Two common but elusive birds

Two elusive birds showed up for a photo op on the same day!

The Slaty Spinetail (Synallaxis brachyura) is a common species of ovenbird that I have mentioned in an earlier post, where I contrasted it with the only other spinetail in the Turrialba area, the Red-faced Spinetail (Cranioleuca erythrops). The latter is a middle-elevation species that behaves quite differently from the Slaty Spinetail.

The distinctive churring call of the Slaty Spinetail is very often heard emanating from tangled thickets up to an elevation of 1500 m. I do also have one sighting I made at Guayabo Lodge in nearby Santa Cruz slightly above that altitude.

Spinetail, Slaty, Reserva Las Brisas (12)

Finally! An adult Slaty Spinetail at Las Brisas de La Alegría. Photo by John Beer

Friend John Beer had made several previous attempts to secure a clear picture of this insect-eating species and finally struck it lucky on our most recent excursion to the Reserva Las Brisas, which is one hour’s drive away in Limón Province.

Spinetail, Slaty, adult, Reserva Las Brisas (1)

Rear view of the Slaty Spinetail; note the red eye. Photo by John Beer

In this final shot we see both the long tail that gives the bird its name and the rufous wing coverts. Immature birds lack the rufous crown.

Spinetail, Slaty, Reserva Las Brisas (11)

Slaty Spinetail displays its spiny tail! Photo by John Beer

When you’re in our area for the first time, remember that the churring sound you here close-up from a low tangle of bushes may not be a wren, but instead this maddeningly elusive furnarid.

The Stripe-breasted Wren (Cantorchilus thoracicus) is a common forest bird on the Caribbean side of the country and like several other wren species it is much more often heard than seen. It is endemic from eastern Nicaragua to western Panama. I can find it regularly close to home at San Diego (1000 m) where it is at the upper limit of its range. It pipes an even series of clear high notes that can be heard at quite a distance. On our trip to Reserva Las Brisas, John was able to secure the following photograph after several close encounters:

Wren, Stripe-breasted, Reserva Las Brisas (1)

Stripe-breasted Wren shows his stripes! Photo by John Beer

As the field guides note, this is the only wren in Costa Rica that has streaks on both throat and breast.

Other critters also appear with great frequency on our birding walks. Here’s a common one:

Central American whip-tailed lizard, Reserva Las Brisas (2)

Central American Whip-tailed Lizard, courtesy of John Beer

More from our highly successful Las Brisas excursion in the next post!

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