Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Everything old is new again

There is nothing like the sweet thoughts of impending lifer beer.  The cool crisp taste of the hops or the bite of carbonation on the palate. The aroma of cooked wheat and barley malt, oh it is so good, and for ABA land and me increasingly rare.  I did chase a swift down in the Keys in November, and well, that was two months ago now. But today...we are properly chilling an Alaska Amber

I figured that eventually, I'd get a duck called the white-cheeked pintail in Florida, a bird I have seen no less than a thousand of, (in St Martin) and a bird of some difficulty in that there are white cheeks at Busch Gardens, exotic duck ponds, zoos, parks, and all over the state.  I chased one in December 2017 on Key Biscayne and missed it by a few hours and then flew all the way back to San Diego for a Nazca Booby and then flew all the way to New Brunswick for a mistle thrush and a crazy 2 out of three "Z" ain't bad double, five days of basically flying--crisscrossing the continent in a Z.  It was nuts.  That bird was pretty much felt to be a legit wild pintail but most of them are suspect, and I was in no hurry.

This bird showed up as we we were getting to Costa Rica and I was suspicious, it was on the wrong side of the state from where this bird lives in Cuba and the Bahamas.  How did one get to Naples and in a golf course pond no less, but as it turned out, it was unbanded, no clipped toe, was acting wild, and then the local birders even got a weather consult.  The SW Florida Birders are quite thorough and persistent.  Dave McQuade forwarded this to me.

I am an atmospheric sciences professor at Penn State University. Last week, while on a family vacation, I saw the White-cheeked Pintail presently in Naples, Florida. Yesterday, I looked at weather maps that preceded the occurrence of this bird. I generated and then downloaded these maps from the NOAA/Physical Sciences Division Climate Analysis and Plotting Tools website, which is https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/getpage.pl . I have posted these weather maps on eBird, together with a detailed discussion of the maps in relation to the occurrence of the Naples White-cheeked Pintail. The eBird link is https://ebird.org/checklist/S62795465 .

The weather maps show winds that are favorable for a vagrant White-cheeked Pintail that arrived either in the early afternoon of Dec. 27 or sometime during the day on Dec. 28, 1-2 days before the White-cheeked Pintail was first observed in Naples on Dec. 29. On these two days, the wind vectors are oriented westward from the Bahamas toward the southern tip of Florida, and farther to the west, the winds are oriented northwestward in a direction parallel to the southwest coast of Florida. Therefore, if the White-cheeked Pintail is indeed a natural vagrant, and it flew parallel to the local wind vector, it could have flown westward from the Bahamas to the southern tip of Florida, and then parallel to the southwest coast of Florida, coming down in Naples. Following such a route, the White-cheeked Pintail would have first encountered land on the southwest coast of Florida, not the expected east coast of Florida. In other words, the weather 1-2 days before the White-cheeked Pintail was first seen appeared to being close to "perfect" for its occurrence as a natural vagrant in Naples.

There are no other times during the entire month of December 2019 that were favorable for a White-cheeked Pintail reaching Naples. The wind direction on the morning of Dec. 27 as well as 15 days earlier on Dec. 12 was also westward, but the bird would have had to cross all of southern Florida to reach Naples, an unlikely scenario.

In summary, the weather maps suggest that the likelihood that this bird is a natural vagrant is substantially higher than that for a typical White-cheeked Pintail sighting in south Florida.

Steven B. Feldstein
Professor and Senior Scientist
Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science
516 Walker Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802 USA       

It was good enough for me.  We left South Dakota on Wednesday and drove down hard, we got a little ill, had to watch the NDSU Bison win a national championship, the Vikings lose and the Packers win, and then today I could go.

I took along a local guy a few campers over from us at the campground, named Tim on his first bird chase and he thought it was interesting.

We got delayed thirty minutes when a pickup with a trailer got wedged into a McDonald's drive-thru, and then I was shaking my head wondering how come I hadn't gone to McDonald's before the gas station.  While we were waiting in the overflow line for our sandwiches an employee sheepishly walked out to us asked if we could substitute bacon for sausage, something we didn't want to know about happened to all of the sausage..  Maybe it was good we weren't earlier?  Things always work out for us.

