Friday, December 04, 2009

Costa Rica: Birding the University Campus

On my first afternoon in Costa Rica, I walked up to the university campus in San Pedro. Although the light was already fading - it gets dark at 5:30 every day of the year in Costa Rica - the campus clearly had a lot of potential for birding.

One huge tree near the entrance was busy with Great Kiskadees and Clay-colored Robins, the national bird.

Clay-colored Robin

More exciting still, some small trees nearby had Tennessee Warblers and a new bird: Blue-gray Tanager. In the dusk light, the Tanagers appeared almost ghostly.

Blue-gray Tanager

I returned to explore other parts of the campus early on Monday morning but I saw very little, except for more Kiskadees, Robins, Rufous-collared Sparrows, Blue-gray Tanagers and Crimson-fronted Parakeets.

Great Kiskadee

Clay-colored Robin

Young Rufous-collared Sparrow with deformed beak

Blue-gray Tanagers

Crimson-fronted Parakeets

However, when I went back to the tree near the entrance, it was again pretty busy with Kiskadees and Robins. Then, at about 8:30, the tree positively erupted with bird action. Scores of Kiskadees and Robins began flying madly around, making an incredible amount of noise. They were joined by Blue-gray Tanagers, Tennessee Warblers, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Yellow-throated Vireos.

Tennessee Warbler

Although the lighting was difficult, I spotted a Summer Tanager and some Baltimore Orioles, followed by another new bird, a Hoffmann's Woodpecker.

Summer Tanager

Hoffmann's Woodpecker

Then, after 15-20 minutes of frenzied activity, the tree returned to normal. I guess what I had witnessed was a mini-version of a well-known feature of bird behavior in Costa Rica, a mixed flock.

I spent my final morning in San Jos
e up at the university campus again. There was no frantic activity this time but there was still plenty to see.

This spider was one of only a handful I saw on my trip.

Several trees had squirrels but they were very shy and difficult to photograph.

Something in one tree made an amazing sound - a cross between a dog in pain, a turkey gobbling and a car alarm. It turned out to be the call of a pair of Montezuma Pendulas. Certainly the oddest bird call I've ever heard.

Different sections of undergrow
th had two new birds, a Plain Wren and a Grayish Saltater.

Grayish Saltater

At long last I managed to get some slightly better photos of Blue-gray Tanagers.

Blue-gray Tanagers

My final sighting was a bird that I'd been hoping for throughout my trip, a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Tomorrow: The Sarapiqui River


sharon said...

Congrats on the Hummingbird Jeff, very nice! I love the photo of the Great Kiskadee, it looks such a colourful bird. Looking forward to the next instalment!

Jeff said...

Unfortunately, I didn't get to any of the sites that have lots of hummers. Plenty of Kiskadees, though. Nice birds if somewhat noisy!

ibarralopez said...

Wonderful pictures. As a Costa Rican, I enjoy the University campus during weekend walks and often do some birding: If you have a chance to go to the campus called " Las piscina de la U" you will enjoy a good number of blue crowned motmots, squirrel cuckoos and the Montezuma Oropendula, among other goodies.Maria