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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Laguna del Lagarto: An Avian Treasure in Costa Rica

[Boca Tapada, CR. March 2018]

Situated in Northern Costa Rica near the Nicaragua border, Laguna del Lagarto is an ecolodge that is famed for its avian marvels. Many species that are elusive or seen only in the high canopy are regularly seen at this hotspot. Thus it was no surprise that this nature reserve became the destination for our local birding club's first neotropical venture. 

As many would attest, it is not unusual to hear the query -- "are you a birder or a photographer"? What the query implies is that to be both is a contradiction. But is it? Indeed, this blogger would posit that it is perfectly possible -- nay even desirable, to both count species as well as photodocument them -- the former to add to one's lifelist; the latter to stream on one's preferred photosharing platform (eg. this blogger's photostream here DigitalPlumeHunter). And, this, in a nutshell sums up the mission of our neotropical adventure where 77 species were observed -- of which we present, in this post, only those seen at the Lodge; starting first with the glorious toucans:

Collared Aracari is a medium-sized toucan with a yellow breast, black head and back.

These are gregarious birds; seen in small, noisy groups as they hop and jump on tree branches while foraging.

Here the red rump of this species is clearly visible.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is larger and generally seen alone or in pairs:

Some consider this as a sub-species of Yellow-throated Toucan.

Lastly, the fantastic Keel-billed Toucan:

The Keel-billed looks like a Yellow-throated toucan that dipped its bill in different cans of bright paint!

The Great Curassow is classified as "Vulnerable" due to relentless hunting of this spectacular landfowl.  

Intriguingly, the female comes in 3 color morphs (rufous morph was observed here) while the male is splendid in black:

While both males and females have distinctive curly crests, only the male sports a prominent yellow knob on its bill.

Over to the parrots; starting with Brown-hooded Parrot:

This is a colorful parrot that shows a brown hood, a white eye-patch, and blue and red highlights in the wings. Much larger is the Red-lored Parrot:

This amazon is found widely in forests of Central and South America.

Tanagers are one of the stars of neotropical birding and Laguna offered close-up views of several species.

Golden-hooded Tanager:

and Passerini's Tanager:

This tanager is strongly sexually dimorphic; with the female not bearing much of a resemblance to the male at all:

Contrast this with Blue-grey Tanager and Palm Tanager, where both sexes are alike:

The ubiquitous Palm Tanager:

Honeycreepers are small tanagers that will partake of flower nectar:

The Shining Honeycreeper appears unbelievable with its electric blue and bright yellow legs:

And Red-legged Honeycreeper looks equally stunning:

The female (above) is much more subdued.

Icterids or New World Blackbirds are a fascinating group; we start with Black-cowled Oriole:

The prized icterid here however is Montezuma Oropendola:

Its song is neither a sweet whistling (like the Orioles) or a croaking trill (like Red-winged or Yellow-headed Blackbird); instead the Montezuma emits a weird bubbling gargle.

We conclude with all the rest: Great Kiskadee:

A beautiful Olive-backed Euphonia:

and Black-cheeked Woodpecker:

The perfect cure for the winter slowdown in North American birding is a trip to the neotropics. And, Laguna del Lagarto is just what the doctor ordered!