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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 14: Last Day at the Tower

All photographs (except where noted) © 2004 Mary Beth Stowe

The next morning was a sleep-in day if you wanted it, but I woke up early, so after QT I was the first one up top (got to unlatch the hatch) and listened to Howler Monkeys and all three forest falcons waking up!  Before long others started making their way up, and as it got lighter we saw and heard many of the same birds we had the first morning, such as both toucans, good looks at Red-lored Parrots, close “Gabriels”, a Scaled Pigeon, and a distant Blue Cotinga that Tony shot for me through the scope (he couldn’t lower it or else the view would be blocked)!  Both trogons and a Slate-colored Grosbeak sang unseen, as well as both motmots.


Sunrise from the tower

Mary next to what used to be the radar dome

Bob B. gets into another controversial discussion with Tony...

Looking down at the entrance road


Birds from the top include a "headless" Squirrel Cuckoo and a very distant male Blue Cotinga (and even this was taken through the scope!)

After breakfast we made our way downstairs, into the vehicle, and down the hill, where Tony spotted a White-whiskered Puffbird by the side of the road!  Everyone got stunning looks, and then we parked down at the bottom and walked our way up a little (after helping a couple ID a Fulvous-vented Euphonia).  Our goal was to try and call out that stubborn Great Jacamar, but Tony had been fantasizing about a Pheasant Cuckoo the whole trip, as that was a dream bird for him!  Jose didn’t give him a whole lot of hope, but suddenly what should he hear but a singing Pheasant Cuckoo!  He played the tape, and that thing came tearing in in plain view!  What a bird!  Unfortunately my camera wouldn’t focus on him, and he flew just as I was setting up in Jose’s scope, but he positioned himself in another spot where Tony got his scope on him, so by holding my breath (the light was pretty low) I could at least get a documentation shot!  Tony was ecstatic, of course, but it just showed me once again how good our God is in giving good gifts to His children!


White-whiskered Puffbirds

Possibly the bird of the trip, a magnificent Pheasant Cuckoo (even a lifer for Tony)!

Everything was kinda anti-climactic after that, but we did have the jays again, and a small flock near the cars yielded both Yellow-olive Flycatcher and Southern Bentbill (Jose was looking at the latter while I had the former, and it turned into one of those, “No, it’s not a such-and-such!” sort of conversations...), plus a Blue-black Grosbeak that came tearing in.  A pair of Yellow-backed Orioles put on a good show, and someone got a look at another Black-bellied Wren.  (I think it was in here where I finally got an identifiable look at Scarlet-rumped Caciques!)  Up the trail we had a Golden-crowned Spadebill on territory, just as cute as he could be!  We enjoyed a beautiful waterfall where a female Black-throated Trogon gave good looks, and on the way back had a beautiful little Blue-crowned Manakin, a scolding Dusky Antbird that I finally saw (after hearing them daily), yet another White-whiskered Puffbird, and a male Fasciated Antshrike knocking the snot out of a katydid!  Also had a Checker-throated Antwren feeding a baby, which was real cute.

Searching for goodies along Plantation Road...

Waterfall and pool along the trail

Yet another White-whiskered Puffbird


L-R:  Baby Checker-throated Antwren, fuzzy head-on of a male Fasciated Antshrike, and female Black-throated Trogon


Non-birds include this flower that fell from a tree and a probable Erato Heliconian

Jane enthusiastically points out a bird while Joanne seems pretty weary with the whole thing...

Came back for tower talk (and I can’t recall for the life of me what I meant by that) and then lunch, where Tony educated us on the origins of jazz, which was great (but can I remember any of it?  Of course not!!  Come to find out he was a composition major as well!)  Some of us went back up to the top, where someone discovered the “secret hatch” that led directly into the dome; any sound was amplified 100 fold, it seemed, and you had a spider‘s-eye view of the common area below!  (Maybe that’s what I meant by “tower talk”: yapping on the top...)  Then I showered and caught up on the journal.

View from inside the dome itself

Jan enjoys a siesta in the swing!

