Photo of the Day

HI THERE!

Sometimes you have to brag a little. This photo of a red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica was selected by Natural Habitat Adventures in their “Wildlife Photo of the Day” competition. I’ve entered photos in the past, but this is the first time I’ve won.

http://dailywildlifephoto.nathab.com/photos/4977-hi-there-04-06-2017.

More Big Beautiful Costa Rican Birds

Emerald Toucanet

With  a few days remaining before I leave for a blissful two weeks of internet-free snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, I’ll add another post or two on my trip to Costa Rica. The big birds are easy to identify; the small stuff will take a lot longer.

The Toucan tribe is almost as colourful as the macaws, and we were fortunate to see several species. The Emerald Toucanet posed regally for us.

Emerals Toucanet

There’s nothing regal about the others.

Black-Mandibled Toucan

Although “Kill Bill” tried.

Keel-billed Toucan

But this fellow didn’t.

Collared aracari

For a regal-sounding name, nothing beats the Montezuma Oropendola. And he’s handsome enough to carry the name.

Montezuma Oropendola

And of course, we need a parrot.

Red-lored parrot

The remaining bird almost didn’t make it into this category; I think the red legs saved it.

Gray-necked Wood-Rail

I’ll give him one more chance to show off.

Gray-necked Wood-Rail

Superstars of Costa Rican Birds

Flyover

Flyover

Sometimes I get lucky. The macaws flew only once before retiring to the trees where it was cooler. I set my Lumix FZ1000 to 400 z00m, aimed skyward,  fired a burst, and hoped. When I cropped the specks in the frame, I discovered that the camera had captured their magnificent flight.

Macaws are clowns. It’s impossible to take them seriously, but their beauty is impossible to ignore.

They hang around, looking silly.

They hang around, looking silly.

Until they decide to fly.

Until they decide to fly.

We spent a long time with these birds, which are quite tame because they are raised and fed in this location.

A solemn pair?

A solemn pair?

No, they're all goofy.

No, they’re all goofy.

And a delight to photograph.

And a delight to photograph.

The bird we all hoped to see, of course, was the elusive quetzal. They hide deep in the trees, usually obscured by branches and almost always in a dark place. We were fortunate to see several and follow them until we managed to get some clear shots.

Sneaking up from behind.

Sneaking up from behind.

The standard portrait.

The standard portrait.

But I prefer this one.

But I prefer this one.

More to come from my trip to Costa Rica. There are big birds, small birds and a lot of creatures that aren’t birds, enough material for quite a few posts.

HUMMINGBIRD BALLET

Trio

Trio. Oops! Quintet.

I promise to finish my blogs on the Firth River as soon as I return from two weeks of snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies. But I just got back from an eight-day photo tour of Costa Rica and have to share some of the delights. A great many places have learned that by putting out a feeder or even hanging some flowers from a branch will attract hummingbirds and tourists. It would have been nice to capture the birds at random in the bush, but feeders make photography so much easier. Below are my favourites from three locations.

There's room for everyone.

There’s room for everyone.

I could probably drink upside down if I tried.

I could probably drink upside down if I tried.

A study in colour.

A study in colour.

Attack from two sides.

Attack from three sides.

Eye on the enemy.

Eye on the enemy.

I win.

I win.

Nahanni Odds and Ends

Makenzie Orchid

Mackenzie Orchid

Most of the flowers I saw were old friends from the Rockies: death camas, potentilla, lousewort, asters, bog rosemary, and reindeer lichen. Lady slippers occur there as well, but the beautiful Mackenzie orchid (a version of Cypripedum guttatum) thrives only in the mist of Virginia Falls. At least I recognized it sufficiently to call it a lady slipper.

The following pretty bloom was a real puzzler.

Boschnialia rossica

Boschniakia rossica

I spent a long time searching the internet in vain for this one. Fortunately, one of our guides was a trained botanist and came to my rescue a few days ago. Its common name is northern groundcone, and it’s a parasite.

The final plant oddity isn’t really unusual; I just had not encountered it before. Plus, it wasn’t fully in bloom. This time, Ben Gadd’s  wonderful Handbook of the Canadian Rockies provided the answer, as it usually does for anything in the Boreal forest.

Striped Coral Root Corallorhiza striata

Striped Coral Root.  Corallorhiza striata

It’s another orchid. No leaves. It feeds on dead plant matter with a little help from fungal friends.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but it was there.

Caribou tracks on a beach

Caribou tracks on a beach

A couple more sky pictures. The clouds were endlessly fascinating.

