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.

Early Fall in the Rockies

The view from Canmore

The view from Canmore

It was not a good morning for hiking. I ate a leisurely breakfast, read the Calgary Herald, and headed for the Vermillion Lakes as soon as the clouds began to break up. Aside from dawn or sunset, my favourite time to photograph the mountains is when there is a mix of blue sky and dramatic cloud.

I had to be patient, but there was beauty to capture at the lakes.

The gentle colours of September

The gentle colours of September

 

Sunlight on grass

Sunlight on grass

 

And then the summits began to reveal themselves.

Fresh snow at summer's end

Fresh snow 

 

Like ghost ships on a sea of clouds

Like ghost ships on a sea of clouds

And almost as soon as the clouds began to lift, they were gone, replaced by a clear blue sky. Mt Rundle suddenly thrust its summits out of a thick layer of cloud. By the time I got the camera from its case, the cloud had dwindled to a narrow strip.

Mt Rundle

Mt Rundle.

I left the lakes and drove to the osprey nest at Castle Junction. One lone juvenile was there, waiting perhaps for his parents to him bring some food, even though he was fully fledged and now capable of looking after himself.

Home sweet home, but not for much longer.

Home sweet home, but not for much longer. He was gone next morning.

Two hours of waiting brought nothing more exciting than a hop from one side of the nest to the other, and a few soft calls, so I headed for Lake Minnewanka in hopes of finding some sheep or elk. No luck. Aside from birds, the only wildlife I saw during my three days in the area consisted of small rodents.

It was too early for the aspens. Although a few had turned bright yellow, most of the groves were just beginning to change. September is a time of waiting and expectation.

End of summer

End of summer

 

Osprey Family Matters

While I was in Banff National Park  this week, I stopped by an osprey nest along the Bow River. It is used every year and I always visit to see how the family is doing. On this day, the female was on the nest with only the top of her head visible. I walked down to the river and found the male sitting in a tree. Quite a handsome fellow!

Male osprey

Male osprey

The brown necklace on the breast is more frequently found on the female, but this bird was acting like a male, hanging around, not doing much of anything; I mean male ospreys, not all males! He spent a lot of  time meticulously grooming.

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After ninety minutes of waiting for something to happen, I headed back to the road, only to hear the female call. The bird flew to her, and of course, I missed a good shot. I walked below the nest and was able to see both birds. They were carrying on an animated conversation.

Female on nest, male on edge.

Female on nest, male on edge.

Nothing much happened for a few minutes, and then there was a great deal of flapping as one bird departed. The whole sequence lasted about three seconds, and I simply put the camera on burst. When I first looked at the photos on  the camera’s view screen, I thought that I had captured a mating. Only later, as I tried to sort out body parts, did I decide that in fact, the two birds were simply changing places. I hope that someone with more expertise in osprey matters will settle the issue.

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Female moves to side, male enters nest

 

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Female lifts off

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Botswana Birds

Copyright Notice: All photos in this blog are copyrighted by the owner, Jo Ann Creore. All rights reserved.

 

 

Beautiful, fascinating, frustrating. Most birds look best in flight, if you can see them. On land or tree branch, they seldom strike interesting poses, and their expressions seldom change. So unless their plumage was remarkable, or water added a reflection to the picture, I consigned most of my bird photos from this trip to the discard file.

Vultures are not pretty. In fact, with their bald heads, they are downright repulsive until they take flight.

Take off at sunset

Take off at sunset

 

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Working up the colour ladder, some birds just naturally have character, even when they’re not doing anything.

We apologize for interrupting your nap.

We apologize for interrupting your nap.

 

Others just seem to be part of the landscape.

Two eagles

Two eagles

 

We saw a number of hammerkopfs, usually in lighting that made them dark blobs. Water and a bit of sun helped show off this bird’s beautiful head.

Hammerkopf

Hammerkopf

 

You don’t need colour if you’re an ostrich. A nice pose will do.

Back to back dance

Back to back dance

 

And if you can pose like this heron, black and brown are all you need.

I think Rembrandt would be impressed.

I think Rembrandt would be impressed.

 

Black and white work well too.

I have no idea what bird this is, but it has wonderful legs.

I have no idea what bird this is, but it has wonderful legs.

 

Black and white also go well even if they are not on the same bird. These two egrets were frequently found together.

