Background Switcher (Hidden)

Feeder Madness: Arenal Observatory Lodge

Thursday, March 5, 2015

People and birds alike figure out fast when the lodge employees replenish the fruit feeder out off the back balcony. Just in time for people breakfast comes bird breakfast.

Papaya and banana attracts, from top, a pair of black-cowled orioles, a blue-gray tanager, a buff-throated saltator, a golden-hooded tananger, a clay-colored thrush (formerly robin), and a palm tanager. A tropical bird sixpack.

Montezuma oropendolas love papaya and banana.

These utterly bizarre and beautiful giant orioles build long, purse-shaped nests that hang in colonies from tall trees. They have a sizzling, pulsing gargle that sounds like monkeys and electrical appliances underwater.

Size discrepancy in females and males (he's the bigun') is marked. 

But fruit offerings get more inventive. In order to keep the fruit away from coatis, Arenal Observatory Lodge has devised a sort of melon tree of natural branches in a three-pronged iron holder, baffled with a great big sheet metal cone.

It's raised and lowered by a rope pulley system. Here, the Lodge employee is removing eaten-out melon shells from the tree, which has been lowered to the ground. He simply tosses them into the forest, where tropical bacteria and fungi will melt them away within weeks.

He puts fresh melon quarters (in the box, lower right) on each spike.
Then, he raises the whole affair, including the baffle, back up with tremendous strength. Imagine how heavy that is! Several watermelons and the metal framework, over your head??
I'm sure I wouldn't be able to budge it.

But when it goes up, it blossoms in oropendolas.

Strange fruit indeed. They are replaced by a shift of brown jays.

There's one juvenile at upper left, and another dead center top, showing a yellow eye ring and bill and matching yellow legs. Interesting how they signal their youth. For a social bird, that's important. Please don't peck me. I'm in training.

A rather somber looking adult. I love brown jays, especially their percussive, exuberant calls, which sound like someone's holding them down and forcibly pounding the sound out of them. Pa-Pow!! Pow! Pow!!

Meanwhile, down on the platform, a great curassow is enjoying his papaya.

The coatis love the curassows because they're clumsy eaters, dropping everything off the platform.

The curassow, by embiggening himself, tries to clear the feeder.

He succeeds in intimidating two female oropendolas, but BossMan holds his ground. 

While we were groovin' on the feeder birds, Our Guide Mario caught an ornate hawk eagle powering by out of the corner of his eye. By the time he could shout it out and I could raise my lens, it was naught but a banded tail behind a black pine limb. Look closely, you'll see it. But honest, we saw it. Just not well. I put this in to pain poor Mario. Nothing a good guide hates like a near miss on a sexy bird.

That's OK. We have a tree full of gaudy birds right in front of us.  We're fine, here in the shadow of Arenal.

You know how they say there's no rest for the wicked? 

ZICK ALERT!! Mass Birders' Meeting, Bentley University, Waltham MA, Sat. March 7, 2015, I'm speaking at 11:40 AM on Personal Habitat: The Bird-friendly Backyard. I'll be signing books afterward, and will be there throughout the day. So will Phoebe and Corey and my editor Lisa and my dear friend Rob! Sorry for the late notice but I just finished my Costa Rican laundry and repacked my suitcase for snowy Massachusetts. Two days home, just in time for 13" of powder and a nice power outage. Waiting now to get the driveway plowed so I can board another plane tomorrow.



Makes me wish I had set up something similar (but not so heavy!) in my yard for fruit and suet to feed the (admittedly less spectacular) birds. Maybe next year!

Posted by Anonymous March 5, 2015 at 4:15 AM

That is fantastic! It reminds me of a little place called Kiri Lodge near Tapanti National Park where we stayed when we were doing Louisiana Waterthrush field research in 1999 and 2000. This wonderful little family run lodge had a dining room where we gathered for lunch each day (we were out too early in the morning to catch breakfasts!), and they had a series of trays attached to all the windows along one side of the building looking out over a stream. They put all of their fruit scraps out each day, and the parade of tanagers and brush finches and oropendolas and orioles was just incredible!

This giant bird feeder is a brilliant invention and the fruit is a blessing for the birds. So much habitat is disappearing world wide, every good deed to help them counts. What splendid birds they are.

Great post!

[Back to Top]