusion of ‘greenish’ in its former name, breeds no closer than central Siberia from the upper Tungusta/Lower Yenisey rivers east to Sakhalin, northern China and North Korea. Although formerly lumped with the more westerly cousin it has been shown to act as a separate species in the area of overlap. This is about the 6th record for the UK but the first for Dorset. This ends a 30 year bugbear, I ignored reports of a ‘funny Yellow-browed Warbler’ on the island of Gugh, Scilly in 1987 only to find the day after I returned home that it was the UK’s first Two-barred! So it wasn’t just hurricane strength winds that occurred in mid-October 1987 and mid-October 2017. Photo by Tony Minvalla.

 

Summer 2017: a few trips away from home.   Leave a comment

As in 2016 I haven’t posted much to my blog during the summer and early autumn.

As I mentioned earlier I have lost all my edited photos from the Caribbean trip so haven’t been able to upload any of those, I spent much of July and August ringing and September was spent on a wonderful tour of Western Australia.

With my ringing paperwork up to date I’ll now attempt to edit the thousands of outstanding photos (outstanding in the sense that I haven’t touched them rather than that they  particularly good) that I have accumulated and get the blog up to date.

This post deals with a few non-birdy activities this summer (or rather should I say ‘less-birdy as birds creep in a bit)  and the next with the more birdy ones.

 

In early July we went up to Derby to see my brother and his family and then from there on to Leeds. The purpose of the visit was to meet up with my old friend Nigel (left) whom I have known since school and Uni days. Another friend from University is Dave (right) who lives in County Durham and caught the train to Leeds to meet up with us.

 

Nigel has a strong interest in art and as we all like a good stately home, we visited Temple Newsam House in Leeds which was quite near where I lived in 1976-78.

 

Temple Newsam is a Tudor-Jacobean house with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. The estate was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, was once owned by the Knights Templar (hence the name), was seized by the crown and given as a present by Henry VIII to his niece Margaret. Today it is owned by Leeds City Council.

 

One of the most outstanding features of this grade 1 listed building is this highly decorative staircase.

 

The ornate rooms, carefully shielded from the rays of the sun are what you would expect from a house of this antiquity.

 

Later we all returned to Leeds for a spot of lunch. When I lived there in the 70s Leeds was a drab northern town (although still full of character). Today it is lively, modern and beautifully decorated (for example by these owls on the side of high-rise building).

 

However the old arcades have been preserved and in many case improved.

 

Dingy back streets have been covered over and turned into beautiful shopping malls. I lived in Leeds from late 69 to early 78 and am amazed at its transformation.

 

A particularly dingy area was along the banks of the River Aire but now decaying warehouses have been turned into luxury flats and pedestrian access along the old tow-paths allows for a pleasant stroll by the waterside.

 

As with our last visit we stayed at a hotel just south of the river. The following morning we set off on a long drive to Essex. We stopped for a bit of birding in Cambridgeshire and then visited Margaret’s friends in Suffolk before arriving at her daughter Anita’s house in Maldon that evening.

 

Anita, her husband John and Margaret on a coastal footpath in Essex.

 

At the park in Maldon is the statue of Byrthnoth, a Saxon Earl who rejected King Ethelred’s policy of appeasement towards the Vikings. He fought and was defeated by the Vikings at the Battle of Maldon in 991.

 

The only bird photo in this post! Along the shore there were many Black-tailed Godwits. Nearly all the UK’s Black-tailed Godwits breed in Iceland, a few non-breeding birds spend the summer in the UK and in July these are joined by the first of the returning birds. At this time many are in their resplendent brick-red and grey summer plumage.

 

John and Anita had some business to attend to near Southend, so we went with them and took a walk along the seafront. Off shore several large sailing barges could be seen. In the distance is the Kent coast on the south side of the Thames Estuary.

 

The tide was out exposing a huge expanse of intertidal mud. This is an important area for wading birds but in early July relatively few had returned from their breeding grounds.

 

In the distance we could see Southend Pier, the longest pier in the world. On a previous visit we walked to the end of the pier and I posted photos of and from the pier on this blog.

 

Rows of beach huts, he stereotypical image of an English seaside resort.

 

On another day we visited the area around Tollesbury, which lie to the north of Maldon on the Blackwater estuary. Unlike Suffolk and Norfolk to the north the Essex coastline is dissected by multiple estuaries. These have created a large area of saltmarsh (much of which has been converted into grazing pasture) but fortunately some remains, as seen here . I don’t like the phrase ‘reclaimed land’ as this indicates that farmland was once ‘lost’ giving farmers  the right to ‘reclaim’ it, which is far from the truth.

 

An old lightship and Bradwell power station (on the south shore of the Blackwater) are seen above the expanse of salt marsh.

 

 

The many creeks are enlivened by some pretty villages.

 

 

Two days after our return from Essex I undertook a far less successful trip, this time to western Cornwall. Earlier in the year news had broken of an Amur Falcon in Cornwall, but it disappeared long before I had a chance to go and see it. On 17th July it was rediscovered at St Buryan to the west of Penzance and was even seen to go to roost. Two of my friends joined me for the 200 mile overnight drive. We arrived about 0400 and waited from dawn until late morning at this vantage point but there was no sign of the falcon. This is the second time that this highly migratory east Asian raptor has been recorded in the UK It was a real shame that we dipped, partially because of the wasted effort but mainly because unlike the first UK record in the north-east it was in an easily identified plumage and had shown very well the day before. Also there was no ‘back-up’ rarities in the area to allow us to claw back some value from the twitch.