We got down to Naples and then scouted the area and luckily I saw two birders I recognized from Connecticut, and I think from another duck chase to New York for a garganey in 2016.  They had scopes up, we stashed the car, walked a couple of blocks and I set up shop, got my scope up and bingo, there it was on the other side of the pond loafing with some blue-wings and a small group of mottled ducks.

Some bikers rode by and asked what the name of the duck was that we were watching.  "Fred!"  I yelled back.  It could be an Ethel, I guess, the sexes are the same with this species.  The guys from Connecticut left and who should walk up to me, but Tony Lau from Minnesota.  It was old home week, again, in Florida, last time I met an old birding friend from Georgia and Alaska down here and now Tony, small world birders

I've chased a few birds with Tony before.  "I thought you were in Costa Rica."  Tony said.
"Yea, that was last week."  I replied, it was.

Then a boat moved into where the ducks were hanging out and they all flushed and the white-cheeked pintail flew up and over my head and that as they say, was that.  It was gone.  It was good we hadn't slept in, the duck wasn't waiting around today.  What they guy in the boat was up to, wasn't clear, but if his goal was to push the duck somewhere else, it worked.

Tony had gotten lifer bird 559 I think, and this was 803 for me, depending on what I am doing with the yellow chevroned parakeet, countable now in California and I'm not sure what they are doing in Florida, seen one as recently in Florida as last year and I haven't counted that one.   Luckily a sixth birder showed a minute before they flushed and just got the bird, so everyone I met was happy, even Tim, surviving his first bird chase.  His significant other was getting an ultrasound for a DVT at 2PM so we needed to hurry back to North Tampa.

I also saw a nice green heron
 and a wood stork...with more mottled ducks

All year birds because it is a new year and everything old is new again, you got to love us listers our lives repeat every year, just like the white cheeked pintail, a common bird I don't even take photos of in the Caribbean anymore (I got great ones) is today's great bird!
Again everything old is new again...

Congrats Tony!  Good lifer

Me, I'm getting the beer chilled


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Storks in the Attic and Skeletons in the Closet

