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Critters a-Poppin': Carara Delivers!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spiny-tailed iguana, begging at Villa Lapas' salad bar, diggin' those tomatoes he can see. Somebody gimme a 'mater.  I found it impossible to resist a begging reptile.

The only other reptile that's ever begged from me was Naraht, the box turtle with a broken shell who lived around our house for several years. This one reminded me of Naraht. The intelligence in his eyes: palpable. And, I'd add, quite birdlike. Do not assume that because he drags his belly on the ground, he is also dull and insensate.

This little fella was tampering with the sign at the entrance to one Carara trail. I think they're just as smart as they look. Yes. Do feed iguanas.

After getting to our lodge, Villa Lapas, we took a quick walk in Carara National Park, hoping for lowland humid forest birds manakins and antbirds. We were not disappointed. A white-winged dove did a very nice display while hooting, "Who cooks for you?"

I was transported to the day I heard one calling from our Ohio orchard, while cleaning the fishpond one hot spring morning. Dashed into the house, grabbed the big Canon. Tracked that sucker down, recording his call with my iPhone as I went, then, despite crappy backlighting, nabbed some identifiable photos for a right good yard bird! It's a good time to be a birdwatcher. We have all the tools for proper documentation right at hand. Since, you know, American rare records committees won't take field sketches from a professional bird artist as evidence.

White-winged dove, Indigo Hill, Whipple, OH, April 21, 2014

This guy was doin' it up right at Carara. Mine, perhaps not so motivated, being several thousand miles from the nearest potential mate in Texas.

A baby monstera philodendron makes its suction-leafed way up a tree. If you peel the leaves back, there seems to be no way they're hanging on other than by conforming exactly to the contours of the trunk. No stickum, no clingers, tendrils, or hold-ons. Just grabbing with those quilted leaves. It's remarkable. 

A spiny-tailed iguana peeks out of a tree crevice. It was one of those walks when the forest is just popping with inhabitants, all saying hello at once. Magic! And me, fresh out of tomatoes.

We were headed for Quebrada Bonita, a stream where, in the late afternoon, small birds like red-capped manakins come to bathe. We watched one do just that.  A little bird, a white-hot coal in the stream, unquenched.

Soon after we were thrilled by a male great curassow coming down to drink. Just in case you think I always get great photos, here's my photo of the grand event:

Luckily, I have a modest library of better images amassed over two prior trips to Costa Rica. A great curassow is a turkey-sized bird with a marcelled 'do and a fabulous yellow gumball on his nares.

Just for fun, his flashy James Brown-haired wife (these taken at Volcan Arenal last year).

 A really sweet sighting a bit later was a pair of great tinamous stepping softly through the leaf litter.

These small relatives of ostriches and rheas give voice to quavering whistles that are the signature sound of tropical forests. I adore tinamous. When they fly (rarely), it's as if someone hurled a bowling ball through the underbrush. That is to say, not particularly well or gracefully. They're a bit crashy.

Also crashing was this agouti, taking five in the heat of late afternoon, lying peacefully on the forest floor. Mario is absolutely otherworldly at spotting such treasures.

As sometimes happens to the truly lucky, we came across an army ant swarm moving through the forest, with avian attendants.  Many species of Neotropical birds make their living by following ants wherever they go. The voracious, carnivorous ants basically eat anything they can subdue, so their battalions stir everything, vertebrate and invertebrate, out of hiding. And the birds make hay with the collateral damage. It's an elegant system.

One herald of army ants is the gray-headed tanager. 

You'd think it's not a very tanagery thing to do, to hop around on the ground grabbing insects, but it works for this species.

This chestnut-backed antbird has been in a mist net, as evidenced by his yellow rings. There are lots of studies going on at Carara National Park.

The antbirds are a sought-after prize of Neotropical birding. Here's a bicolored antbird.

As far as I could tell, the bicolored antbird is a still hunter, who perches quietly looking over the leaf litter with enormous, light-gathering eyes, and hops down to nab prey when it stumbles into view.

Ant-following birds comprise a sort of guild, each one doing a slightly different thing--the tanagers running around grabbing things on the outskirts; the bi-colored antbird clinging quietly to vertical trunks, watching as the ants go by below.