 

Later in July we had a day in London, Margaret needs to renew her South African passport and this required a trip to the South African consulate.

 

Situated near to Trafalgar Square this involved an early morning bus ride from Poole and a lot of queuing and form filling. Even now this simple matter is not fully resolved.

 

We later walked past the fortress that is Downing Street. On a visit to London as a child I remember you could walk up Downing Street and take a photo of Number 10, how things have changed.

 

We spent the afternoon in the impressive Victoria and Albert museum (usually known as the V&A).

 

Even the cafe is a historical exhibit in its own right ….

 

…. but the reason we had come was to see the Pink Floyd exhibition which charted the 50 year history of the band from its psychedelic beginnings ….

 

…. to the bitterness and remorse of ‘The Wall’ ….

 

…. to the post Roger Waters period.

 

I first heard ‘Piper from the Gates of Dawn’ in 1967, saw Pink Floyd three times between 1970 and 1974 and have seen Pink Floyd tribute bands many times recently. I have all of their albums. I can honestly say that few bands have given me so much enjoyment or given me so much food for thought. In particular I have come to love the interplay between Waters’ acerbic lyrics and Gilmour’s angry guitar playing on ‘The ‘Wall and ‘The Final Cut’ albums. I never saw them perform ‘The Wall’ live and I will always regret that, but I’m glad I saw them when I did and delighted that 50 years on a three-month long exhibition about their timeline can draw tens of thousands of fans.

 

After the exhibition there was only an hour or so available to enjoy all of the other exhibits at the V&A. These beautiful medieval triptychs are but an example of the countless treasures in this wonderful museum. We must return and spend the whole day here.

 

In early August, planned to coincide with the so-called ‘glorious twelfth’ I attended Hen Harrier Day at Arne RSPB. The purpose is clear, opposition to illegal killing of our birds of prey. Year after year shooting interests openly flaunt the law (and in most cases get away with it) and slaughter birds of prey just in to prevent them predating their precious game birds. This is most acute on moorlands where whole estates have been turned over to ‘Red Grouse factories’, with every predator exterminated, wet areas drained (so increasing erosion and flooding downstream) and birds even fed with medicated grit to avoid infections that result from overcrowding. The result is a hundred-fold increase in grouse numbers all to the detriment to all other species – just so people can blast the grouse out of the sky!

 

This raptor persecution is wholly against the law as the Police Wildlife Crime Officer reminded us, yet it still goes on seemingly unpunished. Although Peregrines, Goshawks, Buzzards and even Golden Eagles are targeted it is the beautiful Hen Harrier that comes off worse. Most years only 3 or 4 pairs in England raise young whilst enough habitat exists for 300 pairs.

 

Every year a few stalwarts like Chris Packham (above) and Mark Avery speak at Hen Harrier events but I’m beginning to think they are preaching to the converted and a new plan is needed to bring this iniquity to a wider audience. Over 100,000 people signed a petition to call for a ban on driven grouse shooting but the parliamentary committee that looked into it swept the facts under the carpet.

 

Our final trip away during the summer was our (almost) annual trip to the Bird Fair at Rutland Water. This time we went up to Derby prior to the Fair to see my brother and his family. As well as meeting up with many people who I know, the main aim of the visit was to look into getting a new telescope. In the event I didn’t buy one but at least I know which one I want.

 

As well as visiting many of the stands and chatting to old friends we went to a number of talks. Perhaps the most interesting was from Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis who set a record for the most birds seen worldwide in a single year, an incredible 6,833 and gave an account of his non-stop race around the world.

 

Arjan got a lot of sponsorship for his record-breaking and was able to present a cheque to BirdLife International’s preventing extinction program of (I think) 24,000 Euros.

 

 

Costa Rica photos from Pete Morris   1 comment

As with summer 2016 I have been so busy with ringing and the resultant paperwork that I have little time for my blog. From late-July to now I have been visiting Durlston on most days when the weather permits and have made 22 visits so far, I have also done some ringing at our Lytchett Heath site on several occasions.

My intention was to upload a series of posts about my excellent trip to the Lesser Antilles and Trinidad. I had spent many hours sorting the photos and had cropped, edited, and labelled about 800 of the 2500 I had taken. I stored them all on an external hard drive and took it with me when we visited friends and family in early July, unfortunately I appear to have lost the hard drive! Of course I should have kept the edited photos in more than one place, but I’m afraid I didn’t. I can’t face going through them all over again but remain hopeful that the drive will eventually surface. Failing that I may go through the unedited ones and pick out some of the best for a quick summary.

However I have some great photos to hand. When Pete Morris of Birdquest, the leader of my April Costa Rica trip, sent out the trip report he included a CD of his photos and agreed that I can use them on my blog. Pete is an excellent photographer and uses top notch gear. By and large I have chosen birds that I didn’t photograph or ones where my photos were poor rather than just select the very best of Pete’s images. The pics are in alphabetical order, for chronological account of the trip see the multiple posts I uploaded from May onwards or for the full tour report and more photos see: http://www.birdquest-tours.com/pdfs/report/COSTA%20RICA%20-ULTIMATE-%20REP%2017.pdf

 

Admirable Hummingbird – fairly common on Cerro de la Muerta, a recent split from Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Banded Wren of the arid NW of Costa Rica, one of 22 species of wren on this tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Bare-crowned Antbird – a single male was seen at Arenal, Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Our bird of the trip – the seldom seen Bare-necked Umbrellabird. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

