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Birding La Selva

Thursday, April 3, 2014

La Selva Biological Reserve in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica is legendary for the studies that have been conducted there, for the reams of data and natural history amazement issuing from this intact lowland forest. I was beyond thrilled to finally visit, to have breakfast in the mess hall where so many storied tropical biologists have convened.

First bird of the morning? Snowy cotinga, just a settin' in a treetop with a couple of other friends. This spanking white bird needs only to perch in a treetop to make a statement or a breeding display visible for miles around. I made this photo with my iPhone adaptor, hooked onto Mario's 50 mm Swarovski scope. Digiphonescoping.

Yin and yang: a variable seedeater, glossy black.

A squirrel cuckoo, one of a pair tending a nest at the ballfield in camp. It gets its name from the squirrelly way it sort of hop-climbs through the trees. 

A fasciated antshrike hops in the undergrowth. You can see the hook on its bill which gives it its common name. This is a bill and a bird equipped to deal with the supersized insect meals of the Neotropics. Would hate to be a katydid on the other end of that weapon.

Everywhere, the dry trill of blue jean frogs. Yes, I love them and their name, too.

Whip-tailed lizard. I wonder why so many juvenile lizards have these neon tails? Bite this, it'll break off, and I'll be free to run off and grow another one. Just a guess. But why would you want to call attention to yourself at all, as a juvenile? You're not trying to find a mate. I'd think you're just trying not to be eaten. Whatever the evolutionary "reasoning," I'm grateful for that aquablue tail.

A pair of broad-billed motmots sat placidly right over the trail. What a special bird, a very small chunky motmot. Again, digiphonescoped.

I thought the first collared peccary we saw was a gift. Well, we were to be showered with such gifts as peccaries tiptoed through the forest all around the camp. What a treat to see these furry tropical porkers doing their thing, ignoring our adoring comments. 

A black-mandibled toucan plucks palm fruits. This was definitely getting surreal.

It was great, and then it got better. A pair of crested guans were hanging around a thicket. I saw a tiny flutter deep within, peered through, set the camera to manual focus, and somehow captured their chick. My first cracid chick. Look at those wings on such a downy young thing!! Clearly set to fly almost from hatch day. It was about the size of a robin. It was adorable. I got a photo. That's about as happy as Zick gets. 

The walk ended with the deep, low moaning of another cracid, the great curassow (remember the beautifully barred captive female at Don Alvaro's?) Well, this would be her mate. He was stuck up in a small tree like a bag of laundry, just moaning away. The Mutun (Tupi name for them in Brasil). That was another first for me--a displaying great curassow. Another digiphonescoped image. This setup lets you take closeups of birds from afar without disturbing them. It also handles the ridiculously low light levels in the forest very well. 

La Selva was doling out her treasures, one after another. It was a day to remember.


Amazing. I have never seen or even heard of most of these birds. The Broad Billed Motmot has me intrigued. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous April 3, 2014 at 5:36 AM

Agreed--amazing. And a joy to get this blog from someone who knows what they were seeing--and doing! Thanks again, Julie!

went to La Selva years back.... great to see your pictures...

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