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Costa Rica revisited

I know, this is not Vancouver Island, but I just couldn’t resist. I spent 23 days in Costa Rica back in 2008. At that time my camera was a point-and-shoot Canon Powershot S5 IS. I also had a Canon 430EX flash that was used on many of my shots. My main purpose of the trip was the photography and for this reason I did not go with a group, but rather on my own. I also only visited three lodges, Selva Verde in the lowlands for 6 days, Rancho Naturalista at middle elevation for 9 days and Savegre Mountain Lodge at high elevation for 8 days.

After getting back home I processed the images to the best of my, and the software’s ability and posted them on my site on Pbase. In 2011 I switched to Smugmug and ended up reworking some of the images at that time. Just recently I was looking at my images on Smugmug and I realized that there were some that I knew I could improve. The software (I use Photoshop Elements) has improved greatly, and so has my ability. Ultimately most of the images were reworked at least a little, and some quite dramatically. In fact a few of my favorite images are ones that I had totally rejected at first and this go around I was able to make them look much better.

I had intended to keep the images to 10, but when I had narrowed it down to 14 I was really struggling to eliminate any more, so I decided to keep them all. So here they are with some notes. Hope you enjoy and if you want to see more of my Costa Rica images look at my slideshow gallery here: https://terrythormin.smugmug.com/CostaRica/Costa-Rican-Slideshow/The-Best-of-Costa-Rica/ .

Central Valley 4aThis is a view from the highway between San Jose and Selva Verde, my first stop. It is the Central Highlands looking down into the Sarapiqui River Valley. The orange trees are Mountain Immortelle Trees, Erythrina poeppigiana, and are a favorite of hummingbirds and tanagers.

Emerald Toucanet 7b - ChinThis Emerald Toucanet was photographed at Chinchona, a small town in the Central Highlands about half way between San Jose and Selva Verde. An enterprising local set up a platform and bird feeders that attract a good variety of birds and this has become a regular stop for birders and photographers.

Green Basilisk Lizard baby 5b - SVThis is a young Green Basalisk Lizard, also know as the Jesus Christos Lizard for it’s ability to run across water. Check out the very long toes on the hind feet. This was a very common lizard at Selva Verde, especially along the shores of the Sarapiqui River.

Long-nosed Bats 4c - SVI took a couple of boat trips along the Sarapiqui River and saw a good variety of wildlife. One of the highlights for me though was these little Long-nosed Bats. They roost during the day in vertical rows on tree truncks overhanging the river. Most of the time they are so well camouflaged against the bark of the tree they are almost impossible to see. This was the one time they stuck out like a sore thumb.

Red Potato Beetle - Leptinotarsa rubiginosa 1b - SVThis is a Red Potato Beetle,  Leptinotarsa rubiginosa. I spent a fair bit of time looking for interesting insects at all three lodges. At Selva verde, because many of the trails were elevated, and covered boardwalks. it was easy to go out looking even in the rain or at night.

Mantled Howler Monkey 14b - SVAlthough Mantled Howler Monkeys were quite common at Selva Verde, they managed to hide very well in the tree tops, and I heard them far more often than I saw them. On this one occasion a small troop of them came out to the trees right beside the main road that runs past the lodge and I managed to get a series of photos including this shot.

Snowcap in flight 1e - RNOne of the highlights among the hummingbirds was the Snowcap. This pretty little hummer is endemic to southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama. Here it is feeding at Porterweed, a native plant that is commonly used as hedges and is closely related to verbena. The best place for this species is Rancho Naturalista

Crimson-collared Tanager 4c - RNWhen I was planning the trip, the one place I was adamant I was going to visit was Rancho Naturalista. That’s because I had heard of the bird feeder setup there and had seen many photos taken of birds at the feeders. This is a Crimson-collared Tanager, a regular visitor to the feeders.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker 6b

Another frequent visitor to the Rancho Naturalista bird feeders was the Black-cheeked Woodpecker. This photo was originally a total reject until I looked at it recently and realized that I could easily clean up the messy background.

Collared Aracari 7b - RNI love the toucans, with their large colourful bills. This is a Collared Aracari, a smaller member of the toucan family and a regular at the feeders at Rancho Naturalista.

Moth C2b - RNI have never been able to put a name to this beautiful little moth. Another reason Ranch Naturalist appealed to me is their black light setup for attracting insects at night. Not only does it bring in some great insects like this moth, but it also attracts a number of species of birds that feed on the insects and don’t go to the regular feeders.

Green Violetear 4d - SavI really enjoyed trying to photograph the hummingbirds, and in the end I got photos of 23 species. This is the Violet-green Hummingbird, I high elevation species in Costa Rica that I photographed at Savegre Mountain Lodge. This species has wandered as far north as southern Canada.

Walking Stick B1c - SavWhen I first saw this walking stick, I thought “Wow, this is bizarre”, and I still think the same. It really looked like it was covered in moss, and I am not at all convinced that this is natural. I would really love to hear from an expert as to what is going on here. Again photographed at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

Collared Redstart 1c - SavMy last photo is a Collared Redstart, a species of tropical warbler. One of my favorite trip birds, it was oblivious to my presence, and several times I found myself backpeddling because it was too close for the camera to focus. This is another high altitude species found at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

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For Love of Hummers

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It has been over two years since I last posted a blog. I’m not sure why I lost interest in blogging, and I’m not sure why I’m back again, but perhaps that doesn’t matter anyway. I am here because I have an urge to write and post some photos. It is going to be light this time, nothing deep or philosophical, and I figure what better way to start than to blog about hummingbirds.