It took some searching but after a number of unsuccessful evenings owling in the Cerro de la Muerta area we finally tracked down a Bare-shanked Screech Owl at Monteverde. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Bicoloured Antbird, seen at Carara and Braulio Carillo. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-and-White Owl, why did I leave my camera behind when we popped out after dinner at Arenal? Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-and-Yellow Phainoptilia, fairly common on Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Black-throated Wren, it took a while to find one but it showed well when we did. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Blue-crowned Manakin, bathing in the stream at Carara NP. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Broad-billed Motmot, one of six species of motmot seen on the tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Boat-billed Heron. I took many photos of perched birds but never captured one in flight. Pete’s shot reinforces what a weird bird this is. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Cabanis’s Wren, one of a three way split of the old Plain Wren. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chestnut-backed Antbird, another rainforest speciality. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler a migrant from North America. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Collared Forest Falcon. Forest falcons are elusive and seldom photographed. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Chiriqui Quail-Dove, one of five skulky quail-doves seen on the tour. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Common Paraque, a very widespread nightjar with a range from South Texas to central Argentina. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Dusky Nightjar: unlike Paraque this species is restricted to the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Dusky-faced Tanager, seen at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

I mentioned in my final post that I almost stepped on the small but deadly Fer-de-Lance as I walked back from the restaurant at La Selva. Well here it is! Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Fiery-throated Hummingbird, hummers seldom show off all their iridescent colours in a single photo. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Golden-browed Chlorophonia, another beauty seen at Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Grey-headed Dove, a single bird was seen at first light at Cano Negro in the far north of Costa Rica. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Not much help in this photo. but the Large-footed Finch really does have large feet (can’t comment on any other part of its anatomy though) Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Lesser Violetear, formerly known as Green Violetear until it was split into two species. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture: similar to Turkey Vulture but with more contrasting wings, white shaft streaks, paler underwing and a more pronounced dihedral in flight, this bird flies low over open marshes. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Montezuma’s Oropendola, quite impressive in flight. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Northern Barred Woodcreeper. Of the dozen woodcreepers seen on the tour this has to be one of the most attractive. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Northern Royal Flycatcher, although I have seen the various ‘royal flycatchers’ on several occasions I have still to see one raise its weird laterally compressed crest.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Ocellated Antbird, one of the best of those skulking, understory hugging ant-thingys. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Olive-backed Euphonia, makes a change from the usual black and yellow colour scheme of euphonia. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush, one of five Nightingale Thrushes seen on the tour, species in the same genus as the more familiar Swainson’s, Hermit, Grey-cheeked etc Thrush of  the Nearctic- Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-billed Sparrow, another stunner – Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Orange-collared Manakin, there are few bird families that give as much pleasure as the manakins. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Pacific Screech-owl, seen at a day roost at Hacienda Solidar. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Red-throated Ant-Tanager, not a member of the Thamnophilidae like other ant-thingys, this one is actually a real tanager.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Rufous Mourner, a bird whose taxonomic affinities have moved around a bit through the years, once a cotinga, its now a tyrant flycatcher. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Semi-plumbeous Hawk, seen at La Selva as we walked to dinner. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Short-billed Pigeon, quite attractive when seen close up. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Short-tailed Hawk, a widespread species but always a pleasure to see. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Snowcap, one of the best birds of the trip. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Adult Spectacled Owl roosting at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Spotted Antbird, another forest speciality.  Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

We all saw this wonderful Spotted Wood-quail with its chicks but only Pete got any photos in the very poor light conditions. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Streak-breasted Treehunter on Cerro de la Muerta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

This Streak-breasted Antpitta eventually gave good views. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Owling at Esquinas produced this Striped Owl. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

A Sunbittern making an aggressive display to two Black Phoebes intruding on its territory. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, who says all woodcreepers look the same. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

A confiding Thicket Antpitta. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Uniform Crake: once again I left my camera behind because the light was bad and ‘crakes never show well anyway’. Well the light improved and this crake hadn’t read the instruction manual. Fortunately Pete was on hand with his mega-lens.- Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Vermiculated Screech-owl at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

White-collared Manakin, also at La Selva. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Wood Thrush, a beautiful migrant from North America. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

Although it’s not in alphabetic order I can think of no better photo to conclude this selection than Pete’s shot of an Osprey with a fish flying into the sunset. Shame there are no photos of the Zeledonia as that would be an even better (and alphabetically more correct) finale. Copyright Pete Morris/Birdquest

 

 

 

Posted August 31, 2017 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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U2 concert at Twickenham: 9th July 2017   1 comment

Even before their famous Live Aid performance 32 years ago I have enjoyed listening to Irish rockers U2. As well as appreciating their stirring music I like their crusading style and their attempts to tackle, both musically and practically, issues such as racism, poverty, human rights and the refugee crisis. I know this irritates some people who consider rich rock stars campaigning for the disadvantaged to be hypocritical, but I feel that the airing of these matters with a wider audience can only be of value.

Thirty years on from the release of the iconic ‘The Joshua Tree’ the band are touring to commemorate their most successful album. Originally the only date for the Twickenham Stadium (the home of English Rugby) was 8th July. I spent a morning trying and failing to get tickets but when they announced there would be a second date on the 9th I was able to get four tickets.

