Tag: Masked Tityra

Costa Rica (2018) #4: Birding Dominical, Medium-sized Birds

Scarlet-rumped Cacique Dominical Costa Rica

There’s a big red rump hidden on this Scarlet-rumped Cacique

Birding Dominical: The Medium-Sized Birds

I was on a roll for a bit with the Costa Rica posts. Then a new law school semester started. And Republicans managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory and lose control of the Senate. This was immediately followed by a bunch of crazy white folks invading the house of Congress while it was in session, trying to stop the certification of a fair election, chanting that the Vice President be hanged and murdering a police officer in the process. Days later,  despicable-human-in-chief Donald Trump was impeached a second time. More importantly, he lost the ability to tweet, and an obnoxious ringing in many of our ears suddenly quit. During those remarkable 9 days (yes, all of that happened in the last 9 days), over 27,000 Americans died of COVID.  In a perfectly on-brand response, Trump officials announced they were releasing vaccine doses from a stockpile reserve that didn’t exist.

2021 was supposed to be better than 2020. Ugh. All the nonsense and tragedy is more reason to daydream about tropical birds. Because what everyone needs right now is some amazing tropical birds. I’ve already covered the small birds and the big birds I saw at our amazing villa near Dominical, Costa Rica. In this post, I’ve got pictures of the medium-sized birds that moved through the property.

Streaked Flycatcher Dominical Costa Rica

Streaked Flycatcher

I could bird all day, in swampy heat and falling rain and slippery mud, if there was a chance to see trogons and motmots. Trogons are like sedentary robins. Despite their size and colors, they tend to stay still in the forest for long periods of time, making them surprisingly difficult to spot. I managed to find two kinds of trogons on the property: Gartered Trogon and the deliciously-gray Slaty-tailed Trogon pictured below.

Like trogons, motmots are really good at not being seen despite their size and coloring. But one motmot habit makes them easier to spot than trogons. They have a tendency to wag their long tail feathers back-and-forth. That’s how I spotted the Lesson’s Motmot pictured above. It was perched deep inside a tree, and I would have walked right past without noticing it if it’s tail wasn’t moving like a pendulum. Check out the link for a video of a motmot wagging its tail.

Black-hooded Antshrike Dominical Costa Rica

There are a whole collection of birds in Costa Rica that are named after the ants they love to eat. There are antwrens, antbirds, and antshrikes. They mainly move through the understory, making them tough birds for good clean looks. I was able to identify a Dusky Antbird, a Chestnut-backed Antbird, and the Black-hooded Antshrike pictured above. The Black-hooded Antshrike was kind of enough to perch just above eye-level in bushes right alongside the trail I was walking. And while I found several trails of leaf-cutter ants on the property, I never found a big swarm of ant-eating birds.

Another new kind of bird I found in Costa Rica were the woodcreepers. They’re like woodpeckers, moving vertically up trunks. But instead of pecking holes in the trunks of trees, they eat insects off the trunks. Most of them are brown, and it’s hard to get clear looks at the heads, bills, and breasts that are the keys to distinguishing them. I saw 5 kinds of woodcreepers on the property: Long-tailed Woodcreeper (small size helps ID), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (small size and small bill), Cocoa Woodcreeper (long straight bill), Black-striped Woodcreeper (large, bold streaking on upper back), and Streak-heeded Woodcreeper (medium-size, light streaks on head). Many of the views were binocular-only, through 30 feet of dense trees. 

Let us not ignore the big red crest of the Lineated Woodpecker, or the amazing tail of the Squirrel Cuckoo. The abundance of amazingness of the birds is, even now, years after I lived it, hard to believe. 

This post could be never-ending, there were so many birds. I managed to photograph a Plain Xenops (above), which is like a woodcreeper but without the long, stiff tail feathers used to work its way along the trunk. Both Black-hooded and Masked Tityra were regular visitors to the trees just off the porch. Parrots and parakeets of many colors were regulars as well, sometimes in flocks of 200 hundred. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel better because of this post. Thank you, Costa Rica.

Yucatan, Mexico #3 – Birding Tulum

Yucatan Jay Tulum

The endemic, and ubiquitous, Yucatan Jay

Aldea Zama: Birds Around our Tulum Condo

We spent the middle of our Yucatan trip in and around Tulum. It’s a former hidden eco-chic getaway that now suffers from its own success. Posh (i.e. WAY-overpriced) hotels and chic-ly named condominiums dominate. The visitors are a bunch of broke ravers and DJ aficionados alongside hedge fund bros in white linen and yoga ladies on bikes. Tulum itself is not a birding hotspot. Still, there’s beauty and adventure to be had. There are several sets of ruins within a short drive (Coba and Muyil). Tulum has beachfront ruins. The amazing-looking Sian Ka’an Preserve is near. The highlight of the area for us was, by far, the cenotes – limestone sinkholes filled with crystal clear water. Some are great for snorkeling. Others offer scuba diving. Tankatch Ha, near Coba, is a cave almost 100 feet down from the surface, and has a platform for jumping in (highly recommended). The cenotes are unique, dazzling, and magical. Don’t miss them. And the beach is nice if that’s your jam.

We stayed in a rental in an area known as Aldea Zama. It’s a big flat area of jungle between town and the beach that has turned into a theme park of condominium complexes. Don’t get me wrong – we loved having air conditioning, a kitchen and a couch, and a nice swimming pool outside our door for our five night stay. When a couple family members felt sick for a couple of days, the condo was a trip saver. And all the buildings and construction sites provided a lot of jungle edge that gave me a chance to find some birds. On various morning and afternoon walks, I picked up eight lifers: the ubiquitous Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Vireo, Scrub Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-lored Parrot, and Olive-throated Parakeet. I never found any big or mixed flocks, though.

Melodious Blackbird Tulum

Melodious Blackbird

Green Jay Tulum

Green Jay

Olive-throated Parakeet Tulum

Olive-throated Parakeet

Yellow-fronted Parrot Tulum

Yellow-lored Parrot

Black-cowled Oriole Tulum

Black-cowled Oriole

Yucatan Vireo Tulum

Yucatan Vireo

Social Flycatchers and Masked Tityra were regulars on snags, while Roadside Hawk preferred mid-level cover.


Tulum Ruins

One day, the boys and I headed to the beachfront ruins in Tulum. It’s a popular tourist destination, so unlike the bigger and better ruins at Coba, or the awesome birdiness of empty Muyil, there is a line to stand in. Happily, a family of pretty tame coati provided free entertainment. It was super windy (not unusual during January from what I’m told). The iguanas didn’t seem to mind, but it kept the bird activity down. Don’t expect a big list here.  

Yellow-throated Warbler makes ID easy

Beachfront ruins at Tulum

Tulum beach ruins