 The barred woodcreeper normally searches tree trunks for insects and arthropods, but when the pickings are this good, it will come down to the ground. It gives a flickery aspect, doesn't it? But woodcreepers aren't related to woodpeckers--they're furnariids, of the tropical "ovenbird" family. They're not like our ovenbirds, which are warblers, but are named for the dome-shaped mud nests some furnariids, like the hornero, build. Some might remember these photos, which got passed around ad nauseum via the Net a few years back.

The only identification offered on the photos was "Master Builder."  It's so cool/cute/amazing/wonderful. Don't know what it is, but I'm amazed/charmed/thrilled by it, so I'll pass it on several million times.

 And it was up to those of us who know a little something about birds to identify them as rufous horneros, a common bird around cities and towns in Argentina, among other places.

It was also up to those of us who know a little something about birds to wonder how hard it would have been for someone along the way, perhaps the photographer? to have bothered to identify the "Master Builder" and append its ID to these photos, which got oohed and aaahed at several gazillion times without anyone being the wiser about what they were looking at. Pretty sweet work by the birds. All the sweeter when you know that the rufous hornero (baker bird) is a furnariid (which I'm going to guess means furnace-builder) and it's related to the northern barred-woodcreeper hopping around on the ground in front of you. All right. That's my rant on the cool/cute/amazing/wonderful Internet meme for today.

And to calm me back down, a prize: a streak-chested antpitta, rarely seen and skulky. My craptastic photos say a lot about its personality.

An antpitta is nearly tailless, like a little tennis ball on stilts. It would bounce a few hops, stop, freeze, fluff all its feathers out round, sleek back down and bounce a few more. Very fetching. We saw two antpittas on this trip, but this is the only one I came close to photographing. Ugh. But hey, it's an antpitta. Looking a bit hermitthrushy, Lucy, who spotted it, decided. Yep!

 Toward the end of the walk, Annette and I dropped back.  Though I'm guiding all the way, I'm always happy to take up the rear of the line, being a meanderer by nature, noticing small things on the forest floor, stopping to listen to a disembodied voice. It was thus the two of us found a troupe of white-faced capuchins going through the forest. When this little man saw me, he stopped, briefly rested his head on his elbow, thought about it, decided we were no threat, and then resumed his journey.
 It was a little gift from Carara to the slowpokes among us.

 I also stayed back to photograph probably the best thing on the whole trip. Mario showed us a ghost bat that's been roosting in a certain palm, delighting all who pass who know about it.

Shouting here because I couldn't there. I was squealing inwardly, you may be sure.

Swooning. Such a perfect little thing. So very difficult to photograph. It looked calmly back at me as I fussed and twisted and craned my neck and cussed the light, of which there was none. But finally, pushing the ISO past ridiculous, I got a photo I could take home. Thank you, Fortune. I was giddy for the rest of the night. I never thought I'd see such a lovely long-limbed ethereal creature in my whole life.  YOU CAN SEE HIS FINGERBONES

 Ghost bats are solitary members of the sac-winged bat family, named because they have little scent glands on their wing membranes (or in the case of the ghost bat, on their tail membranes). More on those sac-winged bats in another post. It was a good, good trip for a bat-lovin' Zick.


You are gonna make a bird watcher out of me yet. Fabulous post. And you made me laugh out loud over the "yes, DO feed the iguanas". Love your keen observations.

Wow! I learned a lot this morning! Fantastic post!

I love the way the light shines through the bat's fingers.

This blog is sensory overload.

But I did get tickled at the white-winged dove. In Texas, they are yard birds and are displacing the morning doves and Inca doves. And now the white-tipped dove is starting to follow them northward. I saw the first white-winged dove in the Centennial Valley this summer, but didn't realize it was special so didn't get a picture. But I was at a party with lots of biologists when I saw it again and some of them documented it. But I did document the first Eurasian collared dove to reach Red Rock Lakes NWR. l

I cannot believe that we wer at the same spot 2 days before you. We should have tracked you down. As we entered the park we were delighted with the sight of a blue crowned motmot and a pair of scarlet macaws nesting in the hollow of a tree. What a fabulous country! Cannot wait to return....hope you will return to Sedona soon!

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