Originally we planned to stay with Margaret’s daughter Anita and her husband John in Essex and travel to Twickenham with them and return to Essex that night before travelling on to see other people. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons Margaret was unable to go, so my brother Simon came down from Derby to take her ticket and we met John and Anita there.

We arrived in good time at the stadium. We had good seats allowing a clear view of the stage. The huge video wall, 200 long and 45 ft high dominated the arena and dwarfed the performers.

 

Noel Gallagher and The High Flying Birds opened. I saw them at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2012, then they played new material, the only acknowledgement of the Oasis days was playing ‘Wonderwall’ for the encore.

 

On this occasion they included four or five Oasis numbers, including ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘Wonderwall’ and concluded with ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ which in view of recent events, Gallagher dedicated to his hometown of Manchester. This song that had everyone in the auditorium on their feet and singing the lyrics.

 

It wasn’t long until U2 started their set. To Larry Mullen’s rousing drum intro to ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ The Edge walked down the catwalk, getting a rapturous reception ….

 

…. followed by bassist Adam Clayton and finally by Bono. The band launched into their famous 1983 hit ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. The band have always been at pains to state that this is not a IRA sympathiser’s song and reject the call to the republican cause with ‘But I won’t heed the battle call, it puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall’. The effect on the audience was electric, everyone was on their feet, waving arms and singing along.

 

The band continues on the small stage with older songs like ‘Under a Blood Red Sky’ before moving to the main stage.

 

Some pictures of the band before the daylight faded: Bono and Adam Clayton ….

 

…. The Edge ….

 

…. and drummer Larry Mullen Jr.

 

One of their most celebrated of songs, the 1984 hit ‘Pride in the Name of Love’, a testimony to the life and death of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, was played whilst an extract from his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech rolled by on the video screen behind them.

 

As the light started to fade the whole video screen was fired up. Simon, who knows about these things, explained that this was possibly the largest and highest resolution screen in the world at a cost of about £1,000,000.

 

The theme of the Joshua Tree album is their experiences of the USA. Opening numbers such as ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ and ‘With Or Without You’ were played against stunning moving images of the American west ….

 

…. or close up images of a Joshua Tree.

 

Of course many images of Joshua Trees, those stark and beautiful icons of the Mojave Desert, appeared on the screen ….

 

…. in a variety of colours!

 

Other images included this huge red moon, but one of my favourite numbers, the celebrated ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’, a tirade against USA military infiltration of El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 80s, was played against images of American citizens of all ages, races, and classes simply putting on and taking off a tin helmet.

 

Bono was at pains to thank the producer of ‘The Joshua Tree’, ex Roxy Music star Brian Eno, without whom he declared there would be no album. Brian Eno is a great unsung hero of modern music and his album ‘Here Comes The Warm Jets’ along with ‘The Joshua Tree’ would be in my top 50 albums of all time. As the show progressed they played the less well know songs from the album, such as ‘Exit’, Bono’s attempt to get inside the mind of a serial killer. The harsh, distorted sound of Edge’s guitar set against black and white, blurred and jumbled imagery was particularly effective.

 

With ‘The Joshua Tree’ played from beginning to end the band took a short break and returned for 45 minutes of encores. They also returned to their campaigning style and to the tune of ‘Beautiful Day’ showed the story of a girl from Syria who dreams of being a lawyer but is instead imprisoned inside a refugee camp in Jordan.

 

In a great piece of showmanship a giant portrait of the girl was unfolded and passed across the heads of the crowd ….

 

…. whilst the band played on under her enormously magnified gaze.

 

The encores continued with such classics as ‘Elevation and ‘Ultraviolet’ but by now it was clear that Bono was losing his voice, and was singing out of tune, the only downside to an otherwise perfect concert.

 

The video screen continued to amaze whether it showed a riot of colour ….

 

…. or separate images merged together of the band playing.

 

Of course there was the inevitable ‘carefully vetted yet randomly selected’ member of the audience invited up to dance ….

 

…. whilst Bono filmed her and video grabs were posted on the screen.

 

Now fully dark the concert venue just glowed with the light of the screen.

 

During the latter songs such as the moving and poignant ‘One’ U2 promoted the rights of women ….

 

…. and the effects of poverty on women’s lives.

 

The age of people holding up lighters during quiet songs is over, ‘One’ was played out to a backdrop of thousands of mobile phones being waved in the air.

 

U2 chose to end the show with an unreleased song ‘The Little Things That Give You Away’. It had been a great show, one of the best, marred only by Bono losing his voice towards the end, the volume being little bit too high for comfort and the acoustics of the stadium preventing me from hearing announcements clearly.

Getting back wasn’t too difficult in spite of a section of the M3 being closed and I was home by 0045.

When I retired I said that seeing Bruce Springsteen, Muse, Bob Dylan and U2 were on my ‘bucket list’. Now I have seen all four. The Dylan concert I think was the worst, as it had no emotional impact. It’s hard to judge which of the remaining three I enjoyed the most, but this U2 concert was, as this extended post shows, the most spectacular.

Posted July 11, 2017 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Birthday birds: species I have seen on my birthday over the past 40 years.   Leave a comment

I have recently returned from a trip to the Lesser Antilles Islands in the Caribbean. As always it will be a while until I have sorted, edited and labelled my many photos but in the interim here is a ‘post with a difference’.

Whilst away I had my birthday and it was a very good day, or at least morning, for birds. This got me thinking, what other notable birds have I seen on my birthday?

