Finally I have managed to return to the CATIE bird-banding programme and, as always, there were surprises. July and August are the months of least activity for Costa Rican birds, since there are virtually no migrants present. Today was no exception in that regard, but it did bring the totally unexpected netting of two parrots, one of which is rare in this region.
On a beautiful morning, with the Turrialba Volcano in full steam in the background, Ale, Fabrice and I set up nets in the café/poró section. There was little immediate activity, beyond a pretty and immature Blue-grey tanager (Thraupis episcopus), but on the second round we discovered the remains of a chucuyo (White-crowned Parrot (Pionus senilis)) that apparently had been chased into the net by a hawk. Only a wing and a scattering of beautiful blue and red feathers remained. Fabrice carefully collected them for posterity. The tallest nearby trees featured flocks of this, our commonest local parrot, together with larger flocks of Red-billed Pigeons (Patagieoanus flavirostris), our commonest local representative of doves and pigeons. Later, they all deserted the trees as an adult Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris), the presumed parrot-killer, took up his station there. This parrot is reckoned as uncommon in the Central Valley according to Garrigues and Dean, but is present year-round in large numbers in the Turrialba area.
This was the first occasion on which a parrot had been found in the nets here at CATIE, but an hour later, to our amazement, a second parrot crashed into the nets. To our even greater surprise, it was a White-fronted Parrot (Amazona albifrons), normally found only on the Pacific slope and usually well to the north. Garrigues & Dean rate it as rare in the western Central Valley, and we of course are at the extreme eastern end. We again assume that the bird was flying so low to avoid the hawk. He was a fearful squawker and difficult to extricate without Ale and Fabrice having their hands bitten. This species does not have the blue primaries of the local chucuyo, but the secondaries are completely blue, the red orbital skin is very noticeable and the white forehead was less pronounced, at least on this particular bird, than on the White-crowned. We released him without banding since our equipment is appropriate only for smaller birds.
Little else other than a recaptured Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineous) appeared in the nets until we were about to pack up and leave. Then several birds decided to bump into net no. 8 and we had to work rather frantically to process two Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl), two Streak-headed Woodcreepers (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) and a very pretty male Yellow-throated euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea). To these were added at the same time from other nets a Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) and a supposedly scarce Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow (Melozone biarcuata).
I was happy to note that I was able this time to identify correctly the woodcreepers (see my earlier blog on those), while the euphonia is noteworthy because it continues to appear here despite it being mapped in the guides as a Pacific-coast bird. It seems to outnumber considerably the Yellow-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia luteicapilla), but I have seen no euphonias at my house in San Antonio for several months now.
Of note at the house at the moment is the presence of Green-breasted mango (Anthracothorax prevostii) and Violet sabrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus). The former I had never seen here until very recently, while the Sabrewing now seems much more regular than before. Perhaps my heliconia and rabo de gato plantings are taking effect.
I attach no list this time since I believe I have mentioned all the captures above. It was great to get back to the bird-banding, although Ale and Fabrice had to do even more of the work this time because I had to relearn some of the skills with which I had formerly been progressing. I also learned this time about coffee-borers, invaders from Africa, and saw them at first hand.