In a Costa Rican garden – today

Each day brings different species to my garden here on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano. Rarities are scarce, yet there is always a variety of visitors. We are in the middle of migration season and so the assortment of species is richer than at other times and often includes a bird that does not appear every year. The mix of these migrants with resident species means delightful bird-watching from my backyard balcony each morning as I enjoy my morning coffee. Here are two residents and two migrants from today’s sightings.

My photograph of the Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana), which is by far the commonest of Costa Rica’s 8 resident cuckoo species, cannot do it justice. Its rich brown plumage, long tail barred with white, and above all its red eye ringed with green, combined with a large, greenish-yellow bill, make it a real beauty. Its name is very apt since the first impression is of a red squirrel clambering through the thick vegetation. My current bird has been out in the open much more than is usual, sitting close to a half-rotten post that I retrieved to support a passion-flower vine and picking off small insects that had made their home there.

The guayaba fruits shown in the file photo above have not yet ripened this year. When they do they will attract a full complement of resident tanagers, and after they fall the garden will be full of butterfly species, including the beautiful blue morphos for which Costa Rica is justly famous.

Larry Waddell’s photo of the Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), a visitor from North America, shows this year’s bird, which has now been in the garden for several weeks and will probably remain through the month of April. Generally secretive, this particular bird also appears each morning in full view eating the small black berries of a tree called locally ratoncillo (little mouse). This is actually only the second year that I have found the Gray Catbird here locally, even though it is probably a regular visitor.

Another migrant brightening up the garden each day is the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra). This year it is a male bird that has taken up residence here.

Summer Tanager

Bright red, eye-catching plumage of the male Summer Tanager, photographed here in the garden by Larry Waddell

Finally, for this day in my garden, I have selected , from among many regular visitors, a common resident tanager. It’s a good example of the stunning garden birds that any visitor to Costa Rica will be able to see with very little difficulty. This photograph of an adult Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) is the only photograph not taken in my own garden and comes from nearby Santa Rosa, courtesy of John Beer:

Tanager, Golden-hooded (adult, Santa Rosa; garden)

Golden-hooded Tanager snacking on a berry

Today’s list of my garden sightings, made over the space of one hour, is very representative, though several regularly seen species are missing. You can find it at:

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