I have searched the database and found that I made bird notes on 17 out of the 41 birthdays that have passed since I started birding. Of course many birthdays were spent at work, sometimes on call. It also looks like that on many of the times when I was at home I didn’t bother to go birding on the ‘big day’ as there is often entries for June 8th and/or June 10th but not the one in between.

As I didn’t start digital photography until 2003, many of the photos below were not taken on the date implied or were taken from Internet sources.

Although my first ever binoculars and field guide were supposed to be a birthday present in 1977, I actually got them in May as we had an early June holiday booked, so I was back in Leeds and at work on the 9th. The first birthday when I recorded what I had seen was 1980.

 

By 1980 I had started training to ring birds.  On June 9th I was ringing with my trainer Trevor in the reedbeds at Lodmoor near Weymouth. I will always remember him taking a bird like this one out of a bag and in his inimitable style saying ‘birthday or no f***ing birthday, you’re not ringing this!’ The next time I was to see (as opposed to hear) a Savi’s Warbler in Dorset was on 14/5/11 when another occurred at Lodmoor, in precisely the same spot as the one we trapped in 1980. Photo from the Israeli Ringing Blog.

 

In 1982 my late wife Janet and I had a holiday in Scotland. On June 9th we were on Skye enjoying better weather than when this photo (of the Quiraing) was taken in June 2012.

 

Of the various birds we saw that day, I suppose the highlight was a Golden Eagle, just like this immature that I photographed on Skye in June 2012.

 

On 9/6/84 Janet and I arrived in Torremolinos in southern Spain at the start of a two-week tour of Andalusia and Extremadura. It was well into the evening by the time we had collected the hire car and found a hotel and we had no time for birding. As we sat outside the hotel we saw many swifts flying low overhead. It wasn’t until later in the trip that we realised that the vast majority of them would have been Pallid Swifts, not the familiar Common Swifts. Most British records of Pallid Swift are in the late autumn, I think that any that occur when Common Swifts are abundant would probably get overlooked. This one (pursued by a Goldfinch)was photographed in Christchurch, Dorset on 25/10/13.

 

It takes a view like this to be really sure you have seen a Pallid Swift and we were to get many such views as our Spanish trip progressed. This Pallid Swift was photographed in Sicily by gobirding.eu. Key ID features compared to Common Swift include the scaly underparts, paler head and throat, a paler area in the outer secondaries and inner primaries compared to the rest of the wing and darker underwing coverts compared to the body.

 

Breeding Lapwing have declined greatly in the UK over the last 30 years due to agricultural intensification and draining of wetlands. In 1985 Lapwings were still breeding near to my house and on 9th June I was able to ring one or more chicks. Photo by Garry Prescott https://blashfordlakes.wordpress.com/

 

During the 80s our ringing group was conducting an intensive study into the biology of the European Nightjar, something that continues, albeit at a lower level, to this day. On 9th June 1987 I was ringing Nightjars in Wareham Forest. The lack of white marks on the wing and tail tips identifies this bird as a female.

 

In 1988 Janet and I plus two friends drove all the way from Helsinki in Finland to northernmost Norway. After a week of driving we reached Vardø on 9th June, a town on an island at the head of Varangerfjord in far north-eastern Norway Nearby I saw my first ever Brunnich’s Guillemots, although I didn’t get views as good as this. Photo taken in the Kurils, far-eastern Russia in 2016.

 

We also saw a number of King Eiders. Unlike the last, this photo was taken in Varangerfjord, but not until we returned there in March 2015.

 

In June 1989 Janet and I spent a few days in Jersey, taking the ferry over from Poole. Although a United Kingdom Crown Dependency, birds on the Channel Islands are not added to the British List as they are not part of the British Isles (being so close to the French coast). Only one species breeds there that doesn’t breed in the UK and that’s Short-toed Treecreeper. I can’t find any notes on my trip so I’m not really sure if I saw this species on my birthday or not, but we were certainly in Jersey at that date. Photo taken by Aleix Comeis in Catalonia, Spain.

 

Tree_swallow_at_Stroud_Preserve

My birthday in 1990 was quite notable. Janet & I had returned from an excellent trip to Canada at the end of May only to find the UK was flooded with megas from all points of the compass. Having been away for several weeks it wasn’t easy getting time off work, so I was unable to twitch them and I became stressed out about all these ‘once in a lifetime’ UK ticks slipping through my fingers. On the 8th June I had a social gathering with friends to celebrate my birthday. Mid-evening I heard there was a Tree Swallow on St Mary’s, Scilly. I had to cut my social event short so I could get to Penzance and catch the Scillonian the following morning. I think this was a watershed moment. After those stressful few weeks I concluded that I didn’t HAVE to twitch every rarity if it wasn’t convenient, and although I continue to this day to chase some UK rarities, very few cause a reaction like the 1990 Tree Swallow did. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

 

No more notable birthday birds until 1996 and then it was just a Raven at Studland. But the following day I set of the most adventurous trip I have ever done – three weeks in the Arctic tundra and forests of north-east Siberia. The trip was the most travel disrupted I have ever been on. It would be fair to say that when it ran to schedule it was the best travel experience ever and when it wasn’t, it was the worst.

 

After having the tour cancelled in 2003 due to the SARS outbreak I finally got to Tibet on a private trip with five friends in June 2005. On the 8th we climbed up the Er La massif (but not to the summit, we did that later in the trip) seeing many excellent high-altitude birds. We probably reached 4700m that day.