The European white stork (Ciconia ciconia), a photogenic iconic bird that is as much wrapped in mythology as it is with ecology.  I've first seen the bird back in 1980, in Germany on my way to a tortuous day watching the Passion play, but the photo above was taken in Denmark in 1964, two years before I was even born.  Yet, the photos and the rights to this and below are controlled by me, as executor of my Grandmother's estate, but that isn't the story...to be quite honest, I will never know who the rightful owners of these pictures are or for that matter how they came to be...treasures in the attic or better put skeletons in the closet.  So, I'll share this story.
               An odd thing happened to me on the last scheduled sorting party held at my dearest departed Grandmother's house.   I found something odd and it perplexed me for most of the fall.  It made me sleep poorly and caused me to be uneasy, to be honest, it is still bothering me.  It bugged for a kind of odd reason, too.  Who are we?  Why are we?  Do our lives have meaning?  What if you have nobody and leave no one behind, did your life have purpose?  Does it matter?  All this emanated from a large box of old slides found in my grandmother's attic, hidden in a corner.   
               I looked at them, from two huge trips, mostly scenic pictures of a epic three-month Scandinavia tour in 1964 and a huge western US National Parks trip in 1962.  But who previously owned these slides?  They weren't from our family.  I looked at them all, old Kodachromes, and wondered, where did my grandparents even get these and why.  Who are the sporadic people in them.  It was bewildering as to why?  Who?  A wise person would have just chucked them but it bothered me as to all of these memories and stories, now lost, they would be owned by someone, an heir, or even the real person, maybe still alive, and it was my job as Executor to find them.
              Then in the bottom of the box, under smaller boxes of high end slide, almost hidden and never seen was a carefully handwritten travelogue written in third person.  There were no names, no references and only one clue, they left from Waterloo, IA on a specially chartered SAS plane for a two-month trip (I'll get into the extra month).
Back in the days when you could all stand by the plane for a photo!
Who could even afford something like this?  I thought it odd that almost all of the people going on this were women, but then I realized, the men had to work, these were housewives or widows.  This was the Sixties.  It was an odd deal, these pictures, It was like I was being a voyeur into someone else's life, someone's past but maybe, they were meant for me?  Maybe the person from the grave was talking to me.  Then it hit me, it had to be cousin Verda.   How I even remember her is surprising.
It is hard to describe her.  Words like nice and sweet would never ever come to mind.  Manipulative, is a better word for her, as is condescending.  You could use eccentric but only that wouldn't describe her.  She wasn't Disney's Corella DeVille, but kind of a mean version of Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping up Appearances.  She was the classic Bertha Better-than-you.  It is odd thinking about her now, as she had no reason to feel superior.  Yes, she had money, but she didn’t have children, she had no legacy, she lived kind of a hollow life.  Her husband was the only son of a high-ranking railroad official for a regional railroad in Waterloo, IA.  But he wasn’t anything important and never made a mark in life that I ever heard of.  In fact, the one time I met him, he gave me the creeps and seemed like a Hollywood Creation himself.
I met Verda a handful of times.  They weren’t happy memories.  Verda was the only child of the oldest son and heir of the Iowa Brenizer family, my great grandfather Brenizer was the third born son, he and his older brother (#2) moved to Wisconsin since they were not the heir.  My Grandmother was Verda’s youngest cousin.  Her mother got divorced from her father when she was six. There was something odd there and some story, but I don’t remember being told anything and I'm sure it was lost.   
It is not good to speak ill of the dead, but from what I heard, Verda was entitled and spoiled as a child, and it didn't improve as she got older.  When I was conscious about her, she struck me as an odd bitter woman.  My Grandmother didn't like her, but was tolerant since she was family.  My grandfather despised her like few others and made himself scarce when she was around.  He didn’t trust her husband at all and when he died somewhat young, Grandpa Allwin seemed somewhat happy or at least relieved that he wouldn’t be visiting again.  My grandparents would always say snide things about Verda while playing cards with my grandmother's sister and husband.  Uncle Martin could go on a tirade about Verda.  He hated her most of all.  Then he’d need a whiskey sour to wash the sour thought of her down. 
She'd show up once a year, usually in summer (I was never in her house, despite visiting Waterloo twice as a child in tow to visit another sister Grandmother had down there), but Verda would get funny about not getting invited properly and she offended easily and might not show up for a few years.   It was always a tense time when Cousin Verda showed up.  She was also known to no show, which would be considered rude by everyone else.  We just seemed relieved.  When she was around, she'd frequently talk about what my grandmother didn't have, and what she, as in Verda, had.  Never understanding that what my grandmother had of most value was her family.  She'd bring odd gifts and sometimes would say she had just the right thing, she'd order it, and then send us the bill and expect being paid.  When Grandmother died, she had saved every letter her cousins had sent her including Verda.  The letters were oddly in third person narrative and about Verda and her father, her life and never mentioning much from any other perspective.  I guess it was good and right that these two should end the family lines of the two respective families.  In the end, I don’t think anyone got any of her money, and all we got apparently were these slides.  I still wonder when she gave them to my grandmother.  I’d ask what Verda was thinking, but her mind was different than everyone else’s so even the answer could be confusing.
Cousin Verda Opal McDonald right, her most flattering picture of the set, the scowl is subdued. Unknown traveler on left looks more interesting and happy.  Maybe she is laughing at Verda?
Verda with her father John Brenizer, taken circa 1911 long after her mother had left the family, one of two photos of her I know of.  She is also pictured at the side of my Great Great grandfather Eli Brenizer, the last known picture he ever had taken
Verda was a good writer and her prose was enlightening, but in 3rd person, it was odd, she always wrote like that.  She even stayed after the tour to find out where her mother's family was suspected to be from, Mora, Sweden of all places, according to the manuscript.  Mora is the home of Anders Zorn.  This was near where the Danielson clan hailed from, which is odd since her mother has been forever listed as German.  One wonders if there was more to her mother’s story than what is known.  She never mentioned her by name, just her mother's family.  Why was she hunting for her home?  Sweden?  Was she adopted?  Was her mother someone else and Verda was adopted?  Maybe she had spent her 88-year life compensating for inner insecurities.  Something sure seemed odd, but it isn't worth my digging any further, it isn’t my life.  Verda, and everyone on that side of the family is gone, buried at graves no one visits, she is long forgotten, or on pictures I’m not keeping.  She is referenced here, but not fondly, and this isn’t how I’d like to be remembered.  All I can say is she did go on one cool trip, and I guess there was that.  The old cars in Wyoming were also neat.
I’d like the story behind this picture…the bus is parked on the right so it is in Norway.
Interesting bus passengers in Norway
       Then I found something interesting, pictures of the Kon-Tiki raft by my hero, Thor Heyerdahl, I had just dedicated an adventure project to him and here, Verda and I had crossed paths, fifty years apart at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo.  We met our Norwegian exchange student outside it.  I just sent my 65 year old copy of Kon-Tiki Expedition narrative to a business associate in Oklahoma two weeks ago.  Everything in my life comes full circle, even this.