Whithered cecropia leaf that provided a stark contrast against its healthy neighbors

At 3:00 we headed out to an area next to Pipeline Road that was hopping with a lot of little stuff (honeycreepers, tody flycatchers, etc.), but the star was a White-winged Becard that kept giving everyone fits!  (He looked much darker than the illustration in the book, too...)  The Rosy Thrush Tanager again gave good vocalizations, but a zip across the road was the only view anyone got; a Red-throated Ant Tanager came out instead.  Somewhere in here we stopped at the post office where we had a Great Kiskadee and Social Flycatcher in the same tree, and when we had to stop at the one-lane bridge we enjoyed Blue-gray, Plain-colored, and a knockout Crimson-backed Tanager!


Crimson-backed Tanager

I think we went to the Ammo Ponds after that, where we heard White-throated Crakes going in, and shortly after we piled out a Gray-necked Wood Rail made an appearance!  Part of the crew went down an embankment after him, but I stayed up top and enjoyed a sub-adult Wattled Jacana right next to the road (Charles found one walking around the compound that was most cooperative)!  Two military guys were fishing, so we enjoyed looking at their catch before zooming in on the birds in the dead trees across the way: Palm and Blue-gray Tanagers, a knockout female Blue Dacnis, a Red-crowned Woodpecker (sounds very different than our Red-bellied, interestingly, even though it looks virtually identical; ironically it’s the bold Black-cheeked Woodpecker that sounds just like our Red-bellied), and several cooperative Pale-vented Pigeons came in.  Closer at hand was a nice Golden-hooded Tanager with nesting material and a shy White-tipped Dove.  We dipped on the tiger herons, but on the way out we picked up a flock of Yellow-bellied Seedeaters.


The “Ammo Ponds”, a military installation where I guess they literally dump their ammo...

Two soldiers fish by the water’s edge

“Catch anything?”

(I think they said it was a perch...)

...but we’re there to see birds!...

In the waning light we headed over to Carmen’s house, where after Jose put some bananas out (and indulged himself ☺) the usual suspects showed up; the Ruddy Ground Doves were especially funny as they lifted their wingpits at each other!  The Crimson-backed Tanager came back, but along with him was a male Flame-rumped Tanager!  An Agouti also came to visit (I figure that’s Central America’s answer to the bunnies that show up in our yards).  Red-legged Honeycreepers were coming in to the hummer feeders three at a time, and on the way home we netted a flock of Gray-headed Chachalacas and another Yellow-headed Caracara!

Jose stocks Carmen’s feeders with bananas and then sheepishly steals away after swiping one for himself!

An Agouti bounds across the yard in the waning light


Flame-rumped Tanager and Gray-headed Chachalaca

After getting home I had an hour to purge the camera and catch up on the journal before dinner, where we had a great time chatting about lodges in Costa Rica and Gabriel (Tony said, “Is that legal?!”) before doing our checklist and saying goodbye to those leaving at oh dark hundred! 

Final dinner pictures... 

The Stulls and the Wilcoxes

The Beckers, Tony (showing off his braid), and Carolyn

A fuzzy Louise

Jane, Gwen, and Winnie

Me and Jane (“Did it fire?”)

Bob and Jan’s favorite part: dessert!

Jane et al pay up on their outstanding bills...

...while the rest of us prepare for another exciting review of the day’s sightings!

Where did you see a Golden-crowned Tyrannulet?!”

“Hmm—okay, I guess that was a chachalaca I saw and not a Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo...”

“Well, I suppose it’s possible, but I think your chances of seeing a Crested Owl on the way to the airport tomorrow morning are pretty slim...”

Posed (i.e., serious) shot of our two fearless leaders!

Squeezed in a new trip bird during QT the next morning (Mottled Owl) then went up to the top, where the same chorus greeted us (Bob, Jan, and Tony were the only ones left) and we actually spent most of our time hearing about how Tony hooked up with VENT!

Got to the airport in plenty of time and enjoyed some Gray-breasted Martins and Tropical Mockingbirds (which really do look quite different, almost like a thrasher in jizz and size) out the window!  Security was a breeze, and so was the flight, but getting to the hotel was another matter: first of all the guy wouldn’t let me on his shuttle cuz he was convinced I had the wrong bus, and when I got on the other Holiday Inn bus, it went to the wrong Holiday Inn, so I just grabbed a taxi and came over rather than go back to the airport!  (That in itself was funny: a cab had just pulled up, having just been called to the HI for a passenger, but they told him no one had called, but he could take me!)  Jip was still there safe and sound, so it was good to have dinner and crash!

Gray-breasted Martins

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