 

Accommodation in the area was basic and our hotel (similar, if not worse than this one) had filthy black carpets, an outside loo across a muddy yard inhabited by ferocious dogs and most importantly was 4500m up. I got out of breath just getting dressed. On the morning of my birthday I awoke after a dreadful night’s sleep, absolutely exhausted with a resounding high-altitude headache. It looked like it was going to be the worst birthday ever ….

 

…. that is until a few miles down the rough road we saw a Grey Wolf harrying some Yaks.

 

Mind you I think the Yaks saw the Wolf off pretty quickly. The headache quickly vanished and I received the best birthday present of my life!

 

No more birthday birds until 2008 when Margaret and I were in Cape Town. We didn’t do a lot of birding that day, just a quick visit to Strandfontein water treatment works were we saw birds like Cape Shoveler ….

 

…. and Cape Teal.

 

Later in the day we crossed the Cape Flats, by-passing the notorious squatter camp of Khayelitsha and climbed up to Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was very windy on the pass and we had no luck at all with birds in this area. Later we drove to the town of George where we stayed with Margaret’s cousin and his wife. The day before we had birded the Cape Peninsula seeing Penguins and a host of other good birds and the following day I birded De Hoop NP seeing Blue Cranes and Denham’s Bustards, so I’m afraid the birthday birding, although better than being at home, wasn’t the best of the trip.

 

Fast forwards to June 9th 2012 and I was on Skye again, part of my attempt to see over 300 species in the UK in a calendar year. I covered year this extensively on my blog so please peruse the archives if you are interested. Today Margaret and I left Skye and headed for Harris/Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, more for sightseeing than anything else. Fortunately as it was a Saturday we made sure we had a full tank of fuel and some snacks with us, as nothing at all was open on  Sunday in mega-religious Harris/Lewis.

 

On route we saw a lovely summer plumaged Red-throated Diver ….

 

…. whilst good numbers of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters cruised by. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see European Storm-petrel on either crossing and failed to get this species on my year list.

 

It was quite late in the day when we landed with little time for birding, however we could admire the Hebridean race of Song Thrush, which lacks the buffy wash on the breast and flanks.

 

This brings us to the Uganda trip in 2013, a superb mixture of bird and mammal watching which also was covered on my blog. On the 9th we birded the ‘Royal Mile’ a forested area in the west of the country. Our main target was Nahan’s Partridge, a strange species that seems (along with Stone Partridge) to be basal to the New World Quails! The thought is that New World Quails originated in Africa and spread via Europe, Greenland and North America to their current distribution in Central and South America. If you understand the movement of the continents with time this makes sense. The remainder of the ‘new world quails’ were then wiped out in the Old World by competition with Old World partridges and francolins. Of course I didn’t photograph such a retiring species but I know someone who did! Photo by Pete Morris/Birdquest.

 

OK they’re not birds (but neither was the Tibetan Wolf). Birding and bird photography was rather tricky today but the butterflies were superb.

 

As I have little to show from 9/6/13 I’ll chuck in a photo from earlier on in the trip, – Northern Red Bishop.

 

For much of my retirement years I have purposefully spent early June abroad. It’s not a great time for birding or ringing in the UK and lots of good foreign trips go at this time. In 2014 we were just winding up a great three-week trip to Eastern USA. We had travelled from North Carolina to Canada, birding on land and at sea, sightseeing in Washington and New York and visiting various friends. We ended the tour in coastal Maine.

 

The main targets in Maine (excuse the pun) were Saltmarsh (above) and Nelson’s Sparrows, two closely related species that exist in sympatry here.

 

One of the last species we saw before we drove to the airport was the Willet (really should be called Eastern Willet as the eastern and western races are different enough to deserve specific status). We were talking to an American couple who seemed quite knowledgeable until a Willet flew past, when one exclaimed ‘Mountain Plover’. This just goes to show that you cannot take everything a birder tells you at face value. My birthday celebration that night was sipping a warm beer on a transatlantic flight out of Boston.

 

Back to normality in 2015. We did go to America again that year but in March/April. On 9th June I was in Wareham Forest in Dorset where I saw a Red Kite.

 

I had some serious delays coming home from the Russian Ring of Fire cruise in 2016 so I spent my birthday more or less on my own on the island of Sakhalin. Birding the Gagarin Park near the hotel gave me views of ….

 

…. the beautiful Narcissus Flycatcher ….

 

…. and many Pacific Swifts (an example of which turned up in Scotland yesterday!) Unfortunately time constraints meant that the 2014 Eastern USA and the 2016 Russian Ring of Fire photos never got fully edited and uploaded to the blog. One day perhaps.

 

So we conclude with photos taken three weeks ago on the French island of Guadeloupe. We only had a morning to appreciate the island’s bird life but it was one of the best mornings of the trip. In one small area we saw and photographed the Caribbean endemic Mangrove Cuckoo ….

 

…. Bridled Quail Dove, known only from Guadeloupe and Dominica ….

 

…. Plumbeous Warbler which is also known only from Guadeloupe and Dominica ….

 

…. Forest Thrush which is a bit more widespread and is found on Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and Saint Lucia ….

 

…. Purple-throated Carib, which occurs from Antigua south to St Vincent ….

 

…. and best of all, the single island endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker, which is unusual in being almost entirely glossy black with just a hint of purple on the breast. The afternoon was taken up with returning to the airport and flying on to Martinique – but that’s another story which will be told in due course.

