Our friend Barbara Bowen passed away on August 10, 2016. Barbara was an avid lover of poetry, philosophy and nature. She lived, and finally died, above the hamlet of El Banco, which is located just a few kilometers from Turrialba just off the road to the Turrialba Volcano. Barbara’s beloved property includes a good-sized patch of mixed forest and it was, and still, a haven for middle-elevation bird species. I know that she would be very happy to know that the property will be maintained and the beautiful habitat preserved.
On a recent visit, I found that the guayabo tree that stands in front of her main window has a pair of nesting White-winged Becards (Pachyramphus polychopterus). This large-headed, mostly insect-eating species is one of 5 in Costa Rica (see Garrigues & Dean p. 252-255) bearing the name becard. The birds at Barbara’s house are in constant attendance at the nest, though so far I have seen only the female engaged in actual construction of what is, so far at least, a very flimsy and untidy structure.
All photographs (except the portrait of Barbara) are courtesy of John Beer, who returned to the location to obtain some really high-quality photographs. Here’s a full view of the female:
The handsome black-and-white male seems to be merely the supervisor.
The pair of becards is constantly interrupted by some rather obtrusive neighbours. Right next door, and separated only by a wasp’s nest, is another nest belonging to a pair of Yellow-olive Flycatchers (Tolmomyias sulphurescens). I presume a pair even though only one bird at a time was to be seen.
It seems that this rather common flycatcher species often builds its hanging nest next to a wasp’s nest, I assume for protective purposes. Both the form and the materials of the nest are very different from that of the becard.
When the Yellow-olive turned its back to us, it wasn’t always immediately clear at first whether we weren’t still looking at the female becard. However, once you see the key field mark, the pale iris on a grey head, the Yellow-olive Flycatcher is distinguished not just from the female becard but more importantly from other small flycatchers such as the Paltry Tyrannulet (very common) and the Yellow-margined Flycatcher (not so common).
To complicate matters for the nest-builders, a pair of Palm Tanagers (Thraupis palmarum) were in attendance at their own nest just a few feet away in the roof gutters of the house and repeatedly perched in the guayabo conveniently located only a few feet away. This modestly attired species with a greenish-yellow tinge on the head is hard to miss in our area.
Three nests and three different species! No wonder she loved this place. Rest in peace Barbara.