The new year brings us just one more good reason to move to Costa Rica: the month of January. With January come large flocks of parrots and toucans, the chicle fruits, and explosions of bougainvillea blooms. Why January? Why now when everything is dry with no hope of rain?
As if we don’t always have multiple troupes of howler monkeys, we now have a monkey lure. It’s called a chicle tree and it bears fruit. Who knew? We have several of these protected chicle trees. Monkeys love this fruit, which is popular world-wide for human consumption, too. Just behind Rusty’s garage/play-room our closest chicle is only about 10 meters from our railing. You’d think that 35 monkeys would do some real damage to a tree, but they’re very careful in their fruit harvest.
The parrots and toucans are less careful. Let’s have a quick tour of the birds in our neighborhood with the clear understanding that the descriptions below (while accurate as to each bird) are only my opinion; and I'm not an expert on anything.*
The Amazon kingfisher can always be spotted on a branch at the river crossing that leads up our mountain. I learned to love kingfishers in Africa. They will dive-bomb into the water to snatch a tiny minnow-type fish in that long, strong bill.
The orange-chinned parakeet looks like a parrot in size. Don't think little pet-store birds. These fellows have some heft, and they're loud. We spent weeks trying to confirm this parakeet's identity. Indeed, our birds are the orange-chinned parakeet . . . though you'll see little orange in this particular bird. The orange is most easily spotted while they are in flight passing within just a few feet of our terrace high above the forest floor.
The blue-crowned motmot is easy to spot, especially in silhouette due to his tail. But sunlight brings out his beautiful blue color.
The crimson fronted parakeet is also larger than what we formerly believed to be parakeet-size. The photos don't do him justice. In flight the leading edge of his wings is scarlet red.
The lineated woodpecker is a bizarre bird. His neck is pencil-thin. Often you'll hear him working before searching for a spot of red in the forest. Obviously, no one is going to miss that red tufted head; and in silhouette is neck is bizarrely thin.
When we first spied the masked tityra we thought we were seeing a miniature flying penguin. With his wings spread, there's more black than the photo implies. We still say, Hey, there goes the penguin bird. In flight the black and white contrast of his body looks like a little photo negative of a penguin's tuxedo. This is a really good bird, and the red on this face is bright and difficult to miss, even in his rapid flight.
The olive-throated parakeet is similar to one of our Amazon parrots (yes, we have at least two types of Amazon parrots). Not a small bird, his color appears as if someone stroked his head with a dull green powder. It's subtle, but we're learning to I.D. this bird at a distance due to the somewhat pointy shape of his tale.
The Baltimore oriole usually travels in pairs, and what they're doing here is a mystery . . . though they do have a large range of habitat. His orange is so bright that he is never difficult to spot.
The rufous naped wren is our best song bird. He sings constantly, which makes him a great bird, despite his lack of brilliant color. Hey, we can't all be the Lady Gaga of birds. When we hear beautiful bird song, and we know that he is nearby. In fact, one couple make their home in the canopy of a tree almost at eye level near our terrace rail. They are almost always seen with a beak full of fluff . . . thus Rusty's nicknaming this bird the cream-breasted wool gatherer.
The scarlet tanager, contrary to its name, is not as bright as the summer tanager. And he has more black on this wings and near the tail, so he is not a solid red bird. These are small birds with such stunning color that they catch your peripheral vision and are literally head-turners.
Here's our summer tanager. Far redder than any cardinal. The summer tanager was never seen during the summer for some reason. Only in the early autumn did we begin to see one of my favorite colorful birds.
The yellow-naped Amazon parrot isn't that much larger than some of our larger parakeets . . . which tells you that we have some sizable parakeets. But his song (screech) is very loud. They travel in large flocks flapping furiously their relatively small wings. This parrot is so loud that you can hear the flock coming at least a minute before spying the first bird. While his name implies serious yellow at the back of his head, he looks more as if someone dusted him with dull yellow pollen.
The red lored Amazon visited just this morning. Three of them in our driveway tree. There is something odd about many of the parrot and parakeet species that we're seeing . . . some shouldn't be here. The book says that some don't travel this far north/south/east/west. Nevertheless, here they are . . . despite the fact that some aren't even listed on the Costa Rica Birding Tours website. And believe me, I've consulted other local birding enthusiasts who confirm that these are indeed the birds that have come to visit us.
The yellow tyrannulet is tiny, but there' no mistaking this brilliantly yellow visitor. Why they're here now is a mystery. Always in pairs. This photo does not begin to capture its blinding lemon-yellow color. We initially though we were seeing bright yellow butterflies -- they're that small.
Finally, a toucan on the property. In fact, flocks of them. This is the collared aracari (pronounced ara-sorry). Great bird. We spotted a pair one afternoon in silhouette by their beaks; and the next day they flew right by the terrace. Okay, he's not a colorful as the Fruit Loops toucan, but in flight this bird is full of reds and bright yellows.
*Almost all of the images here came from our old authority, Wikipedia. Those images from other sites generally have their logo on the photographs. I certainly take no credit for these images. Lo que hay.