 

So by choosing just one day of the year, albeit one of special importance to me, I can show that on over a third of occasions over the past 40 years I have been involved in something out of the ordinary and have seen (more often than not) some special birds. Perhaps that’s not so surprising when you consider how relatively easy quality birds have become to see and how birding has developed into such an absorbing and rewarding hobby.

Costa Rica part 9: La Selva and Braulio Carrillo National Park; 19/04 – 22/04 2017   Leave a comment

This is the 9th and final post on my trip to Costa Rica. I have uploaded so many photos because the wildlife on this trip was so photogenic and Costa Rica was so rich in wildlife that I felt it needed to be shared with a wider audience.

Costa Rica’s efforts to nurture and conserve the natural environment are to be applauded. I doubt if there are many places on earth where so many interesting species can be seen in such a small area.

Before I start, here are a couple of signs that raised a smile, not necessarily all from the areas covered in this post.

 

One of the best ‘beware of the dog’ signs I have ever seen.

 

Although the sign had been taken down, you can’t help wonder why it was put up in the first place!

 

You’re hardly going to advertise dirty bathrooms are you?

 

Since we left San Jose on April 1st we have been to the south and west to areas near the Panama border, north-west along the coast to Hacienda Solimar, back into the mountains at Monteverde, north along the mountain ridge then descending to the lowlands near Cano Negro and along the Caribbean slope near Volcan Arenal. This final post covers the area around La Selva on the Caribbean slope.

 

La Selva is a reserve belong to the OTS Biological Station where we stayed for the last three nights of the tour. Accommodation was quite acceptable but it was a 1km away from the dining area, which meant it wasn’t easy to pop back to your room for something you forgot. As the area catered for young people performing biological research projects and tourism was a sideline, meals were served up in a school canteen manner and although adequate, didn’t match the service and quality we had experienced elsewhere. Many of the trails were concreted ….

 

…. and even had guide rails. This is great if it encourages those with reduced mobility to get around but it did distract from the wilderness experience somewhat. Oh, and the concreted trails didn’t prevent me from almost stepping on a Fer-de-Lance on the way back from dinner!

 

Now to the birds; on the first afternoon we had a run of good birds near our cabins, the bandit-masked Laughing Falcon ….

 

….. the tiny Bat Falcon,

 

…. and best of all the enormous but exceedingly rare Great Green Macaw.

 

Near to the restaurant we saw beautiful Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and the delightful all-white Snowy Cotinga but the latter didn’t pose for photos.

 

Birds of prey that breed in North America but winter in South America must pass through Costa Rica as they cannot cope with long sea crossings. Most probably pass along the Caribbean coast and most had probably passed through by the time we arrived, but we were privileged to see a flock of about 100 Mississippi Kites .

 

Collared Peccaries were common and easily seen around the research centre …..

 

…. although potentially dangerous if cornered, these seemed completely accustomed to people walking by.

 

The taxonomy of the larger toucans has been in flux with several former species lumped, but in most areas there are two types, a ‘croaker’ and a ‘growler’. In this area the ‘croaker’ is represented by Keel-billed Toucan ….

 

…. and the ‘growler’ by Yellow-throated (aka Chestnut-mandibled) Toucan.

 

Most male euphonias are blue-black with yellow underparts and crown however Olive-backed Euphonia bucks the trend.

 

I saw two ‘lifer’ tanagers in these forests, Emerald (which I didn’t photograph) and Black-and-Yellow (which I did).

 

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys showed well ….

 

…. as did this Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer.

 

At nearby Braulio Carrillo National Park we had great views of the stunning Snowcap, one of the prettiest hummers of all, but we failed to see the localised Lattice-tailed Trogon.

=

The White-whiskered Puffbird is normally rare and only seen on about 2/3rds of trips. we saw between 15 and 20 over the three weeks.

 

Buff-rumped Warblers were seen regularly along streams.

 

…. and we had more great views of Crested Guans.

 

We also saw the bizarre Basilisk aka ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’ (as it can run across the surface of water for short distances) ….

 

…. and some delightful poison-dart frogs (delightful that is until you touch them as their skin contains neurotoxins).

 

One of the last additions to our list came as we walked to breakfast on the last morning (having just seen my life Slaty-breasted Tinamou) we found a juvenile Tiny Hawk. Some of the non-tinamou watchers joined us further down the track, we walked back to show them the Tiny Hawk, only find that it had gone and been replaced by an adult of the same species.

 

During our time at Braulio Carrillo National Park we were taken to an area of farmland and woodland by a local guide. We were shown a whole range of great birds, like this Thicket Antpitta ….

….. and this Great Potoo. Potoos have evolved an unusual defense strategy, they are able to roost out in the open because they look and act just like a tree stump.

 

Later we were shown a roosting Crested Owl. This large and magnificent owl was roosting in a thicket and getting a good angle to photograph it without disturbing it was tricky.

 

Then we were shown something really bizarre; just what is Rose photographing?

 

…. Honduran White Bats, tent-making bats that shape a Heliconia leaf into a tent by biting the central rib to form an inverted V and then roosting underneath it.

 

So that about wraps it up, we left La Selva after a late breakfast on the 22nd and arrived at San Jose airport in the early afternoon. We all went our separate ways; some flew home that afternoon, some stayed on for further adventures in Costa Rica and I stayed overnight and flew on to Newark the next day to stay with my friend Patty in Connecticut for a few days (see earlier post).

