Orange-billed Sparrows and White-faced Monkeys

Sparrows are not, in general, renowned for their good looks. However, Costa Rica has several very pretty species and perhaps none more so than the Orange-billed Sparrow (Arremon aurantiirostris). I returned to the San Diego waterfall path again today to try and pin down the antbirds that are hidden there. No luck with that, and this time the Dusky-faced Tanagers of my last several visits did not show either.

The yellow shoulder seems more conspicuous on the male Orange-billed Sparrow. By Jerry Oldenettel (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_4863a.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The yellow shoulder seems more conspicuous on the male Orange-billed Sparrow. By Jerry Oldenettel (originally posted to Flickr as DSC_4863a.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In mitigation, while sitting studying a pair of Orange-billed Sparrows, I was visited by a small band of White-faced monkeys. These are in our area but are not often seen. This was only my second sighting of them for the San Antonio area in eight years.

“Cebus capucinus, Costa Rica” – by Steven G. Johnson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

On the subject of unexpected encounters, this coincides with strange reports of three female Resplendent Quetzals (one supposedly with a band bearing a number ending in 034) in the small forest between San Antonio and El Carmen, and an awful incident where a pantera negra (presumably a jaguar) was killed near Santa Cruz. It had first appeared at San Diego. The perpetrators are said to be facing criminal proceedings right now. A similar incident, also involving a pantera negra, took place near La Suiza on the other side of Turrialba, and a video recording from Naranjo at the western end of the Central Valley shows a jaguar taking an unfortunate pet dog from a garden in the middle of the night in full view of security cameras. This one is on YouTube.

The quetzal sighting seems strange for the absence of males but my neighbour seemed very sure of his identification of the grey belly of the female, precluding confusion with local trogons. In any case, the only trogon I’ve seen near the village is the yellow-bellied Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus). Here’s a lovely picture of a female Resplendent Quetzal by kind courtesy of Richard Garrigues:

Resplendent Quetzal, female - © Richard Garrigues

Resplendent Quetzal, female – © Richard Garrigues

I am assuming that the nearest banding station for quetzals is at Cerro de la Muerte. Their appearance at our elevation is perhaps not so strange since most quetzals move down the Caribbean slope to between 800 and 1000 m for the months of September to November.

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