So that was it, there were some stork nests on roofs in Denmark, some pretty waterfalls, Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone and more bears, lots of bears, and in the end, I guess since she does not have an heir, I know of, I will chuck them all.  What had taken a lot of money and many, many hours of careful organizing will now be just waste in a landfill.  Such is the fate of history.  The keys to stories are memories shared with family members and friends.  It is too bad that old Verda never had anybody, but that is the price many pay.  I've been castigated by some as a breeder for having children.  Well, that is what life is.  I don;t plan on being alone in my olden golden years, sending old slides to a first cousin I think is beneath me.
           Why didn’t she pay to bring Aunt Ethel or Grandma Lucille with?  They seemed to be the only relatives that cared a little about her.  Three months with Verda pulling the strings in Europe?  OMG!  That would have been an adventure,
            I’m glad I have my children.  I’m glad I have all the we’ve done together.  I’m extremely glad we had this last Thanksgiving cleaning Grandma's house, but please, PLEASE, though, take these Kodachromes away!
Yellowstone bear, can you ID those cars?
The classic old Yellowstone bear photo, this one 1962, and the photo is all mine...well sort of
Swedish train
Norwegian Stave church
Norway as the driving is on the right
They still drove on the left in Sweden in 1964
Oslo, Søttene mai, May 17th, 1964
Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone Park 1962
Norway 1964
Norwegian Road, 1964
Storks in Denmark

Swedish Swans and Ducks


Monday, January 6, 2020

The Hunt for Tody, it takes a lot of Cojones

There is always a bird out there taunting me.  The nemesis bird, big and small vex us all.  It seems no where is safe from the nemeses.  So goes the story of Tody

