Mangrove cuckoo at CATIE

Yesterday’s rain washed away our water pipes yet again, but I can get by dirty just as I did as a lad in Rotherham, Yorkshire.  For that reason, it’s still been a great week as I reflect on Costa Rican life and its birds.

I read on the Web that the Mangrove cuckoo (Coccyzus minor) is one of the least-known birds in North America.  How fortunate then that this beautiful bird flew into the nets at CATIE just as we were about to pack up and leave.  We were in the ‘cerca viva‘, the live fence area, and it was getting mighty hot as the sun came up higher.  Live fences are an ecologically favourable method for demarcating farmland and they are found everywhere in Costa Rica.  To make my own, here at home, I simply chopped off a few poró branches, cut them into appropriate lengths with the machete and then rammed them into the ground.  Within a couple of weeks, they all sprouted leaves.

The cerca viva section at CATIE doesn’t really look as if it would be a productive area for birds other than seed-eaters and grassquits, but it enjoys a tremendous view up to the volcano.  This day we netted even more species than usual.  Visitors this time were a trio of ladies (two from Germany and one from Alsace) who will, I hope, supply nice photos of some of the day’s birds, including the cuckoo.  It was their first time banding and they got a real treat.

When I saw the cuckoo dangling in the net, I feared it might tear free and escape, emulating a Groove-billed ani that we almost got a few minutes’ earlier.  I also thought it might be the Striped cuckoo (Tapera naevia), which seems the only likely candidate, since the other cuckoos of similar size and plumage are indicted in the guides as absent here at this time of year.  Well, the Mangrove cuckoo is a December to June migrant, but is supposed to be on the Pacific Coast only.  Alejandra wasn’t fooled, however, and immediately pronounced it minor.  It’s an extremely handsome bird and rarely seen at close quarters or well.  I now have to consider whether this was the bird that flew into my guayabo in San Antonio, rather than Tapera naevia.   Please notice how I now bandy around the Latin names.  I’m almost educated.

The last bird of note, to me at least, is the White-collared seedeater (Sporophila torqueola).  It’s the first one I’ve seen in this area.  My neighbor, Fabio Orlando Zúñiga, had, by sheer coincidence, mentioned to me a few days’ earlier that this bird used to be very common around San Antonio but had disappeared, probably as a result of being regularly trapped and kept as a cage-bird.  He had heard one singing, however, that morning as he was riding his bike up to La Pastora.  Fabio is a talented artist, a biker with legs of iron (let’s see how many OAP’s can bike up to La Pastora non-stop) and a true lover of nature.

As an update on the changes in the village of San Antonio, I can tell you that the mayor of Turrialba has not, as yet, kept his word with regard to the improvement of the road.  Some trucks did come and throw down some loose material on the dirt-road section, but all activity has now ceased and there’s no sign of repairs to the paved part.  Hard-top for the dirt-road section is just not going to happen, we fear.  More predictably,  we lost our water supply for several hours a day for more than a week, right up to yesterday, but I was able to shower this morning, inside the house this time.

Here’s the day’s list; photos will follow soon.

1.  Ruddy ground-dove

2.  Rufous-tailed hummingbird

3.  Slaty spinetail (3 individuals, one an immature!)

4.  Yellow-bellied elaenia

5.  Tropical kingbird (very common but beautiful to see up close)

6.  Mangrove cuckoo

7.  Plain wren

8.  Mourning warbler

9. Gray-crowned yellowthroat

10. Passerini’s tanager

11. Grayish saltator

12. Thick-billed seed-finch

13. Variable seedeater

14. White-collared seedeater (single female)

15. Yellow-faced grassquit

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