I obviously research foreign tours before I book them, so trips usually come up to my expectations, but seldom exceed them. This was an exception, I found this tour, with its carefully honed itinerary, that squeezed as many goodies into 22 days as you could possibly imagine, to be most satisfying. There were disappointments of course, but not very many. Even though I had been to Costa Rica before, twice to Colombia and Venezuela and three times to Mexico I still picked up 87 new birds considerably more than I expected.

I can highly recommend Birdquest’s Ultimate Costa Rica tour.

 

Costa Rica part 8: Arenal Observatory Lodge and La Selva; 18/4 – 19/4 2017.   2 comments

This is the penultimate post from my trip to Costa Rica covering the the Caribbean slope at Volcan Arenal area and a couple of stops on route to La Selva.

 

 

 

The Arenal Observatory Lodge acts as both a tourist lodge and a scientific station keeping a watch on this active volcano. This was one of the prettiest places we stayed with great views from the deck of the volcano ….

 

…. with a plume of steam rising from the summit ….

 

…. and  the nearby lake. This is the same volcano that we saw from San Gerado (see post Costa Rica part 6) which isn’t far away at all, its just that we came the long way round.

 

There were some feeders close to the decking where a number of birds that I have already illustrated, like Red-legged Honeycreeper, were seen. We also regularly saw Bananaquits, this is a species that gets a surprisingly poor press. It is quite pretty and is the only member of the Coerebidae, so of great interest to ‘family collectors’ but because it is common it gets dismissed as a ‘trash bird’.

 

Small birds like Bananaquit are to be expected at feeders but imagining opening your curtains at home and seeing a Great Currasow on your bird table.

 

…. or seeing a whole bunch of Coatis playing around below it for that matter.

 

One of the amazing thing about the lodges in Costa Rica was how tame the cracids had become. Guans, Currasows and Chachalacas have been hunted for millennia and hence are very timid, but here these Crested Guans were just walking around on the lawn ….

 

…. or perched up on a wall.

 

Seeing the turkey-sized female Great Currasow wandering around on the road was a treat ..

…. upstaged perhaps by by the black male with it’s punk crest.

 

Early in the morning we took a trail to a scenic waterfall seeing a nice range of birds but the real excitement happened on the way back.

 

Totally unexpected was this encounter with a Bare-necked Umbrellabird. In my post about Monteverde and San Gerado I explained how we were disappointed that the nearby ‘brollybird’ lek had been abandoned and they hadn’t been seen reliably at the site since 2014. Having given up hope of seeing this mega we were amazed when one flew over the ornamental gardens of the lodge. Initial views were poor but a local guide leading a couple of guests around relocated it and we all got superb views.

 

It wasn’t a full adult but a juvenile male with the start of the ‘umbrella’ (the forward pointing crest that hangs over the bill) and the bare red throat that is inflated in display.

 

It goes without saying that this was the bird of the trip, not just for me but for just about everyone else as well. I was asked earlier ‘if the Zeldonia was number two bird of the trip what ever was number one’, well here it is!

 

As well as birding around the lodge we also visited the area around the lake.

 

The river near the lodge was crossed by a number of suspension bridges, of far better quality than the ones at Heliconia (see last post).

 

Other interesting birds seen in the area included the retiring White-tipped Dove,

 

…. Keel-billed Motmot, which were often paired with a Broad-billed Motmot (bringing their true specific status into doubt)

 

…. and Rufous-winged Woodpecker (hiding it’s rufous wings under the mantle).

 

On the first night at the lodge I had excellent views of Black-and-white Owl, the second night some of us went ‘herping’. First to be seen was this small venomous viper ….

 

…. and at a pond we found this beautiful yellow frog ….

 

…. but the highlight was this pretty Red-eyed Tree Frog.

 

The day we departed Arenal Observatory we headed for private reserve at La Fortuna in the hope of seeing Uniform Crake, this time we did  and very well, we even saw a pair building a nest. As the light level was so low when we set out I didn’t take my camera, which was a mistake as the views were prolonged and as the light improved they were highly photographable. Back at the reception we did see a pair of White-throated Crakes though (above).

 

As on our previous visit Grey-headed Chachalacas were common and tame ….

 

…. and even their small chicks came to the bird table.

 

Other visitors included the ubiquitous Blue-grey Tanager ….

 

…. and Tropical Mockingbird. On my 1981 trip the guide and two of the clients saw this species near San Isidro and it was the first record for the country, since then it has colonised much of lowland Costa Rica.

 

We headed back into the mountains to Cataracta de Torro, a small lodge that has a number of trails, hummingbird feeders and spectacular views.

 

We were just after two species, both of which we saw well; Black-bellied Hummingbird ….

 

…. and White-bellied Mountain-gem.

 

We continued on the mountain roads to Cinchoma were we stopped for lunch. From the cafe we had views of several bird feeders with the backdrop of another waterfall.

 

However within minutes of our arrival the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential downpour.

 

At least we were undercover!

 

The hummers sheltered under leaves during the worst of the rain but it only had to ease off slightly and they were back. This is a Green Thorntail.

 

I have posted pictures of Green-crowned Brilliant previously, but none catching the light quite like this.

 

…. our old friend Violet Sabrewing put on a good show too.

 

From here we continued to La Selva and the OTS Biological station where we were to stay for the final three nights of the tour. This will be the subject of the final post in this extended series, but here’s a photo from La Fortuna to end on.

 

But of all the wonderful things we saw today, the Red-eyed Tree Frog early this morning was one of the best. In daylight with the pupils contracted and the iris at full size, the red-eyes look totally  amazing.