Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher moves downhill

Male Long-tailed silky-flycatcher, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

Male Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

The Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus) is a really beautiful bird but unless I go up the mountain I have to wait until the end of the year to see it. In my garden I have two or three trees that attract this species, sometimes accompanied by Mountain Elaenias, and I notice that their fruit has appeared rather earlier this year. As soon as I see the fruit ripen, I keep watch for these highland species because that’s virtually the only time they appear here.

While standing waiting for the car headlights to be repaired in nearby Santa Cruz, I heard, and then saw, a small flock twitter by. The location is only about 150 m higher than here and I immediately guessed that they might drop in on my fruta de paloma trees. Sure enough, the next morning there was at least one male at the tree nearest the house. The only other species present were our usual garden birds, including of course the Yellow-bellied Elaenia. I’m hoping to get that one sitting next to Mountain elaenias for comparison purposes. The first photo here shows a Mountain Elaenia (Elaenia frantzii) by kind permission of Richard Garrigues, while the second shot is one that I took of a Yellow-bellied with its crest lowered.


Yellow-bellied elaenia, crest down

I wish they would just show the usual spiky haircut that makes them so easy to identify.

To further muddy the waters, there is a population of Lesser Elaenias (Elaenia chiriquensis) in the Cartago/Paraíso area not very far away. I have never seen one, but I hate the thought of perhaps missing one here. Here’s a nice pic that I am fairly sure is of a Lesser Elaenia, taken by friend Karel Straatman. See the problem!?


Lesser elaenia, but who would know?

In other news, the Yellow-breasted Chat reappeared today. It seems that he too enjoys the same berries that the silky-flycatcher finds so attractive. With several trees having to be trimmed because of dangers to my neighbours’ roofs, it has been a difficult week and there are now lots of open spaces in the garden that will perhaps change the bird population slightly. I’m hoping that the lack of vegetation won’t dissuade the two hermit species, Stripe-throated Hermit and Green Hermit that are now garden residents. Since the fall of the big higuerón two months ago, there are no more calls at night from the Bare-shanked Screech-owl, formerly very common and nesting close by, perhaps in said higuerón.

On the other hand, we now have good views of the Turrialba Volcano, with its huge plumes of steam, from the back balcony. Latest news there is that the road is now open from La Pastora to La Central, but there is no chance of access to the volcano because ash continues to fall. Wind has changed direction, now going from West to East so that Los Bajos del Volcán, site of our nearest Resplendent Quetzals, is now experiencing ash fall for the first time in nearly 150 years.

The Blue-crowned Motmot continues to pick at the pile of bananas that neighbour Carlos next to his driveway for his cows. I’m now waiting for my next batch of bananas to ripen, at which time I’ll be able to re-provision the feeders. The unmistakable and repetitive call of a Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus) attracted my attention from somewhere across the road near doña Blanca’s dairy.  This is unusually close to the house, although it has appeared in San Antonio several times during my time here. This is a big flycatcher with a hooked bill and a red eye, but it is often very difficult to spot because it hides out in thick vegetation, usually fairly high up. The bright yellow rump is an obvious field mark if the bird presents its backside. Karel Straatman’s photo here  has a prudish Attila refusing to show his rump. Attila the Hun would have been more forthright, I’m sure.

I look best from this angle.

I look best from this angle.

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