San Antonio post-breeding season gets interesting

This Green hermit female unfortunately hit the windows of the house

I am now restricted to the house because of a leg problem, and, while this stops my attendance at the bird-banding, it does bring added opportunity to see what’s happening here on my home patch now that most of the resident birds have raised at least one brood.  Migrants are long gone, with the next migration season not expected until late July at the earliest, but this week brought several interesting sightings.

I’m mostly staked out near the banana feeder by the güititis now.  I have a more accessible view through the very nice binoculars that CATIE have kindly lent me and can still raise my leg into the position recommended by the doctors.  The usual visitors to the feeder are here in numbers:  Blue-gray, Palm, Passerini’s and White-lined tanagers, Grayish, Black-headed and Buff-throated saltators, and of course hordes of Clay-colored robins, Costa Rica’s national bird.  The buffy-coloured, spotted young are progressing from sitting on the feeder table and having the parents stuff them with banana, to occasionally serving themselves while fighting off all contenders, including adults of their own species (perhaps their own parents, who knows?).

Montezuma oropendolas and Gray-headed chachalacas make it necessary to replace the bananas with considerable regularity.  I got nice views of the young chachalacas, which are so much smaller than their parents that they would suggest a different species if they were unescorted.

The Rufous-tailed hummingbirds come to a nearby heliconia early to bathe in water that has collected on the broadest leaves.  They are just as pugnacious about defending their swimming pool as they are about controlling access to the heliconia flowers.  A hummer of about the same size but of another species sat patiently close by on two occasions.  This bird has no rufous in the tail, has a similarly long, but slightly decurved and black bill.  I haven’t been able to get a full frontal view yet, but it has a green back with a darkish tail and has a black patch on the upper breast.  This suggest perhaps a Green-breasted mango (Anthracothorax prevostii) with no light shining on the breast to illuminate the green, but I really am quite unsure.  I can find no other likely candidates in the guides, but neither can I find a photo of a mango that looks similar on the internet.

The Piratic flycatcher can still be heard nearby, but last week’s highlight was a life-bird for me, the Yellowish flycatcher (Empidonax flavescens).  Or was it?  I had about a ten-second view as it sat on an exposed limb of the güititi and imagined it to be a Tufted flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) at first, a species I have seen higher up the mountain.  The ochre breast was quite bright, but the white behind the eye was very marked and so I plumped for the Yellowish empidonax, a resident species and another of those termed ‘common’ in Stiles & Skutch.  Unfortunately, it didn’t do any singing and very quickly flew off before I could get to the camera.  Worse still, I always doubt myself in retrospect and the Tawny-chested flycatcher (Aphanotriccus capitalis) looks like another possibility.  How many times now have I seen a bird and been sure I could confirm it in the bird guides, only to find that there are more than one candidate, or even worse, no candidate at all!

On the same day, a pair of American swallow-tailed kites (Elanoides forficatus) swooped and glided over the house for about half an hour.  This is truly a beautiful bird, but I have seen it here only a handful of times.  It seems to be more common higher up the volcano slope.  A few hours earlier I had received a visit from seven Turkey vultures.  Usually I see only one at a time and almost always they come in very low.  These seven birds did the same but then soared up overhead and ‘kettled’ as if they were in migration.  It seems rather late for that.

Birds continue to bang into the house windows, and unfortunately a casualty this week was a female Green hermit (Phaethornis guy).  This is another species classed as common, but I have seen it only once before here in San Antonio, and never at the house.  I have to apologise for putting up photos of a dead bird yet again.  The central rectrices are much longer on the female, as you can see, and also the head has lots of buffy colour to it.  I don’t know if the immature females acquire the long rectrices immediately, so I can’t tell whether this bird is another post-nesting wanderer or not.  I’ll keep a close look-out at the heliconias in the coming weeks.

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