The 2019 version of the New Year's family trip was going to Costa Rica instead of St Martin for the obvious reason that our house was gone and for two additional  reasons.  First, my son, Tyko bought me a Costa Rican bird guide as a gift. I figured it was an omen.  Secondly, Suncountry as cheap
and direct flights to Liberia.  It was difficult to find accommodation on short notice but we found two rooms at the small Finca Verde Lodge.  It was neither nature hotel nor much of anything.  It was out of the way, in the forest featured only four rooms and it must be birdy, I assumed
As I suspected the flight south on Suncountry was late.  It wasn’t for the lack of a plane.  A bad snowstorm was coming and the area around the airport was coated in freezing rain. Driving to the airport took cajones, big ones.  I peered over a rather slick and steep hill on Danvers Avenue north of the MSP airport and it was like looking into a abyss, but inch by inch, I slid the truck down and then crossing the Minnesota River cars were all over the highway.  People passed the first six car pile up and tried to drive fast.  Behind us, someone was sideways on the bridge.  Luckily, we got through but a flight attendant didn’t and our departure was pushed back well over an hour..  Such are the joys of travel.  We’d get there when we got there and although I was worried about finding our tiny hotel in the dark, I guess we’d get there too, when we got there.  Even if it was tomorrow.     
There are five things that one needs for a stress-free and happy trip.  First, the airlines need to fly on-time and safely.  One’s luggage needs to arrive, and you need to pack the correct items.  Then, you need your local transportation, you can't spend the entire trip at the airport.  Forth, you need your hotel or at least a hotel.  Finally, you need some food, eventually.  Well, on this trip, we had some of these.  Is 2 out of 5 not bad?  How about just one?
As a person who packs light, packing is usually easy.  Often the question is whether to bring a towel or not to bring a towel, but this is a different sort of trip.  The night before departure, our son Allwin checked up the weather report.  Liberia, Costa Rica is the driest place in Costa Rica and it is firmly in dry season.  I had my rain forest gear packed—camera rain guards, dry bag, rain coat, rain hiking hat, and assorted smaller waterproof bags, zip locks and such.  I scratched my head, as my carry-on was tight on space, and at the hotel in Minneapolis, I rechecked the weather, dry skies ahead for as far as we could see.  So, I throw out the raincoat, the second coat, then the dry bag and seeing I could squeeze in a bathrobe, I through it all out.  Then somehow, I forget to put all but a two shirts back in.  Now, I’m ready (except for not knowing I forgot to pack many shirts)
 Our 9 AM departure time slides as we realize something or someone is missing, first, to 10 and then 11, we board. then we got two flight attendants that show, one goes and the other stays, that takes thirty minutes to sort out, then we got to de-ice.  We leave three hours late.  It is a safe flight.  So, we land safely, get through customs and I hunt for Hertz.  Hertz is always the best?  I find the guy.  “My Daniel.  I got good news and bad news for you.  We no longer have a car for you, but these guys over here, do.  They have just the car.”     
It turns out they did for $600 more money and the Tucson becomes a Prius, which becomes a Tucson again.  No deals there.  The guy gave me a card to call so I could get a better rate next time.  What can you do?  I can complain to Hertz.  They aren’t going to help.  We needed a car.  It was late, the family was starving and we still had a couple of hours to drive in the dark, maybe only forty five miles but the traffic in Liberia is awful we are warned.  We headed out.   We found our hotel, the Finca Verde Lodge, in Bijaqua, on the slopes of the Tenorio Volcano.  We creep up a dark and rutted road to a sign that is painted on an old satellite dish.
It turns out they have a small restaurant, it looks open and for a moment we look saved.  Then it starts to rain outside, not just a gentle rain but big ole fat rain, the potholes are soon large puddles.  “This is the dry season?”  I ask the members of the family.  We walk in and look to check in at the bar.  "Daniel..."  The woman makes a face.  "Mr. Allwin..."  She has my middle name for some reason.  Jorge, the manager happens to be there, she motions him over. he makes a face.
“What is your name?”  he asks me again looking confused in very Spanish English.  He sighs.  “Well, I got some bad news for you.  We didn’t think you were coming.  You didn’t answer my email.”  I show him my Travelocity booking number.  He motions that away
I put my hand to my face.  I play with my phone, turning it on to foreign charges.  I know I didn’t get an email, I got a hotels.com message to confirm, which I had actually done that (I thought it was to confirm two rooms), but then I missed the second one.  I was in the RV somewhere in Texas.  I hadn’t been on hotels.com since November.  Now the rain isn’t bothering me so much, since we apparently don’t have a room.  Then Jorge’s eyes light up as the woman (probably his sister) says something to him coming from the back.  “I have good news and bad news for you.  We have no rooms tonight, but tomorrow, lots of room.”  Thinking now we will be sleeping in the car or at the open-air café, I look back at my annoyed family.  I could at least bundle myself in my rain coat except that it is in a bag in the back of our truck in Minneapolis. 
Luckily, it turned out that was just the bad news, he had some cabin he knew of where we could stay at for the first night.  So, we followed him down the hill and shockingly were invited in to two not so bad rooms.  We had to trudge through the mud a little, but it worked.  We came back, and ordered food, and went to sleep hoping the rain was an anomaly.  It wasn’t.  It turns out, Liberia is in a whole different climate than just a little ways up here.  The weather report up in Bijagua?  Rain, with chances of thunderstorms, followed by more rain, heavy rain, intermittent with thick fog followed by mist with occasional rain.  The room was dry and I awoke to the something noisy outside.  I suspected howler monkeys, but just couldn’t see them, as I couldn’t even see the chairs outside, it was that foggy.  Then I noticed my lack of basically anything clothing related save my bathrobe.  I put in on, walked out and sat down.  Then I took it off, no one could see me anyhow.  I let the drizzle cool my idiocy.  I go to a rainforest and I talk myself out of bringing rain gear.  Olaf is the stupidest man in the universe.  I see a flash of yellow, then a song.  It is a kiskadee, or maybe a boat-billed flycatcher, the first I have, the second, I need.  The bird is perched somewhere, I can’t even see the line of hedge it is perched on.  I hear unidentified parrots flying over.  I look in my guidebook.  Six species could be here.  At least the monkeys are identifiable.  Nothing sounds like howlers.  I walk in and go back to bed.  No use birding, the weather had me beaten.  We eventually get organized, have breakfast, watch the rain intensify, and lode up the car with our stuff.  We drive into the village to see what is available.  The answer is little.  No umbrellas, and only emergency rain ponchos and garbage bags.  We load up on both.  We drive around, find a French hotel with a nice restaurant up the hill which surprisingly had rooms, I see a few birds which quiets the spirit and we go check in.
After that, some surprising things happened.  First, the life at the hotel improved, our rooms at Finca Verde were not as nice as the one night.  But after two nights, they upgraded us to the one really nice room they had.  We gave that to the kids.  Secondly, the rain…ah the rain.  Bad weather and Olaf is like red wine and red meat.  I checked the report again and it looked horrid but then something odd happened.  The weather gods gave us a break.  The fog parted, the rain ended, and the weather forecasts proved wrong.  The sun even came out.  I never took my rain poncho even out of the bag it came in.  Even the day we went to the very wet St. Elaena Preserve on the next volcano, Arenal, a place it always rains, but it didn’t.
It became an odd trip, as everyone, everyone looked at us odd that we were staying for eight nights in Bijagua.  From the waitstaff to the managers of the hotels, to other tourists, everyone asked the same question.  Eight nights, here?  I seemed birdy and there were some trails assuming the weather held.
    The second morning my daughter learned a valuable life lesson about shoes in the tropics or even for the desert.  One must always check what is in your shoes before you put them on.  I’ve had mice, scorpions, and my daughter, now, three-inch spiders.
A scream went out in the rainforest as we were readying for our first hike.  “There is something in my show”, Lauren said pulling out her foot in a bit of a panic.  She looked in shock.  We laughed and then a realization.

