Tag Archives: Tambor

2nd Bird of Christmas: Black-headed Trogon

27 Dec

If you are just tuning in, I’m sharing a Costa Rican bird species for each day of Christmas, the days in between the holidays of Christmas and Epiphany (January 6). Visit the first day’s entry for more background.

When I traveled to Costa Rica for the first time in January of 2008, I purposely gave the birding section of the Lonely Planet only a cursory glance. For me it is more pleasurable – and more emulative of the thrill of childhood outdoor adventure – to discover wildlife for the first time in a naïve state. It’s easier to turn off thinking and be present when you don’t know what you are looking and listening for. There will be plenty of time for reading about the creatures after you’ve had a direct experience with them “in the now.”

The very first day I got to go out birding, I set out at the literal crack of dawn, because that is when all wildlife is most active in the tropics. Even just an hour after sunrise, activity diminishes by about 75 percent; as the day continues to heat up, it becomes practically nonexistent. I walked along a dusty gravel road in remote Playa Naranjo on the Nicoya Peninsula, listening and scanning for movement in the trees with binoculars. Rising to the surface of the general cacophony of industrious morning calls was a song comprised of an accelerated series of whistled clucks that descended progressively in pitch. “Po-po-po-po-po-po-po-po-po-po-po” would be answered by a slightly lower, less resonant but similar call. It was easy to pinpoint where the sound was coming from, and I quickly located a pair of yellow bellied birds with excellent posture, blue rings around their black eyes, and tails that hung way down below them on their perches, sporting neat rows of white tips. They sat in close proximity to one another on different branches of the same tree, calling back and forth.

I later read this description of Trogon melanocephalus by the quintessential Costa Rican naturalist Alexander Skutch: “Often heard, too, in the shrinking Guanacastecan woodlands is the accelerated rattle or roll of the Black-headed Trogon… in March, I found seven of [them] noisily engaged in the business of forming pairs… they pursued one another through the tall forest, pausing to call while perching close together. The females’ calls were lower and drier than the males’. Like the parakeets, these trogons often dig their nest chamber in the heart of a hard, black arboreal termitary.”

After a few months in the country, I learned to easily pick out the call of the “Trogoncita” and to be able to direct others new to Costa Rica to the places where they could view the Trogón Cabecinegro. When pairs would happen onto the hotel property I later called home further down the Pacific Coast, Tambor Tropical, several of us would inevitably pause in our work and find one another in the gardens, necks stretched back, chins and eyes lifted to the high branches, where we would view the precious golden visitors, who sometimes brought their fluffy young, teaching them to fly to our great amusement.

Click here to hear the trogons.

Here is a really great photo of the Black-headed trogon.

Photos for this entry by Frances Figart and Bruce Smith


1st Bird of Christmas: Scarlet Macaw

26 Dec

The 12 Birds of Christmas

Unless you’ve grown up in Andalasia, you know that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of increasingly grand (and in some cases improbable and quite unwieldy) gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The dozen days in the song are the twelve days starting, in some traditions, the day after Christmas and leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6).

While I’m enjoying (forces smile) a prolifically snowy and more-often-than-not-below-effing-freezing Christmas holiday in the states, tropical climes are, as you can imagine, not far from my mind. Having spent a great deal of the winter time in Costa Rica the past few years, I have many favorite bird species there. I decided to share here 12 of them, some of which I have actually sighted and photographed – and a few who continue to elude me – offering up a let’s-pass-some-time-doing-something-productive-and-educational blog series: The 12 Birds of Christmas!

Dec. 26: The First Bird of Christmas is the Scarlet Macaw

Jogging along in the sand as the tide goes out along Playa Tambor, I’m distracted by what sounds like a raucous argument between two domestic partners. I follow the animated chatter away from the Pacific and up towards the estuary that flanks the tiny air strip next to a popular Vegas-like resort that is all some know about the sleepy fishing village of Tambor. As I get closer, I recognize the combatants’ voices. They belong to Scarlet Macaws, who make roaring vocalizations whilst flying from their roost to a feeding site, and then wax relatively quiet when munching on a perch, which they’ve just found.

At one time, the beautiful large, bright red-blue-and-yellow Ara macao was close to extinction due to the pet trade and the destruction of habitats that include their main source of food, Tropical Almond (Terminalia catappa) trees, on which this pair is feeding somewhat noisily. Our area on the Nicoya Peninsula is one the places where conservation efforts – including nest protection, artificial nest creation, captive breeding-and-release and reintroduction programs such as the one at Curú Wildlife Refuge – have contributed to the successful comeback of the Lapa, as it is known to Ticos (Costa Ricans).

The illegal exotic pet trade is an industry that disturbs me greatly; sometimes while hiking in Costa Rica I have seen youngsters with nets attempting to capture birds. Parrots, iguanas and wild cats are the animals most often exploited. Now, on the rare occasions that I enter a pet store in the states where I see some of the parrots and macaws that I have adoringly followed in their natural habitats, I am sickened and outraged that this torturous practice continues to flourish. At some point in my future, perhaps there awaits a project to raise more awareness about this issue. If you have been involved in a good program to combat the pet trade, I’d love to hear about your experience.

One bird down, and 11 to go.

Listen to a clip of the Scarlet Macaw.

Photos for this entry by Frances Figart