A sunny day with promise of showers later

A sunny day with promise of showers later

 

Cloud mountains

Cloud mountains

And finally, here is what the Nahanni would look like today if the mountains had not risen up around it. It still has its curves and oxbows, but they are far less obvious as they flow through deep canyons.

Flat-land river

Flat-land river

That’s all from the Nahanni. The next posts will deal with the rest of my summer holiday: Yellowknife and the Firth River.

Canyons of the Nahanni: First Canyon

Nahanni sky

Nahanni sky

Headless corpses? A man by his fire, match in hand, frozen solid? A woman who wanders off cliffs and over rivers before her track disappears? A mysterious tribe called the Naha who wear armour, swoop down from the mountains, and behead their victims?  Ah yes. Nahanni is a dangerous river, and on some days it seems to live up to its legends.

Behind the walls of the cliff pictured below lies a complex cave system known as the Grotte Valerie. Early visitors found a frozen waterfall with a large chamber at the bottom which they christened “Gallery of Dead Sheep” because of the hundreds of skeletons within. Over the centuries, sheep wandered into the cave, slid down the waterfall and were unable to get out. The Grotte is now closed to visitors to protect its delicate formations.

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Grotte Valerie. Main entrance is behind trees at extreme upper left.

First Canyon is a rugged landscape.

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Beach in First Canyon

One can only imagine how this canyon must have appeared to R.M.Patterson. A young Englishman with no experience in the north or with a canoe, and stoked by warnings that people went up the river but never came back, he found himself dwarfed by walls that rose 1000 metres above him. Today, we may laugh at his fears, but would any of us attempt his journey or survive it?

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At play in inflatable kayak. We know where we are camping tonight and we have experienced guides in rafts behind us.

Gradually we leave the high walls and canyons behind.

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End of the canyons.

Time for a frolic in Klaus Hot Springs.

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Klaus Hot Springs

We carry on toward Nahanni Butte under a spectacular sky.

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Storm over Nahanni Butte

Rain doesn’t bother us, but lightning forces us to put to shore several times and wait.

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A scene that is more beautiful than it felt at the time.

We camped in the rain, woke to mist and a fair day. A motor boat came to take us to Nahanni Butte.

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Last camp.

This was my second time down the Nahanni. It will not be my last; the river works it way into your soul and beckons you back.

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CANYONS OF THE NAHANNI: SECOND CANYON

Morning at The Gate

Morning at The Gate

We prepare to enter Second Canyon under a clear sky. A group of canoeists had shared our site. They had a blue raft to carry baggage.

Second Canyon is sheer rock cliffs that dwarf our rafts, but there are gentler areas as well.

Cliffs of Second Canyon

Cliffs of Second Canyon

 

Time to lean back and let the beauty take over.

Time to lean back and let the beauty take over.

We stop for lunch at Painted Rocks Canyon. Time for a short hike. Or not.

There are many ways to enjoy the river.

There are many ways to enjoy the river.

On past Headless Creek (ah, those wonderful Nahanni legends), Meilleur River, and Sheaf Creek, where R.M.Patterson built his cabin and spent the winter of 1929. If you haven’t read his book The Dangerous River, you’ve missed the best of Canadian nature writing.

We camped at Prairie Creek, a broad delta, flat and open, with nice tent sites. Next morning, I rose early, put the camera to work, and then sat down to describe the scene.

Early morning at Prairie Creek

Early morning at Prairie Creek

Across the river, a dense lodgepole pine forest rises to rounded hills and behind them, the reddish brown mass of Tlogotcho Plateau. The wind and the river are quiet, the only sounds the chirping of birds, the soft talk of the guides preparing breakfast, and the ever-present whine of mosquitoes.

Prairie Creek camp

Prairie Creek camp

Shrubs, reeds or grass, shallow pools of still water, hard-packed damp sand, and beyond, a range of mountains.. Wispy clouds seem to promise a fair day, but on this river, sun and storm play hide and seek.

Sheltered tent site

Sheltered tent site

To my right, a tent nestles among spindly poplars. It’s a perfect day for a nature hike, and we go in search of a wolf den. No luck with the wolves, but we see our first dall sheep. They’re too far away to photograph clearly, even with my 800mm digital lens. Predictably, storm clouds chase us back to camp.

The night was too warm for a good sleep, so I listened to the sprinkle of rain on the tent, one the most soothing sounds of camping. Mosquitoes bad in the morning. We load up and splash through George’s Riffle and into First Canyon.

George's Riffle.

George’s Riffle.

George Sibbeston was a trapper who capsized here. Our rafts scoffed at the tiny waves.

Bad weather came in quickly. What did First Canyon have in store for us?

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

 

Next post: First Canyon and the end of our journey.