Hey, something IS in the shoe, it doesn’t want to come out

That is a really BIG spider!  Yuck!

Lessons learned and with nothing else to do.  We started a slow search for birds especially, the hunt for tody, the tody motmot, a bird that I’ve searched for in Belize twice, Honduras, once, and well, let me put it this way: I have seen more jaguars, more ocelots, more poisonous snakes, slept on more docks, and been rescued more by Francis Ford Copula than I’ve seen tody motmots.  In Costa Rica, they are found only around three volcanoes, the two that Bijagua sits in between, and another farther northwest.  It was one of three birds I really wanted to see.  The aracari wasn’t even a lifer bird.  I had seen one on the steps of a pyramid but had run out of film twenty years earlier, the resplendent quetzal would be something very lucky to find the single day we would be visiting its habitat a three-hour drive away.
Luckily, the local trails we hiked in were prime tody habitat, so I just pretended to be hiking.  But as the week went on one thing became clear, I was seeing a steady diet of lifer birds, but not tody.  I listened, I called, I even used payback a little but nothing.   I wanted to find toucans but none of them appeared.  We got lucky and got a reservation  at the French place for New Years eve, that was nice.  January 1 night?  Crackers and peanut butter.  Nothing was open or at least open and had food.  Then a got a desired photo, a collared aracari, then it seems, they were everywhere, even the local feeder
one amigo at the feeder

then two and would you believe three?
how about four?

Could there ever be five collared aracaris on a platform?  Yes, but the variegated squirrel said otherwise as the fifth landed it came and stole the banana.

then we got yellow-throated toucans

keel-billed toucans

We saw Lesson's motmot

Broad-billed motmot but no Tody

Between the lumps, the splits, the renames, it was overwhelming.  I'm still looking at photos.
What IS this?  Three-striped warbler in the field guide but it is now a Costa Rican warbler, who knew?