We have two regular species of hummingbirds here on Vancouver Island, the Rufous and the Anna’s, and it is warm enough in the winter that the Anna’s overwinters as long as there are hummingbird feeders to help them out. Even though I live in a townhouse with a very small backyard, I regularly get Anna’s Hummingbirds through the winter, and the Rufous visit the yard during both spring and fall migration. This year for the first time since I moved here seven years ago I have had Anna’s coming to the feeder all summer long. So here are some photos of these birds from both last year and this, with some comments about them.

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I found this little beauty last year in a friend’s front yard right beside the driveway. It is a female Rufous Hummingbird, and the delicate little nest is made of lichens and spider silk. Because she was so close to the driveway, she was quite tolerant of human presence. At this point she was sitting on eggs

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Five days later and the eggs had hatched and the young were already a fair size. Here you can see one of the young begging for food.

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Here mama is feeding one of the young, an act that any sword swallower could learn from. Although there were two young it was clear that one was the dominant bird and was getting the lions share of the food. Only one bird successfully fledged and we later found the other young dead in the nest. This is a common strategy amongst birds as it allows both young to survive when food is plentiful and still ensures that one will most likely make it when food is not so plentiful.

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I had at least three Anna’s visiting my feeder this past winter. This is a subadult male showing rather distinctive plumage

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The same hummer stretches it’s wing while guarding the feeder. This was the dominant bird at the feeder all winter long, and would often perch on a branch of the lilac bush that is right beside the feeder

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This is a different male Anna’s guarding it’s chosen territory early in the spring. It is in the process of repositioning itself on the perch, hence the body contortion. As tiny as they are, hummingbirds can be ferocious birds, chasing away much bigger birds than themselves if they are perceived to be a potential threat.

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My friend Carla has a wonderful backyard for hummingbirds, which she allows me to use for my photography. In fact the first image at the beginning of this blog is a female Rufous Hummer at a fuschia taken in her yard. Here a male Rufous hovers in front of me, giving me the once over.

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Still in Carla’s backyard, this female Rufous hovers in front of Crocosmia looking for a drink.

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What are you doing? You get at the nectar from the other side! Actually, we figure that this female Rufous is picking off tiny insects from the backside of the Crocosmia.

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Even birds get itchy and have to scratch. This is a young Anna’s in my backyard taken this summer. Her throat feathers are matted and I suspect that it might just be the sugar water from the feeder. Even young birds can be messy eaters.

Anna's Hummingbird 43b

This male has dominated my feeder all summer long, terrorizing any other hummer that tries to get a drink when he is around. I have to wonder if it is the same male from last winter. I just love the variety of colours in his gorget.

I absolutely love hummingbirds. They are amazing jewels with an attitude and ferociousness that belies their diminutive size. But they are descendants of the dinosaurs so maybe that’s where it comes from.

If you want to see more of my photos, including many species of hummingbirds from Costa Rica, please visit my website at :terrythormin.smugmug.com/

The Green Violetear – Terry Thormin

Back in 2008 I spent three weeks in Costa Rica, visiting three different lodges and spending about a week in each, concentrating on photographing the wildlife. One of my goals was to photograph a good variety of hummingbirds and hopefully get some in-flight shots. At the time I was using a Canon Powershot S5 IS, one of the high zoom point-and-shoot cameras, so I was not sure just how good it would be for in-flight shots of hummingbirds. Fortunately I made the decision to get a good flash just before I left, and this made a huge difference in my photography.

For this blog I have chosen one species of hummingbird, the Green Violetear. This is a hummingbird of montane forests and the only place I found it on this visit was at Savegre Mountain Lodge high up in the cloud forest south of San Jose. Here it was a common visitor to the many feeders and was often seen sitting in nearby bushes.

Green Violetear 4b - Sav

The Green Violetear is a tropical hummingbird ranging from the mountains of central Mexico south through the Andes to Bolivia. It also fairly regularly wanders north into North America where it is almost annual in Texas and is casual through much of eastern North America. There is a single record for Alberta from 1994, and this is the most distant extralimital record for the species. I remember this bird clearly because although I did not see it, I was on the adjudicating committee that reviewed the record.

Green Violetear in flight 23b - Sav

At Savegre the bird was easily photographed as it came to the feeders. As much as possible I tried to photograph it without the feeder being visible, and I managed to succeed on a number of occasions.

Green Violetear in flight 1b - Sav

The violet “ears” are not ears of course, but rather longer ear covert feathers behind the eyes. Most of the time these feathers lay flat against the side of the head, but when the birds are acting aggressively they flare the feathers out from the sides of the head. This species, like so many hummingbirds can be quite territorial around a food source, and it was not uncommon to see dogfights between individuals. On one occasion I was lucky to get a photo of two birds engaging in a dog fight and in this photo you can clearly see the flared ear feathers on the upper bird.

Green Violetear dogfight 1a - Sav

During the course of my visit to Costa Rica I managed to photograph 23 species of hummingbirds, 22 of them of a quality good enough that I included them in a special hummingbird gallery. If you would like to see more of my hummingbird photographs, you can find them here.

Green Violetear in flight 18a - Sav