Slaty egret

Slaty egret

White egret

White egret

 

A wacky expression and a bright yellow beak make the hornbill an interesting subject. Our guides called them flying bananas.

Yellow-billed hornbill

Yellow-billed hornbill

 

All this bird has to do is show up.

No ID, but I'd know him anywhere.

No ID, but I’d know him anywhere.

 

Bee eaters made me wish for a very long zoom lens. All I had was a 300mm.

Bee eater

Bee eater

 

And now, my favourite bird, not just in Africa but on any continent. This amazing bundle of colour doesn’t have to do anything.

Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-breasted roller

 

In flight, it speeds by as a blur of colour. But the burst mode on my camera captured its true glory.

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A little out of focus, but you can't beat the expression.

A little out of focus, but you can’t beat the expression.

BURNSIDE RIVER: Part Two (Northern Rivers Series)

Day 4, Camp #2

The Burnside flows through western Nunavut to Bathurst Inlet and the Arctic Ocean, passing mostly through tundra, with canyons at the northern outlet.  Whether we will actually be able to navigate it is another matter; we are scarcely downstream from our previous camp, and ice still jams the river, blocking our progress.

After a breakfast of porridge, bacon and pancakes we broke camp with all the efficiency of a group that has yet to learn the routine.  By the time we had stuffed our gear and the guides had figured out the best way to load the rafts, it was 1130.

Loading rafts (Photo by Don Taves)

The rafts can hold up to four people plus guide; two go in the raft with the most gear while the rest of us split up four and three.  Getting in and out takes some scrambling, but once in we are comfortable.  Paddling is optional as the guides do all the work.

Guide Travis – a great guy to have when you need a strong hand at the oars.

Our first stop is Nadlak, a tiny islet near a major ford of the Burnside.  For hundreds of years the island was used by the Inuit to process the caribou they killed at the ford.  More than 40,000 pieces of caribou antlers have been found there.

Nadlak with caribou antlers

Bones lie buried a meter thick by the shore, where they were discarded.

Caribou bones under the soil by the shore  (Photo by Don Taves)

Because Nadlak is very small and is surrounded by water, there is no permafrost, making it an ideal storage place. The Inuit air-dried whatever caribou meat they did not eat raw, there being no source of fire, and buried it in pits.  Stone rings were topped with antlers over which they stretched hides to make shelters.  These rings have been partially reconstructed and antlers are piled around them. For the first time I am seeing how a people could survive without wood or metal tools.

Stone rings and antlers on Nadlak

Leaving Nadlak we follow the river as it curves inevitably into the next ice jam.  No choice but to make camp at a place where the only dry tenting area is atop a ridge, meaning a long walk with our gear.  The guides help us carry, then go about the never-ending business of feeding us.

Camp #2

An hour or so later the water level drops dramatically and we see that the ice that was blocking us is gone.  There is still another jam downstream, so I don’t know how far we will get tomorrow.  The weather here reminds me of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island – radical changes every 30 to 45 minutes.  It’s snowing at the moment, but we’ve also had warm sun, gentle breezes, bitterly cold winds, rain, sleet and more snow.

John and Eleanor enjoying a sunny break at Camp #2

Lapland Longspur (Photo by Don Taves)

Day 5: Camp #3

Our small progress is hard won.  Today we had to muscle the rafts between the ice and the shallow shoreline, where they repeatedly hung up on rocks.  The guides rowed when they could, we walked, and all pitched in to heave the rafts over land when necessary.

Travis dealing with the ice (Photo by Don Taves)

Dragging the raft (Photo by Don Taves)

When finally we reached open water the fast current bore us onward only a few kilometers, delivering us to yet another ice jam.  This is one we cannot pass.  With some hot sun the ice will move, but we still endure cold and wind, today accompanied by rain.

Purple saxifrage

We have been blessed with wildlife, especially this evening when four muskox appeared on a ridge across from camp.  We have also seen more caribou, golden plovers, horned larks, pacific loons, and a sandhill crane standing alone and looking lonely on the ice.  Purple saxifrage is blooming and the delicate nests of Lapland longspurs hide amidst small shrubs, invisible until you almost step on them.  Flora and fauna go about their business, unconcerned with the late arrival of summer.  Only we humans are out of step.

Pacific loons (Photo by Don Taves)

Sandhill Crane (Photo by Don Taves)

Bird nest hidden on the tundra