Swamp habitat – Boat-billed Heron and other creatures

The Reserva Las Brisas Abajo is a very different environment from the main reserve up above La Alegría. John Beer and I suffered a fruitless search to relocate the Agami Heron and the Rufescent Tiger-Heron that were present a week or so earlier, but the swamp-like habitat and the presence of howler monkeys, snakes and caimans made the trip an interesting one.  We are very grateful to owner Eric Berlin who kindly granted us access to what is essentially his home.

Cayman, Las Brisas 2 (1)

Any swamp habitat in this part of the Caribbean is likely to contain the Spectacled Caiman; don’t worry too much because they’re generally too small to eat you; photo by John Beer

Happily we were able to both see and hear one lowland heron species, the Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) with its big eye and even bigger bill:

Heron, Boat-billed, Las Brisas 2

Boat-billed Heron, a resident at Las Brisas Abajo; photo by John Beer

For the most part, however, the dense forest was strangely silent as the day came to a close. Perhaps we arrived too late. An interesting encounter was with a Hog-nosed Viper (tamagá), a very poisonous snake found throughout our region. This individual was in the middle of the (very rudimentary) footpath but fortunately was too busy hogging down a not very tiny lizard to try and take a bite out of us.

Snake, Pitviper, Hognosed (Tamaga), Las Brisas 2 (3)

Full length view of snake and partial view of the lizard! Photo by John Beer after he almost stepped on it.

Snake, Pitviper, Hognosed (Tamaga), Las Brisas 2 (2)

I don’t much care for this chap’s fierce expression; photo by John Beer

Back to birds! The Red-throated Ant-Tanager (Habia fuscicauda) closes this post. In our area it’s the only ant-tanager to be found of Costa Rica’s three species. (p. 348 Garrigues & Dean, The Birds of Costa Rica). The name ant-tanager can be considered misleading since they are now held to be closer to the cardinal family. When you’re looking at birds in dark understorey bright colours are a rarity, but the male of this species has a bright pink-red throat. I find that there are mostly more than one of the species, and they usually make a harsh and noisy chattering sound. The female is a dull brown with yellowish throat. Their dark environment makes photography difficult and John’s photo below was taken on another occasion, closer to Turrialba at the Angostura Dam:

Ant-Tanager Red-throated pair Angostura (5)

A pair of Red-throated Ant-Tanagers sit up for a moment for John Beer’s photograph at Angostura

Sightings for this short trip can be found at:  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40390341

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