Gosh and then there were the butterflies....I just punted, it was 4th down and 70, in a real game I would have taken the safety...geez.
I posted this butterfly on an ID page and got laughed at as what I was thinking  wasn't even in the same end of the field guide.  It was a butterfly, but skippers are as close to swallowtails as where I was looking.  Funny thing, even the expert couldn't ID it as to a species, family....a Costa Rican butterfly guide would be needed except it seems, it would be a Nobel prize worthy project.

Then we have flycatchers....OMG
Kiskadee versus Social flycatcher versus Gray-capped versus rusty-margined?
Wait, they are white-ringed flycatchers.  White-ringed?
this is a gray-capped.  I identified both on the plane home.  The life list keeps giving

My wife wanted to see a quetzel before they go extinct, so we drove up into the highlands, three hours by bad roads.  We hiked in a preserve, but all we found was quick glances at small birds and poisonous snakes
Don't worry, this isn't a real Fer-de-lance, only a salmon-bellied racer, it won't kill you, they are pretty feisty though....there were other snakes, scary snakes, snakes in the trail.

So no quetzel...so we went to lunch.  I saw four individual birds sitting outside after lunch, all lifers and the only ones of the trip

Magenta-throated woodstar

Striped-tailed hummingbird

Silver-throated tanager

And then...he flew by, not a tody, but a male resplendent quetzel THE bird of Costa Rica
holy cow, the worst photo ever, but still identifiable...wow, four birds, four lifers, and an overpriced tourist lunch and we weren't even on a tour.  We voluntarily walked in.

We continued roaming around and seeing single birds that were representing lifer species
We saw a black cowled orioles

 Even pacific screech owls, we had two at this roost we stumbled upon when I was trying to point out a red-lored parrot seen clearly through a window above them.  My wife thought I was joking.  "Your showing us the owls correct?"  

"What Owls?"  It was a lucky parrot

the lucky parrot shot through a hole a foot above a hard to find owl

I saw a slate throated redstart, not a lifer, but still cool
 a slate tailed trogon (female) 
 A white collared manikin 

We had sloths over out cabin...
Everybody was trying to get in on the tourist dollars to see sloths 
I'm not sure how well that worked though.  I guess any body that stops is a bonus.

We had Capuchins raiding bananas
Howler monkeys waking us up, every morning at first light
and waterfalls

We floated the river for boat billed herons and bitterns.

No tody!  But we were seeing a tremendous variety of birds.  So the search for Tody continued on to the last day.  I went out early and grabbed a local guy who showed tourists the sloths, he seemed to know some about Tody, yea, close by, yes, we started 150 feet from where I woke up and then.....he whistled and then it answered, we got closer and closer it kept answering and then...IT RAINED!!!!!  We aren't so lucky as a mist or a passing shower, it hadn't rained this hard all week, and Manny went back to the cafe.  I followed, slipping on the the mud climbing out of the rivine.  I had breakfast, drank coffee and swore quietly.  SO CLOSE!!!!!  I finally walked out to the road and screamed.  Screaming helps sometimes.  The rain stopped.  Manny saw me walking back.  "You okay boss?  I heard a funny noise."  He asked.  "Go find Tody now."  He said and off we went, he whistled once and there it was.  Tody motmot

Lifer tody motmot

We fist bumped and he went back to work and then the family went out for the final hike.  I walked four hundred yards on the volcano to the north and then another tody flew in.

It was also there on the way back, another flew over my head, and then that evening, they called behind my bed, one was on the way to drinks, motmot here, motmot there, a tody motmot everywhere.  The way it goes.  One day's nemesis is another's trash bird.   It was time to go home, now that the birding gods were mocking me.

It took my seven days to get the photo of the lone long billed hermit feeding at a small group of flowers ever morning at 0830 over a river.  five mornings I could not get a shot and on the final morning I got a photo, one hard bird to get and even at this, it isn't that good of a photo.

It was a bit overwhelming.  63 lifer birds....and a great family trip.  It was a fun spontaneous trip, it seemed we got by at times on a wing and a prayer but no one died, just one awfully big spider in a shoe and some close encounters of the slithering kind.  I left some Costa Rica on the bone, so I'll be back.  Tody....?  Nemesis no more that bird.....I came I saw, and then I saw some more...oh well....even a bonus quetzel,  and even the Vikings won....life is GOOD


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...