Here Are Some Birds

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Cindy said these are Honeyeaters, though my rapid googling did not find any that looked exactly like them. But they’re pretty funny, perching on lines and flapping up and down just outside of windows. I think they’re also the ones we’ve seen attacking corellas and some birds of prey up above the bush.

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This one might be a butcherbird, though the beak seems too small, or a magpie, though the pattern seems odd.

Birds are neat.

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Best Looking Birds

As we chatted with the tour operator at Yardie Creek, a group of elderly travelers disembarked around us. Wives helped husbands with canes out of the low seats, and their cheery organizer/guide asked for a vote on whether or not to walk up the trail a bit (it seemed like nobody was that enthused). One khaki-clad man, seemingly alone, paused as he passed us three Team Sousa members.

“Best-looking birds I’ve seen all trip,” he grumbled in our general direction before stomping up the few steps to the dock.

My first (innocent) thought: I wonder where they’ve been, and if they’re all on a bird-watching trip?

My second thought: …gross.

Crusty old Australians aside, Yardie Creek (Yardi means “creek” in one of the many Aboriginal languages of Australia, so really all of us immigrants and tourists are referring to the briny tidal waters as the “creek creek”) did in fact host some lovely birds. Ospreys seem to be a theme around here:

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It feels like everywhere we go, someone points out an osprey nest to us. Doesn’t make them less awesome, though- this one has reportedly been occupied nearly continuously for 80 years at least. It may not always have contained chicks, but the past few years have been productive for local ospreys, evidenced by the juveniles and new nests we’ve seen around the area. They’re very fun to watch from the boat, as they dive for fish and flap, low and slow above the waves, with their struggling prizes.

Corellas, with their cockatoo head plumes and raucous screeches, followed us from the trees of Exmouth to the cliffs of Yardie and the Cape Range. They’re not the only things sheltering in the little caves worn into the rock faces (more on their other occupants in a later post), but they certainly make an impression. They flash white feathers over ledges and splay their wingtips to impress their companions and warn away hovering birds of prey, and peer down at the boat below with heads cocked.

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A kestrel of some kind, with a tiny bit of snake in her mouth, landed just shy of these two youngsters who were tucked away in an overhang. They shuffled out to peer at us as we peered at them, wide-eyed and wobbly.

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Among the other lovely long-legged locals, this white-faced heron gave us a good show. Best-looking birds, indeed, random old guy. Best-looking birds, indeed.

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Pretty Birds

It’s amazing what we get used to. Locals keep their eyes forward while passing bloated kangaroo carcasses, spray Raid on redback spiders residing under the handles of the car trunk, and don’t take a second glance at the colorful parrots that beat their wings above street lights and telephone wires. And you’d think after the avian fauna of Costa Rica and India, Nepal and California, I’d be immune to the charms of squawking corellas and squabbling galahs… but of course, though I adjusted rapidly to the climate and the time change, the constant flip-flops and the vague answers to any question (“not bad,” “not long,” “not far,” “not too much,”) I’m still fascinated by the birds.

I think someone must be feeding the galahs. They’re remarkably cavalier about my approach, a slow flip-flop shuffle with a big lens and some muffled cursing as I trip over the tufts of grass that cling to life in the backyard.IMG_1772

Night Life, Party Time

College kids are known for their late nights- procrastinated papers, raucous parties, frats, beer pong… well, our FSP does involve the occasional game of ping-pong on the folding table outside the researcher’s lounge, some late-night paper revisions (though it would be essentially impossible to procrastinate here), and, well, bio-nerd’s dream parties: night walks through the jungle.

La Selva is known for great birding, and to the FSP program is known as a great place to take night walks. The paths are wide and clear, and there’s always something interesting to see, whether it be an ocelot, an armadillo, a bat, or the little glass frog who sits on her eggs by the bridge. But if we only looked down on our nighttime excursions (party, woo!) we’d miss out on some of the most impressive sights.

Those who know me will know all about my passion for owls- silent fliers, possessed of awesome eyes and wicked eyebrows, sharp hearing, powerful wings… owls are pretty sweet. So far in Costa Rica I haven’t managed to get any good pictures, but I’ve been surprised a few times by a sudden rush of air over my head followed by a ghostly set of wings.

But another bird might be overtaking (or at least coming close to) my favorite avian predators- the Great Potoo, a tropical bird that perches during the day on dead trees, sitting perfectly still and pretending to be a dead branch. During the night, this fairly large bird (about  regular owl-sized, actually) shakes out its wings and yawns its massive beak before taking off into the sky and hunting down some big flying night bugs and sometimes even bats. (Can you imagine?)

As Tommy commented in a previous post, they have one of the most interesting and unsettling calls in the jungle- listen to the Cornell bird lab’s recording and imagine hearing that from out of the jungle as you walk alone through the dark:

http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=222936

Here’s my best Potoo picture- this one surprised me on the bridge over the river, and hung out for a few minutes to be admired.

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These next guys are some members of the nightjar family, either nightjars or possibly pauraques- I spotted their eyeshine with my headlamp on the ground right outside of our cabin, and had to check them out. They didn’t seem to care about my approach at all until they took wing in unison, buzzed my head, and set back down to wait for more insect prey on the ground nearby. You never know about those tricky birds… they could be anywhere.

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I probably ought to go to bed earlier than I do… but you know college kids, can’t miss out on that night life!