Archive for Central America

Miriam’s Place

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2014 by chamimage
Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager

One of the most awesome days I have had as a photographer occurred last December in Costa Rica at Miriam’s Place, Comidas Tipicas Miriam.

We spent the morning in transit from La Selva in the hot and humid central Costa Rica to the Talamanca Mountains in southern Costa Rica, which are cool and not humid at all.

We arrived in time for lunch, and oh what a lunch Miriam made for us. Her restaurant is on a windy gravel road that runs seriously downhill from the main highway to Savegre Lodge where we were to stay.

She kept bringing out dishes full of chicken that fell off of the bone, the traditional rice and beans that are required fare for every meal in Costa Rica, even breakfast. I can’t even remember what all was served now, but I remember it was the best lunch I ever had and I was hungry.

After lunch we got our gear and headed out into the back yard where bird feeders were set up. The action in Miriam’s back yard was non-stop all afternoon. We shot flame-colored tanagers, acorn woodpeckers, yellow-thighed finches, slaty flowerpiercers (they pierce the base of a flower with their beak to get at the nectar); mountain robins, slaty robins; rufus-collared sparrows and magnificent hummingbirds.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

At one point some other photographers stopped by and were very disappointed that we were already there. They decided they would come back later. They had some perches they wanted to set up so we offered to set them up for them.

“Oh no, these are our very own special perches just for our photographs.” Really. They hid the perches in the house for later. We heard Miriam and her daughter laughing in the kitchen. It turns out she knew where these very special perches were hidden and wanted us to set them up. She was not impressed with the other photographers attitude. She was feeling naughty and so were we so we got the perches out and set them up, fully intending to leave them set up.

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer male

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer female piercing flower.

The evening was then spent photographing Resplendent Quetzals in a wild avocado tree down the canyon a ways, just to round out a long, productive day in the rain forest. And the cool nights in the mountains were so welcome after sleeping in wet sheets from the humidity in other humid parts of Costa Rica.

Yellow-thighed Finch

Yellow-thighed Finch

Mountain Robin

Mountain Robin

 

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Dances With Snakes

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2014 by chamimage
Blunt-headed Tree Snake

Blunt-headed Tree Snake

We went for a wee night time walk while in La Selva in Costa Rica last month. We found a couple of spiders, a tree frog, and this snake. Imagine walking down a forest trail and bumping into that in the night.

He is essentially non-venomous to humans, though he has enough venom to kill a tree frog so you probably don’t want him to bite you.

With such a long, slim body I wonder how they keep from tying themselves in knots.

Blunt-headed Tree Snake

Blunt-headed Tree Snake

The sharp image is from when the flash fired. The blur is from the ambient exposure with just a flashlight on the snake. The flashlight was needed to be able to focus the camera and, you know, know where the snake is when you stick your face in there. I had one image where he spiraled around and it looked like a DNA helix, like the upper part of this image all the way down, but must have deleted it somewhere along the way.

Normally I write a Best of the past year blog this time of year, but my heart just isn’t in it this year. I have seen many other such blogs and have not clicked to read any of them. So, suffice it to say 2013 was a good year and 2014 should be even better. To paraphrase Joe McNally’s blog today: I won’t take my best ever image in 2014 because that will always be in the future, but let’s hope I don’t take my worst ever picture.

Tortuguero Birds

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by chamimage
Sungrebe

Sungrebe

Our first stop in Costa Rica earlier this month was Tortuguero National Park in northeastern Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast. Tortuga means turtle in Spanish and Tortuguero is named after the green sea turtles that were found to nest on the beaches here. More on those in a future post.

Tortuguero is like the bayou country in the southern U.S. There are no roads so everybody uses boats for their daily activities. There is a large lagoon that parallels the coast for twenty-two miles, two rivers, and a series of canals that criss-cross the park. The canals were dug sixty years ago when the area was logged for teak and mahogany. So Tortuguero has rain forest, swamp, and beach habitat all in one place.

We explored Tortuguero in an open boat, open to allow us to look up into the tree canopy for Howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys, bird nests, and green iguanas sunning themselves on tree limbs.

The sungrebe above was found swimming and feeding at the edge of the main lagoon. It is always fun to find and photograph a bird that you never even heard of before. He is looking for bugs in an overhanging limb in the photo above.

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

We found a lot of herons walking and feeding from the floating mats of vegetation on the edges of the canals. There were so many little blue herons and green herons that the boat driver wouldn’t even stop for them any longer after the first day. This little blue heron snagged a pipefish (a relative of the sea horse). Much to his consternation, the pipefish wrapped himself around the heron’s beak. The heron would normally toss his prey up and swallow it as he caught it from the air, but the pipefish was foiling his technique. It was still a stalemate as we drifted away.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Another bird I had never heard of before photographing it at Tortuguero was the purple gallinule. These guys are related to rails and soras. He was feeding on a mat of vegetation beside some northern jacanas before he lept up onto this branch for his portrait session. While I was taking this image I missed a shot that would have been very interesting. Others in our boat had closer proximity and a better angle to photograph the jacanas and I looked up to see our guide with his cell phone about two inches from a jacana taking its photograph. I wished I had photographed him photographing the jacana. The birds in Tortuguero have become very accustomed to the boats and, much like in Africa, they seem to see only the vehicle and not the people that occupy it.

Later, as I process the images, I’ll talk about the tiger herons, monkeys, and turtles of Tortuguero. Then on to the toucans and tanagers (and squirrels!) of La Selva and the Resplendent Quetzals and hummingbirds of Savegere.

Birding

Posted in Philosophy and Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by chamimage

Golden-hooded Tanager

“The bird is not in its ounces and inches, but in its relations to Nature…” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I decided I was not a birder while I was in Costa Rica. I found myself saying that, as lovely as the birds are, I would not be there just to look at them through binoculars. I wouldn’t be there if not for the photography of them. I am also not acutely interested in identifying little brown jobs and female birds by memorizing the minutia necessary to do so. Birders love it enough to memorize it. I was reminded of all of this when I grabbed a notebook to write notes in during a seminar and found my journal notes from Costa Rica:

“We will see and concentrate mostly on tropical birds, but give me a monkey any day. I do not keep a life list on the birds. I just enjoy them. No need to keep score.”

Green Thorntail Hummingbird

Tooth & Fang

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2009 by chamimage

Rainforest Hognosed Pit Viper

The rainforest has its share of venomous denizens. We found this hognosed pit viper at La Selva Biological Area in central Costa Rica. This was the most humid area we visited…the kind of humid where even the bed sheets are damp. These little guys are venomous and nocturnal. It was mandatory that we wear boots at night when they are active.

Rainforest Hognosed Pit-viper

The rainforest variety of hognosed pit viper (Porthidium nasutum) is a rather stout little fellow.

Spectacled Caiman

Another toothy fellow we met was the caiman. We found this one at Cano Negro in northeastern Costa Rica, nicknamed the Everglades of Costa Rica because of its swamps and wildlife suited to a marshy environment. This one is called the spectacled caiman and I didn’t see an obvious reason for the name until I read that the spectacle is the ridge above the eye, which apparently looked like eyeglass frames to someone.

Spectacled Caiman