Having found a life bird (Fasciated tiger-heron) down on Quebrada La Loca just 5 minutes from home, I sped off back down there the very next morning. First of course came my garden stroll with cup of coffee and binoculars in hand, which turned out to be the prelude to a remarkable day for bird sightings. The bottlebrush trees in the churchyard opposite the gate were full of Baltimore orioles, but an accompanying male Yellow-throated euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea) was the first of its species, or of any kind of euphonia for that matter, to appear on my home patch in a very long while.
A hummingbird in the very next tree then flew over to me, most helpfully, so that I could identify it as a male Violet-crowned woodnymph (Thalurania colombica),
while a nearby warbler proved to be a Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), again a male, strikingly beautiful with its yellow wing-patch and its black-and-white face.
On with the rubber boots and off down the road to the Quebrada to see if I can find the tiger-heron again. But on the way, the first two trees on the left as I exit my property are hopping with birdies and the first two are a pair of Yellow-throated euphonias. Both male and female have nesting material in their bills. Wonderful, but at the same time a lone bird at the top of the next tree is a male Rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), and this is another migratory species that I rarely see. The Mexicans call this bird Degollado (throat cut) because of the bloodred colour of the male below the neck.
I arrived at the cabin but couldn’t get into the forest because it was just one of those days where there were birds everywhere. The forest edge revealed several of our local residents, including a pair of Keel-billed toucans, but one of the cypresses had a little warbler that turned out to be a Black-throated green warbler (Dendroica virens). I had ample opportunity, for a change, to rule out its being a Townsend’s warbler (Dendroica townsendi). The problem is that quite often I see Black-throated greens with what looks like a dark cheek patch. Check page 261 in Garrigues and Dean and you’ll see what I mean. My blurry photo of a bird in my garden a couple of years back is a good example. The lack of yellow on the breast is a clincher, however.
The short forest path is on a steep slope leading down to the river. While still among the trees, I spotted two noisy little birds with tails cocked, zipping around fairly low down. To my delight these proved to be my second lifer of the week, the Three-striped warbler (Basileuterus tristriatus). You will find this species on the last page of warblers in Garrigues and Dean. Now, this species has always intrigued me since Garrigues touts them as being “often the core species within mixed flocks”, and yet I have spent five years in Costa Rica without seeing a single one. I even mentioned this to Richard himself on one occasion. He is right, of course, when he says that species that are common in some places are strangely absent in others. After finally identifying this species, I find that the pair that I saw were rather more yellowish below than in the illustration in the guide.
Richard Garrigues is also right on the ball when he says that the Three-striped warbler is often accompanied by the Common bush-tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) Since I do not have access to a photograph of the warbler (any offers?), here is an unaccompanied Common bush-tanager:
My careful approach to the river brought no luck this time, however. The tiger-heron (or perhaps a Sunbittern) had left his mark on numerous rocks but, even though I followed the stony course of the Quebrada for quite a way, I couldn’t find the bird. What he is eating is also not clear. I could find only a few tadpoles in the water. Fish are very few and far between in these rocky streams, which explains the general absence of herons and kingfishers.
My return to the house was eventful yet again, however, because I got a clear view of an Orange-billed nightingale-thrush (Catherus aurantiirostris) in a small grove that had been half cleared a few months ago. Both the song and the bird are truly beautiful. This one’s orange bill was enhanced by the large red berry that it was carrying. This is the commonest of the country’s five nightingale-thrushes, all of which can be found in our area. They are much easier to find at higher elevations, it seems to me, but all except the Black-billed nightingale-thrush (Catharus mexicanus), which is found much higher up, should, in theory, be fairly easy to find here in San Antonio. So far, however, the Orange-billed is the only one that I have been able to identify. At some point, I am going to have to join the modern world and carry a digital camera capable of recording what I see on the spot. For the time being, below is a nice photo of this middle-elevation species.
This bird-filled day was followed by a complete disappointment on Tuesday, when I covered the same territory in late afternoon and found not a bird of note! That’s how it goes. My best thanks go, yet again, to Karel Straatman and to Richard Garrigues for their fine photos.