My first close-up spotting of wildlife in Costa Rica was a butterfly familiar to me from North Carolina – a beautiful monarch (Danaus plexippus). Lots of little flies were buzzing about but they were a bit too quick for photos.
I wasn’t familiar with the first bird I saw, but after running into fellow traveler Dave, he kindly identified it for me as a white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).
Later and the next morning, I saw several wandering about the grounds and at the birdbath.
Another common dove was the white-tipped one (Leptotila verreauxi).
While roaming around, I ran into two more fellow travelers, Joy and Janet; together with Dave, we climbed a wonderful lookout tower placed in a strategic spot for birders. It looked down on a pond in one direction and a birdbath in another, where I saw the clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi) – Costa Rica’s national bird, known locally as the yigüirro. Its beautiful song is said to welcome the green rainy seasons and these birds were abundant in this garden and the other sites we would be visiting.
A couple species of hummingbirds appeared but I was only able to photograph the rufous-tailed hummer (Amazilia tzacatl).
While looking for it, I spotted what was to become one of my favorite Costa Rican birds, the rufous-naped wren (Campylorhynchus rufinuch).
I just fell in love with its brown speckled appearance and followed a pair flitting about the flower-laden bushes in the area.
Some “Northern migrants” put in appearances, including a Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) and some yellow-throated vireos (Vireo flavifrons).
Birds flitting in the treetops further included a few yellow warblers (Setophaga petechia) and Tennessee warblers (Leiothlypis peregrina), which I had not yet seen in the USA.
The high perch which we birders had offered me a first spotting of the variegated squirrel (Sciurus variegatoides), which lives up to its name with individuals showing very different coloring on their bodies.
I left the lookout tower to investigate more of the 10-acre garden and as it began raining, found a spectacular wasp or hornet nest. It looked quite different from varied perspectives, the underneath view making it look like a pair of pants hung from the tree by its legs.
Back near the lookout tower, I began hearing a pair of birds calling to one another with beautiful songs and notes. I was looking around for some small songbird but suddenly realized the concert was being offered by a pair of large melodious blackbirds (Dives dives), who really deserve their common name!
A somewhat more raucous set of cries alerted me to the arrival of a group of brown jays (Psilorhinus morio). They are much larger than the blue jays I see in my own garden and certainly seemed more social; they tend to move around in flocks. At first sight, they seemed a bit drab but a closer look shows they have a pretty muted appearance.
As I began following a hummingbird in an effort to get a close-up, Janet and Joy alerted me to a trio of Inca doves (Columbina inca) who were smushing together in a compact group for the night. It was almost dark and I had to adjust my camera settings a lot to be able to photograph them; they were becoming barely visible in the vegetation but oh so cute. Occasionally, one would leave the line and sit atop the other two but those below always got the third one to come down to the branch again.
Seeing some very cute rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) foraging in the grass.
The next morning began with a spotting of a pair of masked tityras (Tityra semifasciata), who were difficult to photograph in the early dawn light.
A Hoffman’s woodpecker (Melanerpes hoffmannii, right) came by briefly and as the day started to brighten, a tropical kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) alighted on a branch.
It was after that sighting that I discovered a new bird (for me) – the social flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis); I had been calling all birds that looked like these great kiskadees – and they do look very similar to be sure! And if readers see I have identified a bird incorrectly, please let me know!
My first evening and morning in Costa Rica taught me that the bird photography could be challenging; the lush vegetation meant that the birds are often in between dark leaves and shadows. This meant that I was shooting at high ISOs much of the time, with somewhat grainy photos as a result. I guess perhaps I should finally look into getting a photo editing program!