2017—Hummingbird Heaven

The threat of rain kept us close to the lodge on Tuesday afternoon so we set up our tripods and long lenses on the deck at the lodge and waited.  Local hummingbirds spend a fair amount of time at flowers surrounding the deck.  Costa Rica has fifty different hummingbird species and about a third of them are seen on the Osa Peninsula.  In less than an hour, we were rewarded with visits by three different species of hummingbird that entertained us and kept us on our toes as we tried to capture photographs of these tiny and very fast birds as they sipped nectar.  We were able to photograph (some more successfully than others) the Stripe-throated Hermit, the Violet Headed Hummingbird, and my favorite for today’s post, because I was most successful photographing it, is the Blue-throated Golden Tail.

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2017—A Taste Of Honey

On Day 2 of our visit to Luna Lodge on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, we saw and photographed all four species of monkey that are endemic to Costa Rica:   Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, and White Faced Capuchins.  These two White-Faced Capuchins that we watched at a place called Shady Lane, are eagerly scooping up what appears to be diluted honey from a hole in a tree.  We watched as they smacked their lips at the sweet taste and licked the drips of honey that ran down their arms.

So far, we have had more luck photographing monkeys here this trip than the birds we came to see.  Hurricane Otto devastated parts of the Osa Peninsula in late November 2016 killing innumerable birds and other wildlife in the area.  Luna Lodge staff had to repair the already barely passable road to the lodge.  It was wiped out by flooding and torrential rains that accompanied the hurricane.  They have done a remarkable job repairing the road which is the only access to the lodge but our drivers still have to carry shovels that they use to shovel gravel to allow easier fording of the streams that have carved new paths through the rain forest.

White faced capuchin honey.jpg

2017—Odd Posture

Usually when I see woodpeckers, they are clinging to the side of a tree trunk hammering away, body rigid and upright in a completely different posture from the woodpecker in this photograph.  This Downy Woodpecker at Magee Marsh was just getting ready to launch from its tiny perch to the side of a tree to begin hammering away at a trunk.  I lost sight of it after it launched so I didn’t get any photographs of this bird in its customary posture.

Downy Woodpecker.jpg


Birds are often sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different from each other, especially in breeding plumage.  These differences can be in size or coloration or both.  The warblers we photographed at Magee Marsh are sexually dimorphic but it is sometimes very difficult for an amateur like me to tell whether a bird is a female and of which species, or if it is an immature male.  Of all the warblers we saw, the American Redstart male and female are the most strikingly different from each other.  The brightly colored male with its unmistakable black and orange plumage bears almost no resemblance to the drab grayish female with yellow sides.


American Redstart male

American Redstart female

2017—Cape May In Ohio

Because of my recent visit to Cape May, New Jersey, where I saw no warblers, I was delighted to photograph a Cape May Warbler in Ohio.  This is a female.  I didn’t see any male Cape May Warblers, although my companions saw and photographed several.  The males have rufous feathers surrounding their eyes and ears.  By comparison, the females are less colorful but still have the bold black streaks on the breast that the males also have.

Cape May Warbler female.jpg

2017—Ohio State Bird

The official state bird of Ohio is Cardinalis Cardinalis, or Northern Cardinal, the bright red bird that is hard to miss.   I photographed this male cardinal at Magee Marsh in Ohio.  When I was in Ohio,  though, I didn’t realize that the cardinal was its official state bird.  I wish I’d known.   I once thought that it would be fun to photograph the official state bird of a state in that state.  But, I don’t think that will happen.  This is only the second official state bird I’ve photographed in the state that claims it.  The only other was the Northern Mockingbird which I photographed in Texas.   I haven’t even photographed the California Quail in California, my home state, although I once photographed quail in Arizona.   Ohio alone doesn’t claim the cardinal as its official state bird, though.  Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia also claim the cardinal as those states’ official bird.

The dense vegetation at Magee Marsh and the strong winds kept the branches and foliage constantly in motion.  And, often, branches between my lens and my subject intruded.  I would have preferred that the blurred branch over the bird’s lower body weren’t there but, that’s the way it was.

Northern Cardinal 2.jpg


This Eastern Wood Pewee spent quite a long time perched on a large twig in the open, sheltered from the relentless wind that kept us off the Magee Marsh boardwalk in the afternoon.  We set up between the parking lot and a clump of trees that served as a windbreak for us and the birds.

Eastern Wood Pewee.jpg


There is just something adorable about the look on this tiny bird’s face.  The face and posture remind me of photos I’ve seen of baby harp seals.  Although I went to Magee Marsh in search of migrating warblers, there were lots of other birds there.  This is a warbling vireo.

Warbling Vireo.jpg


This is a female Bay-Breasted Warbler.  She sat on a small branch for quite a while as the strong wind buffeted her and ruffled her feathers.  One of our many difficult challenges during the week in Magee Marsh was identifying the birds we were photographing.  My iPhone Sibley Guide to Birds was a help as were the two Warbler-specific guides I picked up in the Visitor’s Center but I still struggled to identify the birds.   Moose knew most of them and passersby, presumably birders, offered commentary about which species we might be seeing at the moment but we discovered that often the birders were dead wrong.  So many of the birds have similar characteristics and if they are not mature or not yet in full breeding plumage, or they are female, it’s sometimes extremely difficult to tell.  The females were the biggest challenge.  They were so hard to identify that it seemed that each time we encountered the female of one particular species, I couldn’t tell.  It never seemed to look the same and I had to go through the process of trying to identify the bird all over again and still got usually it wrong.  I’m still buried in my guides now that I’m home and still puzzling over the identity of some of the birds I photographed.  Of course I was told at the time but failed to take proper notes.  Note to self: Pay attention.

The rufous wash on the breast that extends to the flanks and pale stripes on the mantel (not visible in this photograph) help to identify this bird as a female Bay-sided Warbler.

Bay Breasted Warbler Female.jpg

2017—Yellow Bird

This bird isn’t “up high in banana tree” but it’s certainly yellow and it was out in the open enough for me to get my camera focused on it.  This is a Wilson’s Warbler.  The primarily yellow feathered warblers that we saw at Magee Marsh, the Prothonotary, the Yellow, and the Wilson’s Warblers were the brightest warblers in the trees.  It was still hard for me to find them with my lens, especially when I didn’t remember to prefocus on an area so that I could quickly move to find the bird in my view finder.  We found this Wilson’s Warbler Thursday afternoon in a thicket of trees the separates the Magee Marsh boardwalk from the parking lot.  We chose the parking lot side of the trees that afternoon to shelter us from the relentless, intense winds that had kicked up.  There were white caps on Lake Erie and a passing thunderstorm forced us back to the vehicle for 30 minutes or so.  This warbler reappeared quickly after the downpour.

Wilson's Warbler.jpg