When we first arrived here, to live on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano, we were thrilled to be able to hear the calls of the Bare-shanked Screech-owl (Megascops clarkii) almost every night. A pair roosted during the day in a higuerón tree on our neighbour’s fence-line and could be seen regularly during the day. I documented this with photographs in an earlier post, in addition to an incident in July 2014 where a Bare-shanked hit the bedroom window. The bird recovered, but the only photo I took before it flew came out a blur. Here’s the blur:
Change came gradually at first, as our neighbour cleared a long line of huge cypress trees and then the aforementioned higuerón fell in a storm. The Bare-shanked was still present with some regularity and to its low, muffled hoots was added the trilling sound of the Tropical Screech-owl (Megascops choliba), which ends in a distinctive poop sound, sometimes doubled. Over time, this species then began to dominate. On many nights, a series of rising and descending shrieks was, and still is, also to be heard. I have still not identified what bird (or animal) makes this noise, but it does seem to be always when owls are present, and, coincidentally, Stiles & Skutch claim “several strident, screeching barks” as one of the Tropical Screech-owls calls. Unfortunately, none of the recordings (Peter Boesman, Birds of Costa Rica MP3 Sound Collection, Xeno Canto, etc.) that I have heard matches either this written description or the very loud calls that I hear with some frequency, including again last night.
Last night, right at dusk, I inspected the damage wreaked by ICE, the national electric company, when they cut most of the remaining giant higuerón on our property. The Bare-shanked had not been heard since the fall of the first of our higuerones some three months previously. Imagine my delight, then, at finding a fluttering owl at the base of the tree. Just enough light remained for me to identify it easily, and at the same time it allowed a close approach. It was buzzed for a while by the last Rufous-tailed hummingbird, who was obviously ready to turn in for the night. The Bare-shanked, now a smallish silhouette, remained until I too returned to my evening chores.
Richard Garrigues’ photo shows a bright-eyed specimen from another area of Costa Rica. Here is a one of the first shots that I took of this species, years ago, at its day-time roost:
As an addendum to this post, I attach a photo of a so far unidentified pygmy-owl species taken by friend Tammy Lindquist, over at La Flor, Tres Equis, on the Siquirres road. She has the bird in hand because it had become stunned after hitting her window.