November has typically been the rainiest month in the Turrialba area. The last two or three years have not been so typical but this year the climate has reverted to form. Our garden has pretty much continued to be host to its usual resident species and many of the usual migrants from the north are here. With the rapid growth of San Antonio, the attendant noise and removal of trees and ground cover, our small property is one of the few places in the village to still host a large number of bird species.
Below are photographs of a few of the more notable birds that have appeared this November. -Although in past years quite a few rarities have shown up, none of this month’s species is particularly rare.
The Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) is a pretty little bird, but it’s one of those many confusing flycatchers that abound in Costa Rica. It’s a reasonably common species but I record it only sporadically here in the garden. It could be that I sometimes pass it off as a Mistletoe Tyrannulet (formerly Paltry Tyrannulet) (Zimmerius vilissimus), a similar species that is almost always present.
Relatively few hummingbirds are here at the moment but a female White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) has staked out an area near the balcony, which it defends against the ominipresent Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl). The female is much more modestly attired than the showy males and at first sight seems to be an entirely different species.
At dawn and at dusk a pair of Laughing Falcons (Herpetotheres cachinnans) often call from the two giant eucalyptus trees.
This rather large falcon hunts principally snakes. Only in recent years has it become a regular visitor to San Antonio. Its loud, persistent calls easily betray its presence.
A migrant Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia) can be found low among the shrubbery in the garden most days this November. It’s a common species but a delight to see when you can catch a glimpse of it in tangled undergrowth.
I’ve saved for the last a bird that is certainly considered uncommon. I’m cheating a bit because, although it has visited the garden pond at least once, I found this month’s Fasciated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum) only yesterday down at Quebrada La Loca, five minutes’ walk away. This time I managed to get within a few feet.
The main trunk of one of the largest trees on the far bank had snapped off some 20 feet up leaving its huge root system intact. The roots have been fully exposed by the force of the river when in spate. I had always imagined that the tree would have been completely uprooted some day. The tiger-heron, a beautiful brown-and-black streaked immature, stood for a while on one of the thick branches of the fallen tree, which spanned the stream. The lack of bare yellow skin on the throat distinguishes this species from the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum), as this photo of a juvenile Fasciated at Bonilla (Arriba) clearly shows:
The black streaks become increasingly dominant towards the lower back of the bird so that the upper parts of the body are a much lighter overall shade of brown. The neck of the tiger-heron is much thicker than that of other herons, or so it seems, even though it does extend it, snake-like, to get a better view of potential prey.
Finally, here’s a photograph of an adult, whose plumage is quite different:
Adults and juveniles have appeared together regularly at Quebrada La Loca.