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More birds from mysterious Costa Rica. – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

More birds from mysterious Costa Rica.

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Here I am on top of a volcanic mountain in north west Costa Rica, above the clouds.

High mountains of Costa Rica









I found these mountains and cloud formations too beautiful and thought provoking to describe so I guess you need to go see for yourself.  You can also see the lighting difficulties I faced while trying to photograph tiny birds like the endemic Volcano Hummingbird.

Volcano Hummingbird













We were able to find several females of this species to shoot but no males. The Volcano Hummingbird is restricted to the Costa Rica and Panama Highlands Endemic Bird Area, where it is generally common in highland pastures and open grassland with scrub, usually above 2000 m elevation. This tiny hummingbird is mainly green above, with a brilliant wine-colored gorget in the male (replaced by dark spotting in the female), a white breast band, and greenish (males) or pale rufous (females) over the rest of the underparts. The tail is slightly forked in both sexes, more noticeably so in males. Three subspecies have been named, and these principally differ in the color of the gorget, being purplish gray to brilliant green in the southernmost form. In the non-breeding season, both sexes may defend territories around certain patches of small flowers.  We hiked and hiked looking for a male with no success but while doing this we were rewarded with a chance to photograph a Volcano Junco.  Look close and you can see that this bird has a leg band.

Volcano Junco












I chased this bird threw scrub brush and around rocks for what seemed like an hour before it finally got tired of me and stood posing for 5 seconds so I could take a picture.

The volcano junco (Junco vulcani) is an American sparrow endemic to the high mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama.

This junco breeds above the timberline, typically at altitudes above 3000 m, but there is an isolated population at 2100 m on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica, and forest clearance on Cerro de la Muerte has allowed this species to descend to 2600 m. The habitat is open grassy or brushy areas with some stunted scrubs. The nest is a neat lined cup constructed on the ground under a log, bush or rock, or in a cavity on a vegetated bank. The female lays two brown-spotted pale blue eggs.  The volcano junco is on average 16 cm long and weighs 28 g. The adult has brown upperparts with dark streaking especially on the back. The wings and tail feathers are dark fringed. The underparts are grey. The sides of the head are grey with a black mask through the eye, a yellow iris, and a pink bill and legs. Young birds are brighter brown above with blacker streaking, and have buff-grey underparts.  Volcano junco calls include a thin tseee or a clearer wheew. The song is a mixture of squeaks and buzzes; k’chew chu k’wee chip chip chueee.

The volcano junco feeds on the ground on seeds, fallen berries, insects and spiders. It runs and hops, but flies only short distances.

Time to leave the always windy, very cold mountaintop.  Down in the forested areas I was able to take a photo of a colorful bird that has a mean expression to it’s face, a Red-headed Barbet.

Red-headed Barbet












Lots of people enjoy birds.  Actually, bird watching is one of America’s most popular hobbies.  There are folks that enjoy “backyard” birdwatching.  There are many that go for a walk in the park to see birds.  Me, I guess I’m an extreme birder.  Carlos and I would hear a bird call way off the trail we were walking and no matter what, off we would go through tick and chigger infested woods.   The Red-headed Barbet is a spectacularly colored, small barbet of montane forest. The male’s brilliant red head and breast contrast with the green upperparts and horn-colored bill. The female lacks the red, and has pearly blue-gray cheeks. This species is conspicuous as it moves about middle and upper strata with mixed flocks or feeds in fruiting trees. Its song, a purring trill, is also loud and distinctive. The Red-headed Barbet feeds primarily on fruit, but also take arthropods, which it sometimes gathers by searching through dead leaf clusters. The nest is an enlarged woodpecker cavity or a self-excavated hole in a rotting tree.

What’s that Carlos?  Me referring to a bird’s call from up in a tree.  Mountain Elaenia he says and asks “do you have it”?  “Do you have it” means have I taken a photo of this bird.  I shake my head no and off we go again.  Up a leaf-covered game trail Carlos stops and whistles a pygmy owl’s call.  Many birds will try to mob a pygmy owl and come to escort the owl out of their territory.  Among other birds here comes the Elaenia.

Mountain Elaenia










The Mountain Elaenia is a small flycatcher of highlands in Middle America.  The species ranges from Guatemala south to Panama, and also in northwestern South America from northern Venezuela west to central Colombia, primarily in shrubby areas and open woodlands from 1500 to 2500 meters in elevation.  It is olive-brown above with a yellowish-white eyering, rounded crown, two off-white wingbars, and yellow-olive underparts.  Like many other Elaenia species, the Mountain Elaenia is more identifiable by its calls than by its visual appearance:  listen for its descending, two-part, whistled call to clinch identifications.

Easy to see where this bird gets it’s name.  The Yellow-thighed Finch proved especially difficult to photograph.  It seemed to know exactly what I wanted to do, (take his picture), and it would stay just out of range in the dark woods.  I would sneak up and just when I was get ready to shoot, off it would fly across the dirt road.

Yellow-thighed Finch











Like I always say, “It’s not just the birds that I love, it’s all about the places birding takes me”.  I see places in the world I would have never seen staying at 5 star resorts, etc.  ’til later,     Happy Birding                                                                                                   




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